Petition to the United Nations Decolonization Committee from the
East Timor International Support Center

This petition was read, on June 23, on behalf of ETISC by Frank Fitzgerald

Honourable Chairperson

On behalf of ETISC, the East Timor International Support Centre, we express our deepest gratitude to you and the Committee of 24 for granting us this chance to present our petition this year. We salute the committee's tenacity in upholding the principles of the United Nations, especially now where colonialism has become an anathema in this era of globalisation. Nevertheless, we thank the committee for keeping the East Timor issue alive.

Twenty-three years ago, last December, after months of border incursions and political skulduggery, the Indonesian army launched a brutal invasion of East Timor. Over 200,000 East Timorese, mostly civilians, women and children lost their lives in the bombardments and "cleaning" manoeuvres of the Indonesian army during the months following "D-Day" -- the invasion on Dec 7, 1975.

For a quarter of a century, under the leadership of Indonesian president, Suharto, East Timor's suffering continued. Then in May 1998, Suharto fell. In January, his successor BJ Habibie made an astonishing announcement: after a quarter of a century of diplomatic stonewalling, Jakarta was prepared to grant independence to East Timor.

Early last month, Indonesia and Portugal reached agreement which the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) must implement -- a consultation to be held on August 8. East Timorese will be presented with a proposal for "autonomy". If this is rejected, the UN will oversee a transition to full independence.

All things being equal, there is little doubt that independence would be the choice of most East Timorese. On the face of it, the consultation will provide a happy ending to one of the Asia-Pacific's most tragic stories. But in reality, that doesn't seem so. In the past few months, and especially in the past week, the entire UN- sponsored project has been thrown into jeopardy.

Honourable Chairperson, a campaign of state-sponsored terror in East Timor is currently in full-swing.

There is an orchestrated effort by the Indonesian Armed Forces in East Timor to sabotage the possibility of a free and fair vote on August 8. The Indonesian military elite hopes to deny the East Timorese people their chance of independence and enforce continuing integration with Indonesia through terror and intimidation.

This campaign has been a concealed operation designed to provide the leadership of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) with a front behind which they can carry out their covert operations. The front they have created is the ‘pro-integration militias’ . These groups are an extension of the TNI and are operating with the full support of the military command.

The violence is largely one sided - being done by an armed force with overwhelming military superiority against a largely unarmed population. The East Timorese Resistance forces (FALINTIL) under instructions from their leader Xanana are avoiding confrontation - in order to avoid further escalation in violence. This one sided violence carried out by a state apparatus aiming to bring about a particular political outcome is best described as state sponsored terrorism.

The military have tried hard to fabricate the illusion that these militias are a genuine ‘grass roots’ phenomenon - part of a ground- swell of pro-integration sentiment that has brought about two ‘warring factions’ in East Timor : pro-independence and pro- integration. The military fiction goes on to say that there will be a ‘civil war’ in East Timor if these groups are not restrained. In an ultimate irony the Indonesian armed forces present themselves as the restraining influence - the solution to this problem. Those responsible for mass murders will now keep the peace! In fact the Indonesian military who have occupied East Timor illegally for more than 23 years and have been responsible for the deaths of at least 200,000 people there will be given responsibility for ‘security’ during the ballot on August 8.

The militias themselves are an unsavoury bunch, united only by a virulent rejection of independence and an appetite for violence. Many appear to be little more than gangsters; others are paid or coerced to join the gangs.

The malicious actions of Indonesian Armed Forces are the root cause of the violence, terror and instability in East Timor which is threatening the possibility of a solution to the issue by a free and fair ballot on August 8.

Honourable Chairperson, there are many obstacles to a free and fair consultation in East Timor.

Something very ugly is happening there. With the ongoing uncertainties, especially the political instability, UNAMET is thinking of postponing the Aug 8 consultation by three weeks. The reasons given are that there has been deterioration of security and lack of integrity on the part of local and government officials.

Serious obstacles still remain to a free and fair consultation and from reports received by ETISC, we list them as follows:

* the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) are actively working to sabotage the UN vote. This is in direct contravention of their obligation of ‘neutrality’ under the UN agreement.

* the militias which are trained, armed and paid by the Indonesian military still operate openly and have not been disarmed: the army and the militias are operating together to terrorise supporters of independence.

* terror and repression are being used as a political weapon: hundreds of independence supporters have been killed (exact numbers unknown due to the impossibility of investigating), many tortured, raped and many have been abducted villages have been attacked and villagers forced to flee, houses burnt, and tens of thousands of internally displaced refugees have been created some are being held in what appear to be forced indoctrination camps (e.g. at Maubara)

* in addition threats of increased violence are being used to intimidate the population into voting for integration (‘autonomy’) within Indonesia: villagers are being told that if they do not accept the integration option, there will be mass killings after the ballot with particular targeting of independence supporters.

* death threats are being made to anyone who may support or strengthen the East Timorese people. Recipients of death threats have been aid workers (expat and local), journalists, church people (including priest, nuns and the Bishop), Timorese working with the UN, the UN staff themselves and any Timorese suspected of supporting independence.

* transport and communications have been disrupted by militia operated roadblocks designed to keep people isolated and frightened and make investigation of crimes impossible. Likewise communications are poor and some phone-lines have not functioned well, probably as a result of interference.

* obstruction of independent investigations of alleged violations (such as when the UN was refused permission to go to Atara, near Atsabe)

* millions of dollars are being spent by the Indonesian Provincial Government in East Timor to ‘socialise’ the integration option in contravention of the UN agreement which requires the government to remain neutral. This is an extension of the corrupt ’money politics’ of the New Order Government.

* counterfeit money is being used to pay for the militias (this openly circulates in Dili at present)

* credible reports have been received of electoral fraud with the production of 7,000 false ID cards for West Timorese as East Timorese with the addition of 7,000 new names to the electoral rolls in the western districts of east Timor.

* the pro- integration campaign proceeded publicly for the last months (manifested as pro-integration military rallies, enforced oath taking blood drinking ceremonies) whilst the independence supporters have not been able to campaign due to threats to their life. This situation violates the UN accord which requires NO political campaigning by either side till June 20.

* dispersal of Timorese voters escaping from the military initiated terror to locations such as Bali and Jakarta making voting difficult as they need to register and vote in one location (difficult as they will probably need to move between these dates) .

Honourable Chairperson, humanitarian problems abound in East Timor and the East Timorese have little chance of surviving if they don't receive urgent help in food and medicine.

Indonesian army-trained death squads operating in East Timor have been systematically terrorising villagers and have forced tens of thousands thousands to seek refuge in the towns.

In a May 26 Reuters' report, an aid worker said some five per cent of East Timorese have been displaced in the run up to an August vote on autonomy and most are beyond the reach of international aid agencies.

The aid worker, who did not want to be identified, estimated that at least 54,000 people had been pushed out of their homes, and the majority of then had been driven into camps in areas run by militias that support remaining part of Indonesia. He said some 36,000 refugees in camps in the western half of the territory were totally reliant on the militias for food.

"If you are not for autonomy, you won't get your share, or you will be forced to sign a paper (in support of autonomy),'' he said.

``We can't get assistance to them because of the security situation.''

>From ETISC's on-the-ground observations, medical services to the majority of the population are almost non-existent. The vast majority of Indonesian doctors have left, leaving less than 40 Indonesian doctors in east Timor, mostly in Dili. That is less Than one doctor per 20,000 people (and much less outside the capital)an extremely poor ratio. Services in most areas are not functioning at all. The few services that are functioning are out of reach of most people anyway.

Many of those needing medical care have been unable to access it due to fear of further attacks or have been force to flee after receiving initial treatment. In many remote areas large numbers of injured people have been unable to access any help at all.

It is clearly evident that the current humanitarian crisis in East Timor has been created by the political and military campaign by the Indonesian Armed Forces to try to enforce the integration of East Timor into Indonesia by disrupting and manipulating the ballot on East Timor's future.

Honourable Chairperson, finally in concluding, unless the world wakes up soon and acts effectively to stop the ongoing horror in East Timor, the people there will be condemned to a continuing nightmare - until they get to participate in a 'vote' that may be simply a farce. But if the world thinks the problem of East Timor may disappear after such a final injustice, it may be badly mistaken.

Security must be provided for the people of East Timor as soon as possible so that conditions before , during and after the ballot can allow them to express their aspiration free form coercion. Otherwise, should Indonesia manage to coerce the people to produce a pro-autonomy result, the consultation carried out by the United Nations will be meaningless and its result will lack legitimacy.

The UN must take over responsibility for security and peace by deploying a peace keeping force to disarm the militias and ensure adequate conditions for a consultation. Also, it is imperative that the United Nations should increase the strength of its 280-member civilian police, who will arrive in East Timor soon.

The issue of East Timor must NOT be removed from the UN Decolonisation Commission until a free and fair vote (acceptable to all parties and international observers) has occurred and a legal and peaceful transition that respects the outcome of this vote has occurred.

Thank you.

East Timor International Support Center, Darwin, Australia

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