Connect with ETAN
Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest ETAN on Instagram Donate to ETAN!

Subject: ETAN/US: NGO Letter to Albright
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 10:54:41 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

November 12, 1998

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC

Dear Secretary Albright,

We, the undersigned 63 representatives of religious, human rights, labor, veterans, arms control, and peace and justice organizations write to you on the eve of your journey to Southeast Asia to express our full support for a referendum on self-determination in East Timor. Today, seven years after the Santa Cruz massacre, when over 270 peaceful East Timorese protesters were gunned down by the Indonesian military (ABRI) in the capital of Dili, current U.S. policy remains ambiguous on Indonesia's illegal 23-year occupation of East Timor. As we understand it, the U.S. still acknowledges the de facto annexation of East Timor by Indonesia while recognizing that no valid act of self-determination has taken place. We believe this position not only errs on the side of egregious injustice, but also is rendered obsolete by the profound changes sweeping Indonesia and occupied East Timor. Together we ask you to consider a formal change in U.S. policy to support a just and peaceful approach to resolving East Timor's political status, a valid act of self-determination.

As you know, the last round of UN-sponsored negotiations between Indonesia and Portugal failed to advance beyond minor agreements. These talks still fail to include the direct participation of East Timorese, particularly the president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), jailed leader Xanana Gusmao.

More disturbing, as these talks commenced, reports were surfacing that the Habibie government and ABRI have not only failed to decrease the number of troops in East Timor (now documented at 21,000), but have landed new combat, police and special forces units and covertly transported others over the West Timor border. Over the last several months, among ongoing human rights violations, reports have described increased paramilitary activity, ABRI operations against the East Timorese resistance, and threats lodged by Indonesian-appointed Governor Abilio Soares to fire civil servants who support self-determination.

It becomes increasingly evident that the international negotiations are dangerously out of sync with events in East Timor. While Indonesian and Portuguese negotiators inched forward in discussions on Habibie's autonomy plan (rejected by East Timorese leaders for its deliberate omission of a referendum), tens of thousands of East Timorese students and workers shut down Dili one month ago. These courageous East Timorese civilians demanded self-determination, Governor Soares' resignation, and Xanana Gusmao's release. Free speech forums progress despite increased military activity. Internal debate over East Timor's political status rages on, but it's about how to best achieve self-determination, not "autonomy."

As you know, for 23 years, the Indonesian military has continued one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, a brutal occupation that has claimed over 200,000 East Timorese lives. No East Timorese family has been left untouched by systematic rapes, beatings, arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances and extra-judicial executions. For 23 years the people united have resisted the Indonesian occupation, hoping for long-overdue international support and working unceasingly for a just solution. All they ask is the most basic of human rights: the freedom to vote for their own government. As Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Carlos Belo has recently stated, "The people want a referendum, and I'll go along with what the people choose."

Although the will of the majority of East Timorese people should be convincing enough reason for the U.S. to officially back self-determination, we ask you to also consider U.S. and world opinion. On July 10 of this year the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 237, expressing its unequivocal support for a referendum in East Timor. The Omnibus Appropriations bill supports self-determination in language taken from House Concurrent Resolution 258. Recent congressional letters to the International Relations Committee, President Clinton and Indonesian President Habibie reinforce full congressional support for self-determination.

In Indonesia, pro-democracy leader Amien Rais has formally included East Timor's self-determination in his party's platform. Labor leader Muchtar Pakpahan, Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid, and the People's Democratic Party (PRD) all formally endorse a referendum.

South African Bishop Tutu, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Simon Wiesenthal and the Society for Threatened Peoples have called for a referendum. The editorial boards of the New York Times and the Economist concur. In addition, leaders from Australian Foreign Minister Downer to Nelson Mandela call for Xanana Gusmao's release and his participation in the UN-sponsored negotiations.

Together we add our own voices to this authoritative body of global citizens. We unite to call for a referendum on self-determination in East Timor, and for a shift in U.S. policy to support this just and necessary solution. We ask you to give serious and speedy consideration to the most effective ways to place permanent UN and international monitors in East Timor to ensure respect for human rights, to monitor the Indonesian occupation forces, and to oversee real withdrawals of Indonesian troops from the occupied territory. We ask you to do everything in your power to press for the release of all political prisoners, including Xanana Gusmao, who is the overwhelming choice of the East Timorese people to represent them in further negotiations on the future of East Timor. Such confidence-building measures are vital to a peaceful transition, and little more than what has been promised by the Habibie government.

Surely the U.S. has a unique role to play in East Timor's transition; long-standing economic and political ties with Jakarta provide the U.S. with reasonable leverage to promote a just solution. Clear U.S. support for self-determination would aid the admirable efforts of Secretary General Kofi Annan and Ambassador Jamsheed Marker as they proceed with the UN-sponsored talks. A repudiation of the Suharto regime's illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor would signal the Habibie government's genuine commitment to democratic reform, and free it from what Ali Alatas has called the "pebble in Indonesia's shoe," which has long tarnished its international image. A just resolution of East Timor's status would also stabilize a volatile situation, and enhance regional security. Most important, you and your colleagues now have the opportunity to help end a grave injustice and make self-determination in East Timor a reality. We wish you well on your journey, Madame Secretary. We will look forward to hearing from you upon your return.

Sincerely, Mike Amitay, Director, Washington Kurdish Institute

Sohail Ansari, General Secretary World Sindhi Institute

Bama Athreya, Program Associate, International Labor Rights Fund

Mubarak Awad, Chair of the Board, Nonviolence International

Jeff Ballinger, Press for Change

Medea Benjamin, Co-Director, Global Exchange

Betty Burkes, U.S. Section President, Women's International League, for Peace and Freedom

Gordon S. Clark, Executive Director, Peace Action

Tammi L. Coles, Coordinator, Washington Peace Center

Pam Costain, Executive Director, Resource Center of the Americas

Ron Cruz, President, Portuguese-American Leadership Council of the United States, Inc.

Rev. Douglas P. Cunningham, Pastor, St. Luke's United Methodist Church of Woodlawn, Maryland

Peter J. Davies, U.S. Representative, Saferworld

John Dear, SJ, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Stan DeBoe, Director, Justice and Peace Ministry, of the Trinitarian Fathers

Paul Donowitz, Member, Board of Directors, Students for a Free Tibet

Robert Doolittle, Youth Director, St. Paul's Parish, Cambridge, MA

Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative, East Timor Action Network

Elenora Giddings Ivory, Director, Washington Office, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Jafar Hamzah, Acehnese Human Rights Lawyer

Jaydee Hanson, Assistant Secretary General, Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church

William D. Hartung, Senior Fellow, Arms Trade Resource Center, World Policy Institute

Pharis Harvey, Executive Director, International Labor Rights Fund

Drew Hempel, Co-Founder, Minnesota Free Burma Coalition

Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director, Methodist Federation for Social Action

Peter H. Juviler, Co-Director, Columbia University Center for the Study of Human Rights

Dr. Najmaldin O. Karim, President, Kurdish National Congress of North America

Rev. Ted Keating, SM, Director for Justice and Peace, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Charles McCollough, Associate for Church Empowerment, Office of Church in Society, United Church of Christ

Malik Miah, Indonesia Alert!

John M. Miller, Director, Foreign Bases Project

Mary H. Miller, Executive Secretary, Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Allan Nairn, Justice for All

Scott Nathanson, Acting Director, Demilitarization for Democracy

Fr. Bill O'Donnell, Pastor, St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Berkeley

John Oei, Founder, Indonesian, Chinese and American Network (ICANET)

Miriam Pemberton, Director, National Commission of Economic Conversion and Disarmament

Constancio Pinto, Representative to North America, Acting Rep. to the UN, National Council of Timorese Resistance

Kathryn Cameron Porter, President, Secretary-General, Human Rights Alliance

Vanessa Ramos, Asociacion Americana de Juristas

Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA

Carol Richardson, Director, Washington Office, School of the Americas Watch

Rev. Peter Ruggere, Maryknoll Fathers, Sisters and Lay Ministers Social Concerns Office

Charles Scheiner, National Coordinator, East Timor Action Network

Sharon Silber, Member, Executive Council, Jews Against Genocide

Shaun Skelton, Director, Visions in Action

Morton Sklar, Director, World Organization Against Torture

Nancy Small, National Coordinator, Pax Christi, USA

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, Director, Genocide Watch

Edward W. Stowe, Legislative Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Rev. Max B. Surjadinata, Pastor, Mt. Vernon Heights Congregational Church, Mt. Vernon, NY

Ben Terrall, Director, East Timor Relief and Research Project

Kathy Thornton, RSM, National Coordinator, NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Ross Varitan, Executive Director, Armenian Assembly of America

Edith Villastrigo, National Legislative Director, Women Strike for Peace

Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Paul Walker, President, Veterans for Peace

Helmi Wattimena, Chairman, Indonesian Democratic Institute

Carol Welch, International Policy Analyst, Friends of the Earth

Phil Wheaton, Director, Conversion for Reclaiming Earth in the Americas

Kani Xulam, Director, American Kurdish Information Network

Alice Zachmann, Director, Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA

Zarni, Founder, Free Burma Coalition

John M. Miller Internet: Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network PO Box 150753, Brooklyn, NY 11215-0014 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097 ETAN's new web site:

Send a blank e-mail message to to find out how to learn more about East Timor on the Internet

Back to November Menu
Back to Main Postings Menu & Site Search Engine