Subject: Letter: It Takes More Than Elections

It Takes More Than Elections

Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page B06

Jeff Fischer [op-ed, Jan. 28] compared the violence preceding the 1999 referendum in East Timor to violence leading up to Iraq's election. But he did not mention that immediately after the referendum, Indonesian military and pro-Indonesian militia unleashed a riot of arson, rape and murder in East Timor. The U.N. mission in East Timor, which organized the elections, withdrew.

The lesson East Timor offers to Iraq is not that elections should go ahead even in the face of violent resistance but that elections are often just a first step toward democracy. After more than two years of U.N. administration and nearly three years of independence, East Timor remains a fledgling democracy.

Seeking and supporting the growth of democratic movements requires much more than ousting an oppressive administration and facilitating elections.




Also this one was not published

For Publication

To the Editor:

Jeff Fischer vividly describes the violence that marred East Timor's independence referendum in 1999 ("The Valor of the Vote," Jan 28). As an accredited observer at the time, I witnessed both the determination of the East Timorese to state their choice and their fear at the destructive Indonesian campaign they were certain would follow.

For many East Timorese who lost family and property, that chapter has yet to close. While some low-level militia have been prosecuted in East Timor, all of the Indonesian security officials who created the militia and organized the violence in 1999 remain free. Trials in Jakarta were a sham, leading to acquittals of all Indonesians tried. The UN-backed process in East Timor has indicted a number of generals and their underlings. but they remain out reach in Indonesia, which refuses to extradite. Many maintain positions of responsibility. Some were active in the deadly military campaign in Aceh, which brought great suffering to civilians before the tsunami.

The United Nations should create an international tribunal to credibly try and punish those responsible. This would send a strong message that election violence is unacceptable in East Timor and elsewhere.


John M. Miller
East Timor Action Network
Brooklyn, NY

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