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Pam Sexton
Charles Scheiner

July 2006

Dear Friends of East Timor,

“We need your solidarity now as much as ever!” Every day, we hear this from friends in East Timor.

Four years after achieving independence, Timor-Leste (East Timor) is again in the headlines. Most of the population of Dili, the capital, have fled to rural areas or emergency safe zones. Dissatisfied soldiers and rifts between the military and police caused long-submerged political and economic tensions to surface, manifesting as violence and chaos as gangs of unemployed young men looted and burned hundreds of houses across Dili. Foreign troops have arrived, invited by East Timor’s government, and political pressure has pushed out Mari Alkatiri and brought in Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta as the nation’s Prime Minister. At the grassroots, tension, fear and violence loom.

Is the UN's "poster child" becoming a failed state? Is the poorest country in Asia in danger of losing the independence, democracy and peace that its people achieved after decades of struggle?

As activists who have spent many years in East Timor between 1999 and today, with close communication with many people there, we know that the situation is complex. Both of us work with La’o Hamutuk, an East Timorese NGO which has analyzed the role of international institutions in East Timor for the past six years, and we understand how failures of those institutions, magnified by problems within Timorese society and weak political and economic structures, have led to the current crisis. Massive unemployment, historical memories, military schisms, regional conflicts, governance failures, a climate of impunity, post-traumatic stress, misdirected international "aid" and misguided UN decisions all play a role. The breakdown was predictable, but it can be resolved.

Since 1991, ETAN has addressed key underlying causes of the current crisis. Our work today is as critical as it was before the 1999 vote for independence.

ETAN continues its work for justice for crimes against humanity committed by the Indonesian military in East Timor. To date, virtually no Indonesian has been punished for crimes committed in East Timor. Impunity for past crimes leads to a sense that current crimes will also go unpunished and encourages vigilante justice; accountability, is an essential element of lasting peace.

ETAN also continues working for East Timor’s economic independence. Australia's defiance of international law on maritime boundaries is robbing East Timor of billions of dollars of revenue from the Timor Sea oil and gas reserves. This money is critical for the new country's current and future economic and social stability. “Free market” economic policies adopted at the urging of the World Bank and the U.S. government curtail public sector employment and government services, contributing to the large number of alienated, unemployed youth.

ETAN has always supported East Timorese grassroots organizations working for peace, human rights and democracy. These organizations need our support more than ever. Filomena dos Reis, a strong activist ETAN has worked with for years, has said, “Twenty-four years we fought for our freedom. I still have hope: to develop the future of this country and live in peace.”

As East Timor deals with a political, economic and humanitarian crisis, ETAN must continue its important work. Help us to make our solidarity response as strong as possible. Please make a generous contribution to ETAN today so that we can continue our critical education and advocacy work in the United States and at the United Nations.

Thank you very much.

In solidarity,


Pamela Sexton


Charles Scheiner


How to Donate to ETAN 

To support ETAN’s advocacy work, please make your check out to “ETAN” and send it to ETAN, PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873

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Donations of any size for ETAN's political and advocacy work should be made out to ETAN and are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible checks for over $50 can also be made out to "AJ Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN" and will be used to support our educational work. Please mail donations to: ETAN/U.S., PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873.

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