Merkley and Wyden Urge Senate Leaders to Vote on Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste

Merkley and Wyden Urge Senate Leaders to Vote on Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste

Help for Oregonian detained in Timor-Leste is hindered by lack of Ambassador

WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today wrote to Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to urge them to schedule a vote this month, on the nomination of Karen Stanton to be the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste. This request is based on the case of Dr. Stacey Addison, an Oregon veterinarian who has been detained and imprisoned in Timor-Leste awaiting an investigation that could take a year or more.

“We appreciate the resolve the U.S. Embassy in Timor-Leste has shown in supporting Dr. Addison and communicating with our offices.  We also know that any embassy’s ability to speak directly to the most senior foreign officials is limited in the absence of a U.S. Ambassador,” wrote the Senators. “Dr. Addison’s case highlights the real costs of our inability to confirm ambassadorial nominees and we urge you to schedule votes on Ms. Stanton’s nomination and the other qualified nominees awaiting their turn.”

The offices of Senator’s Merkley and Wyden have been in contact with the State Department about Dr. Addison’s case and are working to do everything they can to assist Dr. Addison and her family to bring this terrible situation to a quick and positive resolution.

Text of the letter follows:

November 6, 2014

The Honorable Harry Reid                            

Majority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510                                 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Minority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to bring the case of Dr. Stacey Addison to your attention as a real example of how the Senate’s failure to confirm qualified diplomatic nominees limits our ability to help Americans abroad.  When the Senate returns on November 12, we urge you to schedule votes on the many qualified ambassadorial nominees who have been waiting, including the nomination of Karen Stanton to be the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste. 

Dr. Addison is a resident of Portland, Oregon and a veterinarian who decided to spend a year traveling the world and volunteering.  In early September, she crossed from Indonesia into Timor-Leste and split a private taxi to Dili, the Timorese capitol.  The taxi already had a passenger, which press reports say is common for Timor-Leste.  When the driver stopped to allow the other passenger to pick up a package, Timorese police raided the car and arrested everybody.  Dr. Addison learned only later that the package contained illicit drugs. 

The Timorese authorities initially jailed Dr. Addison for five days and, though she was not charged with any crime, they confiscated her passport upon releasing her.  Without her passport, she has remained effectively imprisoned in Timor-Leste awaiting an investigation that could take a year or more.  Worse, in a dramatic and unexpected turn of events, Timorese authorities rearrested Dr. Addison last week and committed her to the women’s prison at Gleno, where she remains.  We have been told that she could remain there, held without charge, for the duration of the Timorese government’s investigation. 

We appreciate the resolve the U.S. Embassy in Timor-Leste has shown in supporting Dr. Addison and communicating with our offices.  We also know that any embassy’s ability to speak directly to the most senior foreign officials is limited in the absence of a U.S. Ambassador.  What Dr. Addison’s case needs now is strong leadership in Dili.  As Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in July, “[w]e simply cannot lead if we are not represented.”   

In July 2013, the President nominated Karen Stanton, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, to serve as America’s Ambassador to Timor-Leste.  Ms. Stanton’s nomination is neither controversial nor partisan; she has served her country honorably for more than 25 years, in places like Beijing and Islamabad, and as director of the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  She was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 15, 2014, without any objection.  Despite all of this, her nomination has been pending for more than 460 days. 

We share your belief that the United States Senate is at its best when serving as a forum for deliberation and debate.  We also hope you share our belief that the entire country suffers when partisan or ideological disagreement prevents the Senate from confirming qualified, noncontroversial nominees.  Dr. Addison’s case highlights the real costs of our inability to confirm ambassadorial nominees and we urge you to schedule votes on Ms. Stanton’s nomination and the other qualified nominees awaiting their turn. 

Sincerely,

Jeffrey A. Merkley                                                                              Ron Wyden

United States Senator                                                                         United States Senator