|More Than Money Needed for East Timor Vote
Congress Approves $6.5
Million for East Timor Vote
The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) praised the quick passage by Congress of funding for a United Nations organized vote in Indonesian-occupied East Timor. However, ETAN added that more than just money is needed to insure a free and fair vote by the East Timorese on their political status.
Specifically, ETAN urged Congress and the Clinton Administration to step up pressure on the Indonesian military to withdraw its troops and disarm and dismantle the Indonesian military-sponsored paramilitary groups prior to the vote scheduled for August 8.
Last weekend, the U.N. and local human rights groups reported that as many as 32 people were massacred by Indonesian-backed paramilitaries in Atara, a village south of Dili, East Timor's capital. This and other massacres since early April have left at least 150 civilians dead. Violence by the pro-Indonesian militias has escalated since the agreement to hold the vote was signed on May 5.
"It will take more than just money to insure a free and fair vote by the people of East Timor. Steady pressure is needed on Indonesia to live up to its promise to the East Timorese to campaign and vote free of intimidation," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of ETAN.
The 1999 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (HR 1141) appropriates $6.5 million as the U.S. contribution to the U.N. Trust Fund for the vote, scheduled for August 8. On May 5, Indonesia agreed to allow the U.N. to organize a vote by the East Timorese on an autonomy package. Indonesia promised to finally release the territory it brutally invaded in December 1975 if the East Timorese reject autonomy. Under the May 5 accord, East Timor would then have a UN-supervised transition to independence.
"If the U.S. government wants to insure that its money is not wasted on a fraudulent vote, it must impress upon the Indonesian military and government that attacks on pro-independence supporters must end," said John M. Miller, Media Coordinator of ETAN. "The clearest way to send this message is by blocking all remaining military transfers and cutting off all military training," Miller added.
U.N. spokesperson David Wimhurst said on Thursday that "A militia-training class in the town of Atsabe, not far from Atara, where six people were killed by a branch of the same pro-autonomy militia last Sunday, was under way...when U.N. staff arrived in the town to gather more information about the murders." Earlier in the week, the U.N. in a statement said that ``Words by the Indonesian government are not enough.Determined action must be taken by the appropriate Indonesian security authorities to curtail the activities of the armed militias, whose members roam the streets of Dili and other towns at will, shooting citizens and burning homes.'' The U.N. staff was blocked from going to Atara.
The paramilitary groups and the Indonesian military have been given a free hand to threaten and kill those suspected of supporting independence. Pro-independence groups have been unable to campaign, their leaders either in hiding or having fled to Jakarta or overseas. There are over 30,000 internal refugees.
The State Department and the Pentagon reported $27.7 million in commercial arms deliveries to Indonesia for 1998 and $106 million in projected sales for 1999, mostly of spare parts, ammunition, and helicopters. Allocations for Expanded International Military Education and Training for Indonesian military personnel continue to total about half a million dollars a year. There are also plans to provide training for the Indonesian police.
The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor and democracy in Indonesia. Last fall, ETAN released with others leaked Indonesian military documents proving increased troop levels in East Timor, despite Indonesian government claims of withdrawals last summer. ETAN is preparing to send observers to monitor the coming August 8 vote, paying particular attention to whether people of East Timor can campaign and vote free of violence and intimidation.
On December 7, 1975, the Indonesian military brutally invaded East Timor. The following July, East Timor was illegally but formally "integrated" into Indonesia as its "27th province." According to Amnesty International and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 people -- one-third of the pre-invasion population -- have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces. Most observers believe that in a free and fair vote and overwhelming majority of East Timorese would choose independence.