Subject: United Methodists push House bills on East Timor
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 10:03:18 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

July 28, 1998 United Methodists push House bills on East Timor
by United Methodist News Service

United Methodists are urging Congress to pass two bills in the House of Representatives regarding East Timor, the tiny Southeast Asian country that is under military occupation by Indonesia.

The first bill, House Concurrent Resolution 258, supports East Timor's right to self-determination. It has 63 co-sponsors but needs more to reach the House floor for a vote.

"What it's calling for is basically to resolve the political status of East Timor by having a process of self-determination which would be supervised internationally," explained Rebecca Asedillo, a United Methodist Board of Global Ministries missionary, in a July 27 telephone interview. Two United Nations' Security Council resolutions and eight U.N. General Assembly resolutions have supported East Timor's right to self determination.

The bill recognizes the need for direct participation by East Timor in U.N.-sponsored talks between Indonesia and Portugal. Portugal is still recognized by the United Nations as having administrative authority of the country because East Timor was in the process of de-colonization from Portugal at the time of the 1975 invasion by Indonesia.

Talks have been set for Aug. 4-5 in New York. In advance of that meeting, Indonesia started withdrawing troops on July 28, and it plans to pull 1,000 soldiers out of East Timor by early August. After the withdrawals, 11,000 troops will remain.

The second House bill, H.R. 3802, is the International Military Training Accountability Act, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. It would ban all U.S. military training of Indonesian troops.

Asedillo, a peace with justice educator, works for the National Council of Churches' Southern Asia office and serves as staff for the East Timor working group.

"From our perspective, we've always seen that the human rights violations (in East Timor) are closely linked to self-determination," she said. Most violations occur against members of the pro-independence movement, she said.

The United Methodist Church's 1996 General Conference, which speaks officially for the denomination, objected to the continuing occupation of East Timor and supported the country's right to self-determination. The United Methodist Women's Action Network issued a July 27 alert asking its members to write, call or visit their U.S. Representatives, most of whom will be in their home districts between Aug. 1 and Sept. 8, to urge support of the bills.

The U.S. Senate already has acted. Its July 10 resolution calls on President Clinton to "work actively to support an internationally supervised referendum on self- determination." The Senate resolution also urges Clinton to encourage Indonesia's new government "to institute genuine democratic and economic reforms."

Indonesia's new president, B.J. Habibie, has offered to give East Timor "special status" and to free its political leader, Xanana Gusmao, in exchange for international recognition of Indonesia's annexation of the territory. According to the East Timor Action Network, Gusmao, East Timorese Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta and the Portuguese government have all rejected the proposal unless it allows East Timor the fundamental right of self-determination after a period of autonomy.

CONTACT: Linda Bloom (212) 870-3803 New York, NY

Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington. For general questions about The United Methodist Church, please call InfoServ at 1.800.251.8140.


See also:

•New World Outlook mission study issue on Indonesia (May-June 1998) •"East Timor" by Becky Asedillo, Deaconess (includes General Conference Resolution), October 1997 END tanetan

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