|Subject: JP: Alatas insists East Timor ballot be
held on schedule
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 09:22:52 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Jakarta Post 14 July 1999
Alatas insists East Timor ballot be held on schedule
JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas insisted on Tuesday the popular vote to determine the future of East Timor should take place as scheduled in August.
The minister said Indonesia believed the best date for the direct ballot was Saturday, Aug. 21, rather than Aug. 22, because most East Timorese were Catholics and attended Mass on Sunday.
"We hope there will be no further delays," Alatas said after meeting with President B.J. Habibie at Merdeka Palace.
Citing logistical problems and security concerns, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced last month a two-week postponement of the originally scheduled Aug. 8 vote on self-determination for the former Portuguese colony.
Indonesia insists the ballot must not be held on a Sunday out of respect for the Catholics who make up the majority of East Timor's population. Proindependence groups, however, said Indonesia was worried church leaders would use the Sunday Mass to sway congregations to vote for independence.
"We are a religious nation ... on Sunday Catholics in East Timor go to church. The majority of East Timorese are Catholics," Alatas said.
Kofi Annan announced on Saturday his decision to delay the start of voter registration by three days to Aug. 16, fueling speculation that the ballot itself would also be further delayed.
Meanwhile, United States Assistant Secretary of State for East and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth held a two-hour meeting with Habibie on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the latest developments in Indonesia, including the situation in East Timor.
Roth did not give a statement to the media after the meeting. However, State Department spokesman James Foley said last week Roth would express U.S. concern about the safety and integrity of the ballot in East Timor.
Separately, the Human Rights and Justice Foundation said on Tuesday that at least 7,414 refugees were stranded in Sare, Ermera regency. The foundation's secretary, Armando Marques, said only 144 refugees were receiving proper aid from the government and non-governmental organizations.
Workers from Caritas aid agency said terror and violence had displaced more than 58,000 people in East Timor.
Antara reported pro-Indonesian groups would celebrate the 23rd anniversary of East Timor's integration into Indonesia on Saturday in Balibo. Provincial spokesman Diaz Ximenes said a similar ceremony would be held in 12 regencies. (33/prb)