Vol. 7, No. 3
ETAN Marks Anniversaries
ETAN Marks Anniversaries with Nationwide Actions
by John M. Miller and Diane Farsetta
On September 6, ETAN chapters marked two dark anniversaries for East Timor with vigils and other actions, including a press conference with members of Congress in Washington, DC. These actions drew attention to the ongoing refugee crisis and the need for an international tribunal, and demonstrated the continued commitment of rights activists and supportive Congressional offices to justice and security for East Timor.
September 6 is the anniversary of the Indonesian military-led massacre in 1999 in the town of Suai, East Timor, one of the worst after East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence. The date is also the anniversary of the murder — a year later — of three United Nations refugee workers and others by military-backed militia in Atambua, West Timor.
Across the country, ETAN chapters and members organized actions in 21 cities. Demonstrations took place at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, DC, and the Indonesian consulates in Chicago and San Francisco. Vigils for the refugees were held in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Atlanta. In Tempe (AZ), Seattle, Bloomington (IN), St. Louis, Ithaca and Stony Brook (NY), Providence (RI), and New Orleans, ETAN members did local outreach and education and urged members of Congress to co-sponsor resolutions calling for an international tribunal for East Timor. ETANers also wrote letters to the editor and op-eds, which were published in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Capital Times (WI), Hartford Courant (CT), and elsewhere. ETAN staff and members also spoke to various media on the day’s historical context and its contemporary relevance.
Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and Representative Jim McGovern (MA) spoke at
the Washington, DC press conference. With Senator Jack Reed (RI), they
visited East Timor in August 1999 just before the UN-organized referendum.
Senator Reed and Rep. Lane Evans (IL) provided statements for the
conference. On September 6, some two weeks after the members of Congress
visited Suai, the Indonesian military led a brutal attack on refugees
sheltering in the town’s churchyard, killing at least 200 people
(including nuns and priests) as part of its larger scorched earth policy.
The September 6 anniversaries highlight the need for international action on the refugee crisis and for an international tribunal. It is ironic that the three United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) workers in Atumbua, West Timor – including U.S. citizen Carlos Caceres – were hacked to death and their bodies set on fire by rampaging militia exactly one year after the Suai massacre. The attack, the worst ever on the UNHCR, resulted in an evacuation from West Timor. To this day most international aid agencies have not returned. The resulting lack of clean water, food, medicine and oversight has worsened the refugee’s plight. And even though six militiamen confessed to the Atumbua attack, Indonesian courts sentenced them to prison terms of only 10 to 20 months.
For more information, visit www.etan. org/news/2001a/09cong.htm
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