Subject: AFP: Low-profile election campaign starts in troubled East Timor
Date: Sat, 22 May 1999 10:17:20 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Low-profile election campaign starts in troubled East Timor

JAKARTA, May 19 (AFP) - Indonesia's electoral campaign got off to a lacklustre start in the troubled territory of East Timor Wednesday, largely ignored by a population gripped by fractional violence ahead of a UN-monitored ballot on self-determination in August.

"Only one party is campaigning here (the capital city of Dili) today according to the schedule, the Crescent and Star Party," said an official of the East Timor province election commission who identified himself as Nana.

Two other parties, The Islamic Community Party (PUI) and the Indonesian Nationalist Party- Front Marhaen (PNI-FM) opened their campaigns in the Lautem district and the Liquisa district, he said.

"It's calm because it's only a dialogue campaign, not mass rallies," said First Sergeant Susanto of the East Timor provincial police spokesman's office.

In Dili, the campaign, involving debates between party cadres and the public, were held at the Rising Sun Building, a public function hall. A second debate was scheduled later at a soldier's meeting hall.

Flags of the 15 political parties contesting the polls there were flying in several places across the city. But most were those of the ruling Golkar party and of the Indonesia Democracy Party-Struggle of leading opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The predominantly-Catholic population of 800,000 appeared indifferent however, leaving the campaign activities to Indonesian soldiers and police.

"People here aren't at all interested in the Indonesian elections, they are looking forward to the August 8 polls," said Rui Fiana of the local rights group the Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

He was refering to a scheduled UN-monitored poll in East Timor on whether its people want autonomy under Indonesia or independence.

"People are also still worried by the violence of the recent days," Fiana added.

He said the family of a man, identified as Manuel da Silva, had earlier reported that da Silva was taken away to Liquisa by members of the Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Steel) pro-Indonesia militia on Monday night and had not yet returned.

Da Silva, who works for the local industry office, is a known pro-independentist.

Fiana said reports from Hatolia, in East Timor's Ermera district, spoke of continuous operations by members of two armed pro-Indonesia militias -- the Naga Merah (Red Dragon) and the Tim Pancasila -- backed by soldiers, to flush out pro-Indonesian supporters in the area.

Local residents said the operations had started on May 9, and that only women and children remained while the youths and adult men had already fled the area.

Similar operations were also taking place in Aileu district, Fiana said.

Violence betwen pro-and anti-Indonesian supporters, mostly by the feared militia, has escalated since Jakarta announced in January that it may let go of the former Portuguese colony which it invaded in 1975, if the people there voted against the autonomy package.

Indonesia and Portugal on May 5 signed an agreement at the United Nations on the autonomy package for East Timor, which included the UN-monitored ballot in August and the deployment of a UN civilian police force.

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