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Reps Support Robust UN Mission for East Timor

U.S. Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz
Representing the 13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2006


Reps Call on U.S. to Support Robust UN Mission for ET

U.S. Representative Schwartz Calls on Secretary of State Rice to Support Robust United Nations Mission to East Timor

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz, joined by 44 of her congressional colleagues, called upon Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to support a robust United Nations mission to East Timor, where violence has caused civil unrest over the past several months.

Located in Southeast Asia near Indonesia, East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. Following the vote, militias backed by elements of the Indonesian military ravaged the country. The United Nations and the international community played an instrumental role in helping East Timor restore order and move toward stability and democracy. However, as the United Nations has rapidly scaled back its mission post-independence, serious problems within East Timor’s police and military infrastructure have been exposed. These problems, in part, contributed to the outbreak of violence in March between disgruntled soldiers and government troops. The recent clashes have led to the dislocation of more than 100,000 civilians – the worst violence since 1999.

As an appointed member of the bipartisan House Democracy Assistance Commission, Representative Schwartz traveled to East Timor in February 2006. This trip marked the first-ever congressional delegation visit to the nation, and was seen by many as an important step in helping to strengthen democracy in East Timor. During the visit to East Timor, Schwartz, along with other members of the congressional delegation, provided assistance to members of the parliament on how to structure an accountable and transparent government.

“I saw firsthand East Timor’s potential to thrive as a democracy, and I believe strongly that the United Nations has a responsibility to assist East Timor at this critical juncture. It is paramount that the United Nations play an active role in East Timor, with both a significant police and peacekeeping presence, in order to ensure that the country continues to move forward on a path towards democracy, stability, and self-sustainability,” said Rep. Schwartz.

A full copy of the letter sent to Secretary Rice follows below.

July 17, 2006

The Honorable Dr. Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

We have been watching the violence that has ensued in East Timor with a great deal of concern. Just months ago, East Timor was viewed as a model for international nation-building. However, today, the progress East Timor has made as a young democracy is under serious threat. The United Nations Security Council recently voted to renew its political mission in East Timor, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has indicated that the return of peacekeeping forces is under consideration. At this crucial juncture, we urge you to support a robust United Nations mission that includes a significant police and peacekeeping presence - with all foreign troops under UN command - to ensure that East Timor continues to make progress on the path to democracy, stability, and self-sustainability. The East Timorese government has requested such a robust mission.

As you know, following East Timor’s vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999, militias backed by elements of the Indonesian military ravaged the country. Yet East Timor - with significant support from the United Nations and international community - was able to restore order and has made substantial strides toward stability and democracy as evidenced by a United Nations report stating that East Timor has “made remarkable progress in laying the foundations for a functioning civil society.” Additionally, an agreement with the Australian government on shared revenues from offshore oil and gas fields is beginning to provide critical funds to the government and in February 2006 members of the U.S. House of Representatives Democracy Assistance Commission visited East Timor to provide advice on structuring an accountable and transparent government.

However, much work remains and as the United Nations has rapidly scaled back its mission post-independence, serious problems within East Timor’s police and military infrastructure have been exposed. The recent violence is an indication that the United Nations cannot draw-down its presence precipitously, and that it must continue to play a critical nation-building role - assisting East Timor with its efforts to consolidate and expand on the gains it has made. Therefore, we respectfully request that U.N. Ambassador Bolton strongly support a United Nations mission to help maintain order and provide support at least through next year’s crucial parliamentary and presidential elections. This mission should focus on enhanced police assistance and training to prevent violence. Additionally, a United Nations mission should help East Timor address the deeply-rooted poverty and unemployment that plagues the nation; build strong public institutions that will ensure a stable and lasting democracy and promote rule of law; bring justice and reconciliation for crimes against humanity committed during the Indonesian military occupation; and investigate the recent criminal violence.

Supporting the development of strong and self-sustaining democracies throughout the world is a vital component of U.S. foreign policy. In this case, this goal would be best advanced by supporting a robust United Nations mission working in cooperation with a sovereign East Timorese government. We thank you for your attention and we look forward to working with you on this matter.

Sincerely,

Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz

Rep. Patrick Kennedy

Rep. Lois Capps

Rep. Adam Schiff

Rep. Tom Lantos

Rep. Chris Smith

Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Rep. Betty McCollum

Rep. Jim McGovern

Rep. Howard Berman

Rep. Jim Oberstar

Rep. Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Ed Towns

Rep. Mike McNulty

Rep. Barney Frank

Rep. Eliot Engel

Rep. David Price

Rep. Donald Payne

Rep. Joe Crowley

Rep. Sam Farr

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Nita Lowey

Rep. Michael Honda

Rep. Edward J. Markey

Rep. Joseph R. Pitts

Rep. Tim Bishop

Rep. Jim McDermott

Rep. Michael Capuano

Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavenega

Rep. Raul Grijalva

Rep. James R. Langevin

Rep. Carolyn Maloney

Rep. Zoe Lofgren

Rep. Jose E. Serrano

Rep. Henry Waxman

Rep. Maurice Hinchey

Rep. Robert Wexler

Rep. James P. Moran

Rep. Sherrod Brown

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Rep. Dale E. Kildee

Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Ellen Tauscher

Rep. Chaka Fattah

cc: Ambassador John R. Bolton

http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/pa13_schwartz/EastTimor.html

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