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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC Faxes U.S., U.N. Urgently Asking Intervention in East Timor
Council Staffer, in Indonesia, Confirms News Reports, Need for Disarmament

April 21, 1999, NEW YORK CITY – Escalating violence in East Timor has prompted the (U.S.) National Council of Churches to send its second urgent message this year to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan asking their urgent intervention.

An urgent fax also has gone to U.S. Secretary of Defense William F. Cohen asking him to use his influence "to help stop the brutality and violence in East Timor."

"Within the last week alone, there has been news of the Liquisa incident, attacks by pro-Indonesia forces on suspected pro-independence supporters, and a threat on the life of Bishop Carlos Belo," wrote the NCC’s General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell, in letters faxed to the three leaders today. "It must be stopped before one more life is lost."

The NCC’s Southern Asia Director, the Rev. Larry D. Tankersley, is in Ujung Pandang, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and expects to go to East Timor in a few days. He has talked with ecumenical partners in East Timor, who "verified what we are hearing in the press" and who urge "our urgent intervention with the U.N. and U.S.A. government to press disarming the militia and sending a peace keeping force."

Complete texts of the letters follow.

(Meanwhile, Mr. Tankersley reported "serious conflict" between Muslims and Christians in Ujung Pandang, where the regional council of churches offices were burned this past weekend and "students are stopping cars on the road outside and refusing to let Christians pass. This is in reaction to the bombing of a mosque in Jakarta yesterday.")

Dr. Campbell’s February letters welcomed the "recent announcement by the Indonesian government that they may now consider independence an option for East Timor," but expressed alarm at reports that the Indonesian military has provided arms to residents of East Timor and created para-military groups.

She urged the United States and United Nations to press for disarmament, lest conditions "lead to strife and violence similar to that witnessed by the international community in Somalia and Rwanda."

-end-

Text, April 21, 1999, Letters to Kofi Annan and Madeleine Albright (identical except for references to each by title)

We are writing to you because we cannot be silent about the situation in East Timor. We wrote to you on February 11, 1999 expressing our deep concern, but since then violence has escalated at an alarming rate. Within the last week alone, there has been news of the Liquisa incident, attacks by pro-Indonesia forces on suspected pro-independence supporters, and a threat on the life of Bishop Carlos Belo. It must be stopped before one more life is lost.

The UN talks, scheduled for this week, can open new possibilities for a quick end to the rampant killing in East Timor. It is our urgent appeal that you do everything in your power to ensure that those talks are not delayed or postponed.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Ali Alatas will bring to the talks a proposal for autonomy or independence for East Timor. But only when the reign of terror ends can the East Timorese focus on their future. Only when the military and armed militia have been removed can talks begin which will find a lasting resolution to the nearly 25 year-old Indonesia-East Timor conflict. Therefore the Indonesia government must find a way to control its military unit, ABRI. ABRI admitted to having armed the pro-Indonesia militia in East Timor. Now they must disarm them, and allow a just and fair referendum to be voted on by the people, in due process.

That the international community will stand by and allow such atrocities as we are witnessing in East Timor is shocking and without support. In our earlier letter we called for the United Nations to send an international monitoring force to East Timor to oversee the disarming of the paramilitary and the withdrawal of troops as well as to provide protection to the population against human rights abuses. In light of activities in East Timor since then, once again we strongly urge that UN intervention.

As Secretary General to the United Nations (Secretary of State), you stand as a glimmer of hope for all those in East Timor for whom the future now looks bleak. Your decisive action can help to find a solution which will establish justice and peace in East Timor.

Yours sincerely,
The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell
General Secretary

Text, April 21, 1999, Letter to William F. Cohen

We are writing to urge you to use the influence of your office to help stop the brutality and violence in East Timor. Within the last week alone, there has been news of the Liquisa incident, attacks by pro-integration forces on suspected pro-independence supporters, and a threat on the life of Bishop Carlos Belo. It must be stopped before one more life is lost.

The United States Defense Department has maintained a longstanding and positive relationship with ABRI, the military unit of Indonesia. That relationship may be the only hope for a peaceful solution to the nearly 25 year-old Indonesia-East Timor conflict. UN talks on East Timor are scheduled for this week, but only when the military and armed pro-integration militia have been removed from East Timor and the reign of terror ends can the East Timorese focus on their future. ABRI admitted to having armed the pro-integration militia, who have staged a campaign of terror and intimidation Dili and surrounding villages. Now ABRI must disarm and control the militia to allow a just and fair referendum to be voted on by the people, in due process.

That the international community will stand by and allow such atrocities as we are witnessing in East Timor is shocking and without support. We called for the United Nations to send an international monitoring force to East Timor to oversee the disarming of the paramilitary and the withdrawal of troops as well as to provide protection to the population against human rights abuses. In light of activities in East Timor since then, once again we strongly urge that UN intervention.

As Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, you stand as a glimmer of hope for all those in East Timor for whom the future now looks very bleak. Your decisive action can help to bring about a solution which will establish justice and peace in East Timor.

Yours sincerely,
The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell
General Secretary

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