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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC, Concerned About Ongoing Insecurity in East Timor,
Asks U.S. to Press Indonesian Government to Stop the Violence

September 2, 1999, NEW YORK CITY – As militias allegedly armed, trained and supported by the Indonesian military continue their activity in East Timor, the National Council of Churches General Secretary today faxed an urgent appeal to the U.S. government to "make a clear statement to the Indonesian government that the violence must stop and that there will be material consequences if they do not fulfill their responsibility."

The full text of the Rev. Dr. Joan B. Campbell’s letter to President Clinton, with copies to Madeleine Albright, Stanley Roth and William Cohen, follows.

September 2, 1999

President Clinton
The White House
Washington DC 20515

Dear President Clinton:

The people of East Timor showed great courage and determination on Monday, August 30, when they turned out in record numbers to vote on whether to accept an offer of special autonomy with Indonesia. Many of them traveled long distances and waited for hours in the hot sun for their turn at the ballot box. Most importantly, they came out despite the widespread intimidation to which they have been subjected by militias, allegedly armed, trained and supported by the Indonesian military.

The vote was also a great success for the staff of UNAMET, and a reflection of their diligence in implementing the ballot under very difficult circumstances. Representatives of our member denominations witnessed this extraordinary event as part of an observer delegation with the Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace. They have testified to the large and peaceful turnout of the Timorese, and to the conscientiousness of the UNAMET staff in carrying out their duties.

However, we are gravely concerned about the continuing activity of the militias and lack of sufficient action on the part of Indonesia to provide the security for which they are responsible under the May 5th UN agreement. Members of the delegation were in Ermera district and encountered militias blocking access to the town of Glenoe, where a staff member of UNAMET had been killed the evening before. They witnessed the militia working together with the Indonesian military and had to negotiate with both in order to be allowed to enter the town and meet the other half of the team.

On voting day in Dili, other members of the delegation had occasion, along with a UNAMET civilian police officer, to request the Indonesian police to provide security for several Timorese voters who were afraid to travel to the polling station where they were registered to vote. This request for assistance was denied by the commander of the police.

These are only a few of the many incidents the delegation members and other observer groups witnessed and of which UNAMET is aware. Observers are particularly concerned that the East Timorese staff if UNAMET and the Timorese who assisted observer groups are now in particular danger.

It is up to the United States and the international community to exert the utmost pressure on Indonesia to fulfill its responsibility under the UN Agreement. We appeal to you to make a clear statement to the Indonesian Government that the violence must stop and that there will be material consequences of they do not fulfill their responsibility. We also ask that as soon as possible you press for an increased security role in East Timor for the United Nations.

Yours sincerely,

The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell,
General Secretary

cc: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Assistant Secretary Stanley Roth
Defense Secretary William Cohen

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