Monday, December 26, 2016

Reflections 41 years after Invasion Day, Secenber 7

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Reflections 41 years after Invasion Day,
December 7

By Pamela Sexton

Dili, Timor-Leste - Recently, thousands of U.S. military veterans travelled to North Dakota to support the peaceful struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux to defend their sovereignty and protect their land and water. I watched the veterans bend down to ask forgiveness from the many indigenous tribes gathered there. They apologized as veterans from the same military that has carried out genocide against Native Americans since before the U.S. achieved independence. In this way, they acknowledged the past and affirmed their commitment to ensuring the bitter past doesn’t repeat itself.

This December 7, I bent down in Timor-Leste to apologize for the crimes of my government against the East Timorese people. On that day in 1975, U.S.-armed and -trained Indonesian troops launched their illegal invasion. I feel a deep sadness and shame that my government has not yet formally and responsibly acknowledged its support for crimes committed here on that day and the 24-year Indonesian occupation which followed. An important first step would be for the U.S. to declassify and release all its records related to Indonesia and its invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste. ...

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jose Ramos-Horta: Support ETAN today!


Dear friend of my beloved country,
Timor-Leste recently celebrated the 41st anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, a right and a dream that was finally realized in 2002. For the last quarter-century of our journey, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) has been among our most effective and consistent supporters. Their solidarity has been exemplary, beginning during the brutal, difficult depths of the illegal Indonesian military occupation and continuing through the economic and political challenges we face today as a 14-year-old, post-conflict, post-colonial, sovereign nation.
Twenty-five years ago, a month after Indonesian troops brutally massacred young, nonviolent Timorese protesters at Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, peace and justice activists organized a peaceful vigil in front of the Indonesian Mission to the United Nations. With participation from people around the United States, that quickly grew into a national organization which, by 1999, had 12,000 members in 28 local chapters.  Their protests and lobbying of the U.S. government and the United Nations were a vital element in enabling my people to vote in a UN-supervised referendum. As you know, Indonesian efforts to intimidate us failed, and the overwhelming mandate for independence led to Timor-Leste becoming the first new sovereign nation of the 21st century.
Without solidarity from international friends like ETAN, Timor-Leste’s dream of independence would not have become a reality.
Before the referendum, I served as Timor-Leste’s Foreign Minister in exile, lobbying decision makers all over the world for my people’s right to self-determination. Although ETAN always acted independently, we collaborated closely to encourage the U.S. government to abandon its diplomatic and military support for the Suharto dictatorship’s illegal occupation.
Since 2002, I have been the Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. As I evolved from diplomat-in-exile to Head of State, ETAN maintained their solidarity with my people. In government, I had to make difficult decisions concerning past crimes in the interests of better relations with post-Suharto Indonesia, our largest neighbor and biggest trading partner.  Although ETAN and I sometimes have different views on issues like accountability for past crimes and self-determination for West Papua, I know that their positions are based on principle, and I admire and respect their tenacity.
For the last five years, I have worked to improve the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping worldwide. I have helped Guinea-Bissau and other conflict-affected countries strive for the peace and human rights that the people of Timor-Leste are finally able to enjoy. I know how unusual – and how important – it is for people living under repression and conflict to have reliable, committed supporters in places like the United States.
Timor-Leste never attracted widespread popular attention in the United States, even during the peak of our struggle against violent occupation. Since the killing ended, we have become a “normal” country, and U.S. government policy now respects the rights of my people. It is even more difficult to get Americans to care about a small nation on the other side of the world, which is why ETAN’s work continues to be essential.
ETAN's John M. Miller and Charles Scheiner with Jose Ramos-Horta
ETAN's John M. Miller and Charles Scheiner with Jose Ramos-Horta in Dili, May 21, 2012. Photo by ETAN.
ETAN’s email list is an invaluable source of information, from a variety of perspectives, for more than 4,600 people around the globe. Their steadfast support for resolving permanent maritime boundaries with our neighbors, especially Australia, continues the international solidarity that was crucial to achieving sovereignty over Timor-Leste’s land territory.  As we evolve from a petroleum-export-dependent nation to one whose economy is based on our own resources and labor, ETAN’s support and encouragement continue to be irreplaceable.
In 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the restoration of our independence, I was pleased to join in awarding both ETAN and its co-founder Charles Scheiner with the Ordem de Timor-Leste for their support for our liberation.
ETAN's actions and campaigns have always been based on the interests of the people, developed after consulting our civil society. Although ETAN’s annual budget is smaller than virtually every other international organization involved with our country, the work that they do is invaluable.
ETAN is an exceptional organization, and their continuing support for the people of my country needs your help. I recently made a sizeable donation to ETAN, and I hope you will also do so.
José Ramos-Horta
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Invest in Justice!

 Donate Today!

Give to ETAN on #GivingTuesday

Why wait for the end of the year to invest in justice?

Don't delay. donate to ETAN today!

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media. 

Dear Friend of ETAN,

Your contribution supports ETAN's ongoing support for the  campaign of  government and people of Timor-Leste to establish maritime boundaries with its neighbors. Legally-recognized boundaries would end Australia's theft of Timor's resources and bring to a close the independence struggle that  began more than 40 years ago. In March, we conducted a successful online campaign calling on Australia to negotiate maritime boundaries now. This was in association with demonstrations in Dili, throughout Australia and elsewhere.

Your gift will help maintain and strengthen ETAN's crucial information sharing via email and on social media. So many people, perhaps including you, depend us to keep them informed about important news about Timor-Leste, Indonesia and West Papua. 

With your help, we can intensify our pursuit of justice for the many victims of Indonesia's security forces crimes: from the coup in 1965 that brought the dictator Suharto to power, through the illegal invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste to the West Papuans subject to ongoing human rights violations. And we need your help in keeping up the pressure on the U.S. government to acknowledge its role in arming and training the perpetrators of these crimes.

We continue to highlight the career and human rights record now coordinating minister and former general Wiranto. We are pressing  Indonesia's President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo to rescind his appointment. Please sign our petition here -- if you haven't yet done so. 

We can only maintain these and our other activities with the generous support of people like yourself. 

John M. Miller
National Coordinator, ETAN

Sunday, November 13, 2016

25 years after the Santa Cruz massacre: Did corporations influence Western government policy?

25 years after the Santa Cruz massacre: did corporations influence Western government policy?
Digging into the archival records isn’t purely academic. It can tell us why governments make the decisions they did – and suggest ways to influence future government decisions.
The Santa Cruz massacre, when Indonesian troops shot a crowd of unarmed pro-independence protesters in East Timor (now independent Timor-Leste) serves as an example. Film footage captured by British journalist Max Stahl, along with reports from US journalists Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman, led to a wave of outrage and activism in Western countries which had supported Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor for years. As Timor-Leste president Taur Matan Ruak noted in his speech commemorating the 25 anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre: “The images recorded by those journalists and the articles they wrote travelled the world and spread news of the crime committed in Santa Cruz on 12 November 1991.”
Archival records show that governments were sensitive to this pressure and wanted to give the appearance of responding to it in some fashion.
But there was another, much more hidden lobby. Western corporations that were doing business – highly profitable business – in Indonesia also lobbied governments. Much of this was visible. The East Timor Action Network/US pointed to the role of US business lobbies and public relations firms, for instance. But it is difficult to track this lobbying and determine how intense it was.
Archives can help here. The Canadian government archives give one example. Other countries are likely to have a similar pattern of corporate lobbying visible. After the Santa Cruz massacre, as pressure for sanctions against the Indonesian military regime grew, business lobbied to prevent any effective action being taken by the government, calling instead for verbal pressure only.
Canadian companies lobbied hard for “business as usual” with Indonesia in the month after the massacre, the archival record indicates. There are many more letters on the Canadian government’s East Timor file from companies than is normal on foreign policy files. A few examples from November and December 1991 follow.
Power generation company Babcock and Wilcox wrote to Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, who had just declared Canada would do more on human rights. Saying they were expecting nearly a billion US dollars in business in the coming year, the company pleased for the government to do nothing that could harm these anticipated profits. The letter: babcock-1991-11-28.
That letter led to a stiff note from the Ontario International Corporation to the Canadian government’s Department of International Trade. The OIC was an agency of the government of Ontario, Canada’s largest province and home to Babcock and the largest number of corporate head offices in Canada. At the time, Ontario was governed by the New Democratic Party led by Premier Bob Rae. The OIC letter said that any reduction of Canadian aid would cause Indonesia to “invoke punitive counter measures which will severely threaten Canada’s (in large part, Ontario’s) commercial interests.” OIC letter: oic-1991-12-09
The Canadian ambassador to Indonesia invited Canadian business representatives in Jakarta to breakfast at her residence, to brief them on Canada’s plans to review aid to Indonesia as a means of human rights pressure over East Timor. This drew lobbying letters from the associations and representatives of Canadian companies operating in Indonesia. “If Canada chooses to be one of the first countries to cut off aid to Indonesia [it] will set back Canada’s position in Indonesia [and] have very serious economic consequences on Canadian companies,” wrote the Canadian Investment Advisor in Indonesia. (This letter is dated December 7, the 16th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.) The Advisor’s letter: investment-advisor-1991-12-07
The Canadian Business Association in Jakarta sent a similar letter to Brian Mulroney. If Canada suspended aid without waiting for the findings of an internal Indonesian government inquiry into the Santa Cruz massacre, the Association wrote, “then Canada is guilty of meddling in the internal affairs of this country.” This was an odd conclusion, given that very few countries recognized Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor (certainly the United Nations did not). It was odder still in arguing that reducing or even reviewing Canadian aid programmes was a function of Indonesian sovereignty. The association argued that Canadian business in Indonesia was booming and that helped to advance human rights, and asked Ottawa to do nothing until the Indonesian internal inquiry was complete. CBA letter: cba-1991-12-06
Meanwhile in Ottawa, foreign minister Barbara McDougall met with the Canadian Exporters Association, the umbrella group for Canadian companies selling products to other countries. The influential CEA repeated its stance that political pressure for human rights overseas not interfere with Canadian trade. Nothing should be done to harm the “innocent” in Indonesia -a  group within which the CEA included Canadian companies there. Cutting Canadian aid to Indonesia, the CEA said, “would irreparably damage Canada’s long term dedicated and committed efforts to penetrate Indonesian-ASEAN markets.” In other words, for the CEA promoting human rights was fine, but protecting Canadian trade was more important. CEA letter: cea-1991-12-06
Another Canadian company, CAL, joined the lobby with letters to the ministers of foreign affairs, international trade, and international development. CAL expressed support for the idea of human rights but said cutting aid would risk $500-million of business the company expected in Indonesia in the coming five years. Instead, it called for a round table conversation among Canadians, with no concrete action taken for the moment. CAL letter: cal-1991-12-06
As the Canadian government prepared to review its aid programme to Indonesia, Canadian business interests mobilized to lobby against this plan. They had no objection to verbal expressions of concern to the Indonesian government, but they wanted to make sure that the Canadian government did not reduce its aid to Indonesia, for fear this would affect potential profit.
It would be surprising if the same was not happening in other Western countries with business interests in Indonesia. At the time, activists claimed that Western governments were putting trade ahead of human rights. A slice of the Canadian archival records, for one month in 1991, shows that yes, business was certainly lobbying hard to prevent strong pressure on Indonesia, and using arguments about profit to make their case.
see also

About David Webster

Associate professor of History at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Past positions in Toronto, San Francisco and Regina, Saskatchewan. Author of Fire and the Full Moon: Canada and Indonesia in a Decolonizing World (UBC Press, 2009) and collection editor of East Timor: Testimony (Between the Lines, 2004).  Human rights advocacy on Timor-Leste and other regions bordering the Pacific. Research focuses include trans-Pacific interactions between Canada and Asia, the diplomacy of independence movements in Asia, and the histories of international organizations.

Friday, November 11, 2016

ETAN Urges Justice for Victims of the Santa Cruz Massacre on 25thAnniversary

Contact: John M. Miller, National Coordinator, ETAN; +1-917-690-4391

ETAN Urges Justice for Victims of the Santa Cruz Massacre on 25thAnniversary
Photo by Steve Cox, Generations of Resistance: East Timor

November 2016 - On the 25th anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) urges the international community to commit to ending impunity for the human rights crimes committed during the occupation of Timor-Leste.  

"The victims of the Santa Cruz massacre have waited too long for justice," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. “Those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes during Indonesia’s illegal occupation need to be held accountable for their crimes.” 

"We believed that an international tribunal is needed to credibly try those responsible for the Santa Cruz massacre and other crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Indonesia during its illegal occupation of Timor-Leste," Miller added

The victims of the Santa Cruz massacre have waited too long for justice. Those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes during Indonesia’s illegal occupation need to be held accountable for their crimes.

On November 12, 1991, U.S-armed Indonesian troops opened fire on a peaceful pro-independence demonstration calling for self-determination and protesting atrocities committed by the Indonesian military. More than 271 East Timorese were killed or died soon after and an equal number disappeared and are believed to be dead. 

The 1991 massacre -- witnessed and filmed by foreign journalists -- was a major turning point in Timor-Leste's struggle for liberation. 
During more than two decades of U.S.-backed occupation, Indonesian soldiers committed serious crimes with impunity, taking as many as 184,000 Timorese lives and torturing, raping, and displacing countless others. Timor-Leste became independent in 2002.

"The East Timorese people will need to know the where  the bodies of their relatives and friends are," said Miller. "Impunity for decades of systematic Indonesian military and police atrocities prevents both Timor-Leste and Indonesia from consolidating the rule of law as they transition from military dictatorship to democracy." 

Time for Justice! 25th Anniversary of Santa Cruz massacre
While some deeply flawed processes have prosecuted some involved in crimes committed in 1999, those responsible for giving the orders to torture, rape, and kill have yet to be brought to justice. Those from countries such as the United States, Britain, and Australia that actively aided in these crimes by providing weapons, training, and political support have yet to be held accountable.

ETAN continues to call on President Joko Widodo to fulfill his campaign promise to address human rights violations committed during and after the Suharto dictatorship, including by establishing credible judicial processes to investigate killings like the Santa Cruz massacre. 

For more on the Santa Cruz massacre see ETAN’s backgrounder here:

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) was founded in 199 following the Santa Cruz massacre. ETAN supports democracy, human rights and justice in Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. Website: Twitter: @etan009.