Subject: AFP: UN administrator appeals for vigilance ahead of Timor poll

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP) Date: 28 Aug 2001

UN administrator appeals for vigilance ahead of Timor poll

by Bronwyn Curran

DILI, East Timor, Aug 28 (AFP) - The head of the United Nations' administration here appealed to East Timorese voters on Tuesday to beware attempts to disturb this week's historic polls, but said he foresaw no violence.

"The fact that the election campaign unfolded ... in a peaceful manner does not mean that 'agents provocateurs' may not try in the next couple of days, or when the results are announced, to destabilise the process," Sergio Vieira de Mello told a media conference.

"They will fail, because we know the population and their leaders and ourselves are ready to face them," he said ahead of Thursday's first free elections in the territory.

De Mello said his appeal for caution did not mean that he was anticipating violence.

"We do not see foresee any violence on the 30th or in coming days. But we need to remain vigilant."

Tight security plans have been in place "for quite some time," de Mello added.

"The lead is in our international civilian police supported by East Timorese police, and if necessary by our military peace force," he said.

Almost 1,500 foreign UN police are deployed in East Timor alongside 850 East Timorese police officers. Another 8,000 armed foreign peacekeepers and 150 unarmed military observers are stationed across the country.

"In case of need they can intervene very, very rapidly," de Mello added.

As de Mello issued his warning fervent supporters of front-runner party Fretilin turned Dili's streets into a sea of red, black and gold, the colours of the veteran resistance party, on the final campaign day.

Thousands of Fretilin loyalists, some with painted face and bodies, waved flags from convoys of bicycles, motorbikes, open jeeps and trucks, blowing car horns and yelling 'Viva Fretilin.'

The party, which counts at least 270,000 supporters, is predicting a landslide victory.

It is one of 16 parties contesting the August 30 election for an 88-seat constituent assembly, a major milestone on the road to nationhood by the former Portuguese colony and Indonesian province.

The poll falls exactly two years after 78.5 percent of East Timorese voted in a UN-sponsored ballot to split from Indonesia, ending 24 years of brutally enforced occupation. Pro-Jakarta militias responded with an orgy of violence and destruction.

Organisers have hailed the peaceful six-week campaign period, which ends Tuesday for a 24 hour cooling off period ahead of the vote.

"So far not one single death since the election campaign began. Not one single hand grenade exploding, or a shot being fired," Jose Ramos Horta, interim foreign minister and Nobel peace laureate, told AFP.

"The situation is extremely, remarkably peaceful, the political parties have behaved in a very civilised fashion, our people have shown remarkable tolerance."

De Mello said repeated infiltrations by pro-Jakarta East Timorese militia from Indonesian-ruled West Timor, which were occurring this time last year, were unlikely.

"I believe the hardcore militia extremists learnt a lesson from the way in which we dealt with the infiltrations last year and I hope they will not test us again because they will regret it."

De Mello also praised the Indonesian military's crackdown on militias in West Timor in recent weeks, including weapons sweeps.

He added he was trying to confirm information that Indonesian immigration officials were closing their border with East Timor for five days before and after the poll.

"There is no need whatsoever for the border to be closed," de Mello said.

The UN took over the territory's administration in October 1999 to prepare it for independence. Apart from soldiers and police it has 1,000 foreign civilians, 2,000 East Timorese civilians and 800 volunteers engaged in running the future nation.

bc/sm/jkb AFP

Copyright (c) 2001 Agence France-Presse

August Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from