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East Timor ACTION Network

Question the Candidates

Election 2004 & East Timor and Indonesia

While the primaries and general election may still seem a long way off, the election season is already in full swing. Now is the time to challenge or praise incumbents' records on East Timor and Indonesia, and ask all candidates for federal office their positions on justice for East Timor, restoring U.S. military ties to Indonesia and other related issues.

These interactions can have a real impact. In 1992, ETAN activists in Wisconsin publicly challenged Republican Senator Robert Kasten's support for U.S. training of Indonesian soldiers. Russell Feingold picked up the issue, defeated Kasten, and today remains one of East Timor's strongest supporters in Washington. "I hadn't always planned to become involved in East Timor, because I wasn't always aware of the situation there," Feingold once said. "But then… the East Timor Action Network brought the plight of the East Timorese people to my attention."

Here are a few things you can do (see sample questions for candidates below):

  1. Challenge Presidential, House and Senate candidates to state their position on U.S. military training and weapons sales to Indonesia while the Indonesian military continues to evade accountability for crimes against humanity committed in East Timor, block reform to establish civilian control of the military, and carry out brutal acts of repression in Aceh, Papua and elsewhere. Urge the candidates to actively support an international tribunal to bring those responsible for decades of crimes against humanity in East Timor to justice.
  2. Raise the issues at debates and campaign events; write and call the candidates and encourage others to do so. Praise those who've stood up for the people of East Timor and Indonesia, challenge those who haven't, and encourage newcomers to clearly state their positions on these issues. When people ask questions in a variety of fora, candidates see that these issues are important to people in their district or state.

    Try to get the candidate to make specific commitments to oppose training - including so-called counter-terrorism training, weapons sales and other military aid to Jakarta and to support justice for East Timor, which must include an international tribunal for East Timor. Follow up with a letter, reiterating your position and outlining your agreement or disagreement with the candidate. (Be prepared to provide additional information for candidates who may not be familiar with East Timor or Indonesia.)
  3. Write letters to local papers calling on candidates to take stronger stands on the issues.

Sample Questions for Candidates (also feel free to ask these questions after the election of new and returning members of Congress):

  • Most U.S. military assistance to Indonesia has been suspended since the Indonesian military and its militias devastated East Timor in 1999. The administration and some members of Congress are now working to restore these ties even though those most responsible for organizing those crimes against humanity have yet to be held accountable and the Indonesian military continues to terrorize its own people. Do you agree that we should not provide any training - including "counter-terrorism" training - or sell weapons to the Indonesian military? What role should supporting human rights have in U.S. foreign policy?
  • The USA Patriot Act states that "domestic terrorism" includes: (A) …acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended-- (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. The Indonesian military has systematically targeted civilians to advance its domestic interest. The Indonesian military regularly commits atrocities of the worst kind against civilians in Aceh and elsewhere. Crimes against humanity were regularly committed by the TNI in East Timor aimed at intimidating the East Timorese from peacefully supporting independence. Further, the corrupt Indonesian military has known ties to terrorist fundamentalist groups like Laskar Jihad. Given this background, would you consider the Indonesian military to be a terrorist organization? Doesn't providing U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military contradict our policy of rooting out terrorism?
  • In 1999, after East Timor voted for independence, the Indonesian military and its militias ransacked East Timor. Indonesia has clearly proved it is unable to hold its armed forces accountable; twelve of sixteen military and police officers prosecuted were acquitted of all charges in trials widely regarded as a sham, and the court effectively rewrote history in the Indonesian military's favor. Those convicted received very light sentences and none are expected to serve a day in jail. Do you support going to the UN Security Council to create an international tribunal for East Timor to make certain justice is served? What other steps should the U.S. take to support justice for these serious crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in East Timor since Indonesia invaded in 1975?
  • On August 31, 2002, an ambush took place in the Papua province in Indonesia. Two U.S. citizens and one Indonesian were shot dead. The Indonesian police and many others believe the Indonesian military is responsible. On May 19, 2003, the Indonesian military declared martial law in Aceh, a resource-rich region in North Sumatra, initiating its largest military campaign since the 1975 invasion of East Timor. Thousands of human rights violations have occurred since then. In light of the Indonesian military's past and continuing gross human rights violations against their own people, and now the likely involvement in killing U.S. citizens, what are your views on funding and training the Indonesian military or other militaries that do not respect human rights and international law?
  • While there is currently a ban on supplying "lethal" military equipment to Indonesia, the Indonesian military (TNI) continues to use weapons they received before the bane. In Aceh, American F-16 fighter jets, OV-10 Bronco planes (used for bombing and strafing), and other equipment have been used to enforce martial law and undermine a U.S.-backed ceasefire. Should the U.S. openly protest the use of weapons by Indonesia against civilians in Aceh? What should the U.S. do to encourage a peaceful resolution of conflicts in Indonesia?

Questions contact ETAN: 718-596-7668

Please e-mail any responses to

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