|Subject: AFP: Hundreds turn out to register in
traumatized district of East Timor
Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 09:32:57 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Hundreds turn out to register in traumatized district of East Timor
LIQUISA, East Timor, July 16 (AFP) - Hundreds of people braved pro-Indonesia militia intimidation in this traumatized district to register Friday for a vote on East Timor's future.
A skull-and-crossbones had been painted on the window of one registration centre when 500 local residents showed up hoping to get on the voters' list at 9 a.m., a source with the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) said.
About one-quarter of the village population arrived to register even though the registration centre is located three metres (yards) from a bamboo hut that serves as a neighbourhood post of the Besi Merah Putih (Red and white iron) pro-Indonesian militia.
The militia have been blamed for arson, mass murder and other crimes in
this district, which is a 45-minute drive from the capital, Dili.
UNAMET told most members of the large morning crowd in Ulmera village to come back over the next couple of days to register at the school building, because they could not handle them, all.
Friday afternoon, a more manageable group of about 30 residents lined up clutching documents to prove their eligibility to vote. Just around the corner in the militia post, six men played cards.
"They register first and then rest here," an Indonesian policeman claimed to AFP. He said the hut only serves as a militia post at night but UNAMET officials don't believe that.
They are concerned the post could deter villagers from registering for the late-August ballot on autonomy with Indonesia or independence for this territory which Indonesia invaded in 1975.
"There's a lot of people in the hills still and we're hoping we can persuade them to come down and vote," the source said, adding that UNAMET hopes to meet with militia officials "and ask them if they wouldn't mind moving a little further down the road".
Red-and-white Indonesian flags lined both sides of the street around the registration centre guarded by four armed Indonesian police and one unarmed UNAMET police officer.
Further west in the town of Liquisa, another 30 people sat on chairs waiting for their turn to sign up for the ballot.
"It's been pretty much steady like this all day," another UNAMET source said.
Unlike the many who turned out smiling to register in the capital city of Dili, the Liquisa people seemed more reserved.
There are 10 separate registration centres in Liquisa, a district of burned houses and refugees. A driver ferrying journalists to the area made the sign of the cross three times as he drove into the region.
Some refugees said they couldn't sign up on Friday for the vote because they were busy trying to find food.
"We heard there was rice in town but when we got there, there wasn't any," said one man who said he fled the village of Loidahar three months ago when militias burned his house.
He lives with 25 other refugees, many of them children, in a room with two beds on the edge of Liquisa town. The white tile floor is stained brown from dirt. They have little food and no fresh clothes.
But the man still has two plastic identity cards that he will use to register on Saturday for the ballot.
The militia men want to register, too.
At a post just west of Dili, about 10 members of the Pam Swakarsa militia were gathered outside when the first of their group returned to show a green card that confirms he is on the voters' list.
Do they plan to vote for autonomy or independence? "That's secret," one militia man said.