Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ETAN helps East Timorese runners enter New York Marathon

Office of the President
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

20 October 2010

Timorese runners to take on the New York City Marathon

Top male and female distance runners from Timor-Leste are getting set to take on the New York City Marathon on 7 November. They will be accompanying the Australian Indigenous Marathon Project fronted by Australian marathon legend Robert de Castella.

Marathon running in Timor-Leste has kicked into gear this year with the inaugural International Dili "City of Peace" Marathon taking place on 20 June 2010. 24 year old Augusto Ramos Soares inspired the nation, coming in just one minute behind the Kenyan star and winner, Philemon Rotich, to take second place in a solid time of 2 hours and 36 minutes. From an incredibly poor farming family in rural Timor, Augusto and Olympic veteran Agueda Amaral will be joining their neighbours from regional Australia in under three weeks to compete in the NY Marathon. 

The International Dili Peace Marathon is a dynamic new addition to the President's 'Dili - City of Peace' initiative, and was run on 20 June 2010. On 6 April 2010, Sydney Olympic Marathon Course Director, Stephen Jackson, confirmed the course for the Marathon to be up to international standards. The Dili Marathon attracted 1270 runners from across 28 nations, of which 115 ran the full 42 kms, while the others ran either 21, 10 or 5 km races. The President announced: "It is my honour to welcome, on behalf of the State, all of our participants and supporters of the first Dili Marathon. This is an inaugural event, which will help place Timor-Leste in its rightful place on the world stage."

The President of Timor-Leste and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, H.E. Jose Ramos-Horta, initiated a process of cooperation with the Australian Indigenous Marathon Project, which has led to the two Timorese runners and coaches joining de Castella and his team for a training programme in Australia and a week of intensive preparation for the marathon.

But it nearly didn't happen. The registration process for the New York City Marathon had already passed its deadline before the starting gun had even been fired here in Dili. The final means of registration was through the Team for Kids charity in New York, requiring a certain amount of money to be raised for guaranteed entry into the race. Team for Kids ( raises money to allow disadvantaged children to get involved in regular health and fitness programmes where they otherwise wouldn't have access to such facilities.

With time running short and money needing to be raised, The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) came into play. ETAN was pivotal in mobilising contacts both in Australia and New York to make the project a reality.

This momentous work has been greatly helped by the generosity and quick mobilisation of countless individuals. Two of the major hurdles presented along the way were getting the right training and race gear, as well as getting travel to New York from Dili.

After their excellent support during the Dili Marathon on 18 June this year, Nike was once again keen to get involved and support Timorese runners. With the AIS coaching session organised for Sydney and New York's Central Park, the Timorese athletes are sure to excel now that they are equipped with the top gear.

Getting the athletes and delegation over to New York was no small task. From the dusty Dili streets to the city that never sleeps on the opposite side of the world was made considerably easier by the generosity of V Australia and our long-term regional airline partner in Airnorth.

The momentum gained from pushing for the sports/peace "heroes" development in Timor-Leste is now going to an all new level with this first and all important step towards the London 2012 Olympics.

Follow the progress of Augusto and Agueda at

Contact Michael Stone on +670 7231964
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WPAT: Torture video reveals "Indonesia's Abu Ghraib" on eve of Obama visit

UPDATE: Interview with Ed McWilliams on Radio Australia's Connect Asia program

Contact: Ed McWilliams (WPAT) +1-575-648-2078

October 19, 2010 - A new video shows the torture of helpless men in the Indonesian-ruled territory of West Papua. Monitoring groups are already describing the footage as "Indonesia's Abu Ghraib." The video reveals indisputably Indonesian security force brutality, and raises serious questions about the Obama administration's decision to embrace cooperation with Indonesian security forces engaged in active and ongoing torture.

The video, available at ; is the second in recent months to offer graphic footage of Indonesian security force torture of Papuans. In it, a Papuan man is held to the ground while a hot stick, still smoldering from a fire, is held against his genitals. A plastic bag is wrapped around his head several times, a rifle held against him. Another man has a large knife held against him while he pleads: "I'm just an ordinary civilian, please..." One of his interrogators responds: "I'll cut your throat... Do not lie, I will kill you! Burn the penis!" The video appears to have been taken on the cell phone of one interrogator.

Still from video via Sydney Morning Herald

Thanks to the courage of Papuan human rights advocates in the face of harsh security measures designed to silence them, the world periodically has been witness to the harsh rule of West Papua. In the past, the faith in international justice and humanity demonstrated by these courageous Papuans has been betrayed by the international community's deference to the Indonesian government's insistence that neither its course nor rule there not be challenged. Numerous governments have placed the territorial integrity of Indonesia and the desire to support its democratization process first. In the process, however, they have abandoned what could have been constructive efforts to uphold human rights in West Papua, which continue to be systematically violated.

Geopolitical and commercial goals led the U.S. government to ignore Suharto dictatorship atrocities  targeting its own people and the people of East Timor for decades. President Bill Clinton acknowledged this when East Timor gained its independence in 2002, saying : "I don't believe America or any of the other countries were sufficiently sensitive in the beginning and for a long time, a long time before 1999, going all the way back to the '70s, to the suffering of the people of East Timor." It was the suffering of the people of East Timor that led to Congress deciding tosuspend military cooperation with Indonesia.

The system of security force rule and repression of peaceful dissent has been dismantled in much of Indonesia, but the same security system and the same systematic human rights violations continue in West Papua today. Such stopgap solutions as "special autonomy" have been clearly rejected by the Papuan people. Despite the continued human rights violations, the Obama administration has continued the Bush administration's policy of support to the Indonesian security forces. It has continued support to the Indonesian military through the IMET program, and support through the Anti-Terror Assistance Program to the notorious Detachment 88 of the Indonesian National Police, credibly accused of torture and other rights violations. It has resumed cooperation with the Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) notwithstanding that unit's  decades-old record of human rights abuse including recent, credible accounts of brutality targeting Papuan civilians.  In so doing the Obama Administration, like its predecessors, has wittingly or unwittingly made itself complicit in the repression now underway in West Papua.

The United States, under President John F. Kennedy, was responsible for the transfer of West Papua to Indonesian rule. In that act, the United States made itself co-responsible for the outcome of its actions. Successive administrations have not been sufficiently sensitive to the ongoing human rights violations, including torture to this day, which resulted from Indonesian rule.

President Obama's upcoming visit to Indonesia offers an opportunity to end the silence on West Papua, and to craft new policies that advance human rights rather than lending support to human rights violators. Information about the ongoing human rights violations in West Papua was
heard on September 22 by the House of Representatives Sub-committee on Asia, the Pacific.

The Obama administration should:
  • Insist upon an investigation and prosecution of those who recently tortured Papuans in Puncak Jaya
  • Seek an investigation by relevant United Nations human rights rapporteurs of this and other instances of torture in West Papua
  • Suspend cooperation with Indonesian security forces accused of systematic human rights violations, including Detachment 88 and the Brimob (Mobile Brigade) of the National Police and the Indonesian special forces (Kopassus)
  • Call for full and open access for journalists, humanitarian assistance personnel including the International Committee of the red Cross and other international monitors to all of West Papua
  • Seek meetings between President Obama and Papuan human rights and civil society leaders during his visit to Indonesia
  • Call upon the Indonesian government to carry out an internationally facilitated, senior-level dialogue process with Papuan officials and civil society designed to resolve the Papuan conflict peacefully, as was done in Aceh province
This releasee is also posted on ETAN's website at

see also