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Statements on Introduction of S. 1568 suspending assistance to Indonesia


Senator Feingold (D-WI)
Senator Reed (D-RI)
Senator Kennedy (D-MA)


S. 1568. A bill imposing an immediate suspension of assistance to the Government of Indonesia until the results of the August 30, 1999, vote in East Timor have implemented, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.


Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I rise today, along with a number of my colleagues, to introduce a bill in response to the ongoing violence in East Timor .

I am outraged at what is going on in East Timor today. The Indonesian government clearly has not lived up to its commitment to maintain security following the recent referendum. In fact it is openly supporting the militia violence against the majority of East Timorese, who have made clear their desire for an independent East Timor . If the Indonesian government cannot, or will not, maintain peace, I believe an international peacekeeping mission is the best option. The United States and the rest of the international community must exercise any and all leverage it has with the Indonesians to allow for this contingency. In addition, the United States provides a great deal of economic and military assistance to Indonesia. If the Indonesian government does not take steps to stop the violence occurring in East Timor , we should suspend these benefits.

For that reason, I am today introducing a bill which cuts off all military and most economic assistance to the government of Indonesia until the President determines and certifies to the Congress that a safe and secure environment exists in East Timor which will allow the East Timorese who have fled the militia-led violence to return to their homes, allow the United Nations Assistance Mission to East Timor , UNAMET, to resume its mandate, and allow the results of the August 30, 1999, referendum on East Timor's political status to be fully implemented.

At long last, on August 30, the people of East Timor went to the polls to express their will about the future of their homeland, choosing between a future as an autonomous part of Indonesia, or as an independent nation. The approximately 99 percent voter turnout in the face of intimidation from the pro-Jakarta militias is a credit to the dedication and courage of the East Timorese people to determine once and for all their own political status.

Ironically, the day of the ballot was relatively free of violence. But that was the calm before the storm. After the polls closed, the militias began a rampage throughout the territory that continues today. At least for UNAMET workers have been killed and at least six other are missing. Thousands of East Timorese have fled their homes, which are being looted and burned at will by the militias.

According to some estimates, in the past week alone, several hundred people have been killed, and more than 30,000 have been forced to flee their homes. Television news reports have shown desperate East Timorese citizens scaling the razor-sharp barbed wire fence surrounding the UNAMET mission in order to escape the automatic weapons of the advancing militias. There have been reports of beheadings. Nobel Laureate Bishop Carlos Belo and about six thousand East Timorese who sought refuge in his home in Dili were forced to flee when his home was burned to the ground. Bishop Belo, who has endured years of intimidation and countless threats on his life, has since fled to Australia. The United Nations is evacuating many of its workers and international observers.

The result of the ballot, which was announced on September 4, was overwhelming--78.5 percent of East Timorese voted for independence. This crushing defeat for the pro-Jakarta militias and their supporters sparked even more violence.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a wave of violence that has plagued East Timor for almost a quarter of a century. At this point, I would like to recount some of East Timor's history--the events that have brought the people of that territory to the horrific violence that is being unleashed upon them as I speak these words.

The East Timorese people have a long history of foreign domination. The Portuguese ruled there for four centuries. In 1975, less than a year after the Portuguese colonial rulers left East Timor , the Indonesian army occupied East Timor , and it remains there today. For 24 years, the people of East Timor have been subjugated by the Indonesian government and harassed by the Indonesian military.

The November 1991 massacre of non-violent demonstrators in the East Timorese capital of Dili is but one example of Indonesia's repressive occupation of East Timor . Despite the harsh rule of the Suharto regime--or maybe in spite of it--the people of East Timor held on to their hope for self-determination. This dream is personified by people such as Nobel Peace Prize winners Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Carlos Belo, who have worked tirelessly, and at great personal risk, for the liberation of the people of East Timor .

Following Suharto's resignation in 1998, it appeared that some positive changes were on the horizon for the people of East Timor . This comes after January 27, 1999, President B.J. Habibie announced that the government of Indonesia was finally willing to learn--and respect--the wishes of the people in that territory. On May 5, 1999, the governments of Indonesia and Portugal signed an agreement to hold a United Nations-supervised ``consultation'' on the future of East Timor .

Before the ink was even dry on this agreement, pro Jakarta militia groups--better described as lawless thugs--began a campaign of terror and intimidation against the East Timorese people aimed at quashing the independence movement. And these thugs operated freely while the Indonesian military looked the other way, and in some cases, helped them.

In the weeks leading up to the historic referendum, the militias targeted supporters of East Timorese independence, and members of the UNAMET who were in the territory preparing for the vote.

And now, the implementation of the results of this ballot, an effort which has already been paid for by the blood of more than 200,000 East Timorese who have been killed since 1975, is being delayed by more violence from criminals who cannot accept the defeat they received at the polls.

Despite his promise to respect the wishes of the East Timorese people, President Habibie has done little to stop the violence. Yesterday, he imposed martial law in East Timor , but this announcement has not ended the militia rampage, and the Indonesian military has done nothing to halt the violence. I am concerned that martial law will only embolden the militias.

The bill which I am introducing today calls on the Indonesian government to foster an environment in which the result of the August 30 referendum can be fully implemented. And if the Indonesian government does not take steps to that end, all U.S. military and most economic assistance to Indonesia will be cut off. Period.

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For too long, the Congress has allowed military and economic assistance to be awarded to the government of Indonesia, with few conditions, despite its miserable human rights record and its deplorable treatment of the people of East Timor . It is high time that the Indonesian government learns that the U.S. will not tolerate the violent suppression of the legitimate democratic aspiration of the people of East Timor .

Earlier this week, President Habibie asked the Indonesian people to remain calm in the face of the referendum results. It is past time for him to direct the Indonesian army to stop the militias and to discipline those army personnel who are in collusion with the militias in their rampage through East Timor .

It is imperative that President Habibie and his government understand that the United States Congress will not sit idly by while bands of thugs continue to loot and burn East Timor , kill innocent civilians, and drive people from their homes.

President Habibie said earlier this year that he would respect the wishes of the people of East Timor . His government also promised the World Bank that it would live up to its commitments to the United Nations. It is time he shows that these statements were more than just political rhetoric. He must stop the violence, and he must allow international peacekeepers to enter East Timor without the threat of attack from militias or members of the Indonesian army.

I hope the Senate will act on this important legislation at the earliest possible date. We must not allow the Indonesian government to continue to receive U.S. military and economic assistance so long as it is condoning the terror in East Timor .

So, Mr. President, I send a bill to the desk. Because of the urgency of the situation in East Timor , I ask that it be considered as soon as possible.

Mr. President, I am delighted that the next speaker will be a person who has devoted an incredible energy to this issue; in fact, who recently had the willingness and courage to go to East Timor , Senator REED of Rhode Island.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.

Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise in strong support of the legislation introduced by my colleague, Senator FEINGOLD of Wisconsin. I do so because of the gravity of the situation and also because of the fact that just 2 weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel, along with Senator HARKIN of Iowa and Congressman McGovern of Massachusetts, to East Timor .

We visited the town of Dili, the capital. Then we went into the countryside. We saw the bravery and courage of people who are willing, quite literally, to risk their lives to vote to determine their own future. We went to a town called Suai, which was a small village in the western part of East Timor . There we found 2,000 displaced persons huddled in the shadow of a half built Catholic church being protected from roving bands of militia, basically armed thugs, supported, encouraged, and, at times , directed by the Indonesian military authority. They were there not only for protection but also because they wanted to vote. They knew if they went back into the countryside, they might lose their chance to physically be present to vote.

As I stood before those thousands of poor people who have been denied water and food by the authorities, who literally were being starved away from their right to vote, I told them that the vote is more powerful than the army. They believed that. A few days later, with great courage, they went to the polls, and, in overwhelming numbers, they voted overwhelmingly for independence.

That vote now is being undermined systematically and deliberately by the military authority within Indonesia. Regretfully, we have just learned that the priest, Father Hilario, who was providing sanctuary in Swai, has been reported to have been killed by those violent militia bands.

This is an issue that should trouble every person of conscience throughout the world. It should particularly trouble the United States, because for many years we have maintained a relationship with the Government of Indonesia in an attempt to provide the kind of support that would allow them to evolve into a democratic country that would fulfill its promises.

The Government of Indonesia has pretensions of being a great power, but a great power keeps its word. The Government of Indonesia has not kept its word. It promised the United Nations that it would provide security and protection for the election. It promised it would respect the results of the election. It promised it would protect the lives and the property of the people of East Timor , and it has failed utterly and miserably in doing that.

The military of Indonesia has pretensions of being a professional military force, but a professional military force always follows legitimate orders of its civilian and military commanders. This army is failing miserably in doing that.

There is only one choice. They must either restore order, stability, and safety in East Timor , allow people to live freely and safely, respect the results of the election, or cooperate with the introduction of international peacekeepers.

At the heart of the bill Senator FEINGOLD, myself, and Senator LEAHY are introducing is a very clear message to the government and the military of Indonesia: Unless you restore order immediately or allow international peacekeepers to enter East Timor , we will cut off all multilateral assistance. We will cut off all bilateral assistance. We will cut off all military cooperation. Essentially, the future relationship of Indonesia with the world community depends fundamentally on whether or not they will respect their own agreement to provide safety and security for the people of East Timor and respect the results of this election.

I hope they do. If there is cooperation, if a United Nations peacekeeping force can enter that country, it is fortunate that our allies, the Australians and other countries, are ready, willing, and able at this moment to send personnel forward in this peacekeeping force. We should be able to assist this force with

some of the unique capacities and capabilities we have: intelligence capabilities, satellite observation, air lifts, sea lift. I don't think it is necessary to commit our forces on the ground, but we should be part of this effort to secure the peace and stability and reaffirm the validity of this election.

While we were in East Timor , we had occasion to visit with Bishop Belo, the Nobel prize winner. We had supper with him, very humble fare from a very humble and saintly person. His house has already been destroyed by roving mobs. East Timorese who took sanctuary there have been scattered and slaughtered. Mercifully, Bishop Belo has been able to escape to Australia.

These scenes of carnage and mayhem and madness are convulsing East Timor . It is the responsibility of the Government of Indonesia to stop the violence or to allow international forces to enter at the soonest possible time to stop this violence. As I indicated initially, this referendum was not foisted upon the Government of Indonesia. It was agreed to by the Government of Indonesia. They made solemn pledges to the United Nations to respect the results of the vote, to conduct the vote fairly without intimidation. Now they must live up to their word or allow the United Nations and the world community to see that this vote is respected.

A final image I have of our time in East Timor is going to a polling place. This was days before the election. We were talking to these very brave international volunteers from many nations who have risked their lives, literally, to be in these small towns to take the registration. There was a young man who had come to make sure his name was on the rolls so he could vote. We spoke with him. We asked him if he was afraid.

He said: Yes, very much so, but I will vote. My friends will vote. We want to determine the future of our country. We want to determine the future of our families and our communities.

They did that. We have to respect that courage and that faith in democracy and the power of the vote. We have to, internationally and individually as a nation, prove that the vote is more powerful than the army.

I am pleased and proud to join my colleagues in this resolution. I urge its speedy consideration and passage.

I yield the floor.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, it is a privilege to join Senator FEINGOLD on this legislation to prohibit assistance to the Government of Indonesia until that nation permits the peaceful implementation of the results of the August 30 referendum, in which the people of East Timor overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence from Indonesia. This bill sends a clear and strong message to the Government of Indonesia that the United States will hold it responsible for the fate of the East Timorese people.

Tragically, we are now faced with a crisis of alarming proportions as a result of the Indonesian government's failure to disarm the militias and to guarantee the security of the East Timorese people. The militias, together with Indonesian military and security personnel, are committing gross violations of human rights. Hundreds of East Timorese have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge in West Timor . Hundreds have sought asylum in the UN compound in the East Timorese capital of Dili. Bishop Belo's home was burned and he was forced to seek asylum in Australia. UN personnel have been attacked and two were killed. Journalists have been threatened and forced to leave East Timor . The militias and the Indonesian military and security personnel perpetrating this violence must be stopped.

All of us are deeply concerned over the violence and the likelihood of further bloodshed in the coming days. The Indonesian Government must take responsibility for the actions of its military and security personnel. If the Government of Indonesia cannot or will not stop the violence, it must permit the international community to do so. I strongly support the call for an international peacekeeping force, authorized by the United Nations Security Council, to intervene to restore security in East Timor and to implement the results of the referendum.


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

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