|=Subject: IPS: Climate of fear clouds UN accord
Date: Sat, 08 May 1999 09:33:26 -0400
From: "East Timor International Support Center" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: Climate of Terror Clouds UN Accord
Analysis - By Sonny Inbaraj
DARWIN, Australia, May 6 (IPS) - In the current climate of fear and intimidation in East Timor, the deal signed Wednesday at the United Nations on a vote on the territory's future, seems flawed.
Two questions are to be put to voters in the former Portuguese enclave on August 8, under a side accord for a ''consultation'' in which some 800,000 East Timorese can vote on whether to accept or reject an autonomy plan offered by Jakarta.
The first question is: ''Do you accept the proposal that East Timor have special autonomy within the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia?''
The second: ''Do you reject the special autonomy proposal of East Timor, the consequence being that East Timor will separate from Indonesia?''
The ''special autonomy'' package, also signed Wednesday by Indonesia and Portugal, allows Jakarta to retain responsibility for defence and keep its troops in East Timor.
Jakarta would also retain responsibility for monetary and fiscal policies.
But because the Indonesian military and police will remain responsible for security during the polls, there is fear that the armed forces will not be a neutral party to the ballot.
As pointed out by the International Federation for East Timor (IFET) in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on the eve of the signing of the autonomy deal, it will be impossible for the United Nations to conduct a meaningful assessment of East Timorese public opinion if those forces -- one party to the conflict -- control the situation on the ground.
The Indonesian armed forces have made little effort to disarm and control the pro-integration militias they set up. They are widely believed to still be arming, even funding, the groups that have carried out massacres of refugees or pro-independence supporters.
According to human rights monitors in East Timor's capital Dili, Operation 'Sapu Bersih' (Cleanup) is underway in the territory. The aim of the army-supported militia is to ''clean up'' independence supporters and kill or intimidate them into supporting integration, they say.
''The tolerance of the militia terror campaign does not suggest 'rogue elements' in the regional command, but top-down approval,'' wrote Hamish McDonald, foreign editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald'.
''Watching events in East Timor in recent months has been akin to watching a murderer announce who he was going to kill, carry out the crime for all to see, walk past the police station wiping the murder weapon and then reloading his gun,'' he argued.
In the lead-up to the ballot, the United Nations plans to send between 800 and 900 people to East Timor, including some 300 civilian police who will only carry side-arms, to monitor the poll.
The exact number of UN monitors would only be clear once a UN assessment team returns from East Timor. Still, the size of UN personnel bound for East Timor is important.
''The size and authority of the police force is crucial. Three hundred is far too low to cover all the 13 districts in East Timor, especially in the eastern part of the country where the infrastructure is still minimal,'' said Aboeprijadi Santoso, an Indonesian radio journalist based in Amsterdam.
''The number required will also depend greatly on the way in which the ballot is conducted. If the voting takes place simultaneously in all parts of the country, at least 3,000 police will be needed, along with hundreds of UN personnel,'' added Santoso.
Rob Wesley-Smith of Australians for a Free East Timor agrees with Santoso.
''At present it's the wrong question being put by the wrong people in an atmosphere of terror and intimidation,'' he said.
''The Indonesian armed forces have acted in gross bad faith so far and their behaviour will not change unless the UN puts in 5,000 UN peacekeepers -- comprising police and military personnel -- as well as civilian electoral officers sufficient to totally conduct the ballot,'' said Wesley-Smith.
Indonesian President Jusuf Bacharuddin Habibie wants civilian monitors from Australia, the US, Germany (representing Europe), Japan and the Philippines to coordinate the ballot for the UN- sponsored vote on the autonomy plan.
But IFET, in its letter to the UN, said the country representation should be broader. ''All of these six countries, with the exception of the Philippines, have a long history of supplying weapons, training and/or money to support Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor,'' said the Federation.
IFET suggests the inclusion of nations like Brazil, the largest Latin American country whose government has already offered to help, South Africa as president of the Non-Aligned Movement, Mozambique, New Zealand, Fiji, Norway, Ireland, Thailand and Canada.
Habibie, at the April Australia-Indonesia summit in Bali, promised to honour his pledge of independence if the East Timorese people reject autonomy on August 8.
But there could be complications even in this seemingly clear formula due to the timing of two of Indonesia's political exercises -- it holds a general election on June 7, two months ahead of the Aug 8 East Timor vote.
This raises the question of what happens if the government that comes to power after the June poll does not agree to East Timor's independence.
''One of the consequences of the June 7 Indonesian elections may well be that we see a new president in Jakarta and a change of government in Indonesia,'' Paul Kelly, international editor of 'The Australian' said in a recent talk show.
''And that incoming government and president might be more determined to hold on to East Timor than is President Habibie at the moment,'' he added.
Because of this, IFET wants a transitional UN government in East Timor if the no vote is delivered on Aug 8.
Added the group: ''The outcome of the consultation, in the context of international law and UN resolutions, must be followed through regardless of the results of the June Indonesian elections and the composition of the new Indonesian Parliament.'' (END/IPS/ap-ip-hd/si-aa/js/99)
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