Subject: RT: Megawati fears violent E.Timor independence vote
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 10:18:00 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Megawati fears violent E.Timor independence vote

JAKARTA, June 6 (Reuters) - Indonesian presidential frontrunner Megawati Sukarnoputri fears violence and political horsetrading could disrupt an August vote on independence in troubled East Timor.

In an interview late on Saturday, Megawati criticised President B.J. Habibie for rushing the issue and said politicians could still be preoccupied with Monday's general election when East Timorese decide their future.

No party is expected to win the country's general election outright although Megawati believes her Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle can garner 40 percent. That would make her the strongest candidate to become president during a selection process in November.

But months of coalition building is expected first.

``The option offered by President Habibie was made when Indonesia was not in a normal condition. Can you believe how rushed this has been and now we are about to have a general election on June 7,'' she said.

Monday's general election may well be East Timor's last under Indonesian rule. Registration of voters for the parliamentary poll has been notably low. According to official figures less than half of the eligible voters have registered.

Since Habibie in January abruptly reversed Indonesia's long-held position that it would not consider independence for East Timor, violence has racked the territory.

Unofficial militias opposing independence have killed dozens of people and imposed a reign of terror across East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year.

Megawati, a staunch nationalist and daughter of Indonesia's founding father Sukarno, has said she opposes independence but would respect the outcome of the U.N-organised vote.

But she expressed concern about peace and security in the territory after the independence ballot, especially if problems arose with the voting process.

She did not elaborate but said recent violence showed further bloodshed could occur. ``Violent acts are likely after the indications we have already,'' she said.

On the campaign trail in the territory last Tuesday, Megawati urged East Timorese to remain part of Indonesia.

Megawati told supporters she felt sympathy for their suffering under Jakarta's rule but believed it would have a better future within Indonesia.

On Saturday the first of some 1,300 Indonesian police reinforcements arrived in the territory to strengthen security ahead of the vote.

The United Nations has cited security as its biggest concern in the run-up to the August ballot.

At least 200,000 people are thought to have died from fighting, famine and disease during 23 years of often brutal Indonesian rule in the territory.

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