Petition to the United Nations Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples

from the

East Timor Action Network/United States
PO Box 1182, White Plains, New York 10602 USA.  1-914-428-7299  fax 1-914-428-7383
presented by Charles Scheiner
United Nations, New York, June 22, 1999

Mr. Chairperson, distinguished members of the committee and guests, my name is Charles Scheiner, and I am speaking for the East Timor Action Network, a grassroots movement with more than 9,000 members and 26 local groups across the United States. ETAN has petitioned this committee every year since 1992. I also serve as the U.N. representative for the International Federation for East Timor.

In the six weeks since the May 5 Agreements were signed, the United Nations effort to allow the people of East Timor to experience their legal and moral right to self-determination has made tremendous progress. We appreciate the efforts of this institution, in the face of tremendous obstacles, to provide a free and fair vote for the people of East Timor. We have been impressed by the people the U.N. has chosen to conduct this mission, by their candidness about the conditions in East Timor, and by their determination to see their task through.

Yet elements of the Indonesian government and military continue to impede this effort. Other petitioners will detail the tens of thousands of internal refugees from paramilitary violence, the hundreds of victims of brutal murder, the pervasive climate of fear that exists almost everywhere in East Timor outside of Dili. They will tell you of the illegal diversion of World Bank and Social Safety Net money to support militia gangs, of pro-autonomy campaigning by local and national government officials in violation of the May 5 Agreements, of close collusion between Indonesian police and military officers and their hired paramilitary killers.

Although the Indonesian President and Foreign Minister have promised to allow the people of East Timor to vote on their future, they have done nothing to make that vote free and fair. Their own television station even refuses to broadcast the message from the Secretary General explaining the consultation process to the East Timorese people. Their military and police officials sit by while murderers ply their trade -- and reward their bloody deeds with official appointments.

We are halfway from the signing of the agreements to Consultation Day.

This process has raised high hopes in the territory -- and has been the motivator for unspeakable horrors by those who resist self-determination. Having finally shouldered this responsibility, the United Nations must see it through -- despite the intransigence of those who will extract a bloody price from the East Timorese people for daring to dream of freedom.

We are confident that the UNAMET team will continue to be strong. We understand that a delay of a few weeks may be necessary to improve the security situation. But every day added to the 23-year-long occupation means more people killed and tortured, more fear, more doubt in East Timor that the promise of the United Nations will ever be fulfilled.

A few days ago, CNRT leaders signed another peace agreement with 'pro-integration' advocates. While this is a useful step, it conceals the fundamental truth that the principal armed pro-integration group illegally in East Timor is the Indonesian military. Until the U.N. comes to grips with that reality, the entire process risks collapsing like a house of cards.

We recognize that the United Nations cannot confront the Indonesian army militarily. Indeed, that would only compound the long suffering of the East Timorese people. But, as UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst said in his first public statement in Dili, "words are not enough."

The international community, as led by this body, must greatly enlarge the UNAMET presence in East Timor. UNAMET must take responsibility for its own safety, and offer credible assurances to the East Timorese that they too will be protected. The Indonesian army and policy cannot be relied upon as impartial guarantors of security -- they are the very source of the problem.

You must make all parts of the Indonesian government realize that this is not a shadow-puppet play, an entertainment where spots of darkness obscure and distract from the reality underneath. This is a serious process in which fundamental rights and lives are in the balance.

The International Federation for East Timor is conducting an Observer Project for the consultation process. We will strengthen the UNAMET effort by sending 200 nonpartisan, volunteer NGO observers from all over the world. We will be the eyes and ears of the global population, stationed throughout the territory to show the East Timorese people that we who live thousands of miles away have not forgotten them.

Like the people of East Timor, we are placing our trust in the flawed process defined by the May 5 Agreements. Like the United Nations, we are placing our trust in the Indonesian government's ability and commitment to fulfill those agreements. We hope that our naive optimism is not unwarranted, and that each of the world's United Nations, including Indonesia, will take this opportunity to show people everywhere, that peaceful negotiation can indeed lead to human rights and justice.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to update this Committee on recent developments in the United States relating to East Timor. As you know, there have been major changes in Washington's view of the East Timor situation since last year, and the U.S. fully supports U.N. efforts to ensure self-determination and human rights.

Last July, the U.S. Senate unanimously endorsed a referendum for East Timor, and the House of Representatives later adopted similar language. In February, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited with Xanana Gusmão in Jakarta, and many in Congress have called for his release.

The United States continues to limit U.S. weapons shipments and military training to the Indonesian government to encourage them to stop repression in East Timor. This week, perhaps today, the U.S. Senate will discuss other ways to pressure the TNI and police to stop supporting paramilitary violence in East Timor.
Over the past year, the United States government, in concert with the United Nations, has taken many steps to bring the long national nightmare of East Timor to a just conclusion. Although both bodies have not yet transcended the 'thoroughly dishonorable way' they failed to respond when Indonesia invaded of East Timor a quarter-century ago, they are on the right track.

We hope and struggle so that this track leads to a station, and does not end in yet another bloody disaster for the people of East Timor.

Thank you for your attention, your time, and your commitment.

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