|Subject: IHT: Vote Delay Seen Aiding UN in Timor
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 08:57:13 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
International Herald Tribune Thursday, June 24, 1999
Vote Delay Seen Aiding UN in Timor But Some in Territory Say More People and Resources Urgently Needed
By Michael Richardson International Herald Tribune
SINGAPORE - By delaying the self-determination vote in East Timor, Secretary-General Kofi Annan hopes to give the United Nations more time to become an effective watchdog in the disputed territory while prevailing on Indonesia to honor its promise to provide security necessary for a free and fair ballot, analysts said Wednesday. But some aid workers warned that without a significant increase in personnel and resources, the UN election monitoring mission to East Timor, known as Unamet, would be unable to carry out its mandate properly.
''Unamet has been set an impossible time frame and some delay to the ballot is necessary,'' said Janet Hunt, executive director of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, which sent a delegation to East Timor recently to report on conditions there.
The UN is fielding a mission of 900, including 270 civilian police advisers, 50 military liaison officers and hundreds of electoral officials and administrators, as well as up to 4,000 East Timorese staff, such as translators and guides. The first 50 of the volunteer UN election monitors arrived in the territory Wednesday.
Ms. Hunt said the numbers of UN personnel needed to be increased urgently, given the ''pervasive climate of intimidation and human rights violations'' in East Timor, and the difficulties of establishing an effective UN presence in the remote and mountainous territory.
''The resources committed to East Timor by the UN are inadequate to the task, both in the shorter and the longer term,'' Ms. Hunt added.
In reporting to the Security Council in New York on Tuesday, Mr. Annan made it clear that he was leaving open the possibility of a further delay, or even a cancellation, of the vote.
The ballot is intended to end the often bloody conflict in the former Portuguese colony, which was invaded and annexed by Indonesia in 1975.
Mr. Annan said East Timorese militia groups that want the territory to remain part of Indonesia were intimidating voters in the countryside, while local officials were also campaigning against independence.
UN officials have said that such activities violate the agreement on the East Timor vote signed May 5 by Indonesia and Portugal. They have also reported links between the militias and the Indonesian military.
''Militia activities continue to have a constricting effect on political freedom, silencing pro-independence activists and their supporters and forcing them into hiding, thus jeopardizing the necessary openness of the consultation process,'' Mr. Annan said in his report to the Security Council.
Mr. Annan said he hoped the registration of as many as 400,000 people in East Timor - about half the population - that was supposed to begin Tuesday could start on July 13, a postponement of three weeks.
''I hope that the security situation will have improved sufficiently by then to enable me to make a positive determination of the security conditions so that the operational phases of the consultation can begin,'' Mr. Annan added.
Three previously separate pro-Indonesian groups in East Timor formed a united front Wednesday to promote autonomy and to campaign against independence, saying they would benefit from the two-week delay in the ballot, Reuters reported from Dili.
''It will give us more time to prepare,'' said Basilio Dias Araujo, a spokesman for the front.
Xanana Gusmao, the East Timor independence leader, who is under house arrest in Jakarta, also said he supported the delay, to achieve ''conditions of security and tranquillity in East Timor that are a prerequisite for the holding of a free, fair and democratic consultation.''
But officials of some countries contributing to the UN mission in East Timor said privately they were worried that any further delay in its program, which would allow the East Timorese to choose between gaining independence or having wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia, could play into the hands of hard-line Indonesian officials.
They include elements in the military, who appear to be working closely with pro-integration East Timorese officials and militia groups in using intimidation tactics to frighten a majority of the people to vote for autonomy.
If the UN mission is able to persuade East Timorese that they can cast their ballots in secrecy without fear of anyone knowing how they voted, the likely result is widely expected to be in favor of independence.
But if Indonesian and East Timorese hard-line integrationists think this will be the outcome, they may use violence to force the UN to call off the ballot, analysts said.
Alternatively, the top legislative body of Indonesia, the 700-member People's Consultative Assembly - which is supposed to consider the outcome of the East Timor vote when it meets in late August before choosing the next president of the country - may refuse to allow East Timor to separate from Indonesia if there is any further delay or dispute over the UN-supervised ballot.