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USIS Washington 
File

12 October 1999

 

Text: Assistant Secretary Koh Remarks to Press in Jakarta Oct. 9

(Koh contrasts Jakarta's democratic hope, Timor's terror) (1770)
The United States supports Indonesia's emergence as a democratic
society, but stresses the need for addressing the humanitarian crisis
of East Timor, says Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human
Rights, and Labor Harold Hongju Koh.
"Even as this democratic transition progresses in Jakarta," Koh told
reporters in an October 9 media availability in Jakarta, "a major
human rights crisis looms in Timor."
As many as 230,000 of the inhabitants of East Timor -- one fourth of
the population -- have been "displaced from their homes and are living
in extremely harsh conditions," Koh said.
U.S. officials who have inspected conditions for displaced East
Timorese, "all believe that Indonesian civilian authorities at all
levels of government have worked hard and sincerely to make a
good-faith effort" to provide them with adequate levels of food,
shelter, water, and medicine," Koh said.
But, he stressed, "the residents of these camps are living in fear of
the militias, which elements of the TNI (Indonesian military)
organized, trained, directed, and still support.
"We saw clear indications that these militias are still terrorizing
and targeting pro-independence East Timorese citizens throughout the
West Timor camps," Koh charged.
The U.S. official blasted attempts at disinformation by the militias
to prevent East Timorese from returning to their homes, including
spreading rumors that the international peacekeeping forces were
massacring returning East Timorese.
"Residents of the camps fear for their safety if they publicly express
their preference to return home, and a troubling disinformation
campaign has frightened many of these displaced persons into believing
that they would be in danger from INTERFET (the Australian-led
international peacekeeping forces) if they were to return to East
Timor," Koh said.
The State Department official emphasized the importance the United
States puts on Indonesia's successful democratization, noting that it
will become the world's third largest democracy, after India and the
United States.
Following is the text of Koh's remarks, as delivered:
(begin text)
STATEMENT OF HAROLD HONGJU KOH
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEMOCRACY,
 HUMAN RIGHTS, AND LABOR
at a media availability
U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia
October 9, 1999
Let me begin by thanking State Coordinating Minister for People's
Welfare Dr. Haryono Suyono and Governor Piet Tallo of the Province of
West Timor for their extraordinary graciousness and hospitality during
my visit here. Let me also thank our splendid new Ambassador, Robert
Gelbard, and his most able country team for their outstanding support
during this, my third trip to Indonesia as Assistant Secretary of
State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
As President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have
made clear in Washington, and as Secretary of Defense William Cohen
reiterated here in Jakarta last week, the United States recognizes
that this is a critical moment in Indonesia's history. The most
democratic MPR in Indonesia's history is now organizing itself and
laying the groundwork for its operations. It will soon choose
Indonesia's next President, and the new DPR will begin passing laws
reflecting the democratic will of the Indonesian people. The United
States stands ready to support Indonesia's transition to democracy,
which will soon produce the third largest democracy in the world. We
look forward to working with a democratic Indonesia, where civil
society prospers, the rule of law thrives, and accountability is
standard practice. The consultation in East Timor, like Indonesia's
recent national elections, should be regarded as another significant
step toward democracy.
But even as this democratic transition progresses in Jakarta, a major
human rights crisis looms in Timor. As I speak, as many as 230,000 of
the inhabitants of East Timor -- representing as much as a quarter of
the populations of that region -- have been displaced from their homes
and are living in extremely harsh conditions.
On September 29, Secretary Albright and Indonesian Foreign Minister
Ali Alatas met in New York to discuss the tragic humanitarian and
human rights crisis in West and East Timor. During their discussion,
Foreign Minister Alatas extended an invitation for the U.S. Government
to follow up on the recent visit to Timor of a multinational
delegation that included my colleague, Julia Taft, U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration.
For the past five days, I have traveled in and around the cities of
Kupang, Atambua, Dili, and Denpasar, with a delegation that included
six other U.S. Government officials and two Indonesian officials. Our
delegation visited approximately a dozen camps of displaced persons in
West Timor and spoke with many East Timorese who are living under
extreme hardship, not just in these camps, but in Bali and other parts
of the country. We talked candidly with a very wide range of civilian
officials at the national, provincial, and local levels, UN officials,
religious leaders, and NGO representatives.
We focused on four questions: whether humanitarian assistance levels
in the West Timor camps are adequate; whether the safety of
individuals living in those camps is adequately protected; whether
camp conditions permit international organizations and international
NGOS to operate safely within the camps; and whether camp conditions
adequately protect the free choice of persons living there to decide
whether or not to return to East Timor.
Our U.S. delegation found problems in all four areas. We all believe
that Indonesian civilian authorities at all levels of government have
worked hard and sincerely to make a good-faith effort to provide the
East Timorese displaced with adequate levels of food, shelter, water,
and medicine. But the residents of these camps are living in fear of
the militias, which elements of the TNI organized, trained, directed,
and still support. We saw clear indications that these militias are
still terrorizing and targeting pro-independence East Timorese
citizens throughout the West Timor camps.
International humanitarian organizations are ready and willing to
help. But the militia presence in the West Timor camps is so
pervasive, that these organizations cannot safely enter the camps to
do the critical work that they have done so effectively elsewhere in
the world. Under these conditions, the residents of the West Timor
camps are denied their right to make a fully informed, free choice
whether or not to return to East Timor. Residents of the camps fear
for their safety if they publicly express their preference to return
home, and a troubling disinformation campaign has frightened many of
these displaced persons into believing that they would be in danger
from INTERFET forces if they were to return to East Timor.
In short, the situation that has been created in West Timor by the
militias -- acting in collusion with parts of the TNI -- has reached a
crisis point that can only get worse as we approach the rainy season
and the prospect for a missed planting season back in East Timor. This
crisis demands an immediate response.
The civilian authorities at the local and national levels have
expressed to me their sincere concern, and their commitment to address
this situation. Now those commitments must be met by actions by all
relevant authorities. Yesterday, the Government of Indonesia and the
UN High Commissioner for Refugees launched a joint effort to begin
evacuating East Timorese displaced persons out of camps in West Timor
back to East Timor. This is a welcome and positive first step. If the
displaced persons are registered, international organizations must be
involved, and the process must meet international standards. The UNHCR
must be involved in each step so that this process works. The crisis
in Timor can only be resolved through a cooperative effort between the
Indonesian authorities and the international community. The United
States is prepared to do its part.
In my meetings in West Timor and here in Jakarta, my message has been
the same: It is critical that repatriation of all those who want to
return to East Timor be carried out swiftly and in cooperation with
international agencies and NGOS. The Indonesian Government must take
immediate steps to halt, disarm, and disband militia activities in
order to create a safe, secure environment- free from intimidation-
both inside and outside the West Timor camps. It is essential that
East Timorese refugees be allowed to make a free and informed choice
about whether to return to East Timor, to remain in West Timor, or to
be resettled elsewhere, without fear of retribution.
The military must respect human rights throughout Indonesia, and it
must be clear that the military operates under civilian control. Human
rights will not be fully respected here until wanton killings and
destruction are fully investigated and those responsible are held
accountable whether for the brutal devastation of East Timor or for
illegal acts by security forces against student demonstrators
elsewhere in the country. This country's military leadership has
repeatedly stated its intention to respect the will of the people -
whether in East or West Timor, or anywhere else in the country. They
have also stated their intention to assure that the militias and, in
particular, their leaders, do not threaten and do not harm anyone. My
government calls on the TNI leadership to carry out this stated
commitment.
Let me also say a word about the disinformation campaign that is now
being carried out in the West Timor refugee camps. Many of the East
Timorese with whom we met said they feared to return because INTERFET
was "massacring" people in East Timor. Of course, nothing of the sort
is happening, and the Indonesian Government needs to take immediate
steps to counter this kind of militia-generated propaganda. I know
that Coordinating Minister Haryono has launched an information
campaign advising refugees that they can make their own choices as to
whether to return to East Timor or remain in Indonesia. This campaign
must urgently be supplemented with accurate information informing
refugees about the true state of affairs in East Timor.
In urging these actions, I speak not as an unsympathetic critic, but
as an Asian-American, who like you, has deep ties to this part of the
world. My parents were born in South Korea and also experienced the
pain of watching their homeland divided and watching their country
struggle toward a democratic transition. At stake in this crisis are
not just the lives and safety of as many as 230,000 East Timorese
people, but Indonesia's international reputation. I pledge my
whole-hearted support, and that of my government, to the efforts of
all Indonesians to bring their country into the new millennium as a
democracy in which the human rights of all inhabitants are fully
respected.
Thank you.
(end text)




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