etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer NGO Letter to President Clinton on East Timor

110 Maryland Ave., NE,
Box 30
Washington, DC 20002

August 26, 1999

President Bill Clinton
White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Clinton,

As representatives of human rights, peace and justice, and religious organizations, we ask that you and your administration utilize the historic opportunity to stop Indonesian-backed paramilitary violence still threatening a free and fair vote in East Timor. Together we stand poised on the eve of a referendum for which the people of East Timor have labored through 24 years of brutal and illegal Indonesian occupation. This referendum could represent a tremendous victory for both democracy and human rights-if the vote and the subsequent transition period can proceed under peaceful conditions. To this day, those conditions have not yet been secured.

We commend your administration for the increasingly strong public statements of Secretary of State Albright and Assistant Secretary Roth. We commend your position at the recent Consultative Group on Indonesia meeting in Paris, linking future aid to Indonesia to a free and fair vote in East Timor. But there is still more you must do to ensure that the people of East Timor can vote on August 30 in an atmosphere free from intimidation and terror. It is also critical that you closely monitor the period immediately following the vote, prior to Indonesia's ratification of the results in the fall. The potential for retaliatory paramilitary and Indonesian military violence is extremely troubling, and its prevention will require the serious vigilance of the international community.

As you know, Indonesian armed forces remain responsible for overall security around the vote. We protest this situation. While Indonesian police repeatedly condone attackers, Indonesian military units actively arm, train and direct them, particularly along the West Timor border, where huge stockpiles of weapons have been reported. As Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Carlos Belo recently said: "They [the Indonesian military] are openly and clearly distributing guns.... They are turning Timorese against Timorese." Since the beginning of this year, paramilitaries have killed hundreds in East Timor and caused a refugee crisis of over 50,000. Several of our organizations currently have observers placed in East Timor who can verify paramilitary terror and intimidation firsthand.

We encourage you to strictly hold Indonesia to all of its obligations under the May 5 UN agreement. All paramilitary units should be contained and disarmed immediately. Indonesian military units should be returned to barracks, and a genuine and monitored withdrawal of troops should begin immediately. Nothing short of these measures will ensure post-vote violence can be avoided.

We wholeheartedly request further U.S. support for the UN mission, including a serious increase in numbers of personnel. We also ask that you utilize your influence in Jakarta to open access to East Timor to all human rights, humanitarian aid, and international press personnel. We particularly note the case of Dr. Daniel Murphy of Iowa, who has recently been blacklisted by Indonesia after spending over nine months providing medical care to victims of both disease and paramilitary attacks. Moreover, we urge you to hold the Indonesian government responsible for honoring recent official promises to release all political prisoners after the conclusion of the voting process, though we believe their release should have been accomplished much earlier.

As you know, the U.S. has a long history in relation to East Timor. Since 1992, congressional and administration actions have brought us much closer to a just foreign policy concerned with human rights. It is our opinion, Mr. President, that you could take several additional actions in the days before August 30 to demand Indonesia stop the violence and allow a valid act of self-determination to take place.

First, we ask that you make a public statement to the Indonesian government prior to the vote, strongly conveying U.S. expectations on East Timor.

Second, we ask you to utilize every available channel to remind Indonesia that future U.S. military and financial assistance is contingent not only on a peaceful vote, but a peaceful transition in East Timor.

Mr. President, we realize this letter reaches you at the 11th hour. However, we also recall your wish to rectify the long-standing injustice done to the people of East Timor. We know that U.S. political intervention can still stop plans for future violence from becoming reality for the long-suffering people of East Timor. It can help bring about genuine self-determination.

We look forward to hearing your response, both public and private. We thank you very much for your serious consideration of our concerns.

Most Sincerely,

Mike Amitay 
Washington Kurdish Institute

Rebecca C. Asedillo 
United Methodist Deaconess 
Peace with Justice Communicator, Maryland

Bama Athreya 
Director of Asia Programs 
International Labor Rights Fund

Mubarak Awad 
Chair of the Board 
Nonviolence International

Mojgone Azemun 
Chair of the Board 
Students for a Free Tibet

Jeff Ballinger 
Press for Change

Medea Benjamin 
Global Exchange

Carolyn Bninski 
Staff Person for International Issues 
Rocky Mountain Peace Center

Eric Brakken 
United Students for Sweatshops

Holly Burkhalter 
Advocacy Director 
Physicians for Human Rights

Gordon S. Clark 
Executive Director 
Peace Action

Marie Clark 
Quest for Peace/Quixote Center

Rev. Douglas P. Cunningham 
Pastor, St. Luke's United Methodist Church of Woodlawn, Maryland

Ruth A. Daugherty 
United Methodist Women, Pennsylvania

Peter J. Davies 
U.S. Representative 

John Dear, SJ 
Executive Director 
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Robert Doolittle 
Youth Director 
St. Paul's Parish, Cambridge, MA

Dr. Maria S. Floro 
Associate Professor 
American University

Lynn Fredriksson 
Washington Representative 
East Timor Action Network

William D. Hartung 
President Fellow 
World Policy Institute at the New School

Pharis Harvey 
Executive Director 
International Labor Rights Fund

Ronald L. Hines Pastor Puyallup United Methodist Church, Washington

John Hocevar 
Executive Director 
Students for a Free Tibet

Martha Honey 
Director, Peace and Security Program Institute for Policy Studies

Kathryn Johnson 
Executive Director 
Methodist Federation for Social Action

Peter H. Juviler 
Co-Director, Columbia University 
Center for the Study of Human Rights

Shulamith Koenig 
Executive Director 
People's Decade of Human Rights Education 

Lee Vander Lann 
Executive Director 
Veterans for Peace

Malik Miah 
Indonesia Alert!

Mary H. Miller 
Executive Secretary 
Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Lyn Beth Neylon 
President, Board of Directors 
Human Rights Access

Father Bill O'Donnell 
St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Berkeley, CA

Karen Orenstein 
Washington Organizer 
East Timor Action Network

Erin Potts 
Milrepa Fund

Anna Rhee 
Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace

Carol Richardson 
School of the Americas Watch

Tim Rinne 
State Coordinator 
Nebraskans for Peace

Charles Scheiner 
National Coordinator 
East Timor Action Network

Catherine Sheehy 
Board Coordinator 
Washington Peace Center

Shaun Skelton 
Visions in Action

Morton Sklar 
World Organization Against Torture, USA

Nancy Small 
National Coordinator 
Pax Christi, USA

Edward W. Stowe 
Legislative Secretary 
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dean David Targan 
Associate Dean, Professor Brown University

Ben Terrall 
East Timor Relief and Research Project

David Tsai 
Center for Taiwan International Relations

Edith Villastrigo 
Legislative Director 
Women Strike for Peace

Sonam Wangdu 
U.S. Tibet Committee

Phil Wheaton 
Conversion for Reclaiming Earth in the Americas

Louis Wolf 
Covert Action Quarterly

Kani Xulam 
American Kurdish Information Network

Alice Zachmann 
Guatemala Human Rights Commission, USA

Stephen Zunes 
Professor of Politics Chair of Peace and Justice Studies Program 
University of San Francisco

CC: Vice President Al Gore
Secretary of State Madeline Albright
Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth