We stand at a critical moment for the people of East Timor. In two days, the Indonesian and Portuguese Foreign Ministers will meet under your auspices to decide the security arrangements and the modalities for the August 8 ballot in East Timor.
For many years we have looked to the United Nations as the only legitimate and reliable body capable of settling this tragic issue in a way acceptable both to the long-suffering East Timorese people and to the international community. The United Nations is equipped with many resolutions which, properly implemented, guarantee a framework for the East Timorese people to determine their own future free from coercion and fear. We refer to Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 on the right to self-determination, Security Council resolutions 384 (1975) and 389 (1976) calling on Indonesia to withdraw from East Timor without delay, and the eight resolutions of the General Assembly on East Timor.
Since you became Secretary General, your office has taken many initiatives to implement these resolutions. We appreciate your efforts and those of your competent and committed staff over the past two years, and share your eagerness to solve this 23-year blot on humanity's conscience.
You began your press briefing on April 23, after the last round of tripartite talks, by saying that this was a good day, and that there are not many of those at the United Nations these days. There are no good days at all in East Timor these days. During the month of April alone, more than 100 East Timorese civilians were murdered by paramilitary militias the Indonesian government has proven unwilling or unable to control.
President Habibie is actively engaged in your East Timor peace process, and is committed to allowing East Timor to become independent if the territory's people reject Indonesia's autonomy proposal. Many of us believe he is sincerely looking for a face-saving exit to Indonesia's long, illegal occupation of East Timor, and would like to work with the United Nations to achieve that end. But his good will is undercut by the Indonesian military and its paramilitary proxies.
Notwithstanding President Habibie's announced policy, the same army that illegally invaded East Timor in 1975 and has brought so much grief and suffering to that territory is still there. Although Indonesia's civilian government has acknowledged its responsibility to enforce law in East Timor, its army and police have encouraged paramilitary violence. The armed forces provide the paramilitaries with weapons, money and training. Senior military and police officers have attended rallies where the speakers have incited mobs to murder and stood by doing nothing as the killing ensued. Increasingly, there are reports of the police and army directly participating in the activities of these death squads.
At the April 23 tripartite talks, much was made of the April 21 Peace Pact brokered by General Wiranto. But the paramilitary violence persists, and Indonesia has made no significant efforts to control it. Murders continue daily, militia leaders exhort their coerced followers to assassinate pro-independence leaders and human rights workers with impunity, and tens of thousands of internal refugees live in fear for their lives. If the United Nations were to conduct a popular consultation in this atmosphere of terror, it would be a cruel hoax on the people of East Timor and a betrayal of the principles the United Nations stands for.
Many of the paramilitary leaders, who represent a small minority of the East Timorese population, have pledged to subvert the peace process and vowed to continue their terror campaign after August 8 if the voters reject autonomy. High Indonesian-appointed officials have declared their opposition to holding the consultation. Indonesia must act decisively to fulfill the commitments they are making to you and to the international community, both to ensure that the process proceeds and to create a climate conducive to peaceful campaigning and voting. August 8 is only three months away.
It is regrettable that representatives of the people of East Timor have been excluded from the development of the peace process, and will not participate in the negotiations and signing on May 5. Their non-participation places an extra responsibility on the United Nations, in accordance with the resolutions cited above, to ensure that their rights and interests are protected.
Available information gives us great concern about the agreements to be signed on Wednesday. The following elements are essential for a legitimate August 8 ballot. We have consulted with many East Timorese leaders and believe that these conditions also represent their wishes.
We urge you to make it clear to the Indonesian government that these conditions are essential for the United Nations to conduct a meaningful consultation in East Timor. If they are not accepted on May 5, we urge you to go to Jakarta and meet with the President of Indonesia and use your high office and powers of persuasion to underscore their importance. If the May 5 talks fail to include these conditions, the resulting crisis will require you to bring the matter to the Security Council and demonstrate that these are elements without which the United Nations cannot proceed.
The Indonesian authorities must understand the absolute necessity of bringing their own forces into line with the policy announced by their head of state three months ago.
Over the last few months, the major consequence of the U.N. peace process in East Timor has been a marked escalation in violence. The world community has been shocked as machetes and guns have taken well over a hundred innocent lives. We know that you share our abhorrence of this blatant subversion of the process, and hope that you agree that action along the lines described above is the only way to rescue the process, the credibility of the United Nations, and the lives, rights and futures of the people of East Timor.
Since April 23, many key governments, including permanent members of the Security Council and most of those in the countries represented in IFET, have strongly urged the Indonesian authorities to stop the paramilitary violence. They would welcome your decisive action.
Thank you for your attention and concern. We in the international NGO community have worked on East Timor for many years. We stand ready to assist the United Nations peace process in any ways you feel are appropriate and helpful, and assure you that our concern and actions will continue until a just and lasting peace is in place.Sincerely,