Vol. 5, No. 1
|Albright Supports Indonesian
Troop Reductions and Transparency in East Timor, Calls for Xananas Release
by Lynn Fredriksson, DC Representative
Two recent developments illustrate a shift in U.S. policy on East Timor. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a November letter to Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, formalized the new stance by writing, "We will continue to reiterate to Indonesia the importance of implementing agreed confidence building measures, including its pledge to reduce overall troop levels. We will continue to call for the release of prisoners of conscience, including Xanana Gusmao."
Perhaps even more surprisingly, long-time Indonesian regime supporter Douglas Bereuter (R-NE), Chair of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee in the House, called for Xananas release from Cipinang Prison after meeting with the East Timorese resistance leader in January.
The Albright and Bereuter statements followed important legislative victories in 1998, and the release by ETAN and other solidarity groups last October of leaked documents proving Indonesian troop levels are more than double Indonesian government figures. In July, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting a referendum. By October, the full Congress went on record as supporting self-determination, in a statement attached to the Omnibus Appropriations Act.
That mammoth Act also extended a six-year ban on the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, and called for a detailed report of all overseas training to foreign militaries conducted or planned by the Pentagon. (This provision and the Defense Authorization Acts funding ban on training involving units guilty of human rights violations in any country resulted from the controversy over the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) of Indonesian troops, revealed by ETAN, Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL) and Allan Nairn in March 1998.)
Further, the 105th Congress renewed a provision from last years legislation requiring that any agreement to sell, transfer or license lethal equipment to the Indonesian military state that the U.S. expects the weapons will not be used in East Timor.
Our 1998 successes were reinforced during the January recess by Senate and House letters to Albright calling for U.S. support for permanent UN monitors and genuine troop withdrawals in East Timor. Senators Feingold (D-WI), Reed (D-RI), Harkin (D-IA) and Wellstone (D-MN), and Reps. Hall (D-OH), Wolf (R-VA), Olver (D-MA), Lowey (D- NY), Lantos (D-CA), McGovern (D-MA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) expressed their concern to State over military atrocities committed in rural areas of the occupied territory.
Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth met with Xanana several times during 1998. Those meetings, and visits with the East Timorese leader by UN Special Envoy on East Timor Jamsheed Marker and Congressmen Bereuter, Jim Greenwood (R-PA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) likely indicate an effort to end the controversy over East Timors political status without formally including East Timorese representatives in UN-supervised talks (for more on UN negotiations, see other front page article).
ETAN accomplished a lot in Washington this year, thanks in part to the wonderful help of temporary Washington Organizer Simon Doolittle. We now enter a new congressional year without Simon and need your grassroots support more than ever. We are considering hiring a permanent second staffer in Washington; contact ETAN if you are interested.
Over the next few months, we will be advancing legislation to close loopholes that allowed JCET and other U.S.-supplied training for Indonesian soldiers. Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Lane Evans (D-IL) are preparing to reintroduce the International Military Training Transparency and Accountability Act; please ask your representative to be an original co-sponsor.
In addition to maintaining and strengthening existing provisions, we will work to cut off remaining weaponry that the U.S. still provides the Indonesian regime. We will seek mechanisms to verify Indonesian compliance with the prohibition on U.S. weapons in East Timor, and U.S. compliance with current restrictions on training for the Indonesian military.
I strongly encourage ETAN activists to write, fax, call and email Stanley Roth and Madeleine Albright . We must also keep up congressional pressure on the State Department (for Congressional and State contact information, see action alert, p. 9). Encourage your Representatives and Senators to host hearings, initiate a sign-on letter, make statements on the floor or in committee, or join a congressional delegation to East Timor. Continue to push our basic demands: Xananas unconditional release, formal East Timorese participation in UN talks, and genuine self- determination through a UN-supervised referendum. I cant stress enough the importance of letters to the editor, op-eds, radio interviews and call-ins.
A year ago many of us would not have dreamed 1998 would witness the fall of Suharto, and Indonesian and East Timorese people demonstrating in mass numbers in the streets of Jakarta and Dili. As the people of both countries continue their struggle, we in the U.S. have a unique privilege: we can demand that our government help them to achieve their rights.
As Jose Ramos-Horta recently said about Australias new policy on East Timor, "It requires courage and vision as well as statesmanship to reverse an old published policy." It also requires public pressure. We cant let up now. A luta continua!