Letters from Congressmembers to Pres. Clinton and Pres. Habibie
In an effort to help bring about a lasting settlement to the longstanding conflict in East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975, two separate letters, originated by Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio), were sent to President Clinton and Indonesian President Habibie on September 9, 1998, by a bipartisan group of more than 100 Members of Congress.
The text of the letters follow:
Dear Mr. President:
For many years there has been increasing concern In the United States Congress over the tragic plight of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975. It is an unfortunate fact that the invasion was carried out with American weaponry and diplomatic support. As many as 200,000 people, or a third of the population, have perished from the combined effects or the Indonesian presence. At this crucial juncture in Indonesian history, it is vital that the United States take a strong position in support of East Timor and call on the Indonesian Government to honor past resolutions enacted by the United Nations,
For the past decade, Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo; who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 and with whom you met last year, has stated that only through democratic means can a just and lasting political settlernent be achieved in East Timor. There is now a great historical opportunity to achieve such a settlement based on the freely expressed wishes of the people of East Timor. The United States should work with its allies to make clear to the new government that a speedy resolution to the East Timor problem through the good offices af the United Nations would be to the benefit of all,.
As an initial step, we believe that the new Indonesian government should enter into a serious dialogue with the people of East Timor. Bishop Belo has long stated that in order to minimize human rights abuses, there should be an immediate and substantial reduction in the Indonesian military presence in East Timor as well as the granting of freedom of speech and assembly. In its diplomatic exchanges with the Indonesian government, the United States should support these measures, as well as the release of all political prisoners, including resistance leader Xanana Gusmao. The United States should also augment its contributions toward the bolstering of food and medical supplies in East Timor during this uncertain period, which would help avert further harm to a land whose people have already suffered tremendously,
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
The Honorable Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
Dear Mr. President:
As you know, for many years, there has been increasing concern in the United States, as elsewhere in the world, over the tragic and complex issue or East Timor.
In keeping with your commitment to reform, we believe the time is ripe for the new Indonesian government to enter into a serious dialogue with the people of East Timor, including Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo. Bishop Belo has long stated that in order to minimize human rights abuses, there should be an immediate and substantial reduction in the Indonesian military presence in East Timor as well as the granting of freedom or speech and assembly, We urge you to carry these measures out, as well as release of political prisoners, including resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, with whom the government might also hold a dialogue.
Finally, but most importantly, there is a great historical opportunity to achieve a just and conciliatory settlement on East Timor. A speedy resolution of the East Timor problem through the good offices of the United Nations, based on the freely expressed wishes of the people of East Timor, would be to the benefit of all. Such a solution would be in the long-term interests of Indonesia's relations with the world community as well as the people of East Timor. It is important to remember, that the United Nations played an important role in Indonesia's struggle for independence in the 1940s and can now play an important role in the East Timor situation.