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Dear Friends of East Timor,
East Timor has been independent for a little more than a year and a half. Many foreign policy experts and Washington insiders predicted that Indonesia would never let go of the former Portuguese colony. Yet the impossible happened—in no small part due to the support of people like you, working in conjunction with the East Timor Action Network (ETAN). But now ETAN is in dire financial straits.
I have been deeply involved with self-determination for East Timor since before Indonesia’s 1975 invasion, and I can attest to the tremendous – maybe even decisive – difference that ETAN’s wonderful work has made. However, ETAN’s ability to continue to work at the level needed is in serious jeopardy due to a shortage of funds. By giving generously, you can help strengthen ETAN financially for the coming year, so together we can meet the many challenges ahead.
Even with independence, the world’s newest country – and Asia’s poorest – faces daunting challenges. Its two giant neighbors, Indonesia and Australia, continue to threaten East Timor’s peace and, indeed, its full sovereignty. Anti-independence paramilitary groups across the border in Indonesian West Timor pose an increasing security threat as the United Nations prepares to end its mission next May. Meanwhile, Australia is openly stealing billions of dollars worth of East Timor’s revenue from Timor Sea oil and natural gas. Australia is flagrantly violating international law and has even withdrawn from international mechanisms to resolve the maritime boundary dispute - leaving East Timor with no legal recourse.
The global powers-that-be continue to deny East Timor justice for the myriad war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against its people from 1975 to 1999. At the same time, the Bush administration, in the name of the “war on terrorism,” is committed to full relations with Indonesia’s brutal military establishment, as the military daily terrorizes the people of Aceh, Papua and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, East Timor is still trying to reconstruct in the aftermath of 24 years of Indonesian military terror and dispossession, endeavoring to build a society that meets its citizens’ basic needs. It is doing so in the face of a world order unfriendly to independent and alternative forms of political-economic organization. International financial institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund are intimately involved in nearly every facet of life in East Timor. The East Timorese government is under real pressure to borrow money from IFIs and thus fall into debt, as it faces a predicted $126 million budgetary shortfall from 2005 to 2007.
Your support can help ETAN meet these and other challenges. ETAN’s track record shows that it is up to the task. Recently, ETAN beat back the Bush administration’s latest effort to restore military training for Indonesia. Congress reinstated restrictions on IMET, just weeks after President Bush publicly predicted Congress would drop them. In November, the Indonesian government and military extended martial law in Aceh, where extrajudicial execution, rape, torture, and disappearance are rampant. While world governments remained quiet, ETAN worked to achieve a Congressional resolution calling for a ceasefire, an end to human rights violations, and a return to negotiations with significant involvement from Acehnese civil society and the international community.
ETAN showed the government of Australia that the world was watching as talks began on a permanent maritime boundary with East Timor. A letter coordinated by ETAN and signed by more than 100 organizations from 19 countries worldwide received widespread press coverage and put Australia’s Prime Minister on notice that what is “at stake in these negotiations are East Timor’s rights as an independent nation to establish national boundaries and to benefit from its own resources.” Without public pressure, Australia profits by waiting out the exhaustion of the resources, taking up to $30 billion in revenue that belongs to East Timor. That revenue can help East Timor become independent of foreign donors and escape from dire poverty. We need ETAN to help generate that pressure.
These examples show how ETAN’s work is now more complicated and multifaceted – and no less vital – than during the Indonesian occupation. Yet, because East Timor has fallen off the radar screen of many activists, foundations, and policymakers, ETAN has far fewer financial resources than it needs. In fact, its very effectiveness is threatened. Despite having significantly cut costs over the last few years, ETAN has only enough resources to keep its staff for another four months at most.
You can change this. With your critical assistance, ETAN can continue its work supporting East Timorese efforts to ensure accountability for Indonesia’s crimes as well as for the complicity of Jakarta’s partners-in-crime, such as the U.S. government. ETAN has led the effort to prevent a strengthening of U.S.-Indonesia military ties, a struggle that has resulted in significant victories of late and must continue to do so. Despite these wins, we cannot rest. The Bush administration and its Pentagon allies have already renewed their efforts to normalize ties with Indonesia’s brutal military establishment.
Our sisters and brothers in East Timor repeatedly underscore the tremendous importance of ETAN’s continued solidarity work in the U.S. now that their country is free.
That is why I am writing to you. More than ever, ETAN needs your support to survive and grow to address these challenges. ETAN’s accomplishments speak for themselves, as does the organization's modest budget. ETAN has truly done very much with very little
Since its founding in 1991, ETAN has made sure that U.S. policymakers cannot ignore the human rights of the East Timorese and Indonesian people. With your support, it will continue to do so in 2004. Such work has implications far beyond East Timor and Indonesia. By working to change the way in which the U.S. government conducts foreign policy, ETAN contributes to wider change.
From the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq to the Indonesian military campaign in Aceh, the current state of the world is hardly bright. Nevertheless, ETAN remains an important example of what a dedicated group of activists can do to improve our world and to move our country in a more sane direction. Your financial support is needed to continue their work. During this holiday season, please think about ETAN and make as generous a donation as possible.
Thank you for you support.