Vol. 7, No. 2
Will East Timor See Justice?
ETAN Conference Launches New Phase of Solidarity
by Diane Farsetta
What should ETAN's mission be now that East Timor is moving towards independence? What new approaches can we take to help achieve justice for East Timor, including a resolution to the refugee crisis? Thirty-six ETAN members from 13 states came to Tempe, Arizona at the end of January to address these and other important questions at ETAN's national strategy meeting.
ETAN National Coordinator Charlie Scheiner and Jill Sternberg, nonviolence and anti-oppression trainer with the Center for Education and Networking in Nonviolent Action, described their recent six-week visit to East Timor. They identified the following areas as needing serious attention: the need for real justice and reconciliation; the continuing refugee crisis in West Timor; problems with international institutions including the United Nations, large aid agencies, and the World Bank in East Timor; and the political transition process by which an East Timorese constitution will be drafted and adopted and a leadership democratically elected. Although there are many problems with the UN transitional administration (see Will East Timor See Justice?), Charlie and Jill reported a significant sense of relief in East Timor now that the Indonesian military is gone, with East Timorese friends appearing years younger than in 1999.
ETAN's original mission statement focused on the need for East Timorese self-determination, a goal largely achieved in the August 1999 referendum. The new mission statement, developed at the conference and subsequently revised and adopted by ETAN's steering committee, emphasizes ETAN's commitment to human rights and a broad range of social justice issues (see http://www.etan.org/etan/default.htm).
Participants decided upon the initiatives of most importance for the coming year:
Other conference sessions discussed ETAN's national work, grassroots strategies, and coordination with the new Indonesian Human Rights Network (IHRN). Important aspects of ETAN's national-level work include lobbying Congress to support an international tribunal and to maintain the suspension on U.S.-Indonesia military ties. The Lantos/Kennedy "East Timor Transition to Independence Act of 2001" was the subject of much discussion at the conference (see U.S. - East Timor Relationship Raises New Questions). ETAN and IHRN have been working together on maintaining the ban on U.S.-Indonesia military ties, and will work together for an international tribunal and an end to the West Timor refugee crisis. IHRN will likely take leadership and an increasing share of the work on Indonesia-related issues as the organization develops.
The meeting re-energized participants and reminded us how much ETAN has accomplished, though this of course pales beside the successes and continuing troubles of the East Timorese themselves. Although political independence for East Timor is now virtually guaranteed, we all agreed the people of East Timor need and deserve support from friends in the United States as they work for social, political and economic justice. The East Timor Action Network will continue to work in partnership with the people of East Timor to provide such support.
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