|NGO Letter to President Clinton on East Timor
110 Maryland Ave.,
August 26, 1999
President Bill Clinton
Dear President Clinton,
As representatives of human rights, peace and justice, and religious organizations, we ask that you and your administration utilize the historic opportunity to stop Indonesian-backed paramilitary violence still threatening a free and fair vote in East Timor. Together we stand poised on the eve of a referendum for which the people of East Timor have labored through 24 years of brutal and illegal Indonesian occupation. This referendum could represent a tremendous victory for both democracy and human rights-if the vote and the subsequent transition period can proceed under peaceful conditions. To this day, those conditions have not yet been secured.
We commend your administration for the increasingly strong public statements of Secretary of State Albright and Assistant Secretary Roth. We commend your position at the recent Consultative Group on Indonesia meeting in Paris, linking future aid to Indonesia to a free and fair vote in East Timor. But there is still more you must do to ensure that the people of East Timor can vote on August 30 in an atmosphere free from intimidation and terror. It is also critical that you closely monitor the period immediately following the vote, prior to Indonesia's ratification of the results in the fall. The potential for retaliatory paramilitary and Indonesian military violence is extremely troubling, and its prevention will require the serious vigilance of the international community.
As you know, Indonesian armed forces remain responsible for overall security around the vote. We protest this situation. While Indonesian police repeatedly condone attackers, Indonesian military units actively arm, train and direct them, particularly along the West Timor border, where huge stockpiles of weapons have been reported. As Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Carlos Belo recently said: "They [the Indonesian military] are openly and clearly distributing guns.... They are turning Timorese against Timorese." Since the beginning of this year, paramilitaries have killed hundreds in East Timor and caused a refugee crisis of over 50,000. Several of our organizations currently have observers placed in East Timor who can verify paramilitary terror and intimidation firsthand.
We encourage you to strictly hold Indonesia to all of its obligations under the May 5 UN agreement. All paramilitary units should be contained and disarmed immediately. Indonesian military units should be returned to barracks, and a genuine and monitored withdrawal of troops should begin immediately. Nothing short of these measures will ensure post-vote violence can be avoided.
We wholeheartedly request further U.S. support for the UN mission, including a serious increase in numbers of personnel. We also ask that you utilize your influence in Jakarta to open access to East Timor to all human rights, humanitarian aid, and international press personnel. We particularly note the case of Dr. Daniel Murphy of Iowa, who has recently been blacklisted by Indonesia after spending over nine months providing medical care to victims of both disease and paramilitary attacks. Moreover, we urge you to hold the Indonesian government responsible for honoring recent official promises to release all political prisoners after the conclusion of the voting process, though we believe their release should have been accomplished much earlier.
As you know, the U.S. has a long history in relation to East Timor. Since 1992, congressional and administration actions have brought us much closer to a just foreign policy concerned with human rights. It is our opinion, Mr. President, that you could take several additional actions in the days before August 30 to demand Indonesia stop the violence and allow a valid act of self-determination to take place.
First, we ask that you make a public statement to the Indonesian government prior to the vote, strongly conveying U.S. expectations on East Timor.
Second, we ask you to utilize every available channel to remind Indonesia that future U.S. military and financial assistance is contingent not only on a peaceful vote, but a peaceful transition in East Timor.
Mr. President, we realize this letter reaches you at the 11th hour. However, we also recall your wish to rectify the long-standing injustice done to the people of East Timor. We know that U.S. political intervention can still stop plans for future violence from becoming reality for the long-suffering people of East Timor. It can help bring about genuine self-determination.
We look forward to hearing your response, both public and private. We thank you very much for your serious consideration of our concerns.
Rebecca C. Asedillo
Gordon S. Clark
Rev. Douglas P. Cunningham
Ruth A. Daugherty
Peter J. Davies
John Dear, SJ
Dr. Maria S. Floro
William D. Hartung
Ronald L. Hines Pastor Puyallup United Methodist Church, Washington
Peter H. Juviler
Mary H. Miller
Lyn Beth Neylon
Father Bill O'Donnell
Edward W. Stowe
Dean David Targan
CC: Vice President Al Gore