Subject: RT: ANALYSIS-Violence jeopardises East Timor ballots
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 08:34:50 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

ANALYSIS-Violence jeopardises East Timor ballots 05:41 a.m. Apr 11, 1999 Eastern

By Chris McCall

JAKARTA, April 11 (Reuters) - A surge in violence in East Timor is likely to prevent any ballot being held there, political analysts said on Sunday.

A U.N. vote scheduled for July on the future of the former Portuguese colony, which Indonesia annexed in 1976, would be impossible to hold, they said.

But more immediately, violence between separatist and pro-Jakarta forces could prevent the disputed territory taking part in Indonesia's June 7 election.

If that happened, similar cancellations in other areas of the archipelago where there is unrest could follow -- and even jeopardise the general election, they said.

``There had been agreement that there would be some form of national election in East Timor, separate to the election elsewhere,'' said Alan Dupont, director of the Australian National University's Asia-Pacific Security Programme.

``All that seems to have gone by the by now.''

Officially, East Timor is still to participate in the June 7 vote. But a Western diplomat based in Jakarta said he had already heard suggestions that the election in East Timor might only be a partial one.

In the present climate he could not see how it could be held at all, the diplomat said. If the election could not be held, then it would be no easier to hold the U.N.-sponsored ballot on broad-ranging autonomy for East Timor in July, he said.

``I think in the end it is going to get too difficult. It depends on what the moves are with the U.N. and what the moves are with the government,'' said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A massacre in Liquisa, 30 km (20 miles) west of Dili, and other clashes has soured the atmosphere between pro-Jakarta and pro-independence forces. A call to arms by guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao has been dubbed an ``offer of war'' by pro-integration militias and met with mass shows of force.

The United Nations has already cautioned that the July ballot will be scrapped unless the violence in East Timor subsides.

If the general election were postponed or cancelled in several areas, it could cast doubt on whether the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's highest legislative body, would be ready to elect a new president later in the year, the diplomat said.

Dupont of the Australian National University said the growing violence in East Timor suggested the leadership of the armed forces, known by their acronym ABRI, was unable to control its troops on the ground.

``We are getting very dangerously close to the whole thing falling apart. I don't know how long Xanana can keep his people on the leash,'' Dupont said.

Criticism of ABRI over the past year had made its leadership wary of taking firm action when needed, he said.

Apart from trouble in East Timor, more than 450 people have died in violence this year in Borneo's Sambas region and the far eastern Moluccas, the spice islands of history. There is unrest in several other regions as well.

``You have to ask yourself who is calling the shots here and I don't think the ABRI leadership in Jakarta are,'' said Dupont.

Indonesia expert Harold Crouch said East Timor appeared to be a low priority for Jakarta right now.

``Their attention's on other areas and you can hardly blame them,'' he said.

But if ABRI's leadership was seen to be unable to guarantee security, it would encourage those wanting to make trouble.

``People will feel they can get away with it,'' said Crouch.

Back to April Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99