August 4, 1998

Hon. Kofi Annan
Secretary General, The United Nations
Fax: 1-212-963-2155

Hon. Ali Alatas
Foreign Minister, Republic of Indonesia
c/o Indonesian Mission to the United Nations
fax: 1-212-972-9780

Hon. Jaime Gama
Foreign Minister, Portugal
c/o Portuguese Mission to the United Nations
fax: 1-212-355-1124

Dear Sirs:

We are writing to encourage your efforts to solve the question of East Timor as you meet over the next two days.

It has been a long and difficult process, and we share your desire to resolve it expeditiously. But we want you to ensure that the human and political rights of the people of East Timor are respected.

The International Federation for East Timor includes more than 25 non-governmental organizations from all over the world. Many of us have worked closely on East Timor for decades. We are advocates and observers for the rights of the East Timorese people.

This week, as many times before, the people of East Timor are excluded from the discussions. Although the Timorese are grateful for Portugal's efforts to represent them, the Timorese cannot be expected to accept a settlement that has been agreed only by others. As the General Assembly, Security Council and International Court of Justice have repeatedly stated, the Timorese people have an inviolable legal and moral right to self-determination. In order to make real and legitimate progress, these negotiations must include representatives of the Timorese resistance. The Indonesian government must negotiate directly with East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmão, whose release from prison is a necessary precondition for his participation.

In recent weeks, Mr. Alatas and other Indonesian officials have proposed "limited autonomy" for East Timor, marking a slight change from the hard line taken under ex-President Suharto. Apparently the Habibie government recognizes the high level of concern for East Timor among the international community, and is bending slightly in response.

Indonesia's "autonomy" proposal is grossly inadequate. Not only does it retain fiscal policy and other key powers in Jakarta, but it transgresses the right of the East Timorese people to determine their own political structure. Their legal and moral right to self-determination cannot be negotiated away, but must be realized via a U.N.-supervised referendum that includes the option of independence. Negotiated autonomy, accompanied by military withdrawal, could be an interim step toward creating an atmosphere in which a fair referendum could be conducted. But it is only a means, not an end, without acceptance by the people of East Timor.

Any autonomy, even a temporary one, must include demilitarization. Aceh, an area which already enjoys a "special status," is also a military operational zone, effectively controlled by the Indonesian armed forces. The discovery of seven mass graves in Aceh this week illustrates what "special status" means.

The Indonesian army (and its associated police and paramilitaries) continue to commit gross human rights violations in East Timor. Any proposal that does not include their complete withdrawal -- far more than the very modest and essentially cosmetic withdrawal of last week -- is unacceptable.

A recent European Union mission to East Timor noted that "there will be no lasting solution in East Timor without a firm commitment to some form of direct consultation ... of the will of the people there."

Consultation with the people of East Timor will take time -- as it will for Indonesian government policies to catch up with increasing democracy in Indonesia. But certain actions can take place even before an agreement is reached.

We call for the immediate withdrawal of all ABRI troops, and their replacement by an unarmed international presence to monitor human rights. Political prisoners should be freed, and a process of "Timorization" of the Dili's government and civil service should begin. The University should be re-opened. The All-Inclusive Intra-Timorese Dialogue should continue, with no restrictions on the discussion of political status. As that Dialogue proceeds, it should be folded into these Tripartite Talks, as a first step toward full East Timorese participation in the discussions.

You three gentlemen and your predecessors have been "confidence-building" for years, while the people of East Timorese continue to be tortured and killed under Indonesian military occupation. We urge you to be confident; to take real action toward a legitimate solution to the "problem of East Timor."

Recent changes in Indonesia have opened a window in which international law and human rights could be achievable. If you let this opportunity pass, you will have forfeited the confidence of the people of the world.

Thank you.


Charles Scheiner
U.N. Representative, International Federation for East Timor

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