Subject: AGE: Australian envoy warns of plan to wreck Timor vote
Date: Sat, 15 May 1999 11:13:31 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

The Age Monday 10 May 1999

Envoy warns of plan to wreck Timor vote

By LINDSAY MURDOCH
INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT DILI, SUNDAY

Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, Mr John McCarthy, said today he had seen evidence of a conspiracy to wreck the United Nations-supervised ballot scheduled to be held in East Timor on 8 August.

Asked whether he believed Indonesia's military intended to rig the ballot and pressure people to vote to remain part of Indonesia, Mr McCarthy said: ``I have seen evidence that could lead one along the lines of that sort of conclusion.''

The ambassador's warning came as East Timor's representative on Indonesia's Human Rights Commission, Mr Florentino Sarmento, called for a delay of the ballot to decide the former Portuguese colony's future. Mr Sarmento, in an interview with The Age, said widespread terror and intimidation made it unlikely the ballot could be fair or the results accepted by the warring groups.

Speaking at a news conference during a five-day visit to the territory, Mr McCarthy stressed the importance of UN arrangements to supervise the ballot. ``It is very important that Indonesia and the international community recognise the importance of this process,'' he said. ``I think it is workable but it's going to be very tough.''

Referring to the UN operation to be staged out of Darwin Mr McCarthy said: ``A lot has to be done in a short time. There is not a huge UN contingent that is being talked about. Feelings are running high in Timor. All that makes it difficult.''

Underlining the gravity of his words, anti-independence militiamen went on a rampage in Dili today, killing at least one student and wounding several others, including a Japanese journalist.

Human rights sources said Mr Antonio Fatima, 25, was shot dead when he and other bystanders tried to help two Japanese journalists being attacked.

The foreign journalists, including Australians, ran for their lives when they were stoned in Dili's central market.

Human rights groups and international aid agencies say there is overwhelming evidence that the Indonesian security forces in East Timor have armed and backed militiamen who have gone on rampages in Dili and rural East Timor towns, killing and wounding scores of pro-independence supporters in recent weeks.

Mr McCarthy has talked with the top Indonesian military and police commanders in the territory as well key pro-Jakarta militia leaders, several of whom have threatened to kill Australians because of the Howard Government's declaration early this year that it would support an independent East Timor if Timorese reject autonomy within Indonesia.

Mr Sarmento, a prominent and respected Timorese leader, said holding a vote in such a short time would provoke widespread bloodshed from all the warring groups. ``I hope I am wrong. But one side will lose the ballot and will not accept the result. I am afraid that whoever loses will provoke violence,'' he said.

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