Subject: CNN - US Congressional Group demands UN peacekeepers in East Timor
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 19:53:36 +1000
From: "Philip Dorling" <pocketdog@bigpond.com>

CNN

21 August 1999

US congressional group demands UN peacekeepers in East Timor

August 21, 1999 Web posted at: 5:15 AM EDT (0915 GMT)

DILI, Indonesia (AP) -- A U.S. congressional delegation demanded on Saturday that the United Nations rush an armed peacekeeping force to Indonesia's troubled East Timor before escalating violence endangers an independence referendum.

"I'm afraid that if we don't have some peacekeeping forces here that the intimidation and the level of violence might increase to the point where the election could be in jeopardy. And we cannot let that happen," said Sen. Tom Harkin.

The Iowa Democrat said he would make an immediate plea to U.S. President Bill Clinton for peacekeepers.

He claimed there was strong evidence that Indonesia's military has worked with anti-independence militias waging a campaign of terror to derail the Aug. 30 vote.

"I am going to recommend to the president that he recommends to the (U.N.) Security Council that they get some peacekeeping forces down here in a hurry," Harkin said.

The delegation, which also includes Democrats Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Rep. Jim McGovern from Massachusetts, made the same pledge to a crowd of villagers after touring trouble spots in East Timor's western region, which has been wracked by bloodshed for months.

The displaced Timorese are among thousands sheltering in makeshift camps, churches and schools across the half-island territory after fleeing the violence.

The U.N.-supervised vote will give East Timor's people the choice between full independence and staying part of Indonesia as an autonomous region.

Independence groups predict the vast majority of Timorese will choose to break away from Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and triggered decades of civil strife and guerrilla warfare.

The United Nations, which is supervising the ballot, has only several hundred unarmed police advisors and military observers in the territory.

Indonesian police and security forces, for years accused of human rights abuses and atrocities, are responsible for law and order.

But the U.N. mission and independence activists say sections of the military have actively supported anti-independence militias. The army denies it.

The militias are accused of killing civilians and attacking unarmed U.N. personnel.

"Every single U.N. person who I spoke with said that he or she had either seen or witnessed militia associating openly and freely with Indonesian military," Harkin said. "It looks as though the militias are closely intertwined with the Indonesian military and are receiving their orders and instructions from the Indonesian military and that has to stop."

Reed said, "If the Indonesian military are involved in the provocations in the intimidation, then (peacekeepers) may be the only alternative."

The delegation left the East Timorese capital, Dili, on Saturday for Jakarta, where they hoped to meet Indonesian President B.J. Habibie.

Back to August Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu