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Update on East Timor
Tue, 14 Dec 1999
Although we have been keeping the East Timor section of our website updated, we have not been circulating much information via our email lists. With the change of government, and the possibility of a change of direction in foreign policy, it seems timely to circulate the following :
1) a copy of a letter from the East Timor Independence Committee (written on 5 Dec before confirmation of Ministerial portfolios); and 2) the latest alert from the East Timor Action Network which has further info, and also lists the kinds of action those concerned about the East Timorese are taking in the USA.
If you wish to write / fax the new government about any of the points raised below, here are the contact details :
* Letters - all letters should be addressed to the relevant person and posted (no stamp needed) to Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
* Phone calls and faxes (all to be prefixed by 04 by those of you out of Wellington) -
~ Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; ~ Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; ~ Phil Goffe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, office - tel 471 9370, fax 495 8444 (NOTE - this is a temporary fax number valid only until 17-12-99).
* Please send a copy of any letters / faxes and of any replies to PMA for our files; and also to the Green Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Keith Locke, Green's office - tel 471 9999 (main parliamentary switchboard, ask for Green's office), fax 472 6003.
~ Please note - there seems to be some confusion re the parliamentary tel / fax numbers as the numbers are switched over, so please make sure the name of the person to whom your fax is addressed is clearly visible and hopefully it will be passed on if the number has been changed.
1) ----- ETIC letter to PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs -----
5 December, 1999.
Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister Elect. and The Appointee, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
On behalf of the East Timor Independence Committee I offer congratulations on your election victory and best wishes as you take up your new responsibilities.
We are hopeful that the new government will revise a foreign policy to be better aligned with human rights and international justice as opposed to past policy based on a narrow perception of national self-interest. We therefore request your attention to these East Timor issues.
1. The urgent need for New Zealand participation in the international diplomatic effort to bring Indonesia to task for the continuing refugee crisis in West Timor. Despite the visits of international delegations, including Richard Holbrook (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations), there is ongoing militia intimidation of the refugees and a drastic deterioration in the conditions in the refugee camps. Sanitation arrangements which were at best basic, have now become dangerous and some camps are said to have only contaminated water. Hundreds, including many children are dying from preventable disease. The UN High Commission for Refugees said that at least 35 people mostly children died in one camp close to Kupang over a 10 day period at the end of November. The militia systematically attack independence supporters, rape women and threaten those who would seek to return home.
The Indonesian Government says it is about to cut off its aid to the refugee camps in West Timor but has taken no effective action to curb the militia violence and to support the UN agencies which are trying to repatriate the refugees. The flow of refugees back to East Timor has diminished to a trickle in the past two weeks and over 100,000 still remain in the camps. The border agreement signed by the TNI and Interfet in November appears to have little effect on refugee rate of return.
We appeal to the new Government to send an urgent fact-finding mission to West Timor to underline New Zealand's concern for this humanitarian disaster.
2. The need for Government to undertake an enquiry into New Zealand policy towards East Timor over the past 25 years.
We believe that the juxtaposition of freedom in East Timor with the advent of the new Government in this country presents an unparalleled opportunity for a serious re-examination of this critical foreign policy issue.
As it is said :"Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it". New Zealand has downplayed human rights abuses in East Timor for the sake of its relationship with Indonesia. In order to restore our human rights credentials we need to face our past openly.
In December last year the Australian Senate undertook to carry out a wide ranging enquiry and to call for submissions from East Timorese representatives as well as Indonesian and Portuguese representations.
As you know the Australian Labor Party changed its East Timor policy last year and their Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Mr Brereton has since challenged both his Labor predecessors and the current Australian leadership for East Timor failures. It has emerged recently that the Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) provided information about militia preparations for post-ballot violence which was not acted on.
Many documents about New Zealand foreign policy on East Timor have already been released, but the papers are neither complete nor up-to-date. There has been limited opportunity up until now to involve East Timorese representatives in the process.
We look forward to hearing from you about these two initiatives and to ongoing dialogue.
Maire Leadbeater, for the East Timor Independence Committee, P.O. Box 68-419, Auckland, New Zealand.
2) ----- Original Message from ETAN -----
The Update/Alert below is divided into 4 parts: Introduction, What You Can Do, Legislative Update, Additional Background
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE & ACTION ALERT
INTRODUCTION East Timor is on the road to becoming the world's newest country, thanks to the tireless work of its people and others like yourself around the world. But conditions for over 100,000 East Timorese still trapped in camps in West Timor, and in other parts of Indonesia, are horrendous. Indonesian military (TNI)-backed militias and TNI itself control the camps, severely restricting humanitarian access and impeding the safe return of refugees to East Timor. Members of Congress and Clinton administration officials must maintain vigorous pressure on the new Indonesian government to halt collusion between TNI and militias and to disarm and disband all militia groups. U.S. officials should insist on Indonesian and international support for the independent UN investigation into human rights violations leading to an international tribunal. U.S. and Indonesian backing should be extended to Komnas HAM, Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights, to continue its investigation of TNI and militia atrocities against East Timorese leading to high-level prosecutions.
The U.S. should adequately fund emergency relief and reconstruction efforts and the newly-established UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which will administer health care, education, and government and security structures for 2 to 3 years. While the U.S. has provided about $51 million to the relief effort so far, UNTAET will require about $1 billion for the coming year alone. Funding made available in the recently passed Foreign Operations Appropriations bill ($25 million) must be used for reconstruction in East Timor. Money is needed immediately to provide shelter, water and sanitation systems, and everyday medical care. Your Senators and Representative should communicate these needs directly to Clinton administration officials.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
* CALL your Senators and Representative. Tell them to call or write letters to President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid demanding that TNI immediately cease collusion with militias operating in refugees camps in West Timor and along the West Timor border. These militias must be immediately disarmed and disbanded and TNI withdrawn from the border and West Timor to prove the Indonesian government is now acting in good faith to resolve the ongoing crisis.
Senators and Representatives should strongly urge the U.S. and Indonesia to fully support the independent UN investigation into human rights violations, as well as Komnas HAM's investigation. Press for greater U.S. assistance for emergency relief and reconstruction efforts, and for UNTAET. Encourage your Representative and Senators to visit East Timor as part of a congressional delegation in early 2000. Such visits are important to ensure accountability of all parties involved in refugee return and nation-building, and provide members of congress with important first-hand experience in East Timor during this critical transition period. Thank them for Congressional action and funding to date.
If s/he has not already done so, ask your Representative to co-sponsor and actively support HR 1063, the International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act. ETAN will be reviving its efforts to pass this binding legislation in the new year.
The congressional switchboard number is 202-224-3121, or consult www.congress.gov for contact information. Contact your local League of Women Voters to determine your Members of Congress. Remember to thank your Senators and Representatives for any previous support.
* MEET WITH your Senators and Representative in their home offices during the recess (until late January). In-person meetings are effective means of keeping your Members of Congress updated and actively focused on events in East Timor, particularly during this critical transition period. Call your local office and set up an appointment with your Representative or Senator and the staffperson who handles foreign policy. For tips on congressional meetings, consult the 20/20 Vision website at www.2020vision.org, or call Karen at ETAN's Washington, DC office at 202-544-6911.
* CALL or WRITE Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Insist that the U.S. pressure Indonesia to immediately cease all TNI collusion with violence against the people of East Timor, and demonstrate good faith by disarming and disbanding the militias and withdrawing TNI from the border and West Timor. The U.S. and Indonesia must commit full support to the independent UN as well as Komnas HAM investigations into human rights violations, and prosecution of those seriously implicated in recent atrocities. Demand that the U.S. contribute its fair share to fund reconstruction efforts and UNTAET. Thank her for U.S. action and funding to date.
You can reach Secretary of State Albright at 202-647-5291, fax: 202-647-6434.
* CALL U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke. Insist that the U.S. contribute its fair share to fund UNTAET. Encourage full U.S. support for the independent UN human rights investigation and prosecution of those seriously implicated in recent atrocities. Thank him for his support for East Timor thus far.
You can reach Ambassador Holbrooke at 212-415-4062.
* WRITE letters to the editor. Ensure that East Timor remains on the agenda of international, national, regional, and local media coverage. Strongly urge that reporting accurately reflects the true situation for the people of East Timor.
For sample "letters to the editor," consult the ETAN website at http://www.etan.org. Contact John Miller at email@example.com or 718-596-7668 for further assistance.
Thanks in large part to grassroots efforts, Congress passed restrictions on military assistance to Indonesia in HR 3194, the final version of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The bill restricts the current fiscal year's military assistance to Indonesia until the President certifies that Indonesia has met certain conditions, including assisting the repatriation of East Timorese refugees forcibly removed to West Timor, aiding investigations of human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military and its militias, and preventing militia attacks on East Timor. HR 3194 also calls for detailed reports of all overseas military training of foreign militaries past or planned by the Pentagon. It continues the ban on IMET aid to Indonesia, while retaining the ban on Indonesia's use of U.S.-supplied weapons in East Timor. The bill also increases Economic Support Funds for the Agency for International Development by $168.5 million, a portion of which will be directed for East Timor.
Much of the language from HR 2895 and S. 1568, the House and Senate versions of the East Timor Self-Determination Act of 1999, was incorporated into HR 3194. Largely due to end-of-the-year House and Senate activities, we were not able to pass these free-standing bills in their original forms, but HR 3194 severely restricts U.S. military assistance for Indonesia. The East Timor Self-Determination Act can and will be resurrected at the end of January if the refugee crisis has not ended and Indonesian violence against the people of East Timor continues. Your visits, calls, and letters throughout the recess will continue the pressure until then.
In the year 2000, we will resume work on HR 1063, the International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced by Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Lane Evans (D-IL). HR 1063 closes loopholes the Pentagon has used to continue to train human rights violators. Although Congress has banned combat training for Indonesia under the IMET program, this bill would ban JCET and all similar programs to Indonesia and other human rights violating militaries under law. This bill has far-reaching implications for the human rights of all Indonesians and others around the world. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND Abdurrahman Wahid, known as Gus Dur, was recently elected President of Indonesia in the archipelago nation's first relatively democratic election in four decades. In October, the People's Consultative Assembly formally rescinded its illegal claim to East Timor. Both Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao have returned to East Timor. As UNTAET assumes authority in East Timor, the situation for East Timorese refugees trapped in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia remains unacceptable. TNI and militia violence threaten daily, with numerous reports of intimidation, murder, rape, and sexual slavery. Hundreds of children under the age of five are sick and dying from respiratory infections, malaria, and diarrhea. Despite these conditions, access to military/militia-controlled camps by humanitarian organizations continues to be severely restricted. Meanwhile, military/militia violence has severely hampered repatriation efforts, directly impeding the UNHCR returning refugees by land, air, and sea.
For more information, contact Karen Orenstein at ETAN's Washington office at 202-544-6911 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also consult the ETAN website at www.etan.org.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
John M. Miller
Web site: http://www.etan.org