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Excerpts from ETAN's Annual Report of its activities for 2000

December 22, 2000

Full report:

The year 2000 was one of transition for both the emerging nation of East Timor and the East Timor Action Network. In East Timor, the world's newest nation is moving inexorably toward independence. During 1999, 24 brutal years of U.S.-supported Indonesian occupation ended after an internationally-conducted referendum in which East Timor voted for independence. Before the vote, Indonesia-backed troops and militias terrorized the population, killing hundreds and threatening massive devastation if people voted against Indonesian rule. But the tremendous courage of the East Timorese prevailed: On August 30, 98.6% of the voters turned out, 78.5% voting for independence. In the following weeks of Indonesian military and militia terror, three-fourths of the population fled for their lives into the mountains or were forcibly taken into West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. Anti-independence forces then burned, looted, and destroyed more than 70% of East Timor's buildings and infrastructure.

It took two long weeks before worldwide public outrage forced the Indonesian government to allow a foreign peacekeeping force into East Timor. Indonesian troops withdrew, and order was restored. The people in the mountains returned to their devastated villages. Fifteen months later, approximately 100,000 of the 260,000 East Timorese who were taken to West Timor remain hostages in squalid, militia-controlled refugee camps.

In East Timor, a United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) rules, planning to turn over power to an East Timorese government following elections in late 2001. The first new nation of the millennium faces many challenges: reconstruction and recovery, threats along its border, constitution-writing and nation-building, development and economic planning, and inheriting authority from a UN administration which often fails to respond to East Timorese needs and desires.

For the past nine years, the East Timor Action Network has worked in the United States and internationally to end our government's support for Indonesia's occupation. That goal was achieved during 1999, when the U.S. and other governments supported the UN referendum. However, that support was not backed up by political will sufficient to prevent the post-vote devastation. Currently, U.S. and UN support for justice in East Timor remains inadequate. Continued pressure is needed to maintain and strengthen East Timorese independence, hold Indonesia and the world community responsible for East Timor's quarter-century of trauma, and to restore democracy and human rights to Indonesia.

During 2000, ETAN campaigned to prevent all U.S. military cooperation with Indonesia, a hard-fought victory that was won in 1999. The following spring and summer, the U.S. engaged in joint exercises with the Indonesian navy and marines, but ties were again cut off following the September 6 murder of three international UN workers in West Timor (including U.S. citizen Carlos Caceres). At year's end, we have successfully blocked attempts by the Pentagon and others to resume training and weapons sales to Indonesia's armed forces.

When ETAN's national Steering Committee met in December, 1999, we identified short-term goals: enable East Timorese refugees to return home from West Timor, press the Indonesian government to arrest and disband the militias, and call for international, East Timorese, and Indonesian legal processes to try those guilty of crimes against humanity in East Timor.

We saw continued pressure on the Indonesian military and government as key to achieving these goals, but anticipated a day when the Indonesian military would no longer be a major factor in East Timor. Although we reaffirmed ETAN's focus on East Timor, we decided to help create an Indonesia Human Rights Network (IHRN) to work in coordination with ETAN and other U.S.-based groups to address the full range of human rights and democracy issues in Indonesia, especially the current crises in Aceh, Papua and Maluku.

Another major activity of ETAN during 2000 included sending a fact-finding mission to East and West Timor and Jakarta to highlight the refugee issue. We also helped to shape the relationship between the United States government and the nascent government of Timor Loro Sa'e. Listed below is a fuller description of the range and the scope of our activities, which also encompassed local organizing, building ties with the East Timorese people and their organizations, and using the U.S. political process to highlight East Timor's situation.

Over the past year, there has been some improvement in the initially dismal performance of the UN transitional administration. More East Timorese are now involved, although a dual economy (with expatriate salaries more than 10 times East Timorese wages) persists, and foreign businessmen continue to profiteer. All too often, the UN and other foreign institutions running East Timor do not understand or communicate with the people of the country, deferring to bureaucratic procedures or practices used elsewhere. To address this problem, ETAN has been instrumental in starting La'o Hamutuk (Tetum for "Walking Together"), a joint East Timorese-international project to analyze and advocate about the development and reconstruction process.

As 2000 ends, two of ETAN's five staff members are returning to graduate school. Lynn Fredriksson, who represented ETAN in Washington for the past three years, is being replaced by Karen Orenstein. Lynn's creativity, insight and dedication to East Timor (and, more recently, to IHRN) were essential in turning U.S. policy around. Kristin Sundell, who traveled the U.S. since early 1997 as our national Field Organizer, is attending Union Theological Seminary; we are in the process of hiring her successor. Kristin's enthusiasm and hard work educated and motivated thousands to support East Timor, and nurtured our two dozen local chapters. John M. Miller continues as our Media/Outreach coordinator, and Charles Scheiner is our National Coordinator. We are hiring a part-time fundraiser.

Although 2000 was the first year East Timor was free from Indonesian occupation, news coverage and public awareness in the United States decreased. Consequently, it has become more difficult for ETAN to raise money and stimulate activism, since many believe the crisis is over. In reality, the people of East Timor still deserve and need support from people in the United States, not only because our government was complicit in the killing of one-third of their population over the past 25 years, but because they have a difficult and dangerous route from last year's destruction through transitional UN rule to independence.

ETAN is preparing for a national strategic planning conference in Arizona at the end of January 2001. We will be evaluating how best to adapt our structure, program and priorities to East Timor's evolving situation and to diminished awareness of East Timor in the United States. We have decreased our staff size and lowered our rent to compensate for less funding, and other adaptations will make us even more effective and efficient.

This report highlights ETAN's major activities during 2000. Although much has been accomplished and most of the bloodshed has ended, the challenges of building a new nation - with liberty and justice for all - in this era of globalization and U.S. domination is indeed daunting. With their sacrifice, persistence, ingenuity and success, East Timor's people have inspired activists for freedom all over the world. We will work with them so that those qualities may also be a model for an independent, democratic country that puts the welfare of its entire population ahead of the economic interests of the rich or the few.

See Etan Website for more of this report:

East Timor Action Network U.S.
ETAN is a U.S. based activist group with a wide range of articles, news reports and press releases related to East Timor. ETAN/US also provides ways to help East Timor, which was invaded and subjugated by U.S. 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 U.N.. ETAN advocates human rights accountability, return of refugees and democratic reconstruction of East Timor.

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