|Subject: RT: Any New Delay May Threaten East Timor
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 16:53:10 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Reuters 3.45 a.m. ET (746 GMT) July 8, 1999
Any New Delay May Threaten East Timor Vote-Jakarta
DILI, East Timor East Timor's tide of violence raises the likelihood of another postponement of its independence vote, but an Indonesian official said Thursday any more delays risk the future of the ballot itself.
Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a senior aide to President B.J. Habibie and a key adviser on East Timor policy, told Reuters another delay could force an indefinite postponement of the August vote.
"If the ballot fails to take place on time, there is real danger of it being postponed indefinitely, so I hope the U.N. realizes the importance of this ballot being carried out on time,'' she said.
"I hope (the vote goes ahead on time), because otherwise we might miss a real window of opportunity because the most important thing is that it will be completed before the Indonesian Consultative Assembly meets.''
The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) is the top legislative body and is due to consider the result of the independence vote in its next session due to begin on October 1.
The MPR includes the 500-seat parliament elected in a June 7 vote and 200 provincial and community appointees.
Anwar said many of the new legislators opposed the U.N.-organized independence vote.
"There are many new...political forces in Indonesian politics and not every one of them is persuaded of the need to allow East Timorese to have their say in their future,'' she said.
The ballot has already been postponed by two weeks to August 21 or 22 because of violence in the former Portuguese colony where Jakarta's 23-year rule is not internationally recognized.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan must decide by July 13 if it is safe enough to allow the process to go ahead.
As the scheduled voting day nears, pro-Jakarta militias have attacked and threatened the United Nations and its unarmed personnel in the territory.
In the first attack on the United Nations, a stone-throwing mob of militiamen last week attacked a U.N. office in the village of Maliana. A few days later, U.N. officials accompanying an aid convoy had their car wrecked and were threatened with guns.
Both the physical attacks on the United Nations and a rise in accusations of bias will make it more difficult for Annan to decide the situation is safe enough for a free and fair vote.
One analyst believes the new violence might be designed to force a delay because loyalists fear they might lose the vote.
"A few weeks ago, the Indonesian authorities wanted it to go ahead on time because they thought that they were going to win, but if they have changed that assessment they might want it postponed, perhaps indefinitely,'' said Harold Crouch of the Australia National University in Canberra.
The militias have killed dozens of people in recent months in a bloody anti-independence campaign.
Wednesday, pro-Jakarta groups threatened to boycott the vote, accusing the United Nations of siding with the independence movement.
The threat raises the prospect that some Timorese will be too scared to vote, fearing militia attacks on anyone who turns up at a polling booth.
Crouch believes some of the people behind that campaign are coming to the conclusion that it might not be enough to ensure East Timor remains part of Indonesia.
"Some of the military people are saying things that imply that they might be going to lose,'' said Crouch.
Elements among the Indonesian military are known to be deeply unhappy with the prospect of independence for East Timor, worried that it will fuel separatist movements elsewhere in the country.
Anwar says her government remains committed to the process.
"This government is very committed that the ballot is carried out and we hope that the situation on the ground is conducive,'' she said.