News Release

Clinton in East Timor: Interviews Available


Former president Bill Clinton, at the request of the Bush administration, is leading the U.S. delegation to East Timor’s independence celebrations this weekend. The following are in the U.S. and East Timor:

Media and outreach coordinator for the East Timor Action Network, Miller said today: When President Clinton cut military ties between the U.S. and Indonesia, the Indonesian military quickly agreed to withdraw and allow in peacekeepers. If Clinton had been more assertive throughout 1999, the violent destruction following East Timor’s referendum might have been prevented. If President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger had not given the go-ahead in 1975, Indonesia might never have invaded East Timor. If subsequent administrations had not continued to arm the Indonesian regime, the East Timorese certainly would have suffered less…. The U.S. government owes the new nation an enormous moral debt — we urge President Clinton to acknowledge it.”
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Journalist Amy Goodman was an eyewitness to the November 12, 1991 massacre in Santa Cruz, where she was beaten to the ground by Indonesian troops. Goodman has returned to East Timor for the first time since 1994; banned from Indonesia, she has had to travel via Australia. She said today: “Having experienced one of East Timor’s bleakest days, it is exciting to witness the independence celebration. But we must not forget that the guns that shot down hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in 1991 came from the U.S., Indonesia’s largest weapons supplier. Now the Pentagon is pushing to step up assistance to the Indonesian military; this will only mean that people throughout Indonesia will continue to suffer.”
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Bella Galhos spent nearly a decade in exile in Canada, where she became a leading advocate for independence before returning to East Timor in December 1999. She said today: “The courage of the people of East Timor has enabled us to triumph over what many believed was a lost cause. I am optimistic, but much still needs to be done….”

Yayasan, the advocacy director for the East Timorese human rights group HAK, said today: “The country is being built from scratch. Its development should be tailored according to these challenges… The emphasis on the role of the private sector in reducing poverty is misplaced. This country arose from a dark history of injustice. Any framework of development has to include all the interrelated aspects of the community’s well-being, and one of these is clearly justice across all aspects of the society.”

Terrall, executive director of the East Timor Relief Fund, said: “Grassroots and congressional pressure in the 1990s forced the [U.S.] executive branch to make concessions on its Indonesia policy, limiting weapons sales and military training and raising the level of human rights criticism. While important, these shifts do not negate the need for accountability for the overall U.S. backing of the war on East Timor. The U.S. government must declassify and release all relevant information…. This should include a full congressional investigation into the U.S. role in the invasion and occupation of East Timor.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; Norman Solomon, (415) 552-5378