|Subject: Militias disarm but UN officials still fear
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999 10:45:05 +0000
From: "East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign" <email@example.com> Organization: ETISC
Source: The Irish Times
Friday, August 20, 1999
Militias disarm but UN officials still fear violence
From David Shanks, in Dili
Anti-independence militias handed over weapons - including five old bolt-action Mausers and home-made rifles - in the capital of East Timor yesterday.
There were words of "reconciliation" by a militia leader at a ceremony attended by several hundred of his followers in black T-shirts. But the UN is still worried that campaigning for East Timor's "popular consultation" on auto nomy/ independence on August 30th will be marked by an escalation of attacks on pro-independence supporters.
Mr Eurico Guterres, the leader of the Aitarak militia, said to cheers that the 230 guns were going into "my warehouse", meaning Indonesian police custody. This and three other such handovers have involved only a tiny proportion of the guns in militia hands, it is believed, but the UN hope is that the symbolic ceremonies will increase pressure on Indonesian police to disarm people carrying weapons openly in the streets.
It is in the region closest to West Timor that most militia violence has taken place. It is there also that the vote is expected to be closest.
In Suai, "displaced people" were attacked yesterday. Further violence is feared against hundreds there who have been driven from their homes and land to discourage them from registering to vote. The intention now is to intimidate them from casting their votes.
In Dili flags line the streets but seem to be all Indonesian, with two red and white bands.
In Maliana on Wednesday at least seven students were injured and two houses burned down after a militia attack on the offices of pro-independence youth and student groups, it was reported.
Mr Ian Martin, head of the UN assistance mission for East Timor (UNAMET), said the security situation was still very unsatisfactory and that the UN Secretary General would have to take this into account in his interpretation of the voting.
With no hint so far of a further postponement of the vote, Mr Martin said he still expected the authorities to take "strong action" to put proper security into effect.
In Bobonaro, near Maliana, an agreement was reached which on paper allowed "some activity" by the pro-independence umbrella group CNRT. A quarter of the campaigning time was allowed to CNRT and three-quarters to the other side.
But Mr Martin clung to the belief that the policy of Jakarta was to ensure that the ballot was completed peacefully.
Yesterday saw the arrival in Dili of Mr Pat Byrne of the Irish embassy in Canberra, with the ambassador to Jakarta from Finland, holder of the EU Presidency. Mr Byrne is in town in advance of a visit by the EU special envoy on East Timor, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews.
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