East Timor Observer Project Seeks Volunteer Observers and Support for UN Consultative Vote in East Timor - Please Help!

For more information, visit the IFET Web Pages.

After twenty-four years of terror and intimidation, the people of East Timor may finally get the chance to determine their own future. Due to the resilience of the East Timorese resistance to Indonesian occupation and international pressure, Indonesia has finally agreed to a U.N.-run "popular consultation" on the fate of East Timor, to be held August 8th of this year.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, just as the Portuguese colonial government was in the process of withdrawing from the tiny half-island. Since 1975, 200,000 East Timorese - nearly one third of the population - have lost their lives under the occupation. For over twenty years, the Timorese have been struggling for independence. Last year, with the overthrow of President Suharto (who came to power in a military coup in 1965), the East Timorese seized the opportunity to openly demonstrate for independence from Indonesia. Suharto's successor, President Habibie has promised to honor the results of the August 8th vote, even if the majority of East Timorese residents vote for independence over autonomy.

Despite Habibie's promises, the Indonesian military has armed and directed paramilitary groups to kill and intimidate East Timorese who support independence for their country. These militias have created a climate of terror and internal flight surpassed only by the years immediately following the 1975 invasion. At least 50,000 East Timorese have fled their villages and become refugees in their own country. Known paramilitary killings over the last two months number in the hundreds although the actual death toll is probably much higher. A death list with the names of 275 independence and human rights leaders has been circulated by the paramilitaries, driving many into hiding.

1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta has called for a strong international presence in East Timor around the time of the August vote. This presence will be a deterrent to further violence and could help create a climate in which a fair and safe vote can be held.

International Federation for East Timor (IFET), of which the US - based East Timor Action Network is a member, has created a project that will send at least two hundred people from across the globe as UN-accredited observers for the time around the August 8th vote. This observer team will be responsible for:

  1. Human rights monitoring, including personal observation and interviews with non-governmental organizations.
  2. Observing the UN processes of voter registration, campaigning, the vote itself, and the transition to either autonomy or independence which will follow the vote.

Please help with this urgently needed work! Here's what you can do:

  1. We're looking for at least 70 observers from the United States to go to East Timor around the time of the scheduled August 8th vote. Applications and information can be found at www.etan.org, or contact Pam Sexton at 831-728-4190 or cake@isaac.exploratorium.edu. Please forward this announcement to anyone else who might be interested in applying for the project.
  2. Funding for this project is urgently needed! The presence of the UN and international journalists in the capital city of East Timor means that facilities and equipment we need there are now at least 10 times their normal price. Contributions will go to: Contributions can be earmarked for project needs in the US or in East Timor (indicate "observer project" in the subject line of your check). Please send checks made out to the East Timor Action Network to:
              P.O. Box 1182
              White Plains, NY 10602
  3. We are also seeking donations of relevant equipment, such as modem-equipped laptops in reliable working condition and satellite phones. For more information, contact Matthew Jardine at 310-450-5375 or Kristin Sundell at 773-878-4033.
  4. If you are interested in financially sponsoring or providing other support (ie. assistance with media work, being part of an emergency support network) to someone from your state or city who is traveling to East Timor, please contact Kristin Sundell at 773-878-4033 or etanfield@igc.org. Donations of frequent flyer miles are also helpful, for info on donating frequent flyer miles, contact Mark Salzer at 781-648-0548.
  5. Please forward this information to others who may be interested in supporting this work!

The East Timor Action Network/U.S. supports genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of East Timor and democracy in Indonesia. For more information about ETAN or this project, contact Charlie Scheiner at 914-428-7299 or charlie@etan.org or visit our web site at www.etan.org.

Thank you for your support of this vital work!

ETAN/Seattle Webmaster <davidb@scn.org>