Thursday, December 23, 2010

ETAN letter on labor dispute at US Embassy in Dili

Campaign updates from APHEDA are here.

Ambassador Judith Fergin
US Embassy
Dili, Timor-Leste

December 22, 2010

Dear Ambassador,

We are writing regarding the dismissal of Mario Baretto and the subsequent refusal of the US Embassy in Timor-Leste to meet with his union.

We understand that the embassy will not meet with Mr Baretto's trade union, the General Workers Union of Timor-Leste (SJTL), about the dismissal arguing that "as part of the terms of his employment, Mr Baretto was/is not allowed to be a member of any organized union and therefore we will not meet with any representative acting on his behalf."

This position is contrary to international human rights law, and we urge you to quickly meet with his union representatives as called for in the Timor-Leste's Labor Code. If needed, we urge the Embassy to accept mediation before Timor-Leste's labor board to resolve the dispute about Mr. Baretto's dismissal.

The right to form and to join trade unions is a fundamental human right, included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The International Labor Organization Convention on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, which Timor-Leste ratified on June 16 2009, also protects the right to unionize.

As you know, the U.S. Department of State each year publishes an annual report on human rights in countries around the world. The chapter on Timor-Leste in this year's report observes that "The country has a labor code based on the International Labor Organization's standards. The law permits workers to form and join worker organizations without prior authorization." The report notes a number of the practical obstacles to the effective exercise of labor rights, to which we would now add the U.S. government.

The U.S. speaks regularly about the need to strengthen the rule of law in Timor-Leste. It has funded a number of programs over the last decade aimed at that goal. Howerver, its words would carry more weight and its actions more credibility, if the embassy were in compliance with Timor-Leste's labor law.

We urge the United States government and your embassy to honor its obligations under national and international law by meeting with Mr. Baretto's representatives and accepting mediation before Timor-Leste's labor board.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

John M. Miller
National Coordinator
East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

cc: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Monday, December 20, 2010

Obama's Potemkin Visit to Jakarta

Ed McWilliams
Published in December 17 issue of Arena, Australia

by Edmund McWilliams

In early November President Obama indulged himself with a nostalgic visit to the place he called home for four years of his youth. He charmed ordinary Indonesians with formal and informal remarks drawn from recollections of Indonesia of four decades ago. More troublingly, President Obama also praised Indonesians in ways that betrayed a broad ignorance of the ugly reality faced by many in this archipelago today.

Obama made much of the "tolerance" that Indonesian (and US) officials contend the post-Suharto Indonesian governments have fostered within Indonesian society. "Here can be found the ability to bridge divides of race and regions and religions", he said. He described Indonesia as a "country that has figured out how to create a genuine democracy despite great diversity". Obama also commended the triumph of that democracy: "Indonesia has charted its own course through an extraordinary democratic transformation from the rule of an iron fist to the rule of the people". While President Obama can be forgiven a bit of dewy-eyed reminiscing, his false depictions of Indonesia today, presumably shaped by his advisers, are a dangerously unstable basis for US policy formulation.

The Indonesia Obama chose not to see is one of significant social tensions often aggravated by a government and especially a security force which stoke these tensions for political and economic gain. The democratic progress of the last ten years, moreover, has been a victory for the Indonesian people who struggled against a brutal, corrupt military and an unaccountable police system that is a threat to further democratic progress. The real Indonesia was reflected in the interviews I conducted with Indonesians in Jakarta who were not invited to the major events celebrating the US President's brief return.

An activist from the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam described the ongoing assaults targeting that group's several hundred thousand adherents. In recent years mobs have destroyed twenty-seven Ahmadiyya mosques, most recently in the province of Riau on September 27. A video clip of a mosque's destruction shows a mob almost casually attacking the building, eventually destroying its central pillars and causing the massive roof to collapse. At one point a uniformed Indonesian police officer leisurely walks through the video frame, seemingly oblivious to the ongoing violence. Government complicity in this persecution extends beyond security force failure to take action. Indonesian Minister for Religious Affairs Suryadhama Ali recently told the media that the solution to the ongoing strife between the Ahmadiyya and the more traditional Muslims was the banning of the Ahmadiyya sect. His recommendation, which has drawn no rebuke from Indonesian President Yudhoyono, only encourages further thug violence targeting the Ahmadiyya and a continued failure of the security forces to rein in the attackers.

State condoned and executed violence is especially apparent in West Papua, where generations of Papuans have faced extraordinary brutality since the coerced annexation of the land over four decades ago. Tens of thousands of Papuans have been killed by security forces while the surviving Papuan population has been marginalized by government-organized migration of non-Papuans to West Papua. The systematic brutalizing of the Papuans, described in recent testimony before a US House subcommittee as "creeping genocide", was revealed most recently by release of secret Indonesian military documents. These documents, which surfaced during the Obama visit on the blog of investigative journalist Alan Nairn, show that Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) targeted leading church and other civil society and government leaders for intelligence collection, intimidation and worse. The importance of these documents lies in their revelation that criminal human rights abuse by the special forces targeting Papuans is not simply a matter of individual security personnel operating outside regulations as is regularly claimed by the Indonesian government and US officials. Rather, the documents make clear that the beating and torture of individual Papuans constitutes a military policy that ignores internationally recognized civil and political rights and Indonesian law. The documents together constittute a doctrine that has been funded and implemented, requiring approval at senior level and thereby implicating senior military leaders.

President Obama meets with President Yudhoyono at the Istana Merdeka State Palace Complex in Jakarta, Nov. 9, 2010.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Two weeks before Obama's arrival in Jakarta, other indisputable evidence of security force brutality in West Papua surfaced. Video footage of the torture of two Papuans and the beating of villagers by security forces shocked the international community. While the beating was perpetrated by regular military personnel (Kontras), it remains unclear what forces carried out the torture. Possible culprits include the national police mobile brigade (Brimob) and the US and Australian sponsored "Detachment 88". Detachment 88, purportedly an anti-terror unit, was involved in the December 2009 murder of Papuan rebel figure Kelly Kwalik, who bled to death from a leg wound while in the organisation's custody (see Carmel Budiardjo's article in Arena Magazine no. 106). NGOs and journalists have reliably reported Detachment 88's use of torture in Maluku, Poso and Aceh. It is also possible that the torturers in the video were from either the civilian or military intelligence agencies, both of which operate widely in West Papua. President Obama's silence on these breaking stories disappointed but did not surprise human rights advocates in Indonesia.

The Obama administration, like its predecessors, has been reluctant to publicly acknowledge either ongoing security force abuses in West Papua or these forces' unaccountability. The Indonesian government was clearly troubled by the surfacing of the torture videos on the eve of President Obama's and Prime Minister Gillard's visits. President Yudhoyono convened his senior ministers, and a government spokesperson assured there would be a prompt military investigation. Calls by Papuans and other human rights advocates for an independent investigation were ignored. On November 5 army personnel faced a judge in Jayapura; senior military officials told the media that the tribunal was convened to hold the perpetrators of the video abuses accountable. In a classic bait and switch, the military produced for trial not those responsible for the torture but rather the troops depicted beating villagers. The identity of the torturers remains unknown. In one respect, it appears the government demonstrated both alacrity and sophistication in responding to the surfacing of the torture videos. Within days of the videos appearing on the internet, five major NGOs who carried the footage on their websites suffered simultaneous cyber attacks. Analysts assessed that the coordinated attack could only have been the work of a government, or government agencies with substantial resources. US officials have yet to comment on either the bait and switch trial or the cyber attack.

President Obama's limited travel within Jakarta was carefully crafted to obscure a reality that his public comments carefully ignored. He did not see a march by thousands of labor supporters who were protesting new proposed labor legislation that would impede workers' right to organize, to obtain insurance or to press for a minimum wage. Nor did he see the extraordinary wealth gap between rich and poor Indonesians. While he marveled at the gleaming skyscrapers that dominate the Jakarta landscape, he did not see the filthy hovels that crowd beneath them and along the city's canals, where millions of Indonesians survive without access to adequate food, health care or education. Notwithstanding the manifest non-egalitarian nature of Indonesia's economy, Obama congratulated the nation's leaders that in Indonesia "development and democracy reinforce one another". In reality, development continues to be at the expense of democratization, much as it was during the three decades of Suharto dictatorship. Indonesian human rights advocates and journalists describe an endemic atmosphere of intimidation enforced by security forces which collude with major domestic and international firms bent on "development" of the archipelago's vast natural resources and enormous labor pool. Those who report on corrupt dealings or the destruction of the environment are subjected to physical or threatened abuse targeting them and their families. A journalist in Papua who reported critically on plans for a massive agriculture plantation that will dispossess local people was found murdered earlier this summer. Human rights advocates who reveal security force brutality suffer similar threats, and both often fall victim to legal suits which employ Indonesia's notoriously corrupt judicial system as a weapon in service of commercial and security forces interests. Usman Hamid, a prominent human rights advocate and former director of the key human rights advocacy group Kontras, is facing a legal suit alleging defamation. The false charge arose as a result of his determined pursuit of justice in the murder of his predecessor at Kontras, the renowned Munir Said Talib.

Ignoring the reality of security forces that operate brutally and without accountability before the law, the Obama administration is expanding financial, equipment and training assistance to those forces. After a decade of withholding assistance to the Indonesian special forces, the Obama administration announced in July that it was resuming collaboration with the organization, notwithstanding its repression of Papuans and lengthy record of human rights abuse throughout the archipelago. The administration is also continuing assistance to Detachment 88, which has been credibly accused by human rights groups and the media of torture, beatings and kidnappings.

The US government's willingness to co-operate with security forces that continue to commit human rights abuses, operate illegally and remain unaccountable was enshrined in the "comprehensive partnership" signed by Obama and Yudhoyono. US support for security forces that threaten human rights and democratic development is born of blindness to the reality of current day Indonesia. President Obama's brief visit only reinforced a deliberate misperception by US policy makers of Indonesia's complex and growing challenges.


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It needs and deserves your support." - Ed McWilliams

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Support ETAN in 2011!

"ETAN's work is unique and essential at this critical time. It needs and deserves your support." - Ed McWilliams

Read former senior Foreign Service Officer Ed McWilliams message about ETAN

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Thanks to all who have donated so far.

I’ve long admired ETAN’s work.... ETAN has conducted some of the most effective grassroots campaigns I know. With limited resources, they helped free a nation and fundamentally changed policy toward one of the U.S.’s closest and most repressive allies, Indonesia.
—Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now!”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kissinger redux

Henry Kissinger's callousness about mass murder should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career. Kissinger appears on a recently released tape of a conversation with  then-President Richard Nixon saying in 1973:
"that helping Soviet Jews emigrate and thus escape oppression by a totalitarian regime — a huge issue at the time — was 'not an objective of American foreign policy.'

'And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union,' he added, 'it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.'
Just a few years later, in December 1975, Kissinger and President Gerald Ford were in Jakarta giving the go ahead to Indonesia's invasion of East Timor. Kissinger would guarantee continuation of weapons shipments. According to Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation as many as 180,000 people died as a result.  For more on Kissinger's role in East Timor click here.

ETAN Letter to Rep Patrick Kennedy on leaving Congress

December 13, 2010 

Rep. Patrick Kennedy
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Via fax
Rep Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)Dear Representative Kennedy,

As the Executive Committee of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, we write to wish you the best in your post-Congressional career and to express our deep gratitude for your tireless work in solidarity with the people of East Timor and Indonesia during your 16-year tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over those years, we have greatly valued our collaboration with you, as you initiated numerous congressional letters, resolutions and legislation to protect and promote human rights in the region. It is heartening to see a public servant work so tirelessly in support of justice and the rights of others, not for personal gain or public acclaim but simply because it is the right thing to do.

President Suharto underscored the efficacy of your work in the House in an angry letter to President Clinton shortly after the bill’s introduction, canceling a planned purchase of nine F-16 planes from the US government and withdrawing from participation in the Expanded International Military Education and Training (E-IMET) program.

Shortly after your arrival in Washington, you established yourself as one of the key House leaders on human rights and related issues in Indonesia and East Timor. You visited East Timor in 1996 to support Bishop Belo on his return to his homeland after he received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1997, you introduced bold and important legislation – the Indonesia Military Assistance Accountability Act (HR 1132) – baring government-to-government weapons sales and some military training until critical human rights improvements in East Timor and Indonesia were achieved. 

Indonesia’s President Suharto underscored the efficacy of your work in the House in an angry letter to President Clinton shortly after the bill’s introduction, canceling a planned purchase of nine F-16 planes from the US government and withdrawing from participation in the Expanded International Military Education and Training (E-IMET) program. 

The introduction of HR 1132 is only one among many examples of your leadership in Congressional efforts to maintain and expand restrictions on arms sales and military training for Indonesia – efforts that put Indonesia on notice that international support for their illegal occupation of East Timor was beginning to crumble.  In 1998, you lead efforts which placed the U.S. Congress firmly on record as supporting self-determination for East Timor. 

Over time, your efforts gave critical support to the broad-based pro-democracy movement that ended the reign of the Indonesian dictator Suharto and helped enable East Timor’s historic referendum for independence in 1999. 
Over the ten years since East Timor’s independence vote, you have demonstrated your commitment in support of a strong and stable East Timor (Timor-Leste). Throughout the 2000’s, you continued to shine a spotlight on events in East Timor. You urged your colleagues and the administration to strongly support the UN mission as the country continued to rebuild during its transition to full independence. You advocated for meaningful U.S. assistance to East Timor and supported its demand for its rightful share of natural resources in negotiations with neighboring Australia. You have also been outspoken in your support for justice and accountability for the many atrocities and crimes against humanity committed by U.S.-backed Indonesian forces during the occupation.

Finally, we are appreciate for your efforts to draw attention to the human rights crisis in West Papua through among other initiatives, your recent sponsorship of HRes 1355, calling for the release of political prisoners and greater access for international organizations to West Papua. We know that this issue remains particularly important to you and we hope we can continue to work together to ensure justice and peace for the people of West Papua as you enter this new chapter of your life and career. 

Wishing you all the best in this holiday season,


John M. Miller, National Coordinator

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Congratulations to Shirley Shackleton

Congratulations to Shirley Shackleton for winning Australia's Walkley Book Award for The Circle of Silence: A personal testimony before, during and after Balibo. Copies are available from ETAN.

The award citation says in part:
"This book is testimony to her work in East Timor, and an insight into a defining time in that country's history. Such struggles have their personal sides, however, and this book is also a remarkable personal narrative, interspersed with poetry, that details the other careers Shackleton juggled while maintaining an abiding focus on justice in East Timor."

From judges' comments:
Shirley Shackleton's book is an exceptional personal narrative in this year's field of rich Australian journalism, history and analysis. It is exceptional because of its raw intellectual honesty forged from murder and massacre in East Timor during a cover-up which prevailed for 25 years. It is exceptional because it confronts then exposes blind-eyed Australian diplomacy. It confronts then exposes self-censorship posing as journalism, because of the Australia/US/Indonesia geopolitical logic which required it.
From ordinary human expectations, the author's personal story -- with sometimes brutal self-assessment -- evolves from self-pity and grief over the 1975 murders at Balibo and Dili to a campaign to raise public consciousness about atrocities which decimated the people of East Timor. The consequence of that raised consciousness? Independence for East Timor in 2002 and a measure of belated redemption for Australia and the international community. The Circle of Silence is Shirley Shackleton's testimony from her life's darkest hour at the death of her husband Greg to vindication and relief at the survival of a people who struggled for their freedom.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

35th Anniversary of U.S.-backed Indonesian Invasion of East Timor

Today, December 7, 2010, marks the 35th anniversary of the U.S.-backed Indonesian invasion of East Timor. On the 30th anniversary of Indonesia's full-scale assault on Timor, ETAN
"called on the world to listen to East Timor’s victims and act on their demands for justice. The group also urged the United States government to formally acknowledge its past support for Indonesia’s brutal military occupation of East Timor, and for the international community to learn from this history and never repeat the same crimes."
December 7 invasion day, via Timor Archives

It is well-documented that the Indonesian military launched its 1975 invasion just hours after then President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave their explicit permission to go ahead. They reassured Suharto that U.S. military support would continue, despite U.S. law and Indonesia's treaty obligations. U.S. weapons, military training and political support enabled Indonesia to seize the territory and maintain its occupation for 24 years. These brutal events claimed the lives of up to 200,000 people.

The report of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (known by its Portuguese initials, CAVR) thoroughly documents the impact of the Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation.
While the report was long ago officially delivered to the U.S. and other governments, the CAVR's recommendations to the international community remain largely ignored. anniversary. Despite being urged to do so, President Obama did not address these issues during his recent visit to Jakarta.

Kopassus troops
We continue to urge the U.S. government and Congress to seriously respond to the report by holding hearings and formally acknowledge the U.S. role in the suffering of the East Timorese and Indonesian peoples. The U.S. and others who backed Indonesia should apologize and provide reparations. The U.S. should work to establish an international tribunal to try those most responsible the heinous crimes committed in Timor-Leste from 1975-1999 and withhold support for Indonesia's security forces especially their most brutal units - including Kopassus, as recommended by the CAVR to encourage genuine accountability and promote reform. These forces continue to terrorize the people of West Papua.

We highlight some of the CAVR's  most pertinent recommendations after the jump.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

West Papua Report - December 2010

now out here

During his November 9-10 visit to Indonesia, President Obama and President Yudhoyono unveiled a "comprehensive partnership" that strongly reflects Washington's traditional perception of Indonesia as a platform servicing U.S. security and commercial interests. A key element of the "partnership," broadened security ties, comes at the expense of human rights and democratization which are under growing threat from corrupt and unaccountable Indonesian security forces. Secret Kopassus documents released by investigative journalist Alan Nairn reveal that the targeting of senior members of Papuan civil society is official policy, approved at senior levels. Papuans used the occasion of President Obama's visit to protest the denial of self determination and the continuing devastation of local resources by the U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoran. Journalists have complained loudly over Indonesian government subterfuge regarding the trial purportedly of security personnel involved in the torture of Papuans. On December 1, Papuans and their supporters in West Papua and in cities around the world celebrated the day in 1961 when the Papuans declared their independence from Dutch colonial rule. A late November visit to West Papua by President Yudhoyono and many members of his cabinet failed to address long-standing Papuan concerns. A statement by an Indonesian military leader indicates military intent to deepen already substantial military involvement in commercial activities in West Papua.

Juan Mendez on Accountability

Juan Mendez is currently UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He was Secretary-General's special advisor on genocide and much more. From today's Democracy Now!
JUAN GONZALEZ: Your response on this issue of looking forward instead of back and not allowing witch hunts to take place?
JUAN MÉNDEZ: Well, this has been a debate all over the world every time we have to look at egregious conduct by state officials. People always say we want to look forward and not backward. I reject the notion that investigating and prosecuting international crimes is a way of just looking backwards and being—and engaging in a witch hunt or being vengeful. I think, on the contrary, it’s a proper way of looking forward: it’s settling the stories the way they should be settled, deciding on what was done by order of whom and against whom, and moving forward only after we know the whole truth....
I want to stress that that’s not a discretionary decision by any state. Every state that signs and ratifies the Convention Against Torture is legally obliged to investigate, prosecute and punish every single act of torture.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan Méndez, we only have 30 seconds, but you speak from personal experience. I mean, you come from Argentina. In Argentina, there are hundreds of trials going on now of torturers.
JUAN MÉNDEZ: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: You, yourself, were tortured for representing political prisoners—that’s right?—in the 1970s?
JUAN MÉNDEZ: That’s correct, yes. That’s right. You know, and I am following the trials in Argentina. They are, you know, very uplifting, and they are a way of looking forward. It’s a way in which the country sees itself in the mirror, reckons with its past, and makes sure that it doesn’t happen again. So, that’s a way of looking forward. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Problems with ETAN east-timor news listserv

There is currently a problem with the ETAN east-timor news listserv from Messages are not currently going out, but are available on the list archive - Once the issue is resolved, held messages will be e-mailed to list subscribers.

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more info about ETAN listservs here

Monday, November 29, 2010

Free Indonesia's Political Prisoners, Demonstrate in DC, December 1

December 1, 2010
12:30-1:30 PM

Amnesty International

Raise your voices, Raise your flags

Rally for Filep
Free Indonesia's Political Prisoners

Indonesian Embassy
2020 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC
1 block from Dupont Circle Metro Station

Wednesday December 1 is the 6th anniversary of Filep Karma's arrest for peacefully raising a flag.  Join Amnesty International and ETAN in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Filep Karma and all prisoners of conscience in Indonesia!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


UPDATE: The Jakarta Post reports that "3,059 [documents] came from the US Embassy in Jakarta and 167 from the US Consulate in Surabaya. The latest document among the Jakarta files was dated Feb. 27, 2010, while the earliest was sent out on Nov. 19, 1990. Only 14 of the files were sent out during the 1990s, and another 20 from 2000 to 2005. The vast majority were sent out from 2006 to February this year."

Wikileaks U.S. State Department document dump will include about 350 from embassy in Dili and ten times as many from the embassy in Jakarta.

According to Wikileaks:
"Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.
The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. ...
The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months.
Only a few hundred documents have been posted so far. Much interesting, and possibly revelatory, reading to come.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ETAN - and the peoples of East Timor and Indonesia - Will Miss Senator Feingold

When Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold lost his re-election bid Nov. 2, it didn’t only sadden U.S. progressives. The people of East Timor and Indonesia lost a strong ally in their struggle for democracy.

In late 1992, as Feingold was campaigning to join the U.S. Senate, East Timor suffered perhaps its most infamous massacre. The occupying Indonesian military fired on a peaceful pro-independence protest, killing more than 270 people. While the massacre received international attention -- thanks to the presence of Western journalists, including Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn -- East Timor remained an obscure issue in the United States.
But, half a world away, Feingold took notice.

Throughout his 18 years in office, Feingold remained a stalwart and effective advocate for a just U.S. foreign policy. He maintained restrictions on arms sales and military training for Indonesia.

In his first year in the Senate, Feingold, a Democrat, authored an amendment to place human rights conditions on arms sales to Indonesia. The amendment unanimously passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This shocked Indonesian officials, who had for decades been able to count on the U.S. government eagerly providing military equipment while turning a blind eye to its brutal use against Timorese and Indonesian civilians.

Throughout his 18 years in office, Feingold remained a stalwart and effective advocate for a just U.S. foreign policy. He maintained restrictions on arms sales and military training for Indonesia. After a broad-based pro-democracy movement ousted Indonesian dictator Suharto in 1998, Feingold pushed the Clinton administration and Congress to ensure that political prisoners were freed, the military was reformed and civic institutions were fostered. Feingold supported East Timor’s referendum for independence in 1999, and repeatedly called for the Indonesian government and military officials responsible for serious crimes there to be held responsible. He has also raised concerns about continuing military abuses in Papua, a region with an independence movement and a history similar to East Timor.

More recently, Feingold cautioned both the Bush and Obama administrations on their rush to engage Indonesia in the “war on terror.” As the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and one where moderate forms of Islam predominate, Indonesia took on new importance for the United States following the 9/11 attacks. The United States’ relationship with Indonesia must be “aimed at fighting terrorism while supporting that country’s recent democratization,” Feingold wrote after visiting Indonesia in 2006.

You might think that President Obama, who visited Indonesia the week after the U.S. midterm elections, would agree. After all, Obama spent part of his childhood there and lamented, in his memoir “The Audacity of Hope,” that the U.S. negatively affected Indonesia by encouraging “tyranny, corruption and environmental degradation when it served our interests.”

Sadly, the U.S. hasn’t followed Feingold’s advice. Last summer, the Obama administration announced that the United States would work with Kopassus, the Indonesian military’s notorious special forces. Kopassus troops routinely engaged in torture, rape and murder in East Timor, “disappeared” Indonesian student activists, and killed a prominent Papuan leader, among other atrocities. Providing U.S. training to Kopassus “would undermine the goal of creating a professional military … that upholds human rights norms,” warned Feingold when the Bush administration considered engaging Kopassus.

For all his leadership on Southeast Asia issues, Feingold didn’t become a media darling, fill his campaign coffers or otherwise win broad acclaim. He helped the people of East Timor and Indonesia simply because it was the right thing to do. That’s what makes him a remarkable public servant and a wonderful human being.
We in the U.S. -- and our sisters and brothers around the world -- will sorely miss him.

Diane Farsetta is the coordinator of the Madison chapter of the East Timor Action Network. She is a former Field Organizer for national ETAN.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Secret Documents Reveal Kopassus Targets Papuan Churches Civilans

Allan Nairn, ETAN on Democracy Now!
President Obama arrived in Indonesia today on the second stop of a 10-day trip to Asia. It’s Obama’s first state visit to Indonesia after having lived there for four years as a child. Democracy Now! speaks with Jakarta-based investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn, who has just released secret documents from Kopassus—the feared Indonesian special forces—which has been responsible for human rights abuses since the 1950s. Earlier this year, the Obama administration lifted a 12-year ban on funding the training of Kopassus. While Obama talks about human rights, the documents indicate that Kopassus targets churches and civilians and includes a Kopassus enemies list topped by a local Baptist minister in West Papua. We also speak with John Miller, the National Coordinator of East Timor and Indonesia Action Network

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ed McWilliams on 'bait and switch" trial

Ed McWilliams quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP)
Former US diplomat turned Papuan rights activist Edmund McWilliams, of the West Papua Advocacy Team, said the military had murdered "tens of thousands" of Papuan civilians in four decades of Indonesian rule.
The ethnic Melanesian-majority western half of New Guinea island was incorporated into Indonesia after a 1960s vote by a select group of tribal leaders which is seen by many as a sham.
"What we have seen over decades in west Papua are killings that would approach the scale of what we saw in East Timor. Certainly tens of thousands have been killed," he said.
He said Friday's military tribunal [of soldiers accused of beating Papuan villagers] was "bogus" and accused Indonesia of "misleading the international community".
"It was a classic bait and switch," he said, adding that there was a "degree of US complicity" in the Indonesian military's human rights abuses.

Soldiers exit a military courtroom in Jayapura, Papua, on Friday. JP/Nethy Dharma Somba 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Statement of East Timor and Indonesia Action Network on President Obama's Visit to Indonesia

November 5, 2010 - As President Obama departs on his twice-delayed trip to Indonesia, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) urge him to use the opportunity to build a relationship between the U.S. and Indonesia based on the promotion of human rights and the rule of law.

As we wrote to President Obama last March, "the history of U.S.-Indonesia relations is much better known for the U.S.'s largely uncritical support of the Suharto dictatorship, from its bloody seizure of power in 1965 through its illegal invasion and occupation of then Portuguese Timor to the Kopassus kidnappings and murders of student leaders in 1997 and 1998."

President Obama should apologize to the peoples of Indonesia and Timor-Leste for the U.S. role in their suffering during the Suharto years and to offer condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout the archipelago.

President Obama's visit coincides with Indonesia's Heroes Day, and the dictator Suharto is under consideration to be named as a "National Hero." We urge President Obama to use the opportunity of his visit to decisively break with past U.S. support for torture, disappearances, rape, invasion and illegal occupation, extrajudicial murder environmental devastation. and more. U.S. weapons, training, political backing and economic support of Indonesia facilitated these crimes. President Obama should apologize to the peoples of Indonesia and Timor-Leste for the U.S. role in their suffering during the Suharto years and to offer condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout the archipelago.

Crimes against humanity and other violations of human rights did not end with Suharto’s fall. Since then U.S. policy has largely focused instead on narrow strategic and economic interests that have little to do with the well-being of the Indonesian people. In recent weeks,horrific videos and other reports of torture, the burning of villages and other crimes show that the people of West Papua and elsewhere continue to suffer at the hands of military and police.

We urge President Obama to condition U.S. security assistance on an end to human rights violations and impunity. We urge him to follow the recommendation of Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR), which urged nations to "regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more effectively and make such support totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination."

We urge the President to announce that the U.S., as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, will work to establish an international tribunal to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights crimes committed during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste. This would send the critical message that no one is above the law and would serve as an important deterrent to future human rights violators. A tribunal was recommended by the CAVR and is supported by the many victims of these crimes and by human rights advocates in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and elsewhere.

We urge the President to announce that the U.S., as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, will work to establish an international tribunal to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights crimes committed during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste.

We are deeply concerned about the administration's recent announcement that the U.S. will for the first time in a dozen years engage with Indonesia's notorious Kopassus special forces. We also call on President Obama to end this planned engagement and to suspend all funding and training of Indonesia's Detachment 88 police unit pending review of charges leveled against the unit for systemic human rights violations, including use of torture. We believe that U.S. law bars cooperation with military and police units with such egregious human rights records.

These actions by President Obama would change the current course from one of repeating failed policies. While much has changed in Indonesia, U.S. security assistance does not promote further change. Instead it encourages impunity and violations of human rights and sets back reform.

In his book The Audacity of Hope, President Obama wrote that "for the past sixty years the fate of [Indonesia] has been directly tied to U.S. foreign policy," a policy which included "the tolerance and occasional encouragement of tyranny, corruption, and environmental degradation when it served our interests."

A new relationship between the two countries must be built on an honest assessment of the bloody past. President Obama's special connection to Indonesia offers an important opportunity to usher in a new era in the relationship between our two nations. One that rejects a relationship based largely on militarism with one that respects human rights and promotes the rule of law.


Members of ETAN are available for interviews

contact: John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-718-596-7668, +1-917-690-4391,,

This release is posted at

Support East Timor in New York Marathon

UPDATE: Both East Timorese runners finished the New York Marathon yesterday. Augusto finished 249th overall and 214 of the men. His time was 2:47:10. Agueda was 17531 overall, 3970 among the women with a time of 4:08:15. Both ran slower than their normal times, perhaps affected by the chill New York air. 42,000 participated.


Timorese marathoner AmaralTwo East Timorese are running in the New York Marathon on Sunday, November 7, and ETAN plans to cheer them on.

We plan to meet up at the corner of 4th Ave. and Bergen St. in Brooklyn at 10 am to wave Timor flags and otherwise show our support. By gathering at 10 (don't forget to change your clocks the night before to end daylight savings) we will have time to find it other and get settled before the Timorese runners pass by. (Nearest subway is Pacific St/ Atlantic Ave.) 

Call 917-690-4391 if you can't find us.

Two of Timor's top runners are participating: Augusto Ramos (race number 279) and Olympic veteran Agueda Amaral (213). Augusto came in second in Dili's first Marthon for Peace in June. Agueda represented not-yet-independent East Timor (Timor-Leste) in the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney. CNN described her arrival in the stadium for the final laps as "the most moving moment" of the race. She also ran in the 2004 Athens games.

More information about Timor's participation in the NY Marathon can be found here.

UPDATE: Follow the Timorese runners by SMS or on the web. sign up here [Agueda Amaral (bib 213) and Augusto is listed as Augusto Soares (279)]

Thursday, November 4, 2010

West Papua Advocacy Team: Open Letter to President Obama on The Eve of His Visit to Indonesia

November 4, 2010

Dear President Obama,

The West Papua Advocacy Team welcomes your upcoming visit to Indonesia as an opportunity to deepen U.S.-Indonesia ties and to encourage further democratic progress in Indonesia. This progress has been impressive in the decade since the overthrow of the Suharto dictatorship and has facilitated the expansion of U.S. cooperation with this important nation.

Critical to Indonesia's democratization is the expansion of respect for human rights. However, respect for human rights -- and democratic progress more generally -- continue to face threats from security forces that continue to evade full civilian control and remain largely unaccountable before Indonesia's flawed judicial system.

However, respect for human rights -- and democratic progress more generally -- continue to face threats from security forces that continue to evade full civilian control and remain largely unaccountable before Indonesia's flawed judicial system.

The United States maintains significant influence with Indonesian military, due in large measure to the Indonesian military's long-standing desire for U.S. training and equipment.  It is imperative that your administration employ this influence as leverage to promote the full subordination of the Indonesian military to civilian control and accountability before the law. The recent decision to renew contact with the notorious Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) and continued U.S. support for Detachment 88 ignore numerous credible reports of human rights abuse and unaccountability before the law by both organizations.
This policy of support for Indonesian forces acting criminally and with impunity sabotages the courageous efforts by Indonesian NGOs and citizens, who often face intimidation as they work to secure fundamental reform of all the Indonesian security forces.

Nowhere in the Indonesian archipelago is military insubordination, corruption, abusive behavior and unaccountability more on display than in West Papua, where the military continues to operate in a manner that reflects the rules and practices fostered under the Suharto dictatorship. Papuan human rights activists face  intimidation, arrest, torture and extra-judicial execution.

Recent video evidence of Indonesian security force employment of torture targeted against Papuan civilians, continued security force involvement in illegal activities including unlicensed logging, prostitution and extortion, reveal rogue state forces bent on repression and the plundering of Papuan resources.

Recently, the international community has been shocked by graphic video footage of Indonesian security personnel torturing Papuan civilians. Less than ten days before your scheduled arrival in Jakarta a cyber attack was launched against international websites that carried the video. The resources required for such an attack indicate that elements within the Indonesian government were behind it. This is in line with determined Indonesian government efforts to prevent the international community from monitoring developments in West Papua.

Also in recent weeks, Indonesian security forces destroyed the Papuan village of Bigiragi. For decades, especially in the Puncak Jaya region, security force "sweeping operations" have driven villagers into the surrounding mountains and forests where hundreds have died due to lack of access to food, medical care and adequate shelter. Security force refusal to allow humanitarian relief to these displaced civilians has exacerbated their plight.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sample Letters to Editor on President Obama's Visit to Indonesia

Sample Letters to Editor on President Obama's Visit to Indonesia

In a few days, President Obama is expected to leave for a trip to Asia, including a several-times postponed visit to Indonesia where he lived as a boy. Letters to the editor are often the most widely-read section of newspapers, especially by decision-makers. Try to keep your letter to about 200 -250 words and be sure to include your full name, address, and telephone number when submitting the letter to the newspaper. If possible, include a local angle or directly respond to an article or opinion published in the paper. The more timely your response, the more likely it is to be published.

Contact us at or 718-596-7668, if you would like some help with your letter. Please send us copies of your letters, published and unpublished.

Adapt, mix and match the text of the 3 updated sample letters below. Use it in responses to online posting of articles and in blogs. Adapt the letters to your own words. Please check for additional letters as events develop.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

West Papua Report for November 2010

Read West Papua Report November 2010

Photos of  recent destruction of a village in West Papua can be seen here

Summary: A video of Indonesian security forces torturing Papuan civilians again revealed the routine violence employed by these forces to terrorize the Papuan people. Calls for a genuinely independent and credible investigation of the incidents appear to be in vain as the Indonesian Government has stated that the security forces will investigate themselves. Within days of the video's release a massive cyber attack took down many of the international NGO websites which had posted the torture video footage. Analysts assessed that the cyber attack's sophistication and coordination indicated that it was the work of a govern. While international NGO's condemned the torture unequivocally and demanded a credible investigation of the incidents, the U.S. sought to downplay the matter, commending the Indonesian security forces for acknowledging that their personnel were implicated. In a separate incident, video revealed that Indonesian security forces burned a Papuan village. The passing of Asmara Nababan removes a courageous and articulate human rights advocate from the Indonesian scene. In separate comments WPAT criticizes the U.S. administration for its "limp" response to the evidence of security force torture and for resisting calls to make an end to such abuses, real accountability for their perpetrators, and genuine reform a sine qua non for U.S. military-to-military assistance. WPAT also notes that cyber attack against websites that posted the torture video footage is consistent with the Indonesian Government's long-standing efforts to prevent international monitoring of developments in West Papua.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Transparency International release scores - Timor 127th least corrupt, Indonesia 110

Transparency International just released their 2010 Corruptions Perceptions Index, available at Timor-Leste scored 2.5 (out of 10), ranking 127th least corrupt country among 178 countries -- in other words, worse than more than 2/3 of the countries rated. In the Asia-Pacific region, TL is 24th out of 34 countries, worse than Indonesia (110th, 2.8 compared to 111th, 2.8 in the 2009 survey), Thailand, Mongolia, and Vietnam, among others.

For Timor-Leste, this is a slight improvement over 2009, when its score was 2.2, ranking 146 of 180 countries worldwide, and 28th of 33 in Asia-Pacific. In 2008, its score was also 2.2 (145th/180). In 2007, it scored  2.6 (123th/180), better than this year. 

In other recent indexes: 

Global Hunger Index

Timor-Leste is "among the countries with hunger levels considerably higher than their GNI [Gross National Income] per capita would suggest" according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Global Hunger Index (GHI). It is one of four countries (the others are Bangladesh, India and Yemen) which have "the highest prevalence of underweight in children under five -- "more than 40 percent." 23% of the population is under-nourished.Timor-Leste's GHI of 25.6 is considered "alarming"  and is the highest of any country in South and Southeast Asia, and ranks 71 of the 84 countries ranked globally. The ranking does not include many countries where hunger is not a serious problem. The previous calculation of the GHI was in 1990, and Timor-Leste was not included. Indonesia is rated "serious" ranking 36 with a score of 13.2 - compared to 19.5 in 1990. 16% of its population was malnourished.

Open Budget Index

On the International Budget Partnership's Open Budget Index 2010, Timor-Leste scored 34 out of 100, characterized as "Provides minimal information to the public in its budget documents during the year." (Timor's country data sheet is here.). TL ranks fifth among the seven Southeast Asian countries rated, better than Vietnam and Cambodia but worse than Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. T-L's score of 34 is less than the global average of 42.  It ranks 62nd best of the 93 countries rated. This is the first time Timor-Leste has been included in the OBI. Indonesia ranked 39th, scoring 51, down from 54 in 2008. Indonesia's 2010 country data sheet is here.

UPDATE: added missing data on Indonesia for previous year, also some copy-editing and an added link.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Timor census shows slower than predicted population growth

On October 20, the government of Timor-Leste announced preliminary results of the recently-completed census with a total population of Timor-Leste is 1,066,582.
This number represents a 2.41 per cent annual population growth since the last census was undertaken, in 2004. The growth has been significantly slower than what was projected back in 2004 (3.2% per year) but is still the highest in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region.
Another noteworthy finding among the preliminary census results is that the population of the district of Dili has grown by a third, from 175,730 to 241,331, since 2004. Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority, 70.4%, of the Timorese people still lives in rural areas.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Suharto's No Hero

Three short years after his death, Indonesia's dictator Suharto has been nominated to a shortlist to be designated a "National Hero." The final decision rests with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. and any honors will likely be announced on November 10, Heroes’ Day. President Obama is scheduled to visit Indonesia around that date.

After Suharto died in January 2008, ETAN wrote:
Indonesia's former dictator General Suharto has died in bed and not in jail, escaping justice for his numerous crimes in East Timor and throughout the Indonesian archipelago. One of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century, his death tolls still shock...
We cannot forget that the United States government consistently supported Suharto and his regime. As the corpses piled up after his coup and darkness descended on Indonesia, his cheerleaders in the U.S. welcomed the "gleam of light in Asia." In the pursuit of realpolitik, U.S. administration after administration, fully aware of his many crimes, provided military assistance and hardware, training and equipping Suharto's killers. The Indonesian dictator sought and received U.S. approval before he launched his invasion of East Timor; ninety percent of the weapons used in this illegal attack came from the U.S.  
Indonesia's human rights, anti-corruption and other activists are opposed. Agence France Presse quotes human rights activist Raharjo Waluyo Jati,
"He caused so much suffering. So many activists were arrested, detained, punished and some even killed without trial during his rule. All the mess Indonesia is in now, with problems of corruption and human rights violations, were his doing. He built this chaos."
We hope Indonesian authorities do not take their clue from the appalling U.S.'s condolence statement on Suharto's death by now departed Ambassador Cameron Hume. He observed that while "there may be some controversy over his legacy" Suharto oversaw "a period during which Indonesia achieved remarkable economic and social development." 

At the time, we expressed our dismay that the "condolence statement on behalf of the U.S. government fails to even acknowledge the extraordinary crimes of this brutal and corrupt dictator" or the U.S. role in arming and supporting the regime.

President Obama once understood this. In his book The Audacity of Hope,  Obama wrote that "for the past sixty years the fate of [Indonesia] has been directly tied to U.S. foreign policy," a policy which included "the tolerance and occasional encouragement of tyranny, corruption, and environmental degradation when it served our interests." In Dreams from My Father, he described Suharto's seizure of power: "The death toll was anybody's guess: a few hundred thousand, maybe, half a million. Even the smart guys at the [CIA] had lost count." These "smart guys" had, of course, encouraged and assisted in the coup. 

Whether or not the corrupt or brutal dictator receives the posthumous honor, we urge President Obama to apologize to the people of Indonesia and East Timor for the U.S. role in their suffering during the Suharto years and to offer his condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout the archipelago.