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Statement of Lynn Fredriksson
Washington Representative, East Timor Action Network
Upon Announcement of the Indonesia Human Rights Before Military Assistance Act
May 20, 1998

Good afternoon. It is an honor to be present today for the announcement of a very important piece of legislation, Cynthia McKinney’s Human Rights Before Military Assistance Act. I look forward to meeting its other co-sponsors. Thank you, Congresswoman McKinney.

As you know, network television and newspapers of record are now continuously reporting Indonesia’s financial and political upheaval. As tens of thousands of students and workers protest in the streets, the Indonesian military (ABRI), still led by General Suharto, cracks down—shooting students, arresting over 1000 in the last week, and disappearing over 50 leading pro-democracy activists in the last several months. Last week, many of you heard one of these leaders, Pius Lustrilanang, bravely testify before the House Human Rights Subcommittee, describing how he was kidnapped, detained incommunicado and tortured for two months in Jakarta, before being released under threat of death if he talked.

On November 12 of last year I was the only foreigner present at a peaceful vigil as hundreds of Timorese university students commemorated the Santa Cruz massacre of 1991. For observing that vigil, Indonesian police arrested, interrogated and detained me for 24 hours, then expelled me from the country. I had witnessed heavily armed ABRI forces with rifles trained on the peaceful students. Two days later ABRI returned to the university, shooting six students, arresting dozens, and disappearing three. The human rights violations now receiving international attention in Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia have been the brutal norm in East Timor through 22 years of Indonesian occupation.

A third of the population of East Timor, over 200,000 people, has been killed in Indonesian military actions, by torture and through forced starvation. This very day in East Timor people will be arbitrarily arrested and tortured. Young people are beaten, disappeared or killed for nothing more than practicing "politics" (expressing their own views), illegal under Indonesian law.

Just before some 20,000 Indonesian students occupied the Indonesian Parliament to demonstrate against 32 years of political repression and economic corruption under the Suharto regime, just before military tanks filled the streets of Jakarta this week, President Bill Clinton made a statement that "…all of us have a big interest in the future success of a country [Indonesia] that has done some fabulous things in the last 30 years, but it had a very bad few months here." Does this sound like the U.S. administration understands 32 years of repressive military dictatorship in Indonesia and 22 years of brutal occupation of East Timor? It’s clearly time for the U.S. Congress to take bold and decisive action to cut all remaining support for military rule in Indonesia, under Suharto or, if necessary, under any military government that might take his place.

Two months ago it was revealed through the release of Pentagon documents that Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) in the form of Advanced Sniper Training, Psychological Operations, Close Quarters Combat, and Demolitions Training was still being provided to Indonesia by U.S. military units from 1992-1997, and into 1998. This was clearly against congressional intent. Congress has banned International Military Education and Training (IMET) to Indonesia since 1992, after the Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor, and because of ongoing, severe human rights violations. Secretary of Defense Cohen two weeks ago announced the suspension of JCET and other military training programs to Indonesia, citing the present instability and unrest, but he did this only in response to vast public outcry and congressional outrage. This temporary suspension of training is not enough.

As the Suharto regime cracks down on peaceful student protesters, as it prohibits demonstrations and threatens the use of even greater force (as General Wiranto banned demonstrations today, May 20, and ordered tanks onto the streets to back up his threat), it is imperative that the U.S. government send a clear and unmistakable message to Jakarta, and back it up. The U.S. should not be providing any Indonesian military regime with the military training or hardware with which to repress its own people.

This legislation will send that message. It will prohibit the transfer of lethal equipment, helicopters, spare parts and ammunition to Indonesia until the President can certify serious political and human rights improvements. These include the release of political prisoners in both Indonesia and East Timor, open access for human rights monitors and the press throughout Indonesia, East Timor and Irian Jaya, and the establishment of the rule of law—free and fair elections, civilian control of the military, and the cessation of disappearances, torture and executions.

It’s hard to keep up with the pace of events in Indonesia today. But, one thing is certain— the people are claiming their rights; they are not likely to stop short of a genuine change of government, substantial political reforms, and verifiable human rights. It is time that the U.S. acknowledge this reality, as well as the reality of suffering the people of Indonesia and East Timor have endured for far, far too long. The U.S. should not only cut off all financial, military and diplomatic support for Suharto and the military in Indonesia, it should proactively support a democratic, civilian coalition government in Indonesia, and it should unreservedly support an internationally supervised referendum in East Timor as soon as possible.

Text of Indonesia Human Rights Before Military Assistance Act
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