ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 8, No. 1
Spring 2002

East Timor Achieves Hard-won Nationhood

Changes and Challenges in Washington

The Women of East Timor Demand Justice

A Dangerous Oil Slick

Documents Detailing Role of Kissinger and Ford in 1975 Invasion Released

Ten Years for Justice and Self-Determination

ETAN Continues Refugee and Justice Campaigns

About East Timor and the East Timor Action Network

Spring 2002

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Changes and Challenges in Washington

by Karen Orenstein

Since the last issue of Estafeta, the rightward political shift in Washington has made ETAN’s work more difficult. We have been kept busy fending off Pentagon attempts to restore full-blown engagement with the Indonesian military (TNI) despite its egregious human rights record and failure to hold any senior military or government personnel accountable for the 1999 scorched-earth campaign in East Timor. At the same time, with assistance from economic justice-focused NGOs and in coordination with the joint East Timorese/international monitoring project La’o Hamutuk, ETAN launched the International Campaign for a Debt- and Structural Adjustment-Free East Timor. As this article goes to press, battles rage on both fronts.

Economic Justice

The jubilation surrounding East Timor’s independence could be short-lived. The nascent East Timorese government — tasked with a massive reconstruction effort — is facing a substantial shortfall in its already-lean budget over the first three years of independence. While financing gap estimates are far less than the Bush Administration spends on one F-22 fighter plane, for a small country like East Timor, this shortfall could stand in the way of the country’s determination to use future revenues for healthcare, education, and other vital services rather than paying off debt to wealthy states and institutions.

On May 14 and 15, donor countries and international financial institutions will gather in East Timor for a pledging conference to solicit grants to cover the financing gap. The East Timorese government has joined with civil society in making poverty alleviation its highest priority. Top officials have publicly affirmed their commitment to avoid the debt trap, instituting a “no loans” policy. Donors are expected to provide funds needed for the first year of independence, but assistance for the following two years could well be insufficient. Without concerted international solidarity pressure, East Timor may have no choice but to resort to loans given on the terms of the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

Any contributions, whether from the U.S. or other donors, must not be tied to crippling “structural adjustment” policies. Though the conditions may be called something else, there are strong indications that such onerous attacks on social spending will be applied to monies for East Timor.
ETAN has been working hard with allies in Congress to ensure that U.S. representation at the pledging conference makes the most generous donation possible – at least 25% of the total needed – without restrictive macroeconomic conditions. State and Treasury Department discretionary funds could cover such an amount, or it could be appropriated via a legislative process. We are also insisting that the U.S. coordinate with other donors ensure funding for all three years is provided through grants. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) has taken the lead on delivering these messages to the Bush Administration through a congressional letter. Some offices have also taken individual initiatives.

In addition to working domestically with the grassroots networks of activist organizations Jubilee USA and 50 Years Is Enough, ETAN has initiated campaigns in other countries, focusing particularly on large donors to East Timor. Letters signed by a range of non-governmental organizations (NGO) have also been sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as to Appropriations Committee members in both chambers of Congress.

Many other economic dangers await East Timor. One setback has already occurred. Because donor countries do not commonly give money directly to other governments, a facility has been established to oversee contributions to East Timor’s budget. Despite the objections of many in East Timor, the World Bank is expected to manage the facility. With this initial compromise of financial independence, the chipping-away at East Timor’s sovereignty has already begun.
East Timor will likely need to produce a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), required by the World Bank and IMF of many poor countries applying for foreign loans, grants, and “debt relief.” PRSPs are widely seen as structural adjustment programs masquerading as “poverty reduction.” Tying assistance to such programs has led to worsened conditions in many countries of the Global South – including decreased access to healthcare and education; devastated small- and medium-sized farms, businesses, and other local industries; lowered wages and increased unemployment; undermined food security; and environmental degradation. All of these effects disproportionately burden women.

International solidarity is crucial if East Timor is to be free of the shackles of economic colonialism which have crippled too many poor nations. Activists in the U.S. and other countries must push their governments not to inflict the crushing burdens of debt and “fiscal austerity” on East Timor. In addition to covering the financing gap, the U.S. and other donors need to give enough assistance directed at appropriate recipients in East Timor to ensure a decent standard of living until the nation becomes self-sufficient. Given the complicity of most donor countries in Indonesia’s war on East Timor, this is the least they can do.

Military Ties

The 2001 State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices describes “shooting of civilians, torture, rape, beatings and other abuse, and arbitrary detention,” carried out by the Indonesian security forces, and notes that the Government rarely holds the military or police accountable for committing extrajudicial killings or using excessive force.”

Despite this egregious record, the Pentagon is pushing hard to remove all obstacles to full engagement with the TNI. Should it succeed, carefully considered International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) restrictions in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act legislated in response to the TNI’s incriminating acts would be nullified. IMET and FMF restrictions, and the “Leahy” conditions which must be met before they are lifted, were imposed in response to the 1999 scorched earth campaign in East Timor. None of the seven conditions, which include safe passage for all forcibly-displaced refugees in West Timor who wish to return home and serious trials of military officers responsible for the destruction of East Timor, have been met. Overriding those conditions would violate congressional intent, and U.S. leverage has to encourage civilian control of the military, accountability for past human rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia, and respect for basic human rights standards would be lost with nothing gained.

The Pentagon argues that relations between U.S. and Indonesian militaries are needed for military reform and to keep open channels of influence.

But recent history proves otherwise. Since September 1999, when broad restrictions on military ties were imposed, the Administration has lifted the embargo on commercial sales of non-lethal defense articles and increased bilateral contacts between the militaries. For its part, Congress agreed to reinstate “Expanded” IMET for 2002. These initiatives have produced neither TNI reforms nor lessening of mlitary repression.

With the assistance of Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), Commander In Chief of the Pacific Asia Command Admiral Dennis Blair secured a last-minute addition to the FY02 Defense Department Appropriations Act (HR 3338, provision 8125) providing $17.9 million to establish a Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program. There are no restrictions on which countries can participate in the program, which has an unknown curriculum. The FY02 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations request calls for an additional $8 million for “training of civilian and military personnel in support of humanitarian and peacekeeping activities in Indonesia,” $8 million to “vet, train, and equip a counter-terrorism unit,” and potentially millions more for defense articles, services, training, and other aid from large pools of money for unspecified countries, including $100 million “to support foreign nations.”

Provision 8125 was an end-run around Foreign Operations Appropriations IMET restrictions. The Supplemental Appropriations requests go a step further. Not only could the TNI have access to prestigious U.S. military training without congressional oversight, equipment may also be made available. Bill language providing for defense articles and services to unspecified countries could be used to supply banned FMF. Many of the supplementals’ funds “may be made available notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

To allow the Pentagon to ignore existing Foreign Operations Appropriations restrictions in the FY02 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations request would offer a U.S. seal of approval to a military that continues to terrorize civilians throughout Indonesia and strongly resists accountability.
To combat these initiatives, ETAN worked with Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) on a congressional letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Powell. We have also worked with the Arms Transfers Working Group and other NGOs concerned with the Emergency Supplemental Request, and circulated an NGO sign-on letter to Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld signed by 40 NGOs. ETAN’s grassroots network has been working the phones, protesting to their members of Congress and the Bush administration.

Finally, ETAN worked with the offices of Representatives Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Frank and others, and Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Feingold on a resolution congratulating the courageous people of East Timor on their independence and calling on the administration to take action to ensure justice and post-independence U.S. support for East Timor.

The IMET and FMF restrictions for the TNI must be respected and renewed in FY03. The TNI should not receive training under the Regional Defense Counter-terrorism Fellowship Program. Other funds appropriated through the supplemental request should not be used to train the TNI in any form or provide the military with undefined defense articles and services. Foreign policy formulation should be returned to the authority of congressional Foreign/International Relations Committees, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittees, and the State Department, where it has traditionally resided. The U.S. must not assist the TNI in further acts of murder, torture and rape in Indonesia. We must continue to convey these messages to our elected representatives to prevent more such crimes from being committed in our name.

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