|Subject: CONG: Economic Assistance for E
ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE FOR EAST TIMOR -- (Senate - May 22, 2001)
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, last week, the Standard Times of New Bedford,
MA, published an op-ed piece by Senator KENNEDY on the situation in East
Timor , in which he discussed the legislation on East Timor that he
introduced with Senator CHAFEE, which is also cosponsored by myself and
Senators FEINGOLD, HARKIN, KERRY, JEFFORDS, and REED. This legislation
recently passed the House of Representatives as part of the Foreign
Relations Authorization Act.
Senator KENNEDY's legislation would provide additional economic
assistance for East Timor, which is struggling to overcome the violence
and destruction perpetrated by Indonesian militias, with the support of
the Indonesian military, after the vote for independence in August 1999.
It would also provide for scholarships for East Timorese students, funding
for the Peace Corps to start a program there, and other initiatives.
This legislation outlines a comprehensive approach to a new, positive
relationship between the United States and East Timor , including the
establishment of full diplomatic relations as soon as independence takes
As one who, like Senator KENNEDY, has admired the courage and
determination of the East Timorese people and their capable leaders,
Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos-Horta, I commend him for this legislation and
ask unanimous consent that his op-ed piece be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the
RECORD, as follows:
[From the New Bedford, MA Standard Times, May 16, 2001]
Prepare Now for the New East Timor
Two leaders of the East Timor independence movement are in Washington,
D.C., this week for the first time since the people of East Timor voted
overwhelmingly for independence in August 1999. Nobel Prize winner Jose
Ramos-Horin spent 24 years in exile rallying support for East Timor's
independence and will be foreign minister in the new government. Xanana
Gusmao led the domestic opposition and will be a prominent figure in an
independent East Timor . The goal of their visit is to obtain the support
of the Bush Administration and Congress for their new country, and they
deserve to receive it.
East Timor's road to independence has been long and violent. Portugal
ruled East Timor for 550 years before pulling out in August 1975. East
Timor was independent for four months before it was invaded by Indonesia
in December that year. The U.N. General Assembly and Security Council
strongly condemned the invasion, and never recognized Indonesian
sovereignty over East Timor .
After two decades of unrest, former Indonesian President B. J. Habibie
finally agreed to a referendum in January 1999. In August that year, the
people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from
Indonesia, and they did so at great personal risk. Before, during and
after the vote, the Indonesian military and anti-independence militia
groups killed more than a thousand people and displaced thousands more,
hoping to intimidate the independence movement.
Although the militias succeeded in destroying 70 percent of East
Timor's infrastructure, they failed to derail East Timor's desire for
On August 30 this year, looking to America as an example, East Timor
will elect a constituent assembly to decide which form of democratic
government to adopt.
It is a process that reminds us of our own Constitutional Convention
and would make our founders proud. A few months after that, East Timor ,
which is currently governed by the United Nations, will formally declare
its independence. After years of hardship, violence and death, a new
democracy will take its rightful place in the world. The new nation is a
great success story, but it is far from complete.
East Timor is rebuilding itself from ashes following 24 years of
Indonesian rule, and it needs international assistance. It remains one of
the poorest countries in Asia. The annual per capita gross national
product is $340. As many as 100,000 East Timorese refugees languish in
militia-controlled refugee camps in West Timor , which is still part of
Indonesia and where there has been a sharply reduced international
presence since militias murdered three U.N. workers last September.
In the aftermath of the violence in East Timor , the United States has
provided important humanitarian aid and assistance for nation-building.
But our assistance has been provided on an ad hoc basis. We have made no
commitment to a longterm political investment in a newly independent East
Timor , and we should do so.
We should leave no doubt in the minds of any government officials in
Indonesia that the United States will recognize and support the new nation
of East Timor .
To advance this objective, I, along with Sen. Chafee, have introduced
legislation in the Senate to facilitate East Timor's transition to
Reps. Tom Lantos and Chris Smith have introduced similar legislation in
the House of Representatives. Its purpose is to lay the groundwork for
establishing a strong relationship with East Timor , including a bilateral
and multilateral assistance program. Our legislation encourages President
Bush, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and
Development Agency and other U.S. agencies to put in place now the tools
and programs necessary to create a reliable trade and investment
relationship with East Timor .
It provides a three-year commitment of $30 million in U.S. assistance,
including $2 million for a Peace Corps presence and $1 million for a
scholarship fund for East Timorese students to study in the United States,
and supports economic assistance through international financial
To help professionalize the army, it authorizes the president to
provide excess defense materials and international military education and
training, if the president certifies that doing so is in the interest of
the United States and will help promote human rights in East Timor and the
professionalization of East Timor's armed forces. Our bill also supports
efforts to ensure justice and accountability for past atrocities in East
The bill specifically calls on the State Department to establish
diplomatic relations with East Timor as soon as independence takes place.
It took President Truman 10 minutes to establish diplomatic relations with
Israel in 1948. President Bush should be able to do the same with East
Timor in 2001.
The people of East Timor have chosen democracy, and the United States
has a golden opportunity to help them create their new democracy. We must
prepare for that day now. The great faith in the democratic process they
showed by voting for independence under the barrel of a gun must not go
We should put U.S. governmental programs and resources in place now to
prepare for the reality of an independent East Timor . If we wait until
East Timor declares its independence before we do the preliminary work, we
will lose vital time and do a disservice to both the United States and
East Timor . We must not miss this unique opportunity to help.
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