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The seizure of East Timor would be swift and easy, so Indonesia believed over 20 years ago. The US government, Indonesia's main arms supplier, agreed. President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave their consent to the attacks before they left Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, just hours before the December 7, 1975, assault began. Indonesia eventually won control of the territory, killing over 200,000 Timorese -- one-third of the population -- in one of the worst genocides since World War II.
Indonesia eventually won control of the territory, killing over 200,000 Timorese -- one-third of the population -- in one of the worst genocides since World War II.
Since then support by the US for Indonesia's occupation and annexation of East Timor -considered illegal by the United Nations- has been a bipartisan affair. At the time of the invasion, the US supplied 90% of the weapons used. Since then Presidents of both parties have supplied political support and over $1.1 billion in weapons to Indonesia.
President Clinton during his first campaign called US policy on East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, "unconscionable." While he has turned up the rhetoric, criticizing human rights abuses by Indonesia, his administration has peddled weapons and spare parts, and fought hard to restore military training aid cut off by Congress. Only after intense Congressional and public pressure did the State Department impose a ban on the sale of small and light arms to Indonesia in early 1994. Efforts to ban all arms sales to Indonesia, because of its atrocious human rights record, continue and should be supported.
Meanwhile, the East Timorese continue to resist Indonesia's illegal occupation of their homeland. The most recent State Department human rights report classifies Indonesia among the worst human rights violators. It highlights Indonesian government efforts to suppress dissent and interfere with opposition groups and non-governmental organizations. In East Timor, the report chronicles "instances of killings, disappearances, torture, and excessive use of force" by Indonesian forces. In November 1991, Indonesian soldiers opened fire with US made M-16 rifles on thousands of peaceful protesters, killing at least 271. Others were subsequently killed as they sought medical treatment in hospitals. In June 1997, Indonesia closed East Timor to foreign press as it arrested dozens in a crackdown following attacks by pro-independence guerrillas during Indonesia's mockery of a parliamentary election.
Congressional investigations of the "Indogate" campaign contribution scandal are gathering steam. What direct influence contributions by Indonesians may have had on US policy toward East Timor and Indonesia remains to be shown. What is clear is that grassroots pressure is essential to counter overnights in the Lincoln bedroom and the influence of US corporations like Freeport McMoRan, Texaco, and Boeing who do business with Indonesia and lobby on its behalf.
Grassroots pressure has had an impact. Recently, Indonesia canceled plans to purchase F-16 jet fighter aircraft. The sale had been delayed by a grassroots campaign by the East Timor Action Network and other groups concerned about the sale of weapons to human rights abusers. Indonesia specifically cited Congressional criticism as a reason for backing out of the deal. The East Timorese have a simple demand. They want a referendum, under UN supervision, on their political status. Should they become independent, be part of Indonesia, or have some other political association? Their right to a vote-denied by Indonesia's invasion-is still recognized by the UN.
The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Belo of East Timor. The Nobel committee said it wanted to "honor their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people." We can help end the oppression by working to shift US policy away from support of East Timor's oppressor and in support of the East Timorese' right to self-determination.
Contact: East Timor Action Network, PO Box 1182, White Plains, NY 10602; (914)428-7299; firstname.lastname@example.org
Australian Greens National Media Release, April 13, 1997
The Australian Greens were joined today by the Secretary of the European Federation of Greens to launch their support for the Sanctuary Network which provides hiding places for Timorese political refugees whom the government is seeking to deport.
Greens Harbor Timor Refugees and Embarrass Government Internationally
The Australian Greens National Council, meeting in Melbourne this weekend, voted to support members and politicians who sign onto the Network.
The government is trying to expel 1500 Timorese who fled after the Dili massacre...
The government is trying to expel 1500 Timorese who fled after the Dili massacre, on the basis that they are really citizens of Portugal, which was the colonial administrator of Timor until 1975. Up to 4,000 Green members (there are actually now over 8,000) and supporters nationally are expected to offer their houses as safe havens to force the government to back down.
Ralph Mono, Secretary General of the European Federation of Greens, announced that Green parties in Europe are prepared to pressure the Australian government to change policy on East Timor. Mr. Mono said, "Your government's position on East Timor is completely contradictory and diminishes Australia's standing in the eyes of the international community. The Federation supports citizens' direct action such as the Sanctuary Movement. We will be using our MPs in National and the European Parliaments to raise the Timor question."
Mr. Mono continued, "Global Green networking is rapidly spreading in response to the need for cooperation among Greens on critical issues such as East Timor." Mr. Mono is currently visiting Australasia and America to organize future campaign cooperation.
Dan Cass, spokesperson for the Australian Greens, said "Greens went to jail in their hundreds to save the Franklin River. We are even more determined in this case and believe the government will be forced to reverse its decision. The Prime Minister John Howard is already removing welfare support in anticipation of the courts agreeing to deport these refugees. This is a denial of natural justice and completely improper administrative process."
Media contact: Ben Oquist (03)9602 1141 or 0419 70 4095, The Australian Greens, PO Box 12543, A'Beckett St PO, Melbourne 8006
Message from the Norwegian Green Party and the Flemish Greens (in Belgium):
The Norwegian and Flemish Greens recognize the right of the East Timorese people to self determination; condemn the Australian Government for its hypocrisy on East Timor; reject attempts to deport the East Timorese as an immoral, illegal act; support the Sanctuary Movement which defies the law by offering safe houses for refugees under threat of deportation; and, will fully support and defend all Green Party members who choose to offer their homes and work places as safe houses.
The European Federation of Green Parties Sends the Following Message:
Please consider the European Federation of Green Parties as supportive of the Sanctuary Project. Regarding East Timor, many European governments have much to be ashamed of, either in aiding the Indonesian regime or colluding in covering up the scandal that took place there.
Please convey our good wishes to all those citizens who are willing to confront the inhumanity of the Australian government, and to offer refuge.
Our thoughts are with you all, as you make a stand for decency and community.
Information courtesy of John M. Miller, Media & Outreach Coordinator, East Timor Action Network, PO Box 150753, Brooklyn, NY 11215-0014 USA
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