|Subject: CNS: Irish bishop says Indonesian loans
should be tied to human rights
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:07:11 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Irish bishop says Indonesian loans should be tied to human rights By Sarah MacDonald Catholic News Service
DUBLIN, Ireland (CNS) -- An Irish bishop has called into question the disbursement of multimillion dollar loans to Indonesia, saying future funding from the international community should be linked to human rights.
Bishop John Kirby of Clonfert, chairman of the Irish Catholic aid agency Trocaire, said pro-integration militias are engaged in a systematic campaign of intimidation and violence to force the Timorese to vote against independence from Indonesia in the August referendum.
After a three-day visit to the country in early July, Bishop Kirby said the Indonesian military is inextricably linked to these militias, and "Indonesia was not genuine about keeping the peace.
"Indonesia must be stripped of its security responsibilities in the troubled territory," and those duties should be assumed by a U.N. peacekeeping force, he said.
Accessing the territory's thousands of refugees to provide for their basic needs is just one of the difficulties facing humanitarian organizations working in East Timor, the bishop said.
Recent attacks on aid convoys have hindered the work of humanitarian relief projects and threatened the lives of aid workers.
Bishop Kirby said that Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau told him there was only one month's supply of rice at any given time. He said since rice is the staple food of the people, and the territory is heavily dependent on Indonesia and its sea lanes for rice supplies, this leaves the East Timorese particularly vulnerable to threats to cut off supply routes. The bishop called those threats "a powerful threat hanging over the East Timorese population."
While the infrastructure in East Timor is better than that of some countries he has visited in the developing world, Bishop Kirby said, the "social services in East Timor are starved of investment, and vital medical staff -- such as doctors and nurses -- are fleeing the country due to the political situation and stopped wages."
He said the educational system is witnessing an exodus of non-Timorese professionals, and since only 3 percent of teachers were Timorese before the recent onslaught of violence, officials expect a shortage when school reopens.
Bishop Kirby said one Catholic school he visited was facing the prospect of not being able to reopen after the summer holidays because student subsidies and scholarship money were being diverted to the military. The problems facing the schools are not only financial, he said: One teacher told him about a student who had just finished his final high school exams but had been killed before he could collect his diploma. Bishop Kirby said that during his visit, the prevailing atmosphere was one of fear, intimidation and deprivation. Acknowledging that he had many misgivings about the U.N. brokered agreement between Indonesia and Timor, he said that "a U.N. peacekeeping force must be deployed in East Timor to ensure the peace and security of the people before the ballot" and to restore confidence in the democratic process and the rule of law. He added that he was "conscious that this was a critical time for the country" and that without substantial international support, he feared that the people of East Timor would once again be let down by the international community.