WASHINGTON (June 10, 1999) -- "Decisive action" by the international community will mean the difference between a peaceful vote and continued bloodshed in East Timor, according to the Chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee.
In a statement released today, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark (NJ) called for applying greater diplomatic pressure on the government of Indonesia as the residents of East Timor prepare to vote later this summer on autonomy or independence for their region.
"We respectfully urge that our own government act decisively to take the necessary steps, including consideration of maintaining a resident diplomatic presence in the territory throughout this period," Archbishop McCarrick said.
The territory of East Timor has been plunged into violence since Indonesian President Habibie announced in late January that the people would be given a choice between autonomy and independence. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese half of the island of Timor in 1975 and annexed the area in 1976. The vote is currently scheduled for August 8.
"Thus far this year, the people of East Timor have experienced a level of violence not seen since the 1970s," Archbishop McCarrick said. "Estimates of people killed in recent weeks range from well over 300 to as many as 1,000."
Archbishop McCarrick said that unless the violence is brought under control, "the conditions essential for a fair and free vote will be seriously lacking."
Full text of Archbishop McCarrick's statement.