HEARING ON THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN EAST TIMOR; WASHINGTON, D.C.
September 30, 1999
International Operations And Human Rights Subcommittee of the House
Committee on International Relations: Subcommittee on International
Operations and Human Rights Holds Hearing Monitoring the Humanitarian
Crisis In East Timor
SMITH: Again, thank you very much for you time. Now, I would
like to bring out the second panel as quickly as possible. While they are
joining us, I might begin introductions here.
GUSMAO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be here in the House of Representatives before you. In this House, the venue of so many decisions regarding the world and East Timor, in particular. On behalf of the people of East Timor I wish to express the profound gratitude for the rulings and decisions taken in this House on East Timor. And in particular I would like to express our gratitude toward congressmen who played a relevant role and supported all the bills aiming to put an end to violence and destruction in the territory.
And in particular I would like to express my gratitude to Congressman Chris Smith, who's hosting this hearing, for his leadership in promoting human rights and self- determination in East Timor.
I wish also to express my gratitude and thank all those who, in the House of Representatives, supported Congressman Chris Smith in his efforts. I also wish to express my gratitude to Congressman Kennedy, and all the other congressmen who supported his efforts in passing the bills in the House of Representatives. My gratitude is also addressed to Senator Feingold for his efforts too in the passing of the bill in the Senate -- the East Timorese Self-Determination Act of 1999.
These bills were extremely important on the U.S. banning of military and financial assistance to Indonesia. And also, in the demanding of the withdrawal of the Indonesian troops from East Timor and to put an end to the violence undertaken by the militias in East Timor. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to use this opportunity, this historic moment both for myself and for my people to address a few and brief words on the current situation in East Timor. The recent violence which we all witnessed in this territory very, very -- in the past few weeks, lead to a very critical situation. It is critical because most of the population had to seek refuge in the mountains.
It is critical because tens of thousands of East Timorese were abducted and taken forcibly into West Timor. It is critical because the population is now undergoing a severe situation of disease and starvation. And it is critical because our families have been broken apart and most of the members of those families do not know where their relatives are or if they're alive.
We have decided that the year 2000 in East Timor will be the year of the emergency plan, and during and throughout this year, and from the ashes and destruction provoked by the Indonesian military and the militias, we will establish an administration in the territory and help the population organize itself.
Our population is in great need of assistance, of food, of medical assistance, but also of psychological comfort to overcome the suffering and the deep trauma that has been committed upon it.
One of our main concerns at this point is the return of the East Timorese population which is now living in a climate of terror and intimidation in the concentration camps in Kupang, West Timor, Atambua, West Timor, and elsewhere in the other Indonesian islands.
We urge the Congress to -- for assistance and to help humanitarian agencies in creating the conditions for the return of more than 200,000 East Timorese who are presently in East Timor and in other islands.
The East Timorese in those concentration camps are undergoing a situation of great fear. They did not know the families. These 200,000 East Timorese are mostly women, children and old people.
We request immediate support to enable the return of these East Timorese to return to East Timor and to take them out of these concentration camps.
Equally important for the transition process in East Timor is this second request that I wish to address and that is for the Congress to pressure for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor. The presence of Indonesian troops in East Timor has only lead to further suffering, destruction, murder and the slaughter of my people.
I therefore appeal to the Congress, to use its moral and political strength to enable the withdrawal of the Indonesian troops.
This is but a very brief picture of the situation in East Timor and the suffering of my people.
Thank you very much.
SMITH: Mr. Gusmao, thank you very much for your excellent testimony, for the courage that you showed under incredible duress in your years in captivity. I remember, as well as Joseph Reese, general counsel and staff director of the subcommittee, when we met with you, how we had read about you, we had heard about you, we had read your words, we'd never seen you in person, and how impressed we really were by your courage and also by your sense of vision, that one day you knew there would be freedom in East Timor.
It was a matter of when and not if. And while the agony continues, the East Timorese people could not have a more articulate and more of a persuasive spokesman for their cause, and I want to thank you for your leadership.
I'd like to ask another man for whom the subcommittee and Congress and I personally, have enormous amount of respect for, a man who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, as was pointed out by Mr. Tancredo in his opening -- in his introduction, Mr. Ramos-Horta we are very, very pleased to have your here, and when you speak believe me we do listen, so please take the floor.
RAMOS-HORTA: Congressman, first I would like to thank you very much for your initiative in holding this hearing. Thank you, all your colleagues for receiving us here today. To you particularly for your many years of support to the people of East Timor.
I would like to start by saying -- emphasizing how important it has been over the years, the role of the U.S. Congress in attempting to right the wrong, the tremendous wrong that was done to the people of East Timor. If ever we, over the years, were disappointed or there were some loss of hope, because of the indifference of the world community, every time we came here to this building, to the many offices, we went back with renewed hope.
Do not underestimate the strength you gave us. Do not underestimate the influence you have in shaping the events in Indonesia and in East Timor.
It is thanks to you, to members of Congress, both houses, that we have come this far.
I was in Auckland in the midst of the worst crisis in East Timor. And as I watched the CNN and watched President Clinton's statement live, which was seen by hundreds of millions around the world, and when President Clinton said what basically amounted to an ultimatum, the Indonesian side must invite -- and he emphasized the word -- must invite the multi-national force to East Timor, to restore order and security, I thought that that was going to be a test of wills between the president of the United States and the Indonesian army leadership.
And there is no way that the U.S. -- the authority of the U.S. president would be discredited. And in conversation with my president over the phone -- he was still under house arrest in Jakarta -- I said there is no way the U.S. can allow the U.S. president to be discredited because that was an ultimatum.
And true enough, two days later -- three days later, the Indonesian side, which had said repeatedly, emphatically for many days, that it would not invite a multi-national force, it did invite the multi-national force is there on East Timor.
My point is that whenever the U.S. administration, the Congress wish to provide leadership, be it in East Timor or elsewhere things happen.
And in saying this I want first to express my most sincere gratitude -- our most sincere gratitude to the president, to the administration, to you for your leadership that has turned things around in the last few weeks.
The multi-national force is on the ground. The situation is improving day by day on the security level. Independence of East Timor is now a fait accompli -- is a matter of fact. There is no turning back on that process that took us 500 years during Portuguese rule, and of course the last 23 years.
However, as an East Timorese Jesuit priest was telling me, in the midst of the worst crisis in East Timor he was in hiding in the darkness of the night, working on a mobile phone and he was telling me you will return to a country of widows because of the extraordinary level of killing in East Timor.
President Xanana will be going back in the next few weeks. He will go back, and all of us will go back to a solidly destroyed country. The first pictures I see of East Timor, in the last few weeks, reminded me of those black and white pictures of Europe devastated in the wake of Nazi occupation.
This is a country we go back to.
The country has been solidly destroyed. Tens of thousands of people displaced, tens of thousands forcibly removed from their homes in to West Timor where they are hostages of the military and militias.
And let us not make mistake, these displaced persons are not being held by some unknown entity somewhere in the jungle, somewhere in the world. They are being held in Indonesian territory, in an action that is condoned by the state, where an institution of the state -- the army -- which is supposed to defend the country from external aggression, or to protect its citizens, is in fact an instrument of hostage taking, of state terrorism.
Not satisfied with destruction in East Timor, the killings in East Timor, as it withdraw, it take along tens of thousands, and they are held against their will in West Timor. And there are thousands more elsewhere in the country.
The Indonesian authorities have the ability to return these people. And they have the ability because whenever the pressure was there, they made even more difficult decisions.
I started my comments by saying that when President Clinton stood up and said, they must invite the multi-national force, they did invite it. And the invitation of a multi-national force was unprecedented in Indonesian history. If anything went against all their public discourse, if anything goes against Indonesian so-called nationalism, that was the invitation of not multi-national force.
It proves that there is an authority in Indonesia, that when they want they can make policies, then take decisions.
Then why are they not taking a decision to disarm the militias in West Timor to allow the United Nations high commission for refugees the U.S. assistance secretary of state, her office, dealing with refugees, NGOs, humanitarian agencies, to provide assistance to the people in the camps, and return them to their homes in East Timor?
It's not happening because there is no will in Jakarta to do so. They have proven that when the pressure is there, they can deliver.
We appeal to you congressmen, to use your utmost influence, joined with the administration, to secure the early return of the East Timorese in West Timorese and elsewhere in Indonesia to East Timor.
I would like also to say that never once in our history of 23 years anyone heard from our public discourse any word of anger or racial or ethnic hatred towards Indonesia. Never once in 23 years of the Timorese resistance any single -- one single Indonesian civilian was killed by the East Timorese resistance, even though 200,000 East Timorese civilians were killed by the Indonesia army, but there was never reprisal. They were never soft targets for the resistance.
And yet, in spite of the wanton killings of the last few weeks and our repeated statement of moderation and flexibility, we continue to hear -- to see a continuation of violence, of provocation, of impunity by the Indonesian side.
And in spite of all that has happened in the last few weeks, President Xanana Gusmao met with foreign minister of Indonesia. I must maybe preface this particular event by saying the following: When I personally met President Clinton just a bit over a week ago, and with Secretary of State Albright last week, I said, "My mood towards the Republic of Indonesia today is similar to the mood of the Jews towards Nazi Germany after World War II. Or similar to the Kuwaitis, the mood of the Kuwaitis toward Iraq after the destruction of Iraq (sic)."
This was only to say that: Do not expect us to try to think about even engaging the Indonesians in dialogue. That was our emotion. But the same time, realize that we cannot choose geography, and together, President Xanana and myself, we went to see the Indonesian foreign minister, Ali Alatas. We had constructive, fruitful dialogue with him the other day. We hope that the new Indonesia that is in the process of being shaped, following the elections, will be able to repair the damage it has done to itself, to East Timor, receive the olive branch that Xanana Gusmao and all of us have extended to them. And one condition for that is a gesture of good will on their part to return all East Timorese forcibly taken to the other side.
As far as our relationship with other countries of the region, we are deeply grateful to Australia for taking the burden, the leadership of the multinational force. The Australian people as a whole have been on our side, as many other countries around the world.
But also has been Portugal. Portugal, as the former colonial part of East Timor, has shown an extraordinary commitment in standing up, living up, to its historic and moral responsibilities.
What we see here, Congressman, is a truly universal movement in support of a small nation, and maybe the tragedy of East Timor will turn out to be an inspiration and a strength for the United Nations or the world community to be always inspired to come to the rescue of small nations, no matter where they are.
When it comes to human rights, there is no domestic jurisdiction of states. When it comes to human rights, there are no boundaries. We are all part of this community of nations. Human lives are as valuable anywhere, be it in Asia, be it in Africa, Europe or Latin America.
So what the multinational force is doing, the role of the United Nations, is indeed in response to this very sacred principle of universality of human rights.
I thank you.
SMITH: Mr. Ramos, I want to thank you very much for your powerful words and your leadership. I understand that both of you will have to depart at 3:00, so I will restrict my comments or questions to just a few of those that I would have hoped to have asked, and hopefully we can get through the entire panel.
And I do want to concur and reiterate what you said about the Australian commitment, and how grateful all of us are that Australia stepped up to the plate and met and was really earnest to provide protection for those innocent civilians who were being slaughtered.
And I think it's good that we all recognize Australia again and again, because no one else really was doing the job until they took the lead.
Let me just ask you, on peacekeeping. We keep hearing militia leaders in West Timor who are making public threats to man an armed insurgency into East Timor to provoke what they call a civil war. Are we doing enough, is the international community doing enough, Indonesia doing enough to mitigate that threat?
And secondly, if you could just tell us: What is it that the international community is doing right? And more importantly, what needs improvement right now?
I remember when Mr. Horta -- Ramos-Horta, when you met with me -- and I'm sure you met with many other members of Congress, both sides of the aisle -- during a visit months ago and warned of the carnage that you felt was imminent if the right steps weren't taken, and regrettably insufficient numbers of people heeded your clarion call.
What now do you see that we need to do forthright in order to preclude additional misery?
RAMOS-HORTA: It is as a first step, and it's crucial that pressure is bear on Indonesia. We have seen that there is an authority, whichever it is, that when the crunch comes, when their interests are at stake, they respond.
We are certainly, obviously, very, very pleased. We -- the leadership provide by the secretary of state that made a very forceful statement on Sunday in regard to the refugees, the displaced persons in West Timor, and the visit by the Assistant Secretary Julia Taft to the camps in West Timor.
For us, absolutely priority at this stage, beyond the security situation in East Timor that needs to be stabilized, is the safe return of the refugees, the displaced persons in West Timor.
It is also absolutely necessary that INTERFET be deployed more expeditiously. So far, less than half of the forces committed to INTERFET have been available and have been deployed.
We are pleased with the role of the Australian government. We are pleased with the progression, but we hope that other countries make a greater commitment.
We were pleased to hear -- to read in today's news that the United States has committed an additional number of personnel to INTERFET, now numbering about 500, from the initial 200 committed. And we are very grateful to that.
On the other hand, it is necessary that, with U.S. leadership, the United Nations transition administration in the territory be established as soon as possible, because there is a total breakdown of services in the territory.
However, we must also emphasize that as the U.S. -- the United Nations transition team design and execute the transition authority in East Timor, they do not lose sight of the fact that there is an organization, the National Council of Timorese Resistance, which led people for 23 years and under the flag of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, the people voted massively for independence.
We view the transition in East Timor as a partnership between the East Timorese resistance, led by our leader, Xanana Gusmao, and the international community.
We are pleased with the statements by the U.N. that the U.N. transition-led -- the U.N.-led transition in East Timor is not going to be a colonial situation, relationship between the U.N. and the East Timorese people, but rather a partnership.
SMITH: Ms. McKinney. Thank you very much.
MCKINNEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am just too humbled to be here with these very brave witnesses.
A generation ago, men in Washington, D.C. decided that the East Timorese shouldn't be free, that access to oil and winning the Cold War were more important. Twenty-five years later, 200,000 East Timorese have been killed by massacre, torture and starvation. U.S. policy has supported the continued violation of the rights of the people of East Timor.
Since 1975, the U.S. has supplied more than $1-billion worth of U.S. weapons to Jakarta. And even until last week, our government continued to provide support for the Indonesian military.
Mr. Chairman, mass murderers, torturers and ethnic cleansers should never be our friends, but in East Timor, in Latin America and Africa, sadly, that is our legacy. Saying "I'm sorry" isn't good enough. We must be a part of the correction of the problems, of the wrongs of the past.
To our witnesses, I would just like to pledge that I will be a part of any movement in this Congress to help set right the things that this government over the years has done wrong. An independent East Timor will have to struggle for self-sufficiency, and we should be there with you, with our hearts, our heads and most importantly with our money.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SMITH: Thank you, Ms. McKinney. Mr. Faleomavaega.
FALEOMAVAEGA: Mr. Chairman, I realize that in the essence of time that our good friends have to leave, but I just want to say that it is a deep and tremendous honor for this committee to have received Mr. Gusmao and Mr. Herta to listen to their eloquent statements. I have so many questions I wanted to ask, but I realize that because of the essence of time.
All I can say, Mr. Chairman, that as someone who comes from the Pacific, I feel a close kinship with these two gentlemen and the outstanding leadership that they've demonstrated to the fine people of East Timor. It's a miracle that these gentlemen are still alive. But maybe at a later time period we will have them testify before this committee to learn more of the experiences and the audacity of the Indonesian military, of the killings.
And I suspect those 200,000 East Timorese that were killed were by M-16 rifles, they were not AK-47s. It's a legacy of our government, given the fact that our country sells more military equipment than any other nation in the world, and this is something that I think certainly gives thought to the kind of foreign policies that we have had to come up with -- both in short terms and long terms -- and I don't see any benefit other than the fact that we give them the instruments and they pull the trigger, and this is the kind of results that we produce. Sad.
But again, I'm honored to receive our two friends, representing the good people of East Timor.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SMITH: Thank you. Mr. Delahunt.
DELAHUNT: Yes, I would just echo the sentiments expressed by my colleagues. In behalf of all of us, let me just simply say thank you for your example, thank you for your courage. You have done much, not just for East Timor, but you have done much for America with that courage, and with that moral authority, and being so clear and forceful and powerful in terms of your words, and particularly reminding us that human rights have no boundary. It doesn't involve geography; it involves all of us. Thank you.
SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Delahunt. Mr. Goodling, the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
GOODLING: I'd like to point out that we have a misconception in this country quite often that we call it peacekeeping missions. Oftentimes they are nation-building missions and we can't nation- build. They have to do that from within.
I happened to be there in East Timor in 1977. I saw a lot of slaughtering that wasn't being done by outside. I saw slaughtering that was being done inside with three factions. Unfortunately I also saw the Portuguese leave, as they usually did, leaving the situation in very difficult strait, having done nothing, really, to help East Timorese during the entire time they were there.
So my concern is now, I guess, to have the three factions join together, where they're working together. Because, as I said at that time, it wasn't safest thing -- I was young enough to be foolish to come in at that particular time. But the three factions at that particular time were certainly killing each other. I might ask personally, and then also, the young chap that I spent time with at that time, Lopez De Cruz , is he still living? Is he still working toward peace? Or what has happened to him?
Again, we can only help nations if they themselves pull together, and I would hope that we don't have those three factions. Those three factions, more than anything else, I suppose, allowed the Indonesians to come in do what they have done ever since.
That's the end of my statement. I don't know whether any response to -- particularly yet -- a question or two.
And if we're first in arms, then the French have to be close behind. They don't care where they send them, just so they get money.
SMITH: I know our two witnesses do have to leave, so -- but if you wanted to respond or make any final statement before the subcommittee, again we are honored to have you here.
GUSMAO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. Chairman, congressmen, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this opportunity and for the warm words of solidarity you have addressed us. We are indeed a tiny people, but you are listening to us.
Congressman Goodling, we recognize our weaknesses -- the weaknesses we had 25 years ago -- they are now lessons to all of us. And they were a major lesson to our people who struggled for 25 years and tried to resist and survive just because they had the right to self-determination, that same right that is now recognized by the whole world, by all of the international community. We all learn with our mistakes, and this one has been inside me -- with me for the past 25 years. It is in my mind.
I thank the Congress and I thank the people of the United States of America for giving us this opportunity. We need your help and we need your assistance. But we are also sure that, with your help and assistance, as politicians, as a body which decides on issues which influence the whole world, we are sure that with you we will build a new East Timorese nation based on values such as democracy, justice and human rights -- the very same values that have shaped the nation of the United States.
SMITH: No words can really add to that. That a was wonderful vision, an thank you. I would ask -- or point out to my colleagues we're going to take a three to five-minute recess, as our distinguished witnesses depart. And then we will invite the third panel, and I do hope that people -- members will stay on because we have three experts who will speak to the issue in our third panel.
Thank you. We're in recess for five minutes.
Go to Panel 3 with Allan Nairn, Arnold Kohen, T Kumar and Emilia Pires
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