|Subject: AFP: Indonesian armed forces, government
pledge commitment to fair vote
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 09:16:22 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Indonesian armed forces, government pledge commitment to fair Timor vote
DILI, East Timor, July 12 (AFP) - A high-powered Indonesian delegation pledged here Monday the whole government and its armed forces were committed to allowing a fair vote on self-determination in East Timor next month.
"TNI (the Indonesian military) and police fully support the agreement achieved by the government in the tripartite (agreement)," armed forces chief General Wiranto told a press conference here.
"The decision (by President B.J. Habibie on holding the vote) is final, the benefit and detriments have been carefully calculated and together we support the policy," he said.
Wiranto was speaking at the end of a day-long visit by 16 top Indonesian ministers, including Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, and 15 senior officials who flew from Jakarta for talks with UN mission (UNAMET) and local officials.
The high-powered whirlwind visit came two days after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that lack of security -- which is the responsibility of the Indonesian police -- threatened the polls.
Annan squarely blamed Indonesia for having to delay the start of voter registration for three days from Tuesday, saying the process could get under way on Friday only if tangible improvements in security were witnessed before then.
The UN secretary general said the main reason for the delay was Jakarta's failure to control armed pro-Indonesian militias operating "with impunity" in the former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975.
The militias have openly attacked and intimidated both pro-independence East Timorese and most recently UNAMET.
Alatas told the press conference the number of ministers in the delegation "shows our government's determination and our sincerity and our seriousness to really implement what we have agreed to do on the basis of the New York agreement."
He said Indonesia "welcomed" the three-day delay, but added: "One way or another it will not affect ... the holding of the actual allotting.
"That is a different decision, and it is still going to be held two weeks after the date of August 8. Except that the exact date has not yet been determined, whether it will be August 21 or August 22."
He refused to be drawn out on what specific measures the government and the military would take to improve security, saying only: "The security situation is continuously improving.
"There are still some sporadic events that should not have happened, but they are being overcome," he said, adding Indonesian authorities were "getting to the bottom" of the two most serious militia attacks on UNAMET.
"The culprits are being investigated now. We are getting to the bottom of it ... and we are also taking other measures that will continue to improve the security situation."
Annan's special envoy Francesc Vendrell said after an hour-long meeting with Alatas at police headquarters they had discussed "the conditions laid down in the agreement, both in terms of security and in terms of allowing a greater level playing field."
"I think I have seen and I have noticed a great willingness to see the problem as it is and to do something about it," he said in apparent reference to the militia's control of swathes of the countryside and their herding tens of thousands of people from their villages.
"They (the Indonesian government) have certainly said they will take measures that we believe are needed to allow everybody to express their views, to allow everybody to have freedom of movement in the territory."
Under an agreement signed in New York in May with the UN, Indonesia and Portugal agreed the East Timorese should vote on August 8 on whether they accept an offer of integration with Indonesia with broad autonomy.
Indonesia has said it will consider offering independence if the offer is rejected.
The agreement leaves security in the hands of the Indonesian police, with unarmed UN civilian police acting as advisors.
But last month Annan delayed the vote by two weeks, citing both logistical and security reasons.
And on Saturday, with almost the full UNAMET complement of some 900 police and polling officers deployed, Annan said he was delaying voter registration until Friday to allow time for Indonesia to take "concrete steps" on security.
On Friday Annan is to decide whether to go ahead with the vote as scheduled.