It is 20 years since a small group of activists founded what is now the
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), and I have been
supporting it since the beginning. I am writing to you today to urge
you to join me in that support.
Twenty years ago, on November 12,
Indonesian troops marched up and opened fire on a peaceful
pro-independence demonstration at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, the
capital of what was then known as East Timor. More than 270 young
Timorese were murdered in the most publicized of a great many shocking
atrocities during the Indonesian invasion and annexation. The eyewitness
accounts of western journalists broke through the silence and hypocrisy
of the media, bringing the first news of the occupation to many.
Among those inspired to act were the founders of the East Timor
Action Network. A small group of activists began to meet, and in the
first of many demonstrations, a few dozen concerned people picketed in
front of the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations in New York City
on December 10, 1991, International Human Rights Day. Outraged by the
U.S. governmentís complicity in the oppression of the East Timorese,
they created an impressive national organization committed to supporting
East Timorís right to self-determination. Quickly, grassroots pressure
persuaded the U.S. Congress to terminate taxpayer-funded training for
Indonesian soldiers in the United States, the first of many legislative
victories which eventually moved Washington from supporting to opposing
the illegal occupation.
ETAN protests Indonesian
dictator Suharto's visit to New York, October 1995. Photo by
I have long supported East Timorís self-determination. Even before
Indonesiaís 1975 invasion, I called for the right of the East Timorese
to control their own destiny. I welcomed ETANís founding and admired its
effective grassroots organizing. I am told that I was the
organizationís first donor. That contribution was one of the best
investments I have ever made for political and social change.
Without ETANís efforts, East Timor might not yet be free.
Since then I have continued to support ETAN. I hope you will too.
Please help ETAN celebrate 20 years of dedicated and effective activism
and continue its important work.
Throughout the 1990s, ETAN kept up the pressure. In 1999, when the East
Timorese finally were able to vote on their political future, the crimes
were escalating once again. ETAN had a significant role in pressing
President Clinton to inform the Indonesian generals in September that
the game was over, at which point they quickly withdrew.
East Timor is now the independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste,
but ETAN remains tenacious in the pursuit of justice for the victims of
the Santa Cruz massacre and the entire Indonesian occupation. It remains
active in highlighting the complicity of U.S. government officials in
the oppression of the people of East Timor, West Papua and elsewhere in
the Indonesian archipelago including the still-active
who gave a green light to the invasion of East Timor. ETAN
understands that there cannot be peace without justice.
While East Timor is now an independent nation, it still struggles for
genuine self-determination under the pressures of the global economic
system. ETAN is currently coordinating a campaign with Timor-Lesteís
Movement against Debt opposing the taking out of onerous loans by
currently debt-free Timor. A statement
signed by 137 organizations worldwide argued, ďRather than repeat
the mistakes of other developing countries that have struggled with debt
during recent decades, Timor-Leste should learn from their experiences,
which often inflicted great hardships on their people." Nearly a
thousand people have signed ETAN's
petition expressing similar concerns.
In 2005, ETAN changed its name to the East Timor and Indonesia Action
Network to emphasize its ongoing work for human rights and democracy
in Indonesia as well as East Timor. In the past, U.S. engagement with
Indonesiaís security forces has encouraged those forcesí most abusive
behavior. ETAN is opposing the Obama administrationís efforts to
re-engage with the Indonesian militaryís
notorious Kopassus special forces.
It continues to be a voice of reason,
criticizing the administration's reluctance to address ongoing human
rights violations and escalating oppression in West Papua and against
religious minorities. ETAN also holds corporations responsible for
their role in human rights abuses and recently joined Occupy Phoenix and
union activists in picketing at the mining giant Freeport MacMoRanís
headquarters, supporting striking mineworkers in West Papua.
If it can find the resources, ETAN plans to
coordinate an observer mission
for next year's presidential and parliamentary elections in East Timor,
as they did in 1999, 2001 and 2007. Experienced, nonpartisan
international observers will help consolidate democracy at this critical
moment for the still young country.
ETANís work remains essential, but it can only do its work with the
active and generous support of people like you, who believe in human
rights and in the right to self-determination, justice and
accountability, and in social and economic justice for the people of
East Timor and Indonesia.
I can think of few groups that have done so much with such limited
resources. For most of its 20 years, ETAN has worked with an extremely
limited budget. In recent years, ETAN's annual budget has been less than
$55,000. With your help, we can put ETAN on a firmer footing for the
future. Please give generously in this anniversary year. In doing so,
you can help strengthen ETAN to meet the challenges of the coming years.
Thank you for joining me in supporting ETAN and its invaluable work.
To support ETANís advocacy work, please make your check out to
"East Timor ActionNetworkĒ and
mail it to
ETAN, PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY
a U.S. tax-deductible donation by credit card:
Place Amount of Donation :
Please select the donation period:
Donations of any size for ETAN's political and advocacy work should
be made out to ETAN and are not tax-deductible.
for more than $50 can also be made out to "AJ Muste Memorial Institute/ETAN"
only be used to support our educational work.
your donation to: ETAN
PO Box 21873