Subject: AFP: Jakarta says restoring security in East Timor a priority
Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 10:15:39 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Jakarta says restoring security in East Timor a priority

JAKARTA, May 18 (AFP) - Indonesia's Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said Tuesday the government was studying reports of recent violence in East Timor and would make it a priority to reestablish security in the troubled territory.

East Timor "needs to be given priority because without a conducive situation, the whole process of consultation of opinion could be disturbed or even delayed," he said.

Alatas, speaking to journalists after attending a ceremony at the State Palace, was refering to a UN-monitored ballot set for August in East Timor to determine whether its people want an autonomy offer or independence.

The government, he said, was committed to holding the ballot as scheduled under an autonomy package for East Timor signed by Indonesia and Portugal at the United Nations on May 5,

"We are determined to do it on August 8 and also determined to create a conducive situation (for the polls,)" he said.

"What we need is to give attention to (creating) a situation, a condition that would allow the holding of the consultation of opinion to proceed in a safe atmosphere without any more intimidation," Alatas said.

Alatas' statement came a day after an advance UN mission to arrange for the arrival of a UN civilian police force to monitor the ballot protested to the government after witnessing Indonesian military-backed militia attacks on pro-independence residents.

A spokesman for the UN team said the militia had carried out two "brutal attacks" on villages, one near Dili and another 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the south on Sunday.

"The United Nations urgently reminds the Indonesian government that it had agreed on May 5, 1999, to establish a secure environment devoid of violence or other forms of intimidation so that a free and fair ballot can be held in East Timor on August 8," the statement said.

"Words by the Indonesian government are not enough.

"Determined action must be taken by the appropriate Indonesian security authorities to curtail the activities of the armed militias, whose members roam the streets of Dili and others towns in East Timor at will, shooting citizens and burning homes," it said.

The two attacks, and another the military said was carried out by a pro-independence group, left at least eight people killed and tens of houses damaged or torched in several areas in East Timor on Sunday.

Alatas said he would check on what really had happened recently in East Timor.

"We need to overcome the situation, if not, it can give rise to complications," he said.

Armed pro-Indonesia militia killed at least five people in the attack on Atara village some 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Dili on Sunday.

Another pro-Indonesia militia also attacked Metiaut village on the outskirts of Dili late Sunday, ransacking and torching houses of known pro-independentists, the mission added.

The East Timor police says a group of some 50 armed pro-independence rebels had ambushed several soldiers in Bobonaro district, killing three soldiers and wounding another on Sunday.

The attackers also took off with two rifles, a police spokesman said.

Violence between pro-independence supporters, including armed rebel forces, against the Indonesian military and the armed pro-Indonesia militias they support, has escalated since Jakarta said in January that it may let go of East Timor should the people there reject an autonomy offer.

Most of the known attacks have been from the militia side and have left scores dead in the past two months.

Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year, although the United Nations continues to view Lisbon as the official administrator of the territory.

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