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Letter to EU President, 19 January 2000

19 January 2000

Message received from Andy Alcock, Campaign for an Independent East Timor (South Australia) Inc.

The following letter was sent to Mr Jaime Gama, Portugal's Foreign Minister and the President of the EU following the decision of that body to lift the embargo against the Indonesian military.

The letter urges the EU to reimpose the embargo on all forms of military cooperation with the Indonesian military (TNI) to halt further human rights violations in the Asia and Pacific regions.

Please feel free to quote the contents of this communication to put further pressure on the European Parliament.

In solidarity

Andy Alcock

Campaign for an Independent East Timor (South Australia) Inc. (Affiliated to the International Federation for East Timor, the East Timor Relief Association, the Free Timor Coalition and the Australian Coalition for a Free East Timor)

19 January 2000
His Excellency, Mr Jaime Gama,
Foreign Minister of Portugal
President of the European Union,

Your Excellency


On the 10 January, we wrote to you and other world leaders explaining why it was inappropriate and very dangerous for the peoples of the SE Asian and the Pacific regions should the European Union agree to resume military cooperation with the Indonesian military (TNI). Our reason for writing was to highlight the fact that the TNI, as you would be aware, has committed genocide and gross violations against human rights over the past 35 years which continue today despite the change of government in Indonesia.

We were therefore appalled and bitterly disappointed to learn that the EU has decided to resume the military cooperation with this evil killing machine. It is our belief that many people of peace and goodwill around the world will be outraged at the decision that you have taken.

The decision was evidently taken because the EU believed that the restrictive measures imposed against the Indonesian regime in September 1999 were no longer necessary because of the change of government. It further claimed that arms exports will be governed by the strict implementation of an EU Code of Conduct to prevent their misuse .

On the contrary, the EU decision will further contribute to greater loss of innocent lives, threaten the fragile Indonesian democracy and embolden the murderous intentions of the highly criminal TNI. We are writing to you again to respectfully ask you to consider the facts outlined below and to rescind your lifting of the ban on military cooperation with the TNI.

Your decision comes at a time when the following events are occurring:

The UN estimates that between 120,000 - 170,000 East Timorese refugees are still trapped in West Timor by the TNI and its militias. It is still using military force to terrorise these refugees and to prevent their return to East Timor.

INTERFET Commander Major General Peter Cosgrove has strongly criticised Indonesian Commander in West Timor, Major General Kiki Syahnakri, for allowing Indonesia's troops to continue to collude with militia gangs.

Major-General Peter Cosgrove also reported only two days ago that his troops opened fire when they were attacked by TNI militiamen armed with automatic guns and shotguns in three separate clashes in the enclave of Oecusse.

The TNI is still intent in crushing independence movements in the Melanesian country of West Papua and the territory of Acheh in northern Sumatra.

There is communal strife in Ambon between Christians and Muslims believed to be fomented by the TNI. The introduction of more TNI personnel is predicted by observers to lead to even greater loss of life among of Ambonese civilians as the generals use every strategy at their disposal to undermine democracy in Indonesia

The TNI is intent on challenging the elected government of Abdurrahman Wahid. The President has felt it necessary to rearrange senior military postings to isolate those loyal to General Wiranto, the alleged instigator of the increased brutality in East Timor in the lead up to the referendum and the period after. His government is in a very tenuous situation.

[The US is so sure that that TNI generals intend to stage a coup that Richard Holbrooke, the US Ambassador to the UN, gave a stern warning to TNI generals not to attempt an overthrow of the democratic structures that have recently been put in place in Indonesia].

A major disappointment about this premature lifting of the embargo is the apparent prominent leadership role taken by Portugal in taking the decision. This is very sad indeed given the courageous moral stance that Portugal consistently took over the past two decades to oppose the illegal and barbaric occupation of East Timor by the TNI.

Your decision will lead many to believe that you, like Britain, have succumbed to the strategies of the arms manufacturers and have decided to put their profits before human rights.

The world has come to expect the Blair Government to make strong statements about human rights and then adopt policies that contribute to human rights violations. Military aid to and cooperation with the TNI continued until a few weeks before peacekeepers entered East Timor in late 1999. UK Foreign Minister, John Battle, will shortly visit East Timor and Indonesia. It is expected that he will be seeking to renew lucrative arms and military equipment sales with the military which is the greatest threat to peace, democracy and human rights in the region.

It was heartening to see that Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Jozias van Aartsen has said that he wants to maintain an arms embargo on Indonesia. The Netherlands has in the past provided military hardware to the Indonesian regime.

In the interests of democracy, peace and social justice in the Asia and Pacific regions, the Dutch position should have prevailed. We again implore you to reimpose the embargo against the Indonesian military to prevent further loss of life in this part of the world.

Yours sincerely

Andrew (Andy) Alcock
Information Officer

for the Committee
Campaign for an Independent East Timor (South Australia) Inc.

Link to main East Timor page

Link to confirmation of arms sales to Indonesia

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