|Subject: CONG: Senators commend Indonesia remarks
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 15:10:05 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
United States Senate WASHINGTON. DC 20510
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 28. 1999
CONTACT: Sue Harvey, Torricelli (224-3224) Mary Borrari, Feingold (224-8657) Jodi Bennett, Reed (224-4665)
SENATORS WELCOME ANNOUNCEMENT ON EAST TIMOR Senators Torricelli, Feingold, and Reed Commend Indonesians' Remarks
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, three Democratic Senators welcomed indications that the Government of Indonesia is considering granting independence to the half-island territory or East Timor. In a letter to Indonesia's Ambassador to the United States, Senators Torricelli, Feingold and Reed commended the remarks offered by several top leaders of Indonesia regarding the future status of East Timor.
"We believe that President Habibie's comments represent a positive first forward. We would like to encourage the Indonesian government to explore this option to the fullest in the interest of resolving one of the most divisive conflicts in the region," the Senators wrote.
The remarks offered by the government of Indonesia yesterday raised the possibility of granting independence to East Timor for the first time since Indonesia annexed the territory 23 years ago. East Timor has been wracked by bloodshed and human rights abuses since Indonesia occupied it in 1976. According to human rights groups, East Timor has lost more than one-third of its population during this period.
"The people of East Timor have lived with violence and destruction for far too long," said Torricelli. "The election of President Habibie has opened up new opportunities to finally resolve the question of East Timor's political status. I am hopeful that this opportunity will not go to waste."
"For more than two decades, the people of East Timor have been subjected to Indonesian occupation, with the loss of thousands of lives, the relentless suppression of free speech and countless incidents of torture and brutality," said Feingold. "I am greatly encouraged by the words we have heard today from the Government of Indonesia, and I sincerely hope this represents a turning point in the relations between Indonesia and the United States."
"The treatment the people or East Timor have been subjected to at the hands of the Indonesian government has been unconscionable," said Reed. "What we have heard today, though long overdue, is a sign of hope. I'm pleased that the Government of Indonesia has taken steps towards improving the situation in East Timor.
In the 105th Congress, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Senators Feingold and Reed, encouraging a political solution to status of East Timor. The resolution, S. Res. 237, called on the Government of Indonesia to enact political reforms and protect human rights. It also urged the United States to work actively to support self-determination for the East Timorese. In the past, Indonesia has rejected the need for a referendum on East Timor and instead has considered limited autonomy through U.N.-sponsored talks with Portugal.
--- UNITED STATES SENATE Washington, D.C. 20510
His Excellency Dotodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti Ambassador Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20036
Dear Ambassador Kuntjoro-Jakti:
We understand that the Indonesian government has recently indicated its willingness to consider granting independence to East Timor. In light of East Timor's troubled history, these statements represent a positive development, and we would like you to encourage President Habibie to explore this option thoroughly.
As you know, efforts to broker an acceptable solution to the problem of East Timor have been under way for years. However, little progress has been made in resolving the island's status to the satisfaction of all parties involved. In the interim, violence and destruction have continued to plague the people of East Timor. At least 200,000 East Timorese have died since Indonesia assumed control of the island in 1975. Nearly 30 years of instability has taken a toll on both the residents of East Timor, and the Indonesian people as a whole.
With President Habibie's election, the international community saw an excellent opportunity for renewed progress toward resolving East Timor's status. His decision to release several East Timorese activists was a significant gesture, and we welcomed his willingness to adopt a constructive approach to this problem. While we would support further steps, such as the continued release of political prisoners, granting access to international human rights monitors, and fulfilling the pledge to withdraw troops from East Timor, we appreciate any efforts to advance a final resolution to the conflict.
President Habibie's recent statements regarding East Timor's future political status are significant, and we would like the Indonesian government to pursue consultation with the people of East Timor concerning the island's political status. We believe a UN-sponsored referendum is the most appropriate way to do this, while simultaneously allowing for a period of transition.
Although we may have some additional concerns we would like to get addressed in the future, we believe that President Habibie's comments represent a positive step forward. We would like to encourage the Indonesian government to explore this option to the fullest, in the interest of resolving one of the most divisive conflicts in the region.
Robert G. Torricelli, United States Senator