Subject: Alkatiri: Fretilin will not initiate violence if it loses elections [+Poll's "technical mistake]

also: Timor Leste election was free and fair: South Africa; "Technical mistake" clouds ETimor poll

The Jakarta Post Monday, April 16, 2007

Fretilin will not initiate violence if it loses elections, Alkatiri says

Though he is no longer the prime minister of Timor Leste, Mari Alkatiri -- the secretary general of the country's largest political party Fretilin -- is an influential political figure. The Jakarta Post's Abdul Khalik interviewed Alkatiri on Saturday in Dili. The following are excerpts from the interview.

Question: How do you evaluate the presidential election so far?

Answer: It has passed very quietly although a lot of intimidation took place in some places, including in Dili. We (Fretilin) have been accused of intimidation. But in reality, we were intimidated by others in Dili, Liquica, Ermera and Bobonaro. But this is no time to make such claims and create difficulties for the country. We have decided to accept the results, and we will be ready for the second round. We are still confident that we will win the presidency.

What about accusations of fraud against Fretilin?

These accusations are completely baseless. There are a lot of international officials and observers monitoring the CNE and STAE (the bodies handling the election). So how can such claims be made? We could even accuse CNE of fraudulent behavior because its spokesman has not been neutral.

Many people said we would not accept the results, and now we have accepted the results, they are accusing us of fraud.

How do you expect to win the run-off when most losing candidates are likely to unite behind Ramos-Horta?

That is not certain. Even if the losing candidates can get together (to support Ramos-Horta), their supporters may change their minds. I am sure that a lot of them will vote for Mr. Lu 'Olo (Francisco Guterres Lu 'Olo).

International media and observers seem to think it was members of Fretilin who initiated the recent violence. Do you have a comment on this?

Again, these accusations are baseless. On the contrary, we have been the victims of violence since April last year despite the fact that we refrained from violence. That is why the country is stable. I decided to resign from the post of prime minister last year to avoid violence and bloodshed in this country. We have proven during the last 10 months that we have refrained from violence. However, a lot of provocation is coming from other groups against our people. Now that we are close to victory, there is no reason to start violence.

What if Fretilin loses? Will there be any violence?

It is completely wrong to think that we will initiate violence if we lose the election. But I don't think other groups will accept the result if they lose the election.

What did actually happen during your term as prime minister?

Problems that we face in this country come from the top. The situation between President Xanana (Gusmao) and myself as the prime minister had worsened and although we tried to avoid it, eventually it was not possible. They wanted me out of the government. If there was a president from Fretilin and a parliament predominately made up of Fretilin members, we could create stability. We could send a clear message to the people that there would no longer be conflict within the government. We are going to work together in solidarity with the institutions so the country can return to normal.

What will happen if Fretilin either loses the presidency or control of the parliament?

If Fretilin wins the presidency but loses the parliamentary elections there will be problems between the government and the parliament. But our presidential candidate will work with the government and the prime minister. We don't know what it will be like if the opposite occurs. It would be difficult to deal with Ramos-Horta because he is a man without a plan and a vision. He has ideas and goodwill but no plans. I am a friend of Ramos-Horta. I know him very well. But even I think he would be worse than Xanana in this position. Anyway, we will try to cooperate if he wins because there is no other option. It is the decision of the people.

Will you run for the post of prime minister to challenge Xanana?

No, I am not considering running for the post of prime minister. Someone else from the party will run. I will lead the party during the parliamentary elections but this doesn't mean I will become prime minister.

What would a Fretilin-led government do?

First of all, we would create a safe environment for the people of this country and send refugees back to their respective homelands. We would resolve the problems of Maj. Alfredo Reinado (influential rebel leader). We would prioritize making the police force more professional and not politicized. We have been accused of politicizing the police force. But in 2006 when the conflict started between the military and police, there were still 160 international police advisors in the country. What were they doing? We also need to establish a clear policy on the army, which would stop them fighting with the police. Then we could develop the country, create jobs, invest in infrastructure, telecommunications, power and particularly in education and health.

What about oil money from the Timor Gap?

Of course we will use that money. The law on that money is very clear, and it was adopted unanimously by all. How can we bring development to the country if we don't use that money? But actually you can't just distribute the oil money to the people. We don't want to hold on to the money for nothing when the country needs to invest in infrastructure, education and health. We've successfully avoided debt although we have been under pressure to go to the World Bank or IMF. However, if we can manage to get money on easy terms then we will use that rather than our own money. It's completely wrong also to accuse us of not being transparent in managing money while every month we have presented a report to the public.

What about future relations between Timor Leste and Indonesia?

We need Indonesia as you are our closest neighbor. We still feel good things about Indonesia and we need to resolve all pending issues with the country. Timor Leste is a very small country in between giants. We need to play a role in bringing everybody together and stopping conflict. This is the only way for small countries to survive. It is totally wrong to say that Fretilin would prioritize Portugal or Mozambique.


The Jakarta Post Monday, April 16, 2007

Timor Leste election was free and fair: South Africa

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The atmosphere in Dili during the election campaign and at the time of voting was calm and peaceful and both were in accordance with electoral regulations, South Africa's observer mission said last week.

The South African government sent a four-member election observer mission to Timor Leste. The team was led by the South African Ambassador to Indonesia, who is also accredited to Timor Leste, Griffiths Mandlenkosi Memela.

"In the voting stations visited by the South African mission, the voting process was well organized, with electoral officers adhering to the operating schedule as prescribed in the election manual," the mission said in a press release sent to The Jakarta Post last week from Dili.

Despite earlier concerns about the possibility of a resurgence of violence during the elections, the release said, the atmosphere at voting stations was calm and no incidents of harassment, violence or victimization were reported.

"Voters were generally well behaved, demonstrating maturity and readiness to exercise their choice, free from any undue influence.

"Electoral officers and party officials were disciplined and vigilant throughout the process, creating an atmosphere that was conducive for voters to exercise their democratic rights to elect a candidate of their choice," the mission said.

According to the release, United Nations Police units were deployed at voting stations and International Stabilization Force (ISF) personnel were visible and patrolled the streets to ensure law and order without intimidating voters and interfering with the election process.

"Based on the observations made in the foregoing, the observer mission concludes that the presidential elections held on April 9, 2007, were free and fair, and that the results will be a true reflection of the will of the people of Timor-Leste," the mission said.

The mission thanked the government of Timor-Leste for extending an invitation to South Africa to send observers. The mission also commended the National Election Commission, United Nations Mission in Timor Leste (UNMIT) and the Timor Leste people for delivering a successful election process.


"Technical mistake" clouds ETimor poll

DILI, April 15 (AFP) -- A huge discrepancy between the number of registered voters in a district and the actual number of votes reported was the result of a technical error, an East Timorese electoral commission spokesman said Sunday.

Confusion surrounding the first round of voting in East Timor's presidential election mounted on Saturday when the election commission said the Baucau district, with 100,000 eligible voters, had produced three times as many votes.

The figure of 300,000 "was not at all there," Martinho Gusmao, spokesman for the national election commission, told a press conference here.

"This discrepancy was a technical mistake by the STAE (East Timorese Technical Secretariat for Election Administration) and the polling staff," Gusmao said, adding that the real figure was around 100,000 votes.

He said the mistake was "in the matter of writing up the figure," and was only discovered Saturday evening.

Election commission chief Faustino Cardoso said the error was a technical mistake by polling staff.

"The distortion at several polling centres was because of their lack of capacity and knowledge of the electoral process," Cardoso told journalists separately.

Gusmao declined to say whether the mistake had affected the results so far. He said the final results would be taken to the court of appeal, where it would be decided whether a second round would be necessary.

East Timor, which is holding its first presidential poll since independence in 2002, has just 520,000 eligible voters.

Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's current prime minister, and Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres, the ruling Fretilin party's candidate, have emerged from a field of eight candidates to contest the run-off.

The commission said Friday that serious flaws in the election could force some areas to repeat first-round voting.

Most of the candidates who stood formally demanded a recount, even though international observers said the poll in the former Portuguese colony was generally orderly and peaceful.

The commission had rejected a recount on Thursday, saying there was no legal basis on which to grant the request.

A number of the candidates also raised the possibility that voters were intimidated, stoking fears of instability in the troubled state ahead of the second round.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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