Subject: U.N. Worker's Killing Mars East Timor Vote
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 12:11:40 -0800
From: "Eric S. Piotrowski" <altin@atlantic.net>

Monday August 30 10:55 AM ET

U.N. Worker's Killing Mars East Timor Vote

DILI, East Timor (Reuters) - A U.N. worker was stabbed and killed Monday by a mob in East Timor, marring what had otherwise been a peaceful referendum on the territory's future after 23 years of Indonesian rule.

The victim, a local East Timorese, was the first U.N. worker to be killed since U.N. personnel began arriving in May to prepare for Monday's vote.

``We are deeply saddened by this and it's one more victim in a long line of victims this territory's seen,'' U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst told Reuters.

The U.N. worker was killed in Ermera, just outside the capital Dili after he was attacked by a mob. Indonesian police were investigating. Wimhurst said the United Nations was deeply concerned about the safety of its staff.

``We have received a lot of threats,'' he said.

More than 95 percent of the 430,000 voters who registered in East Timor went to the polls to choose between independence and autonomy within Indonesia. The vote is widely expected to favor splitting from Jakarta's rule.

The result of the ballot is expected in about a week. It is a choice between independence or autonomy within Indonesia, but most observers expect an overwhelming vote for independence.

That prospect worries the Indonesian military, which fears it could spark a string of rebellions across the archipelago when the government is weak and the armed forces overstretched.

Hundreds of thousands flocked to polling booths. The chance to determine their own future after 23 years under Jakarta's rule and centuries of Portuguese colonial rule was celebrated in a festive atmosphere throughout the impoverished territory.

The mainly Catholic territory's spiritual leader, Bishop Carlos Belo, appealed for calm and for both pro- and anti-independence camps to work together for peace.

``My appeal to the leaders is that they are able to convince their bases to accept the verdict of the people and to lay down their arms and help to make political compromise to ... work for peace and reconciliation,'' he told Reuters.

``If they are Timorese they have to work together. If they are not, they leave the territory.''

U.N. special envoy Jamsheed Marker added: ``Whatever the outcome of the ballot, today the eagle of liberty has spread its proud wings over the people of East Timor and nothing by the grace of God can ever take them away.''

Some voters camped outside polling stations overnight to ensure loyalist militias could not stop them turning up when more than 800 polling stations opened at 6:30 a.m. local time.

``I am very happy, but scared,'' said one man. ``This is a proud day for East Timor. This is our right. We have waited a long time for this day. Scared or dead, it's our choice to choose.''

Violence has plagued East Timor for months as pro-Jakarta militias embarked on a wave of terror to cow those who wanted independence. Hundreds have died.

Fears of more violence preyed on Indonesia's financial markets, sending the rupiah currency lower, following reports that President Clinton had implicitly threatened to block aid to Indonesia if it failed to maintain order in East Timor.

Political analysts say recession-hit Indonesia's heavy reliance on international aid inspired Jakarta's sudden change of policy this year to offer East Timorese independence.

Indonesia's 1975 invasion and military rule of East Timor have been a foreign relations disaster for the country.

Its rule has never been internationally recognized and Jakarta has been repeatedly criticized for its harsh reign. About a quarter of East Timor's population of 850,000 has died in fighting or from starvation and disease under Jakarta's rule.

In a possible acknowledgment of the inevitable, Eurico Guterres, who heads one pro-integration militia group, gave his support to jailed independence leader Xanana Gusmao, the man many see as certain first leader of an independent East Timor.

But Guterres also said he planned to shut exit points from the territory Tuesday to prevent its political elite from leaving.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said he did not believe there had been serious incidents of intimidation.

``I think as a whole it went well. One should not look out for any problems,'' he said.

Back to August Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu