etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer

Rep. McGovern: The Violence in East Timor Must Stop Now 

see also: Representative McGovern on Frs. Hilariao Madeira and Francisco Soares (Sept 13, 1999)

Wednesday, September 8, 1999 
106th Congress, 1st Session

145 Cong Rec H 7958

REFERENCE: Vol. 145, No. 115



TEXT: [*H7958] (Mr. McGOVERN asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I was in East Timor at the end of August. I met with the government and military officials, with U.N. monitors, religious and community leaders. I traveled to the countryside. When I left East Timor, I called for the immediate formation of a U.N. peacekeeping force because everyone feared violent retaliation after the vote. Now their worst fears have been realized. I had dinner in the home of Bishop Belo. Now his home has been burned to the ground. I have talked to people in Dili and Jakarta. Their eyewitness reports make your blood run cold. This is not anarchy. This is not civil war. This is the deliberate, planned slaughter of a people. The United States and the international community must help restore order and security by immediately deploying an international peacekeeping force. The United States should suspend all aid to Indonesia, including multilateral aid, until the violence is ended and the people's safety is guaranteed. Seventy-eight percent of the people of East Timor voted for independence. Their courage and commitment to freedom should not be rewarded with death. The time to act is now. Mr. Speaker, at this time I would enter additional material into the Record.


Statement of U.S. Representative Jim McGovern on the Current Violence in East Timor, September 7, 1999

U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) called upon the Clinton Administration today to suspend all U.S. assistance to the Government of Indonesia until such time as the violence in East Timor has ceased and the safety and security of the East Timorese people can be guaranteed. Rep. McGovern has also pressed the White House to support the immediate deployment to East Timor of a multinational peacekeeping force to help restore law and order. The following is Rep. McGovern's statement:

"I recently traveled to East Timor as part of a congressional delegation that included Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jack Reed (R-RI) to assess the conditions leading to the August 30 referendum. Based on our interviews with officials in East Timor and Jakarta, and what we had witnessed on the ground in East Timor, I called for a United Nations Peacekeeping force to be deployed in East Timor during this difficult transition period. Throughout East Timor the people we talked with were deeply concerned about violent retaliation following the vote. Their fears have now been confirmed in the most horrific way.

"Over the past several days, I have been in discussions with many of the people I met with in East Timor, some of whom have recently been evacuated off the island. They describe burning and looting in Dili; attacks against unarmed civilians, including women and children; attacks against U.N. workers and the International Committee of the Red Cross; the rounding up of people who have taken refuge with the Catholic Church and transporting them to unknown destinations. The fate of these people is unknown, and the worst is feared. In most instances, eyewitnesses report the collaboration or direct assistance of the Indonesian police and military in these actions.

"I urge the United States to support Australia and other nations calling for the immediate deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force to restore order to East Timor and an end to the violence. The Government of Indonesia has clearly been unable or unwilling to provide security to the East Timorese people and should agree to the immediate deployment of such an international force to assist Indonesia in meeting its responsibilities and international commitments under the May 5 Agreement it signed with the United Nations and the Government of Portugal.

"I further urge the Administration to suspend all U.S. bilateral assistance to the Government of Indonesia until such time as the United Nations certifies that order has been restored and safety to the East Timorese people guaranteed. Time and again, the Government of Indonesia has pledged to guarantee security of the East Timorese people. Time and again, the U.S. has stated that there will be severe consequences should the Indonesian Government fail to live up to its commitments. They have failed to do so. It is time for the U.S. and other countries to begin demonstrating what those consequences are: a loss of all international economic, military and development support. I ask the U.S. to take the lead in urging other nations to suspend their assistance to Jakarta and for the international financial institutions to freeze all loan disbursements on current projects in Indonesia.

"Over 78 percent of people of East Timor voted for independence. Their courage and faith in democracy and the international community should not be rewarded with death and destruction. Every hour is costing lives in East Timor. The international community and the United States must act now.

Observations and Recommendations: August 19-24, 1999 Fact-Finding Trip to East Timor, U.S. Representative James P. McGovern

Having just returned from a fact-finding mission to East Timor (August 19-24) with Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI), I would make the following observations:

(1) The May 5th Agreement on East Timor--signed by the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal and the United Nations Secretary General--puts forth the framework for elections in East Timor that would decide whether East Timor would remain a part of Indonesia (technically the vote is on supporting or rejecting autonomy).

The United Nations Mission on East Timor (UNAMET) has been established to implement the agreement and the Indonesian Government is responsible for ensuring the ballot can take place in a peaceful and stable environment.

(2) UNAMET has done an excellent job in creating a process that will allow this plebescite to occur. Despite a smear campaign being launched against them by pro-integration forces, UNAMET has been objective and fair--and has established a process that is credible.

UNAMET has already postponed the vote twice--from August 8 to August 21 to August 30. It appears unlikely that it will be postponed again.

In the face of political intimidation and violence--mostly by pro-integration forces--UNAMET nonetheless, registered over 450,000 voters. People defied the intimidation and registered in higher than expected numbers (over 100,000 more than what the U.N. considered an "acceptable'' level).

(3) From discussions on the ground in East Timor with a variety of parties, it seems unlikely that there will occur a truly free and fair plebiscite. However, UNAMET's efforts could very well lead to a vote that truly reflects the will of the people in East Timor.

Armed militias continue to operate with impunity. We visited the town of Maliana on Saturday--only to learn that the town is regularly swarming with armed militias. The U.N. offices were recently attacked. In fact, a rock that was hurled through a window is still lodged in a wall in one of the offices. A number of local people have been killed, some are reported missing and many are routinely threatened with death if the election should result in a pro-independence vote.

We met with the local police chief who, while assuring us he will do his best to maintain security for the vote, conceded that he could give no instances where individuals associated with militias had been arrested--despite the fact that militia activity is strictly illegal.

It is also clear that the militias are a product of the Indonesian military--and not of any community-based organization. They exist to do the army's bidding--plain and simple. If the military authorities wanted militia activity to cease, it would.

The police force, which has been technically charged with maintaining security and has been given all the appropriate support UNAMET, has been unwilling or unable to control militia violence. By all accounts, police security simply stand by and watch in the face of militia violence--and refuse to go against the military. What is particularly alarming is that this same police force is charged with maintaining security in the post-plebiscite period.

A visit by our delegation to Suai on Saturday revealed many of the same problems as in Maliana. Armed militias, political intimidation and threats of violence are all commonplace. In Suai, a potentially explosive situation has arisen where over 2000 internally displaced persons (IDP's) are seeking temporary sanctuary on the property of a local church. It is clear that most of the IDP's are pro-independence and are waiting in order to vote on August 30. Local authorities in Suai had shut off the water supply to the church and have also refused to allow food products to be brought to displaced people by the UNHCR. Our delegation appealed to local authorities to allow water and food to be brought to these people--and we were told that would happen. Water was restored, according to U.N. reports, later the next day.

(4) On Saturday, Senator Harkin and I met with Indonesian President B.J. Habibie. We expressed our gratitude for his public statements in support of a free and fair vote in East Timor--but reported that our recent visit demonstrated to us that conditions there were still very disturbing. We urged that he take a more aggressive role in demanding Indonesian military compliance with the spirit of the May 5th agreement. We suggested a number of military officers who should be replaced based on their inappropriate behavior. He asked us to follow-up with a memo--which Senator Harkin agreed to do before leaving Jakarta.


(1) The United States and the world community should continue to strongly--and without equivocation--support UNAMET. This is especially important to do now because prointegration forces are smearing UNAMET in order to justify ignoring the voting results if the decision is pro- independence.

(2) The United States should urge the U.N. and the Indonesian government to allow a U.N. peacekeeping force into East Timor immediately. It is clear that the Indonesian police and military are not creating a secure environment, which could be particularly dangerous in the aftermath of a pro-independence vote. A number of U.N. and human rights observers continue to worry about retaliation in the aftermath of the election. Based on what I've observed, the local police will not or cannot stand up to military-backed militias.

(3) The United States and the world community must continue to make clear that Indonesia's failure to live up to the May 5th agreement and provide security to the people of East Timor before, during and especially after the vote will result in strong consequences--both economically and diplomatically. The Indonesian Government can show good faith now by disarming the militias and arresting anyone with an unauthorized weapon.

The U.S. Congressional delegation met with: U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia J. Stapleton Roy and embassy staff.

Xanana Gusmao, opposition leader.

Major General Zacky Anwar--Indonesia Armed Forces (TNI) in East Timor.

Deputy Governor Sudharto of Dili, East Timor.

Party Leaders of the National Council of the Timorese Resistance (CNRT, the coalition of pro-independence forces).

United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor team members (UNAMET)--including Ian Martin, Special Representative for the Secretary General for the East Timor Popular Consultation.

Roman Catholic Bishop of Dili, East Timor, Carlos Felipe Zimenes Belo.

Mateu Maiz, Mayor of Dili and spokespeople of the United Front for East Timor Autonomy (FPDK), the coalition of pro- integration forces).

Site visits to the western towns of Maliana and Suai in East Timor.


Return to Congressional Action on East Timor: Statements, etc.

Search this site                 powered by FreeFind

If your browser does do not support forms use: Search   Site Map   What's New

Note: For those without a fax application on their computer - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and  it's free of charge!  Download from