Subject: AP - UN officials say militiamen making threats ahead of ballot
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 17:34:20 -0400
From: "Francisco Galope"<bx010317@ip.pt>

UN officials say militiamen making threats ahead of ballot

VIQUEQUE, Indonesia (AP) — U.N. polling officials fanned out across remote parts of East Timor on Monday despite threats from militiamen opposed to an August independence referendum. Militia groups are accused of waging a campaign of violence to derail the Aug. 8 ballot which will let East Timorese choose between making their homeland an autonomous state within Indonesia or breaking away completely.

Pro-independence activists say militiamen have killed dozens of civilians and intimidated thousands. The United Nations, which will supervise the voting, on Monday repeated a demand that Indonesian security forces restore order. ‘‘We have received general threats from the militias against U.N. personnel,’’ said David Wimhurst a spokesman for the U.N. Assistance Mission in East Timor, or UNAMET. ‘‘Obviously the security situation in Timor is not good.’’ He did not elaborate. ‘‘The militias have to lay down their arms,’’

Wimhurst said. ‘‘We’ll be working with the Indonesian police and with influential leaders to get this violence to end.’’ In another development, 500 Indonesian policemen left for East Timor on Friday to help control the situation in the lead-up to voter registration that begins June 17. Military chief Gen. Wiranto said a total of 8,500 police and soldiers will be involved in safeguarding the vote. In Jakarta, UNAMET chief Ian Martin met jailed rebel leader Jose Alexandre ‘‘Xanana’’ Gusmao on Monday to discuss security in East Timor. Martin planned to formally open the U.N. headquarters in Dili on Thursday, joining 58 U.N. officials already there. About 600 civilian U.N. personnel, as well as about 280 foreign police advisers, will be in East Timor before the ballot. About 200 voter registration and polling stations are to be established by June 17.

Wimhurst said UNAMET’s presence had helped create a safe atmosphere in Dili and that the arrival of more officials would further assuage tensions across the troubled territory. ‘‘When our presence is felt on the ground, it will have a calming effect,’’ Wimhurst said. On Monday, a four-member team flew by helicopter to Viqueque, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Dili, the territorial capital. Before their arrival, town residents said a militia group had killed several independence activists and were patrolling its streets after dark unchallenged. Many carried automatic weapons. Residents accused Indonesia’s army of assisting militiamen — a charge that has been denied repeatedly by its top brass. Meanwhile, the military accused pro-independence guerrillas of killing three anti-independence supporters near Viqueque on Friday.

Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese territory, in 1975. In a surprise policy reversal last January, Indonesia said it would consider granting independence to East Timor if its people rejected an autonomy offer. Portugal and Indonesia have signed an agreement allowing the ballot to go ahead under U.N. supervision.

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