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Jose Ramos-Horta.... and more
16 August 1999
ETAN WEEKLY - 16 August 1999
1. Only a fair vote can end East Timor conflict
Sydney -- On Aug. 30, the people of East Timor will go to the polls in a self-determination referendum supervised by the United Nations. Our hope is that it will settle a bitter international dispute that erupted in 1975, when Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony.
Most observers believe, as I do, that in conditions of freedom an overwhelming majority of East Timorese would opt for independence. But conditions remain far from appropriate for a free and democratic vote. Indeed, there is a real danger that the ballot could turn into the biggest electoral fraud of modern times.
Despite repeated assurances by Indonesian authorities to end a terror campaign against independence supporters waged by militia groups in East Timor, intimidation and violence remain widespread.
The militias want East Timor to remain part of Indonesia. They are, in fact, gangs of criminals recruited, trained and financed by the Indonesian army. Militia violence this year has killed more than 1,000 civilians, razed entire villages and uprooted more than 80,000 people. Yet not a single militia leader or military officer has been brought to justice.
It is understandable that, at times, the UN has to agree to some unpalatable "peace" agreements. But the East Timor agreement signed in New York by Indonesia, Portugal and the UN on May 5 entrusts the Indonesian police with responsibility for ensuring security before and after the self-determination vote, even though the police are known to be notoriously corrupt and violent.
The Indonesian army has not withdrawn any of its combat battalions from East Timor in advance of the vote. There are more than 18,000 troops and 8,000 police in the territory. To make matters worse, hundreds of members of the army's special forces unit have been sent to East Timor disguised as police. As a result, East Timor has become one of the most militarized territories in the world.
Full-scale violence before or after the ballot is now almost certain. The army hierarchy is still clinging to the illusion that it can secure a pro integration vote through terror and fraud. It fails to realize that, if the ballot is not free, the East Timor conflict will continue.
The next phase of the resistance against Indonesian control would be much more desperate and ferocious, and it would not be confined to East Timor. The costs for Indonesia, which is attempting a political transition to democracy as it tries to recover from deep recession, would be much greater than in the past 23 years.
To start with, no Portuguese government would recognize the result of a fraudulent ballot. Lisbon would demand a mandatory arms embargo and economic sanctions against Indonesia by its partners in the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The UN Secretary-General would be asked to call for an ad hoc war-crimes tribunal on East Timor. A number of active and retired Indonesian military officers, as well as militia leaders, would be indicted.
The World Bank would be under strong pressure to freeze the release of new funds for Indonesia. The U.S. Congress also would vote against allocating money to a country whose elected authorities are unable or unwilling to rein in their army.
East Timorese groups have set aside a "war budget" of several million dollars to wage a sustained public relations war aimed at hurting Indonesia's tourism industry.
More than 100 computer experts in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Brazil, the United States and Canada are preparing their own battle plan. They are targeting the entire computer network of the Indonesian government, army and banking and finance institutions to create chaos. A dozen computer viruses are being designed to infect Indonesia's electronic communications system, including aviation.
In 1975, Indonesian military planners anticipated a quick war and easy victory in East Timor. Instead, thousands of soldiers lost their lives in a protracted conflict with pro-independence fighters.
The army must not make the same mistake again. It must back off, and allow a free, fair and internationally acceptable act of self-determination to take place in East Timor. Otherwise, Indonesia will be plunged into a new and even more costly war.
Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace laureate, is vice-president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, the main group supporting independence for East Timor. This article first appeared in the International Herald Tribune.
2. Campaign Period Begins Amidst Widespread Intimidation by Militia and Indonesian Security Forces Follows Generally Successful Voter Registration
International Federation for East Timor Observer Project IFET-OP Report No. 5. 17 August 1999 (Summary and recommendations only)
Dili, East Timor (17 August)-On Saturday, August 14, 1999, the 14- day campaign portion of the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor began. Although there have already been many peaceful campaign events-both pro-autonomy and pro-independence-throughout the territory, they are taking place in a continuing context of insecurity, intimidation, and widespread fear of impending violence. Indeed, in many parts of East Timor, pro independence forces do not feel sufficiently secure to campaign publicly. Although political campaigning itself may not change the minds of a significant number of would-be voters, the context in which the campaign takes place has serious implications for the sense of security voters will have in freely casting their votes on August 30.
Incidents of paramilitary and military violence directed at supporters of East Timorese independence have continued over the last two weeks. As discussed in the August 3 IFET-OP report, the Indonesian authorities in East Timor have not made serious efforts to fulfill their security obligations under the May 5 accord signed by the governments of Portugal and Indonesia. To the contrary, the Indonesian government continues to tolerate and, by its inaction, condone and encourage violence by pro-integration forces. In addition, in some instances, the Indonesian military (TNI) has directly participated in the violence.
The current situation in East Timor demands an immediate and radical change in the behavior of the Indonesian security forces. Unless that happens, there is a serious possibility that the TNI- backed paramilitaries and the Indonesian military itself will engage in widespread violence aimed at disrupting the vote and/or engage in large scale violence against the general population around the time of the vote. In this regard, IFET-OP makes the following recommendations:
* That the Indonesian police make a commitment to protecting the offices of political organizations campaigning around the consultation by deploying officers at the premises when asked;
* That the Indonesian authorities guarantee freedom of movement throughout the territory by removing all militia posts and roadblocks; and
* That the international community work diligently through the United Nations to broaden the UNAMET mandate as it relates to security, and to increase significantly the numbers of United Nations security personnel in East Timor before the August 30 vote.
For further information contact see:
3. U.N. Warns of E. Timorese Violence -- U.S. Delegation Asks for Peacekeepers to Ensure Safety for Independence Vote
Washington Post Sunday, August 22, 1999 By Keith B. Richburg Washington Post Foreign Service
SUAI, Indonesia, Aug. 21 - United Nations officials today warned a visiting U.S. congressional delegation that East Timor's army-backed militias have access to sophisticated weapons and are planning for full-scale war if, as expected, they lose the Aug. 30 independence referendum.
The bleak assessment prompted the delegation to ask the U.N. to send armed peacekeepers to the troubled territory to prevent violence from endangering the election.
The militias, which are opposing independence, have terrorized the districts near East Timor's border with Indonesia proper--kidnapping and threatening independence supporters and taking away voter registration cards, the U.N. officials told the delegation led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
As part of what the U.N. called these "preparations for war," militia members have been moving their relatives across the border to Atambua. In the troubled area of Maliana, officials said residents were already fleeing, with militia families moving to Indonesia proper and independence supporters running to the surrounding forests and hills.
The United Nations has its own evacuation plans if the situation deteriorates after the voting. In Maliana, which one U.N. official called "a powder keg," the plan calls for a vehicle convoy to transport about 80 people to West Timor, two hours away.
Here in Suai, Harkin told a group of 2,500 pro-independence refugees who have taken shelter at a church compound that he would urge President Clinton and the U.N. to dispatch peacekeepers to Timor before the vote.
"We're going to be asking our government and the United Nations to be providing some peacekeeping forces here," Harkin said. "From what we've seen, it's necessary to have somebody here to stop the intimidation."
In Suai, the delegation, which also included Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), got a first-hand look at the intimidation, and the involvement of local officials; the refugees at the church had been without water for more than a day, after local authorities cut the supply. Also, a food convoy destined for the camp had been held up in the Timorese capital of Dili, where Indonesian authorities refused to give the group permission to leave.
The delegation later met with Herman Sedyono, the Suai's top Indonesian official, who was attending an outdoor rally of anti-independence forces. Sedyono denied cutting the water to the refugees and promised to allow food aid inside.
The refugees cheered Reed when he declared: "The vote is more powerful than the army!"
In briefings here and in Maliana, the delegation heard the same complaint- that the militia is backed by locally based elements of the Indonesian army, and that the police, who are responsible for the security of U.N. officials and facilities, are powerless to intervene.
Ian Martin, the head of the U.N. mission in East Timor, this week called for the removal of Indonesian army personnel responsible for directing militia activities. "In many cases, it is lower TNI [Indonesian army] ranks who are actively involved as members of militia groups," he said.
Several U.N. officials said they believe President B.J. Habibie and the armed forces commander, Gen. Wiranto, may be committed to a peaceful settlement of the long-standing Timor issue, but the change of attitude in Jakarta may not have been translated to those in the field.
4. UN envoy says pressure on Indonesia needed over East Timor consultation process
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Source: RDP Antena 1 radio, Lisbon, in Portuguese 0900 gmt 16 Aug 99
UN leader Kofi Annan continues to advocate the release of Xanana Gusmao [Timorese resistance leader released from prison into house arrest] before the 30th August consultation, according to Annan's personal envoy to East Timor, Jamsheed Marker. Marker was speaking in Dili at the end of a three-day visit. He said the UN welcomed Gusmao's active participation in the electoral campaign.
Marker expressed confidence over the security situation during the campaign [which started on 14th August]. He warned that Unamet [UN Mission in East Timor] would not allow agitators to cause the postponement of the popular consultation. Antonio Veladas reports from Dili:
[Veladas] No incidents have been reported on the third day of the campaign. This morning CNRT [National Council of the Timorese Resistance] representatives went from door to door, discreetly, in Dili showing the CNRT's symbol. In the afternoon pro-integration supporters will travel to Manatuto [east of Dili] to hold a rally...
Speaking at a news conference before leaving the territory, Jamsheed Marker said he was confident about the process. He added that a strengthening of the UN presence as well as the increase in the number of international observers offered guarantees of peace... Marker said that many of the problems would only be resolved through pressure on Indonesia.
[Marker in English] What is important is that with negotiations, with demarches, with constant pressures from the international community, as well as the UN, we insisted that the Indonesian authorities create the conditions to which they are committed in a solemn international obligation.
[Veladas] As for the political prisoners in Timor prisons and the situation of the refugees, Marker said he had wanted, during his visit, to assess this situation. He flew by helicopter to Suai and Maliana. Marker has left Timor for Russia, he will then travel to Portugal. He returns to Dili on 28th and 29th August...
5. Indonesia defies UN and International Community
EAST TIMOR HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE
The first half of 1999 has seen an alarming escalation of human rights violations in East Timor. Two major changes in the political climate in East Timor have been met with increased human rights violations against East Timorese civilians. The first major political event was President Habibie's January 27 commitment to allow the East Timorese people to vote on an autonomy package. The second event was the signing of the UN Accords on May 5 for the UN to conduct a popular consultation to determine the will of the East Timorese people. Despite the raised hopes of a peaceful solution to the East Timor conflict, there is a serious security crisis on the eve of the referendum.
During this period most of the human rights violations have been at the hands of pro-Indonesian militia groups which are supported by the Indonesian army. ETHRC sources have confirmed that the militias are not acting on their own volition and that the militia groups are being recruited and trained by the Indonesian army. This worrying trend of the recruitment of militias for the purposes of perpetrating violence and intimidation against civilians has been well documented by the ETHRC.
One of the most alarming atrocities documented by the ETHRC during the first six months of 1999 was the early April Liquica massacre where at least 46 civilians were extra-judicially executed and 56 people were seriously injured. This was the first time that killings on such a massive scale had taken place within a parish. On 5 May, after signing the UN Accords, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, warned Indonesia of its obligations to protect the people of East Timor and to effectively carry out its responsibility for law and order and the protection of all civilians.
Thus far, Indonesia has failed in its obligations to protect civilians. It has also failed to protect humanitarian relief workers and UN personnel from attacks by the militias backed by the Indonesian army. The lack of security in East Timor, at present, is seriously threatening the right of East Timorese to self determination. The ETHRC condemned the appointment of Eurico Guterres to command PAM Swakarsa (the security force overseeing the UN ballot). This move clearly implicates the Indonesian government in the on-going attempts to sabotage the referendum as Eurico Guterres is the commander of the Aitarak militia responsible for grave human rights abuses in East Timor.
The ETHRC is also concerned with the alarming trend of the increase in the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP's) living in life-threatening conditions. Militia violence and intimidation directed at civilian villagers has left tens of thousands of people homeless after their properties and livelihoods were destroyed. This pervasive climate of intimidation and human rights violations diminishes the opportunity for civilians in East Timor to exercise their right to register and vote which was guaranteed by Indonesia under the UN Accords.
While the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission to East Timor (UNAMET) has been positive in maintaining a semblance of peace in some places of East Timor, other diplomatic pronouncements by foreign governments have done little to make Indonesia comply with its international obligations. The Indonesian army and other perpetrators of human rights violations in East Timor are still acting with impunity. Indonesia has defied the UN and the international community.
Contact the ETHRC at email@example.com to obtain a copy of the report. The hard copy is approximately 60 pages long and includes some photographs of victims of recent human rights violations.
6. Suharto Will Not Seek Care Overseas
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Indonesia's former president, Suharto, will not travel abroad to seek medical care for his deteriorating health, Indonesian media reports said Friday.
On Thursday, Suharto, 78, returned to his home in Jakarta after being hospitalized for five days with internal bleeding. Last month, he spent 10 days in a hospital after suffering a minor stroke.
``None of his children want to send (Suharto) abroad for medical treatment,'' the Jakarta Post quoted Juan Felix Tampubolon, the former leader's attorney, as saying.
Western diplomats said the autocrat, who was forced to step down last year after massive riots and protests, had sought to be taken abroad for treatment. During his 32-year reign, he was treated several times in Germany for various ailments.
But Suharto's children were reported to be worried that the old leader could be detained on charges of human rights abuses.
Up to 200,000 people died in East Timor after Indonesia invaded and occupied the former Portuguese colony in 1975, and activists in Portugal and elsewhere are preparing lawsuits against Suharto in connection with the deaths.
7 a) Ottawa urged to do more for East Timor: Canadian activists claim Ottawa is more interested in business than human rights
By Mike Trickey
Southam News Vancouver Sun (and National Post) Friday, August 13, 1999 OTTAWA -- The Canadian government is more interested in maintaining close economic ties with the Indonesian regime than in supporting human rights, Canadian activists who toured East Timor say.
The Canadian delegation, which includes NDP MP Svend Robinson, called on the Canadian government to use its position on the United Nations Security Council to pressure Indonesia to respect its obligations leading up to East Timor's August 30 independence vote.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 after Portugal withdrew from its former colony and has imposed a brutal regime of repression that has resulted in 200,000 deaths.
The United Nations-sponsored vote will ask the East Timorese population to choose between greater autonomy within Indonesia or independence.
Pro-Indonesia militants, backed by the military, have unleased a reign of terror during the campaign despite the presence of international observers.
Canada is the third largest international donor of humanitarian assistance to East Timor, with $1.2 million committed this year. As well, Canada is sending 26 election specialists to act as observers in polling stations for East Timorese living outside the region, and has sent four police men to help train local law enforcers for the post-ballot era.
However, the Canadian delegation, which includes representatives of major labour organizations and women's and students' groups, says that is not enough, Robinson said in a telephone interview from Jakarta.
"Canada should be putting as much effort into protecting the right of the people of East Timor to determine their own future as they did in providing comfort and support to Suharto at the APEC conference in the fall of '97," the New Democrat said.
"They went all out for Suharto and now there is deafening silence. We are calling on the Canadian government to finally show leadership to end their absolutely appalling silence on the issue of widespread violence and intimidation by Indonesian military-backed militias."
Robinson's "all out for Suharto" comment was a reference to the preparations made by the Canadian government for the dictator's visit to the APEC conference in Vancouver.
The election comes less than two weeks before Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders, including Jean Chrétien, hold their annual meeting, this time in Aukland, New Zealand.
Robinson says Canada should use the conference to show a committment to its human rights message that is often louder in words than in action.
7 b) Axworthy replies
I was pleased to note the recent visit to East Timor by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) delegation. The situation in East Timor remains a priority for Canada, especially on the eve of the United Nations-sponsored ballot there. It is unfortunate, though, that delegation member Svend Robinson chose to ignore Canada's important contribution to East Timor, which was outlined in briefings for him both in Ottawa and Jakarta (Ottawa Bashed for Ignoring Rights, Aug. 13).
As the third largest donor of humanitarian assistance to East Timor, Canada provides ¤1.2-million annually for assistance in the areas of governance and capacity-building. We expect to continue this focus and commitment. Our development assistance efforts run in tandem with our contributions to improving the security situation through the United Nations Mission for East Timor (UNAMET) and our support to the Catholic Bishops' efforts at community reconciliation in East Timor.
Canada maintains that the East Timorese should have a say in the determination of their future. We have sent 26 Canadian electoral specialists to run the various UNAMET polling stations outside of East Timor (in Indonesia, Portugal, Macau and Mozambique). The United Nations also requested four civilian police officers from Canada, which were sent to provide pre-deployment training for other incoming UNAMET civilian police, as well as assistance on the ground in East Timor. We are organizing a delegation of Canadian parliamentarians to observe the ballot on Aug. 30 in East Timor and assess the environment in which it takes place.
For Mr. Robinson to say that Canada has not been concerned with the violence by the militias in East Timor is ridiculous. Canada has, on a number of occasions, condemned the violence against East Timorese civilians and UNAMET personnel. In May of this year, Canada successfully argued at the Security Council that it should be briefed by the secretary-general biweekly on the situation in East Timor. At the most recent of these meetings, Canada cautioned that the five criteria by which the security situation is to be judged have yet to be met.
We have also repeatedly reminded the Indonesian government of its responsibility for establishing a secure environment in East Timor, including control of the militias' violence. I raised Canada's concerns about security with Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alitas at last month's meetings of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Singapore. I have also instructed the assistant deputy minister responsible for East Timor to travel to Jakarta to again deliver our concerns that a secure environment is essential for a free and fair ballot to take place. He will do so next week, and will also meet with Bishop Belo, representatives of the Red Cross, UNAMET personnel and others.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended the extension of UNAMET's mandate and an augmentation in the number of civilian police and military liaison officers in East Timor. Canada supports these recommendations. We await Security Council approval of the secretary-general's recommendations, but are already in discussion with the UN regarding further contributions.
I look forward to meeting with the head of the CLC delegation, who may put forward a far more informed and constructive account of the situation on the ground and Canada's role than that presented by Mr. Robinson.
Lloyd Axworthy, Foreign Affairs Minister, Ottawa.
7 c) Shame Re: Letters, Aug. 14. Svend Robinson, MP National Post, Wednesday, August 18, 1999
Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy's response to the call by a recent Canadian Labour Congress led delegation to East Timor (in which I had the privilege of participating) for a much stronger response to the Indonesian military sponsored violence there, is pathetic. That is not surprising, given his government's shameful record in appeasing the brutal General Suharto regime at APEC and before.
Despite well documented murders, terror and intimidation by Indonesian military- backed militias, including the murder of two innocent students, Mr. Axworthy has not said one word for almost four weeks. Virtually all the groups our delegation met with, including ETADEP, the largest recipient of Canadian aid, appealed for a strong condemnation of the militias' violence and an end to Canada's military ties and bilateral aid to the Indonesian regime.
Mr. Axworthy's silence should not surprise us, since his government was one of the last Western governments to speak out after the Liquica massacre of 54 innocent Timorese civilians at a church last April. And even then, after 13 days, he called for a "ceasefire." This response was denounced by Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta as "disgraceful."
I hope Mr. Axworthy will finally listen to the voices of those who participated in the Canadian Labour Congress delegation instead of apologizing for their activities to Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, as he did before the APEC summit. It's time our government strongly and publicly urged the Habibie regime to honour the May 5 accord they signed, withdraw the Indonesian military from East Timor, end the thuggery of the pro-integration militias, and allow the people of East Timor to vote fairly and freely to choose their own destiny.
After 23 years of silence and complicity between the governments of Indonesia and Canada, let's finally see some leadership from Mr. Axworthy for justice and human rights in that tiny, deeply troubled land.
Svend Robinson, MP, Burnaby, B.C.
East Timor Alert Network (ETAN) - Canada Post Box 4115, Station E Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B1
Link to main East Timor page