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REMARKS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR BY U.S. REP. JIM MCGOVERN WELCOMING EAST TIMOR INTO THE COMMUNITY OF NATIONS

Contact: Michael Mershon
(202) 225-6101

May 21, 2002

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the Honorable Ranking Member for this opportunity to speak in support of this important resolution.

I also want to thank Chairman Hyde and Majority Leader Armey for bringing this bill to the House floor in such a timely manner.

And I especially want to thank my colleague, Congressman Chris Smith, for his long leadership on behalf of the people of East Timor.

May 20th was a day of celebration when the people of East Timor joined the international community as a sovereign, independent nation.

This bill congratulates and honors the courage of the East Timorese people and calls upon the United States and the international community to provide the necessary resources to help develop this fledgling nation.

As many of my colleagues know, the Bush Administration announced yesterday that the U.S. will open a full embassy in Dili, East Timor. This bill commends the Administration for this important act.

In September 1999, the people of East Timor voted for their independence.

I had the great privilege to be in East Timor ten days before this historic referendum took place.

I witnessed the escalating violence and intimidation against the people and the voters of East Timor.

I traveled to the area bordering West Timor - to the communities of Suai and Maliana. In Suai, I met with Father Hilario Madeira and Father Francisco Soares, who were protecting nearly 2,000 refugees in the compound of their Church. Militias supported by the Indonesian military had burned these refugees out of their homes.

They introduced me to their world, one filled with worry and tension and daily violence. Yet they were filled with hope and looked forward to voting for their independence.

Ten days later, the East Timorese people went to the polls; over 78 percent voted for independence. Their courage and commitment to freedom were met with a deliberate and planned campaign of slaughter.

Father Hilario and Father Francisco are not with us today to celebrate East Timor's entry into the community of nations. Rampaging militias following the 1999 vote murdered them, and more than one thousand others.

As we vote today to honor the courage and spirit of the East Timorese people, I want also to remember and honor all of the East Timorese whose lives were lost during the long decades of struggle to make East Timor free.

I want to remember and honor these two dedicated priests who died protecting their people.

The subsequent rebuilding of East Timor demonstrates how vital it is that the international community - especially the United States - remain involved and engaged in East Timor.

East Timor faces many challenges - including the economic development of the country, establishing an effective judicial system, and securing the safe return of those refugees still held in camps in West Timor.

The international community, along with East Timor, must also find a way to bring to justice those accountable for the campaign of violence leading up to and following the 1999 referendum.

This resolution calls upon the U.S and other nations to provide East Timor with the necessary resources and support to successfully meet these challenges.

Nobel Peace Laureate, Bishop Carlos Belo, has called upon the international community to increase the level of development aid to help his country through its first years.

I hope this Congress will respond to the Bishop's call and increase our own levels of aid.

Mr. Chairman, this is a proud time for East Timor. I urge all my colleagues to vote in support of this bill.

 

Return to Congressional Action on East Timor: Statements, etc.


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