Summer 1998
A New Era in East Timor

Senate For Referendum

Timor Autonomy?

Selective Purchasing Law

New Report

Activist Training

Upcoming Speaking Tours

ETAN Chapters Active

Constâncio Pinto, Simon Doolittle

Timorese National Convention in the Diaspora

Relief Fund

Canadian Movement Reorganizes

ETAN/US Web Site


Upcoming Strategy Conference

Boston Concert

Estafeta -
Spring 1998
Spring 1997

ETAN/US Statement on Attacks on Ethnic Chinese Indonesians
By Ben Terrall and Charles Scheiner

The East Timor Action Network condemns the horrific campaign of rapes of ethnic Chinese Indonesians which were carried out during the May riots in Jakarta.

The director of a Jakarta women’s organization interviewing victims of the mass rapes said "we think this is the government’s responsibility...the acts were well-planned and carried out as a military operation."

Indonesian troops occupying East Timor have used systematic rape and torture to terrorize the civilian population since Indonesian forces invaded the territory 23 years ago. Recent testimony points to wide- scale rapes by Indonesian security forces in Aceh, and similar accounts have emerged from West Papua (Irian Jaya). Their use of the same tactics against Chinese Indonesians is sadly predictable.

The Indonesian military has long encouraged anti-Chinese racism. Similarly, they portray East Timorese people as inferior to Indonesian transmigrants brought into the occupied territory. This is all part of the repressive apparatus that was responsible for the abduction and torture of numerous pro-democracy activists this year, as well as the deaths of 200,000 East Timorese since 1975 and more than a million Indonesians when Suharto rose to power. This divide-and-conquer strategy is applied as dissent grows: nationwide strikes and demonstrations are increasing, and 100 million Indonesians will soon be under the official poverty line. It distracts from the repressive, corrupt military government that has made very few fabulously wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Fomenting riots and wreaking havoc on civilians also justifies maintaining the military’s domination of Indonesian government and society.

The East Timor Action Network salutes the courageous work of Father Sandyawan and his colleagues in the Volunteer Team for Humanity, which have been interviewing rape victims in an effort to track the intellectual authors of these atrocities. We agree with Father Sandyawan that "the May 1998 tragedy is simply the latest manifestation of the recurring pattern of State Violence and blood- shedding politics in Indonesia" and that now is "an appropriate time for ... the US government to re-assess the impacts of its military linkages." People in the United States should urge their Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 3802, which bans U.S. training of Indonesian troops, and H.R. 3918, which prohibits weapons transfers to this despotic, murderous regime.

As Indonesians of every ethnic background struggle together for democracy, the East Timorese are also struggling to govern themselves. Last July, the US Senate unanimously supported East Timor’s right to self-determination through a UN-supervised referendum and urged President Clinton to "encourage the new political leadership in Indonesia to institute genuine democratic and economic reforms, including the establishment of an independent judiciary, civilian control of the military, and the release of political prisoners." Representatives should be asked to co-sponsor analogous House Concurrent Resolution 258, and President Clinton should be urged to take action. It’s long past time for the U.S. to be on the right side in Indonesia.

In recent weeks, the Indonesian government (with help from Western media), has denied that the rapes occurred, and tried to discredit the international campaign against them by pointing out that some photographs described as Chinese Indonesian rape victims actually were not (in fact, some of them recorded atrocities committed by Indonesian soldiers in East Timor last year.) But numerous eyewitness accounts and victims’ testimonies attest to the truth of the horrors. During the first 15 years of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, when the rate of killing was highest, U.S. and Indonesian officials repeatedly denied reality, insisting that they needed more proof. While sticking with the facts, we must avoid being diverted by debates over particular shreds of evidence when the overall case is overwhelming. And we must guard against the Indonesian army’s efforts to use racism and communalism to divide the people against themselves – a tactic used repeatedly in East Timor to try to make Christians and Muslims oppose each other instead of the occupying military forces.