Subject: IO: Belo denies church wanted new ballot date
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 11:41:02 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Indonesian Observer 26th May 1999

Belo denies church wanted new ballot date

JAKARTA (IO) — East Timor’s spiritual leader Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo yesterday denied the Catholic church had proposed the date of the direct ballot on independence for the troubled territory be brought forward to August 7.

The government has said the ballot, initially scheduled for August 8 — a Sunday — could be changed so that it won’t interfere with religious activities in the predominantly Roman Catholic province.

Officials say the proposed change was made at the behest of East Timor’s religious community; a statement Belo denies.

"The bishops of both Dili and Baucau dioceses did not propose that the ballot not be conducted on a Sunday," he was quoted by Antara as saying.

"If there are people or groups of people speaking on behalf of the church, it’s either a big lie or it contains certain political goals," he said.

Justice Minister Muladi last week said the date of the East Timor ballot was changed to August 7, in a show of respect to Catholics in the blood-drenched province.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Alatas on Monday said the change was not a fixed date, but only a proposal to the United Nations and Portugal.

Belo said he was surprised to read a report which said he and Baucau Bishop Basilio do Nascimento had proposed that the vote not be conducted on a Sunday, the day when Catholics and Protestants go to church.

He said the church is urging East Timor’s politicians not to use the names of either bishop or the church for practical politicking.

"It does not matter if the ballot is held on a Sunday because Catholics and Protestants will go to church first before voting," he said.

Belo said he does not object to the Sunday ballot because when he was in Europe, a general election was held on a Sunday and it didn’t stop Catholics and Protestants from attending church services.

The Nobel Peace laureate believes that if the proposal was made by East Timor’s political leaders, it was their business and has nothing to do with the church.

UN sends 280 police

Blaming anti-independence groups for violence in East Timor, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said on Monday he was sending up to 280 UN civilian police advisers to the former Portuguese colony.

In a key report to the Security Council on the UN-organized vote on the future of East Timor, Annan also said he was considering assigning a number of military liaison officers to

"maintain contact with their Indonesian counterparts".

The United Nations has begun a complicated operation, to be known as the UN Mission in East Timor or UNAMET, for the August ballot to ascertain whether 400,000 voters in the territory want autonomy within Indonesia or independence.

Annan indirectly disputed Jakarta’s contention that the bloodshed, which escalated after President B.J. Habibie in January spoke of independence for East Timor, was caused by both pro-independence and pro-integrationist groups.

"I regret to inform the Security Council that credible reports continued to be received of political violence, including intimidation and killings, by armed militias against unarmed pro-independence civilians," he was quoted by Reuters as saying in the report.

"Furthermore there are indications that the militias, believed by many observers to be operating with the acquiescence of elements of the [Indonesian] Army, have not only in recent weeks begun to attack pro-independence groups but are beginning to threaten moderate pro-integration supporters as well," he said.

Annan said that while Indonesia had responsibility for maintaining order during the vote, he would send police advisers, beginning in mid-June, to liaison with Indonesian police and supervise the movement of ballot papers. A total of up to 280 experienced officers would be required, he said.

Annan said a Commission on Peace and Stability, called for in the accords, had not been able to function because of the inability of pro-independence representatives to attend as a consequence of "threats posed by armed militia".

Outlining the composition of the U$53 million UNAMET mission, which so far has 24 personnel in East Timor, Annan said Jamsheed Marker, the Pakistani diplomat who negotiated the accords, would continue to serve as his personal representative while Ian Martin of Britain would be his special representative in charge of the mission.

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