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Press Release

On Tuesday, 21 April 1998, the City of Berkeley in California became the first city in the United States to approve the enactment of a selective purchasing and investment law targeting Indonesia for its twenty two year old military occupation of East Timor, and supporting the East Timorese inalienable right to self-determination and independence.

The selective purchasing and investment resolution, was sponsored by Councilmember Linda Maio and drafted by Pedro T. Coelho, a local attorney working in cooperation with the City of Berkeley and the East Timor Action Network-US. The item was number twenty four on the City Council Consent Agenda, and was voted favorably on by six of the seven councilmembers present; one member always abstaining in such international matters. As previous selective purchasing laws enacted in Berkeley it was approved in intent and referred to the City Attorney for final technical approval and subsequent immediate implementation.

The selective purchasing provisions of the proposed legislation restrict the purchase by the city of goods with origin in East Timor or in Indonesia, and the purchase of goods from, or the contracting of services with, companies doing business in East Timor or with the government of Indonesia. The law exempts, from part of the prohibitions it creates, specific entities, including those which respect and act according to Fair Trade criteria such as sustainable development environmental standards, and labor and women’s rights.

The divestment provisions of the legislation require the removal of all city funds from banks and financial institutions with outstanding loans to the government of Indonesia or to entities for the express purpose of doing business in East Timor, and prohibit the investment of city funds in obligations of the government of Indonesia, of Indonesian entities, or of any entities doing business in East Timor, or of any entities doing business with the government of Indonesia.

The enactment in 1998 of the first of such laws by a city in the United States coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Convention on Human Rights, and marks the twenty third year of military occupation and human rights violations by Indonesia.

The law demands compliance by Indonesia with United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Indonesian troops from East Timor and reaffirming the right of the East Timorese to self-determination and independence.

The full text of the law will, together with explanatory materials, be posted on the web on a date to be announced next week.


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Based on previous selective purchasing laws passed on South Africa, Burma and Tibet, the resolution delivers a comprehensive moral statement by the City of Berkeley as to the tragic situation endured by the East Timorese, under Indonesian military occupation for twenty two years.

The East Timor Berkeley resolution also aims at creating and delivering an economic tool to the East Timorese by incorporating provisions allowing the exemption of specific entities (legal and individual persons) from the prohibitions created by the resolution.

The East Timor selective purchasing legislation also creates economic incentives for the practice of Fair Trade in Indonesia, exempting from specific prohibitions those entities acting according to universally recognized fair trade standards, criteria and practices endorsed for instance by traditionally respected United States and European Non-Governmental Fair Trade Organizations, namely: (i) providing workers healthy and safe working conditions; and (ii) engaging in environmentally sustainable practices; and (iii) paying a fair living wage in the local context; and (iv) endorsing transparency and public accountability; and (v) providing equal employment opportunities.

The diversity and range of interests advanced by the law's fair trade criteria, which as defined ranges from human rights, labor and women's rights, to environmental standards, has clear potential to create a broad constituency of interests supportive of pro-East Timor legislation in the US.

By adopting fair trade criteria followed by traditional Fair Trade Organizations, the law acknowledges the potential role of non-governmental organizations in the on-going process of globalization; and it makes use of their services for classification of entities under the legislation and in order to guarantee an economically efficient implementation process.

The legislation also mandates disclosure of necessary information by companies and it targets not only entities, but also goods, thereby diminishing potential city implementation costs. Furthermore, any citizen may monitor compliance with the law insofar that the information disclosed by entities under the law is made public by the law.

The resolution also exempts the commerce of humanitarian and democratic needs, defined to comprehend, (i) medical goods or services; (ii) humanitarian aid goods or services; (iii) emergency aid goods or services; (iv) news reporting or publishing; (v) religious goods or services; (vi) telecommunications goods or services; and (vii) mail carrier goods or services.

If you would like to receive any additional information, please contact us at the address below.

The full text of the law will, together with explanatory materials, be posted on the web on a date to be announced next week.

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