Statements by Rep.
James P. McGovern, Senator Jack Reed,
and Rep. Lane Evans
from Sept. 6, 2001 press conference organized by the East Timor Action Network
512 Cannon House Office Building .
D.C. 20515 (202)225-6101
For Immediate Release: Contact: Michael Mershon; (202) 225-6101
September 6, 2001
STATEMENT OF U.S.
ON THE 2nd ANNIVERSARY OF THE SUAI MASSACRE
Shortly before the August 30, 1999, referendum on independence, I was in East Timor with Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI). At that time, Dili, East Timor’s capital, was a city fill of activity. We were the only congressional delegation to travel to East Timor before those elections and the last Members of Congress to see Dili, and East Timor as they once were.
Our delegation traveled to two towns
the western border: Maliana and Suai. I would like to share some of my
memories of Suai.
August is the dry season in East Timor. That day was sweltering hot and dusty. In this poor town, we went to the Catholic Church compound, where over 2,000 people were seeking refuge. Father Hilario Madeira, the senior parish priest, and Father Francisco Soares, who would be our guides, greeted us. They introduced us to their world - one filled with worry and tension, and subjected daily to violence and intimidation by the Indonesian military and the militias organized and armed by the Indonesian military.
Despite the strain and uncertainty of their situation, I was impressed by Father Hilario and Father Francisco Soares warmth, good humor, hospitality and steady nerves. Here were men carrying out God’s mandate to love and care for your neighbor, protect the weak, and live humbly.
In talking to the refugees, we discovered that most had been burned out of their homes, or forcibly evicted. The majority were women and children. They sought refuge in the church compound, surrounded by militia, who had cut off all food and water.
Our delegation met with town officials, asking for the water to be restored. Clearly, the militias were in charge of the water, and town officials would do nothing. The armed Indonesian police and soldiers - those charged with the protection and security of the East Timorese people during the U.N. process - stood in the shade, doing nothing, laughing and joking with the militias. When I met later with then-Indonesian President Habibie in Jakarta, we demanded the water be restored in Suai. Less than 24 hours later, the militias turned on the water.
Father Hilario shared with us his concerns about the current violence and his fears about violent retaliation against the people who would go to the polls for the first time in their lives scarcely a week later We took that message to heart.
Later that evening, in Dili, we had dinner with Nobel Prize winner and Catholic Bishop, Carlos Ximenes Belo. In the dining room of his house, overlooking the courtyard between his residence and the chapel where he said Mass, Bishop Belo emphasized the need for protection following the vote.
As our delegation prepared to depart from Dili, we called upon the United Nations to immediately deploy armed peacekeepers to East Timor to protect the people from further violence, especially following the referendum.
As the whole world now knows, everyone’s worst fears were realized.
Two years ago, over Labor Day weekend, I learned that the home of Bishop Belo, where I had eaten dinner just two weeks earlier, had been burnt to the ground. The Bishop barely escaped with his life. The 3,000 people given refuge. in his courtyard were forced out at gunpoint by uniformed Indonesian military and militias. At that time, their fates were unknown. Thankfully, many survived and are today active in rebuilding Dili.
Suai, however, was not so blessed.
Just two years ago yesterday, on the Wednesday after Labor Day, I received a phone call from human rights workers in Jakarta that eyewitnesses reported militias had gunned down and murdered Father Hilario and Father Francisco, along with Jesuit priest Father Dewanto, on the steps of their parish church. Approximately 200 people from Suai sheltering inside the church were also killed. Some escaped, but most of the others were forcibly transported out of the country and into holding camps inside West Timor. Today, two years later, some 80-to-100,000 East Timorese remain trapped in squalid, militia-controlled camps.
These were good men. These were holy men. Nothing we say or do in Congress, nothing the U.N. may say or do, and nothing President Bush might say or do, can ever bring these men back to the people of Suai.
In so many ways, we in the United States and the international community failed them. They trusted us, and we failed them. If we are to honor their memory, then we must not fail them again.
Last week, on August 30 , the East Timorese people once again went to the polls in record-breaking numbers to vote for a national assembly that will begin drafting East Timor’s constitution. This time, the Indonesian military and its militia lackeys were not there to burn the country down following another vote that moves East Timor ever closer to full independence.
But the legacy of violence, destruction, fear and sorrow continues to take its toll on the people of East Timor.
If we in the United States and the international community are not to fail the people of East Timor once again -
* We must support an International Criminal Tribunal that will bring the Indonesian generals and military officers, and the leaders of the militias, to trial for their crimes against the East Timorese people and breaches of international law. Many of these officers remain active in the Indonesian military, and they will continue to perpetrate human rights crimes unless and until they are exposed and brought to justice. I am proud to be a cosponsor of legislation in the House, H. Con. Res. 60, introduced by Representative Lane Evans, that calls for the establishment of an international war crimes tribunal for East Timor.
* We must take immediate steps to protect and return home safely the East Timorese refugees still trapped in camps inside West Timor.
* We must continue to provide humanitarian, economic and development aid to East Timor that directly benefits the people of East Timor, provides them with employment and material resources, and involves them directly in the decision-making process on how best to target our aid.
* We must continue to suspend all U.S. military aid and training to the Indonesian military until the refugees are safely returned to East Timor, the militias in West Timor are disarmed and disbanded, and the perpetrators of crimes against the East Timorese people have been brought to justice.
* We must strongly and unambiguously support the independence process in East Timor, including establishing a U.S. Mission in East Timor independent of Jakarta, in preparation of the establishment of a U.S. Embassy with an ambassador as quickly as legally possible once full independence is declared in 2002.
We cannot bring back Father Hilario, Father Francisco, nor all those so brutally murdered or harmed for freedom’s sake. But we can recognize that the path to independence follows the road of justice and reconciliation - and we must demand justice for the crimes committed against them.
And while we cannot undo the violence and destruction that took place two years ago, we can and we must make sure that East Timor does, at last, achieve peace, reconciliation, justice and its long-dreamed-of and hard-won independence.
Press Conference on
Thursday, September 6, 2001
Last month, East Timor took a huge step towards independence. Despite past acts of violence and intimidation, the East Timorese turned out overwhelmingly for peaceful, democratic elections on August 30.
The results of last month’s elections, which are expected on September 10th, fall almost on the anniversaries of the Indonesian military-led massacre in Suai two years ago and the killings of United Nations staff in East Timor just one year ago.
Despite these long awaited peaceful elections and the progress they imply, conditions in East Timor are still far from ideal. Families are still separated and 80,000 East Timorese are still in military and militia-controlled refugee camps in neighboring West Timor.
For these reasons and others, I support Senator Harkin’s Resolution calling for the establishment of an international war crimes tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity in East Timor.
I have also worked with Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont to restrict funding to Indonesia unless the Indonesian government allows refugees to return to East Timor and is actively committed to peace with East Timor. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to date that the Indonesian government is meeting those conditions.
It is my hope that after last month’s peaceful election, that East Timor can draft a new constitution, that families will return to East Timor, that the UN and the United States will increase their presence to help ensure continual stability in the region and that those who have committed these awful human rights violations against the people of East Timor will be brought to justice.
After my last trip to East Timor in December of 1999, I stated that the vote was more powerful than the army. Despite the acts of violence and intimidation committed against them by the militias, the people of East Timor have shown that statement to be true.
STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN LANE EVANS ON EAST TIMOR
An international tribunal on war crimes in East Timor is needed now more than ever. Indonesia has clearly demonstrated its unwillingness to apprehend and prosecute war criminals, many of whom remain in uniform. Further, the Government of Indonesia has not made any progress in allowing an estimated 80,000 refugees to return to East Timor. This dearly demonstrates the lack of commitment by the Government of Indonesia to human rights and justice in East Timor.
A recently formed human rights court in Indonesia does nothing to bring justice to East Timor. It exempts many of the worst war criminals from prosecution by only allowing a handful of the numerous massacres to be investigated.
An international tribunal on war crimes with a full mandate to investigate crimes both before and after the independence referendum is the only true path to justice and reconciliation in East Timor. I am proud to be the House sponsor of Senator Harkin’s resolution calling for an international tribunal on war crimes in East Timor. House Concurrent Resolution 60 has 58 cosponsors and has been referred to the Committee on International Relations.
Timor Action Network U.S. Updated May 19
ETAN/US was founded following the November 1991 massacre. ETAN/US supports a genuine and peaceful transition to an independent East Timor. It also supports human dignity for the people of East Timor by advocating for democracy, sustainable development, social, legal, and economic justice and human rights, including women’s rights.
East Timor was invaded and subjugated by US ally Indonesia in 1975. East Timor chose independence in August 1999 and was soon destroyed by the Indonesian military. It is now administered by the UN.
ETAN/US provides a wide range of articles, news reports and press releases related to East Timor. ETAN has 28 local chapters. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com Homepage: http://www.etan.org
East Timor info on the ETAN site is added daily.
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