|Senate Resolution 237
Expressing the Sense of the Senate Regarding the Situation in Indonesia and East Timor
Senate - May 22, 1998 [Congressional Record Page: S5459]
Mr. FEINGOLD (for himself, Mr. Reed, Mr. Moynihan, Mr. Kohl, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Harkin, and Mr. Wellstone) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations:
S. Res. 237
Whereas recent political turmoil and economic failure in Indonesia have endangered the people of that country and fomented instability in the region;
Whereas President Suharto has properly responded to this crisis by resigning, after 32 years in office, the presidency of Indonesia in accordance with Indonesia's constitutional processes;
Whereas Indonesia is now embarking on a new era that is ripe for political and economic reform;
Whereas in 1975 Indonesia invaded, and since that time has illegally occupied, East Timor claiming the lives of approximately 200,000 East Timorese;
Whereas Indonesia has systematically committed human rights abuses against the people of East Timor through arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances, extra-judicial executions, and general political repression;
Whereas 8 United Nations General Assembly and 2 United Nations Security Council resolutions have reaffirmed the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination;
Whereas Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta, who were awarded the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for their courageous contribution to the East Timorese struggle, have called for a United Nations-sponsored referendum on self-determination of the East Timorese;
Whereas President Clinton in a letter dated December 27, 1996, expressed interest in the idea of a United Nations-sponsored referendum on self-determination in East Timor ;
Whereas the United States cosponsored a 1997 United Nations Human Rights Commission Resolution calling for Indonesia to comply with the directives of existing United Nations resolutions regarding East Timor ; and
Whereas present circumstances provide a unique opportunity for a resolution of the East Timor question: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the President should--
(1) encourage the new political leadership in Indonesia to institute genuine democratic and economic reforms, including the establishment of an independent judiciary, civilian control of the military, and the release of political prisoners;
(2) encourage the new political leadership in Indonesia to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all the people of Indonesia and East Timor ; and
(3) work actively, through the United Nations and with United States allies, to carry out the directives of existing United Nations resolutions on East Timor and to support an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination.
Sec. 2. The Secretary of the Senate shall transmit a copy of this resolution to the President.
Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, over the past few days, the world has watched in disbelief as Indonesia has unraveled. Barely two days ago, in response to mounting domestic and international pressure, President Suharto, Indonesia's authoritarian ruler for 32 years, announced his resignation. For the moment, power has been transferred to Suharto's longtime confidant, the former Minister of Research and Technology, Vice President, B.J. Habibie.
Mr. President, it is too soon to tell whether this transition will satisfy the demands of the students and other Indonesians who have been protesting Suharto's rule for the past three months. To be honest, I doubt it. These students want real political reform, and I believe all of Indonesia's people deserve such reform.
I hope Indonesia's new leadership will exercise restraint during this period of transition, and will use the present circumstances to enact policies that appropriately address the needs of all Indonesians.
At the same time, I think these circumstances present a unique opportunity to deal with one of Indonesia's most vexing problems, and one that I have been actively engaged in since before I joined the Senate--the question of the political status of East Timor.
Mr. President, today my colleague from Rhode Island [Mr. Reed] and I are submitting a resolution encouraging a solution to the political status of East Timor . This resolution is similar to H. Con. Res. 258, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Nita Lowey and others.
This resolution says simply: the United States should support an internationally supervised self-determination referendum in East Timor.
Indonesia has sustained a brutal military occupation of East Timor for more than 20 years, and thousands of East Timorese have lost their lives as a result. Human rights organizations from around the world, as well as our own State Department, continue to report substantial human rights violations by the Indonesian military--including arbitrary arrest and detention, curbs on freedom of expression and association, and the use of torture and summary killings of civilians.
Immediately after the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in 1975, and again in 1976, the United Nations Security Council called for Indonesia to withdraw from the region and called for the recognition of East Timorese self-determination. From 1976 to 1982, the U.N. General Assembly adopted eight separate resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian armed forces from the territory. In the past few years, several nations, including the European Union and the Australian Senate, have delivered strong statements condemning the actions of the Indonesian government in East Timor and calling for a process of self-determination.
As you know, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, co-winner with Jose Ramos Horta of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, has long called for the self-determination of his people and reiterated his plea for a self-determination referendum immediately after receiving news of his Nobel prize.
Even President Clinton, who has not engaged on this issue in the past, expressed interest in the idea of a United Nations-sponsored self-determination referendum in a December 1996 letter to me.
Mr. President, as we know, although the larger political crisis in Indonesia has been brewing for sometime now, events of recent days have taken on a surreal intensity. Since the early part of this year, there had been relatively peaceful protests taking place largely in Jakarta, the capital. For the most part, these demonstrations were led by students and confined to university campuses. But while the protests were triggered in response to the economic turmoil caused by the larger financial crisis in Asia, they quickly gave voice to political dissent of a sort not seen in Indonesia for decades. As the students slowly realized they had a political voice, they began to speak out more forcefully, and the demonstrations increased--moving out to more cities and spilling off of the campuses.
Now, the situation has become dangerous, fatal for some, as widespread riots and looting have spread across Jakarta and elsewhere. The economy is nearing a standstill and the military is beginning to show signs of stress and fracture. Reports of the dead and injured continue to grow. Hundreds of people have been arrested.
And of course no one really knows what to expect during the unfolding political drama of Indonesia.
This crisis clearly has affected all of Indonesia and will have serious implications for the country's future, but I am particularly concerned about the impact of these recent events on East Timor.
As my colleagues well know, I have been monitoring the situation in East Timor for more than six years. What particularly worries me now, given this larger political crisis, are reports of increasing numbers of troops in some of East Timor's major cities. This is extremely destabilizing, coming on the heels of a dire humanitarian situation on that captive island because of poor access to food.
The resolution Senator Reed and I are submitting today is important at this time because it is clear that whatever happens in Jakarta over the next weeks and months will no doubt have profound implications for political and military development in East Timor. The great irony of the latest crisis in Indonesia is that it may actually present us with an opportunity once and for all to help the people of East Timor exercise their right to self-determination. Habibie, or any other leader that succeeds him--through legitimate means or by brutal coup--will have to reevaluate Indonesia's relationship with East Timor . It is my sincere hope that any successor will recognize that Indonesia's brutal occupation of the territory is entirely unsustainable and will look to the natural solution of a self-determination referendum to help determine East Timor's political status.
Mr. President, the East Timorese deserve the support of people of conscience all over the world, and the United States should use it world leadership position on their behalf. The United States should begin immediately to encourage the process of self-determination in both Indonesia and in East Timor.
It is long overdue.
Mr. REED. Mr. President, I am proud to join with my colleague from Wisconsin, Senator Feingold, submitting this resolution which addresses the unfolding events in Indonesia.
On Thursday, President Suharto resigned his position after leading Indonesia for thirty-two years. His action was a response to civil unrest and economic turmoil which reached a crescendo in the past few weeks. President Suharto is to be commended for heeding the call of the Indonesian people for change, for avoiding further bloodshed, and for permitting a change of leadership in accordance with the constitutional processes of Indonesia.
Now, it is time for change. The people of Indonesia and the world have called for it. The United States should do everything in its power to encourage and support the new political leadership of Indonesia to implement reforms.
Most importantly, we are on the threshold of the chance to resolve the question of East Timor . In 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor . For over two decades that land has been wracked by fear, suppression, torture and death. Approximately one third of the population has been killed. The United Nations has called again and again for a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution in East Timor , but to no avail.
Mr. President, we must seize this opportunity. The oppression of East Timor must end. The people of East Timor have a right to self-determination. They, and the people of Indonesia, deserve to live securely in economic, political and physical freedom.
Against overwhelming odds, the people of Indonesia and East Timor have bravely fought for their rights and caused a powerful leader to resign.
The United States if obligated to support them and encourage the new leadership of Indonesia to institute genuine democratic and economic reforms, promote and protect the human rights of the citizens, and respect the right of the people of East Timor to self-determination. I join Senator Feingold in urging the Senate to adopt this resolution.
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