|US CATHOLIC CONFERENCE ACTION ALERT ON CONGRESSIONAL LETTER
States Catholic Conference
The situation in East Timor has sharply deteriorated in recent months, with hundreds killed in paramilitary violence aimed at disrupting the United Nations-sponsored referendum. As emphasized in a June 10 statement, Archbishop McCarrick, Chairman of the USCC International Policy Committee, said:
Thus far this year, the people of East Timor have experienced a level of violence not seen since the 1970s when Indonesian forces invaded and annexed that territory. Rampaging groups of armed militias have committed numerous atrocities upon mostly unarmed, pro-independence communities and individuals. On April 6, dozens of people were shot and hacked to death at the Catholic church in Liquiça, a massacre Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo of Dili has likened to that at the Santa Cruz Cemetery in 1991. Throughout the territory, armed members of the dozen or so local militias that have sprung up in the months after B.J. Habibie became president of Indonesia a year ago have waged a relentless campaign of intimidation and violence directed at those thought to favor independence.
Over 40,000 East Timorese have fled their homes and farms, raising again the spectre of hunger that devastated much of the island in the late 1970s. While some of the internally displaced persons are in centers assisted by the Church's Caritas workers, many are without any help and need the protection and relief that could be provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, if allowed to enter in sufficient numbers."
Increased international pressure is urgently needed to address this situation, both in terms of efforts to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in dire need, and pressure to end paramilitary violence and have a free and fair voting under United Nations auspices. UN monitors have been attacked in recent weeks by forces seeking to derail the referendum, scheduled initially for Sunday, August 8, which is to enable the people to vote for autonomy or independence. The UN, which will conduct the consultation, has begun deploying its personnel that will prepare for and monitor the vote; but the violence has continued. Unless it is brought under control and the militias disbanded, the conditions essential for a fair and free vote will be seriously lacking.
REQUESTED ACTION: On June 30, the United States Senate voted 98-0 on a resolution calling for intensified US pressure to disarm and disband the militias in East Timor and for other measures such as giving full access to humanitarian. organizations. It added that the extent of efforts by Indonesia to fulfill these points should be taken into account in determining US votes on any loan or financial assistance to Indonesia. A similar effort is underway in the House, led by Reps. Hall, McGovern, Smith and Wolf.
PLEASE CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES URGING THEIR SUPPORT FOR THIS AND OTHER EFFORTS ON EAST TIMOR IN THE WEEKS.
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
Support Democracy in East Timor
The United Nations-sponsored referendum scheduled in August presents a historic opportunity. Since the invasion of East Timor by Indonesian armed forces in 1975, an estimated 200,000 people, one-third of that island territory's original population, have perished. The August ballot on independence is designed to bring about an end to the conflict, but the process has been put at grave risk by recent attacks on UN personnel by anti-independence militias. There is overwhelming evidence that these militias are being armed and directed by the Indonesian army.
It is essential that the United States use all the influence it can bring to bear on the Indonesian government to stop these attacks and ensure a fair vote. We must also address the urgent humanitarian needs that remain unmet and have been caused by military-sponsored violence. If you would like to sign this letter, please contact Brendan Inscho or Bob Zachritz in Representative Tony Hall's office at 202 225 6465.
Tony P. Hall
Dear Mr. President,
We would like to express our grave concern over developments in East Timor. Atrocities in recent months by anti-independence paramilitaries --which operate with the support, direction and even participation of elements of the Indonesian army --have led to hundreds of killings. Although the most dramatic incident was a bloody assault on a church in April, the killings continue even now. Tens of thousands have been displaced by these attacks, leading to widespread deprivation in East Timor's countryside. Authoritative Church sources say that such actions, orchestrated by the Indonesian military, could make it impossible for a fair vote to be held as scheduled in August. Repeated physical attacks and intimidation against United Nations monitors and relief personnel in East Timor are an added cause for grave concern.
We therefore believe it is imperative that the United States and its allies use all the influence we can possibly bring to bear on Jakarta to help ensure a democratic process in East Timor in complete cooperation with the United Nations, coupled with an end to obstruction of relief efforts. The United States and its allies should work to persuade Indonesian forces to put an end to atrocities in East Timor and allow a free and fair vote to take place. There must also be an expansion of access for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other relief teams in East Timor's countryside and towns, and a relief operation and protection efforts should be conducted immediately. It must be stressed that in 1978-79, many tens of thousands of people perished because of a catastrophic war-related famine, which underscores the need to address the current crisis without further delay.
These humanitarian problems and the 23-year conflict itself could soon be resolved through the employment of timely international diplomatic action and unrelenting pressure on Jakarta to fulfill its agreements within the May 5, 1999 United Nations agreement on the vote in East Timor. This is an historic opportunity. But if Indonesian forces and those under their effective control continue in their current manner, the process will lead instead to an unfair election or no election at all which could lead in turn to another bloodbath in East Timor. This would have disastrous consequences not only for the East Timorese, but also for Indonesia's relations with the United States and other nations.
There is still time to reverse course, but only if Washington does everything in its power to convince Jakarta to call off the paramilitaries. Not only our Embassy and State Department, but also U.S. Defense Department officials who have enjoyed a close relationship over the years with the senior command of the Indonesian military, must make this appeal in the strongest possible terms.
We would like to request a meeting with you to personally discuss these urgent matters in greater detail. Thank you in advance for your consideration of these requests.