The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) plans to intensify its congressional lobbying campaign in the aftermath of a flury of activity related to Indonesia in the US House of Representatives this past week.
"Recent events have shown that grassroots pressure combined with Congressional action can indeed have an impact on both administration policy and Indonesia," said Lynn Fredriksson, Washington Representative of ETAN. "We plan to turn up the heat on both Congress and the Administration."
"Indonesia's cancellation of plans to purchase F-16 jet fighters and to participate in the E-IMET military training is a victory," she added. Indonesia's dictator Suharto wrote President Clinton withdrawing from the military training and the F-16 deal on May 26 after the House International Relations Committee passed an amendment to the combined Foreign Aid and State Department Authorization Bill banning small arms and IMET to Indonesia. ETAN has opposed the sale of the F-16s since it was first rumored several years ago and has opposed IMET since ETAN was founded.
Although the authorization bill was subsequently split in two, the House by a voice vote included amendments in the State Department Authorization by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Tony Hall (D-OH) criticizing Indonesia's human rights record and its actions in East Timor. Kennedy's amendment outlines a series of measures that Indonesia must take to improve human rights before military training and certain weapons can be supplied to Indonesia. These measures include free and fair elections, respect for labor rights, the release of political prisoners in both Indonesia and East Timor, the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor, and a substantial dialogue including Indonesia, Portugal and East Timorese leaders on the political status of the territory. This is the first time that such strong and specific language on Indonesia and East Timor has been included in a State Department authorization.
Also included in the House bill was a Code of Conduct on arms sales which bans the sale of weapons to dictatators, human rights violators and nations that attack their neighbors.
"We expect Indonesia to be one of the first countries denied weapons under the Code of Conduct. Indonesia is clearly not democratic. It has been condemned by the international community as a human rights violator and has used US weapons to invade its neighbor East Timor," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for ETAN. Earlier this year, the U.N. Human Rights Commission passed a resolution, with US co-sponsorship, criticizing Indonesia for its actions in East Timor. If the administration chooses not to exempt Indonesia and continue to supply arms, Congress can override that decision.
"Clearly, a military as repressive as Indonesia's should not get additional weapons," he added. Friends of East Timor in both houses of Congress are expected to work for additional measures related to Indonesia and East Timor as the legislative session continues.
Rep. Bereuter (R-NE), chair of the Asia and Pacific Subcommitee and one of only two members of the House to speak against forceful criticism of Indonesia, chose to personalize his criticisms of the East Timorese resistance during the House debate by attacking Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended Ramos-Horta's commitment to a nonviolent solution to the conflict.
"Rep. Bereuter chose to ignore Ramos-Horta's tireless efforts to bring peace to his troubled homeland, his condemnation of alleged resistance attacks on civilians (which have not been verified), and his eagerness to work with Congress and the Clinton administration," said Fredriksson.
Ramos-Horta's recent meetings with various congressional leaders and some administration officials including U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson and Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs Tim Wirth represent a positive step. Beyond meetings, however, what is needed is steady US pressure on Indonesia to end its illegal occupation of East Timor and US support for repeated U.N. calls for a referendum on self-determination," said Fredriksson.