EAST TIMOR REPATRIATION AND SECURITY ACT
(House of Representatives - May 03, 2000)
(Mr. McGOVERN asked and was given permission to address the House for 1
minute and revise and extend his remarks and include therein extraneous
Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, today I am proud to join with my colleague,
the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), to introduce H.R.
4357, the East Timor Repatriation Security Act.
The crisis in East Timor continues, and the Congress needs to respond.
Some 100,000 refugees remained trapped in squalid and threatening
conditions inside West Timor. The overwhelming majority of these refugees
want to return to their home in East Timor, but they cannot because the
camps are under the control of the militias.
The militias and elements of the Indonesian Army continue cross-border
attacks into East Timor.
Reconstruction continues to be a slow and laborious task.
Our bill maintains Congressional restrictions and the President's
suspension on military cooperation with the Indonesian Armed Forces until
the refugees are safely repatriated and military attacks against East
Timor are ended.
It calls upon the President to help the safe repatriation of the
refugees and to help rebuild East Timor, and it salutes the members of the
United States Armed Forces who have participated in the peacekeeping
operation in East Timor.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to cosponsor the McGovern-Smith bill
on East Timor.
Mr. Speaker, I include the following for the Record:
From Human Rights Watch
East Timorese Refugees Face New Threat
(New York, Mar. 30, 2000): Human Rights Watch today called on
Indonesian authorities to lift a March 31 deadline on humanitarian aid to
East Timorese refugees living in West Timor. The Indonesian government has
given the refugees, some 100,000 people, until the end of the month to
choose whether to go back to East Timor or remain in Indonesia. Indonesia
says it will end all delivery of food and other assistance as of March 31.
`Everyone wants a quick resolution of the refugee crisis, but this
ultimatum is counterproductive,' said Joe Saunders, deputy Asia direct at
Human Rights Watch. `The threatened deadline alone has created panic. If
it is implemented, the cutoff will directly endanger the lives of tens of
thousands of refugees without solving the underlying problems.'
Conditions for many of the refugees are already dire. There have been
food shortages, along with health and nutrition problems in many of the
camps. Some reports estimate that as many as 500 refugees have died from
stomach and respiratory ailments. Refugees also continue to face
significant obstacles in deciding whether to return. In some areas,
refugees continue to be subjected to intimidation by armed militias and
disinformation campaigns. Refugees are told that conditions in East Timor
are worse than in the camps, and the United Nations is acting as a new
colonial occupying force. Other refugees opposed independence for East
Timor, or come from militia or army families, and fear vigilante justice
should they return to East Timor.
Indonesian officials claim, however, that they can no longer afford to
feed the refugees, that food aid acts as a magnet and prevents refugees in
West Timor from returning home permanently, claiming that after March 31,
the refugees should be the sole responsibility of the international
`Given Indonesia's economic woes, the call for international financial
support in feeding and caring for the refugees is understandable. We call
on donors to make urgently needed assistance available. But an artificial
deadline helps no one,' said Saunders. `Thousands of refugees are not now
in a position to make a free and informed choice about whether to return.
A large part of the problem has been Indonesia's failure to create
conditions in which refugees can make a genuine choice.'
According to aid agencies, the total number of refugees currently in
West Timor is just under 100,000. Precise figures are not available
because access to the camps and settlements has been limited by harassment
and intimidation of humanitarian aid workers by pro-Indonesian militias
still dominant in a number of the camps. Many refugees have also been
subjected to months of disinformation and, often, intimidation by members
of the pro-Indonesian militias. Indonesia has recently made some progress
in combating the intimidation in the camps, but lack of security and
reliable information continue to be important obstacles to return. Aid
workers in West Timor estimate that one-half to two-thirds of the
refugees, if given a free choice, would eventually choose to return to
`Withdrawal of food aid and other humanitarian assistance should never
be used as a means to pressure refugees into returning home prematurely'
said Saunders. `Return should be voluntary and based on the free and
informed choice of the refugees themselves.'
Following the announcements by the United Nations on September 4, 1999
that nearly eighty percent of East Timorese voters had rejected continued
rule by Indonesia, East Timor was the site of orchestrated mayhem. In the
days and weeks following the announcement, an estimated seventy percent of
homes and buildings across East Timor were destroyed, more than two-thirds
of the population was displaced, and an estimated 250,000 East Timorese
fled or were forcibly taken, often at gunpoint, across the border into
Indonesian West Timor. To date, roughly 150,000 refugees have returned to
From the New York Times, Apr. 29, 2000
Stumbling Efforts in East Timor
In East Timor, where pro-Indonesian militias went on a rampage last
summer, the United Nations has taken on an ambitious reconstruction
mission with inadequate means. Not surprisingly, the results to date have
been disappointing. Unless faster progress can be achieved in creating
jobs, resettling refugees and establishing the rule of law, there is a
serious risk of new violence.
International peacekeepers belatedly put a stop to the violence, which
came after the East Timorese voted for independence. But by the time U.N.
administrators moved in six months ago, conditions were desperate.
Pro-Jakarta militias had burned much of the territory's housing and
destroyed its agricultural economy. The abrupt withdrawal of Indonesian
civil servants left East Timor without police, teachers and other
Since then the U.N. has made only modest progress. Some schools have
been reopened, although they still lack trained teachers. Emergency
medical and dental clinics have been established, many of them staffed by
private relief agencies. But a staggering 80 percent of East Timor's
800,000 people still have no work, and nearly 100,000 remain in refugee
camps across the Indonesian frontier. There is no functioning police force
or courts, no reliable water, power or transportation systems.
The chief U.N. administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, has been hampered
by an inadequate budget, unrealistic staff ceilings and the slowness of
donor nations in providing the funds and volunteers they have promised for
Timor's reconstruction. Of more than $500 million pledged late last year,
only $40 million has been delivered. Washington has so far sent about $8
million of the $13 million it promised for U.N. and World Bank
reconstruction efforts. Donor nations have been slow in providing the
local governance experts the U.N. needs.
These problems have been magnified by the workings of the notoriously
slow U.N. bureaucracy and the U.N. mission's reluctance to give more
responsibility to local residents. If the rebuilding effort continues to
lag in the months ahead, Jakarta could be tempted to exploit the
continuing poverty and chaos, launching new military forays from
Indonesian-controlled West Timor.
Last summer's violence in East Timor galvanized international attention
and action. That commitment must now be sustained with adequate resources
and a renewed sense of urgency.
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