| Senate Unanimously Urges Intensified U.S. Pressure on Indonesia
Calls for End to Militia Violence and "Free and Fair" U.N. Vote in East Timor
For Immediate Release
The U.S. Senate, on June 22, 1999, unanimously passed an amendment urging a tougher U.S. policy in support of a free and fair UN-sponsored vote in Indonesian-occupied East Timor.
The Senate said that the Clinton administration should "immediately intensify their efforts to prevail upon the Indonesian Government and military " to take steps to end anti-independence militia violence and to "allow East Timorese who have been living in exile to return to East Timor to participate in the ballot." The vote on East Timor's political status is scheduled for August.
The Senate especially urged the President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Treasury (acting through the United States representatives to international financial institutions) to intensify their pressure on Indonesia.
The measure, an amendment to the State Department Authorization bill, requires the administration to report to Congress within 21 days on its own efforts and Indonesia's actions "to ensure a stable and secure environment in East Timor." It also urges Indonesia "to grant full access to East Timor by international human rights monitors, humanitarian organizations, and the press."
The Senate amendment, adopted by unanimous consent, states that "[t]he arming of anti-independence militias by members of the Indonesian military for the purpose of sabotaging the August 8th ballot has resulted in hundreds of civilians killed, injured or disappeared in separate attacks by these militias who continue to act without restraint." By including anti-independence militia members in Indonesian forces responsible for establishing security in East Timor, the Indonesian government "violates the May 5th agreement which states that the absolute neutrality of the military and police is essential for holding a free and fair ballot."
The measure was proposed by a bi-partisan group of 18 Senators, led by Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Jack Reed (D-RI).
Ever since the U.N., Portugal and Indonesia agreed to hold the plebiscite, paramilitary militias, armed and backed by the Indonesian military, have threatened, attacked and killed unarmed civilians and pro-independence leaders in an effort to control the outcome of the vote. In early June, Eurico Guterres, leader of one of the most notorious militia groups, was appointed to head the civil defence unit (PAM Swakarsa) in Dili, East Timor's capital. These units function as an arm of the Indonesian military.
A similar measure to Senate amendment, the East Timor Paramilitary Accountability Resolution (H.Con.Res. 97) is awaiting action in the House of Representatives. That resolution calls for a ban on U.S. military assistance and arms transfers to Indonesia unless Jakarta stops supporting the paramilitary groups and ceases its own attacks on civilians. The ban would remain in effect until Indonesia has assisted in the successful disbanding of its paramilitaries and has substantially reduced its own troop presence in East Timor.
The Senate measure passed as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced he was delaying the East Timor vote by several weeks. He cited ongoing security concerns for the delay.
On December 7, 1975, the Indonesian military brutally invaded East Timor. The following July, East Timor was illegally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th province." The UN and most of the world's countries do not recognize this, and the East Timorese reject it. According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 people -- one-third of the pre-invasion population have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces.