The Humanitarian Times

September 17, 1999

 

- ALGERIAN CIVIL CONCORD REFERENDUM APPROVED BY 99% OF VOTERS Voter turnout was 85%, signaling resolution of the 7-year conflict in which 60,000 were killed. The referendum approves Pres. Bouteflika's peace plan (already passed by the Senate & Parliament), which grants amnesty to tens of thousands of Islamic rebels. Bouteflika (elected last May) said he would step down were the referendum to fail.

- UN (FAO) FOOD ASSESSMENT FINDS 1.5 MILLION SOMALIS FOOD INSECURE & in need of aid, due to a poor Gu harvest. "Damage to infrastructure & lack of inputs as a result of civil strife have contributed to low yields. Spare parts & fuel for tractors are in short supply, & a lack of pesticides has led to a proliferation of pests (army worms, stalk borers). The fighting, especially in C & S Somalia, has hampered commercial food trade & distribution of food aid."

- SERBIA WILL LACK KEY HOUSEHOLD ENERGY DURING WINTER COLD, finds a UN Humanitarian Affairs office "Humanitarian Risk Analysis" of Yugoslavia released 2 weeks ago, citing heating failure as risk to urban poor; pensioners meanwhile will have little disposable income for food. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that net damage from bombing of Serbia exceeds $60 billion.

- MILLIONS DISPLACED BY HURRICANE FLOYD, IN SE U.S., CARIBBEAN. Floyd, a level 4 hurricane, clocked wind-speeds of 230 km/hour. Damage to the Bahaman Islands is being assessed by the Caribbean Emergency Response Agency: CDERAatCaribsurf.com.

- CAROL BELLAMY WILL SERVE 2nd TERM DIRECTING UNICEF it was announced last week. This week, speaking at a conf in Africa, Bellamy said "Some 200,000 people, most of them children & women, died in 1998 as a result of armed conflict on the African continent; & yet 2 million Africans were killed by AIDS in that same year."

- SUDAN CRISIS: 11 HUMANITARIAN AID GROUPS PRESSED US DEPT OF STATE Secretary M Albright on Wed. to provide aid for civil society in both N & S Sudan & show more leadership in brokering a resolution to the arguably "un-winnable" 20-year conflict in the south.

- ANNUAL REPORT ON INTL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RELEASED LAST WEEK by US Dept of State examining areas where freedom of religion does not exist, including S. Arabia, Pakistan & Iran. It is available online: www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/irf/irf_rpt/index.html.

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FOCUS ON EAST TIMOR

 

- UN ESTIMATES 7,000+ KILLED & 250,000 FORCIBLY DISPLACED IN E TIMOR

- UN SECURITY COUNCIL PLANS PEACE ENFORCEMENT MISSION OF 7,000 TROOPS to East Timor, led by 4,000+ Australians (against the wishes of Indonesia's Parliament). Local right-wing paramilitaries in Indonesia have stated they will kill international forces. Paramilitaries were created, trained & supported by Indonesia's Kopassus Special Forces.

There is speculation that the goal of the resistance is to carve out some of the more valuable agricultural lands to be added to West Timor, even if East Timor secures independence. Armed pro- independence Timorese groups have stayed in the hills, avoiding direct confrontation with the Indonesian military & paramilitaries.

- FIRST INDONESIAN TROOPS SET TO WITHDRAW, OUT OF 9,000 TOTAL IN E TIMOR

- AIR DROPS TO INTERNALLY DISPLACED START TODAY, AFTER DELAYS.

Food stocks build in Australia's staging area, Darwin. UNHCR condemned Indonesia's authorities for breaking their promise to allow food to be trucked in by road. UN OCHA's Kevin Kennedy reached Dare (south of Dili) on Wed.& found that many Timorese had retreated further into the bush. Bishop Belo called for massive humanitarian relief: "While diplomats talk, my country is being destroyed." Some aid groups (primarily American) helping Timor are listed online: www.interaction.org/easttimor/index.html

- WEST TIMOR NOW DRAWN INTO LAWLESSNESS, STOLEN GOODS, REFUGEES Community Aid Abroad (Australian NGO) reports on the growing number of militia, & stolen goods entering Kupang port in Indonesian West Timor province: "The harbor was transformed into a market, as goods from Dili were sold to Kupang merchants and residents." An estimated 200,000 refugees in W Timor, from E Timor, need water & sanitation.

Access to the 75,000 refugees in Atambua has been limited, as in other camps: "international agencies trying to conduct assessments or implement emergency programs there have been discouraged by threats & intimidation by militia." Two employees of the Intl. Comm. of the Red Cross were abducted along the border.

- AUSTRALIA HOSTS 2,200+ NEW REFUGEES FROM TIMOR AT DARWIN CAMP

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RECENT LITERATURE

 

Attention to the crisis in East Timor is a long time in coming. In the 1970s, when Indonesia mounted an unprovoked invasion, only the NY Times ran any news on Timor, and only Noam Chomsky attempted to call attention to the crisis, echoed by Congressman Tony Hall in the 1990s.

Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in Dec. 1975, & ongoing occupation has never been accepted by the UN. Catholic aid groups estimated that 100,000 died of starvation & violence in the early occupation 1976-77.

More recently, in 1991, 250+ mourners were shot & killed by the occupying troops at a cemetery in Santa Cruz, E Timor. Even in 1998 dozens of houses burned & thousands were displaced. The end of Suharto's military rule of Indonesia permitted new President Habibie to begin the process, in early 1999, of allowing East Timor to become independent, although the Indonesian military has independently created paramilitary forces who have, in recent weeks, destroyed much of the evidence and many of the witnesses that document the human rights problems in E Timor.

- EAST TIMOR'S HISTORY EXPLAINED IN PERSONAL STORY of Nobel Peace Prize co-Winner (1996) Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo in the 1999 biography "From the Place of the Dead: The Epic Struggles of Bishop Belo of East Timor" (by Arnold S Kohen NY: St.

Martin's Press). The book primarily tells of the background, education & travails of Belo, of the Catholic Salesian order, who has consistently advocated for peace in East Timor. Passages explain how Indonesia's military view the Timorese: "Indonesian troops arrived in Dili in the predawn hours of Dec. 7, 1975. Soldiers of Muslim background were told they were sent to fight a jihad, or holy war, against pagan infidels. For many of them, the peoples of the Outer Islands had traditionally been regarded as culturally inferior, all the more so for East Timor, a land that had never been part of the republic, with vastly different languages & customs... What the CIA knew became public only more than 15 years later... there was hard evidence of many atrocities." During the period of destruction of crops (bombing), forced labor, 90% of military equipment used in 1976/77 invasion was supplied by the US. The biography also covers e werless to prevent it."

- For more information on E Timor, see C Pinto's 1997 "East Timor's Unfinished Struggle" (Boston: South End Press) an autobiographical firsthand account of 1980s attempts to garner intl attention to the crisis in E Timor; or Geoffrey Gunn 1997 "East Timor & the UN: The Case for Intervention" (Asmara, Eritrea: Red Sea Press) which is strong on references of international conventions on E Timor, or "East Timor at the Crossroads: Forging of a Nation" (Peter Carey, editor 1995 NY: Social Science Research Council) which compiles essays on the undercurrents of change & prospects for independence.

- "THE POLITICS OF POST-SUHARTO INDONESIA" EXAMINES JAVA IN THE 1990s, (co-edited by A Schwarz & J Paris 1999 New York: Council on Foreign Relations) & collects five angles on recent political forces surrounding the final end of General Suharto's dictatorship in May 1998, including the various anti-Chinese & anti-Christian riots in 1996, 97 & 98 (one riot in May 1998 led to 1,200 deaths), Suharto's mass education & support to Muslim movements, & the humanitarian crisis resulting from financial problems after 1997. "Some 40 million Indonesians were vulnerable to food shortages because of high inflation, a low exchange rate and loss of jobs." Some of the anti-Chinese riots are credited to Suharto's son-in-law, Prabowo. The power of the Army Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) and the Army Special Forces (of 10,000 troops, based in Jakarta) is examined. One author finds that the IMF remedies imposed on Indonesia in 1998 were not appropriate for SE Asian economies with budget surpluses, low inflation and stable foreign exchange reserves.

The problem was a pre-1996 "lending binge by international money market managers and investment banks with the borrowed funds going for investments in real estate and other non-exporting sectors." One of the principal economic reforms was the creation of the New Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency which has taken over 54 banks & is monitoring 250 others. As happened last week, with regard to East Timor, in 1998 the US canceled a joint training exercise with the Indonesian Armed forces: "The US had circumstantial evidence that elements in the Indonesian armed Forces were kidnapping & torturing political dissidents."

- "THE RAPE OF NANKING: THE FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST OF WORLD WAR II" by Iris Chang (1997 NY: Basic Books) who writes that she "became terrified that the history of 300,000 murdered Chinese might disappear just as they themselves had disappeared under Japanese occupation.

Many in Japan continue to treat the war crimes as the isolated acts of individual soldiers or even as events that did not occur." This historiography documents the massacres, torture of women, medical tests on Chinese prisoners, torching of surrounding villages & looting that occurred in 1936-38. "To encourage addiction & further enslave the people, the Japanese routinely used narcotics as payment for labor & prostitution in Nanking."

Chang explores how an otherwise civilized society trained its soldiers to kill noncombatants: the Japanese military set up "various games & exercises to numb its men to the human instinct against killing people who are not attacking." In 1946 & 47 War Crimes tribunals convicted some but not all Japanese leaders responsible.