site menu spacer For Immediate Release

Observers Head to Timor for Historic UN Vote

Contact: John M. Miller, etan-outreach@igc.org, +62-390-322-004 (Dili)
Kristin Sundell, 773-255-7949

East Timor Action Network/U.S. Members to Observe Historic U.N. Vote in East Timor; Support International Effort to Ensure a Free and Fair Vote on Political Status of Indonesian-Occupied Territory

August 10 - Members of the East Timor Action Network/U.S. are heading to the troubled territory of East Timor to observe the United Nations-organized vote on August 30. They will join other volunteers from around the world as part of the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project (IFET-OP) and other observer missions for the historic vote which is scheduled to take place August 30.

The vote will determine whether East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, stays an autonomous region within Indonesia or becomes an independent nation. The observers hope their presence will help ensure a fair election.

"Observers will be taking no position on the outcome of the vote. It is for the East Timorese to make to decide their own future. We are going to help insure the integrity of the process by monitoring the human rights situation and observing the entire voting process," said John Miller of Brooklyn, New York, spokesperson for ETAN. Miller is going to East Timor to assist an international delegation from Parliamentarian for East Timor.

"I feel a special responsibility as an American to support East Timor's right to choose. Most of the weapons used by Indonesia to invade East Timor came from the United States," said Kristin Sundell of Chicago.

On May 5, Indonesia and Portugal signed an agreement for the United Nations to conduct a "popular consultation" on former Portuguese colony's political status. After some delays, the U.N. has registered nearly 450,000 East Timorese both inside and outside the territory, which Indonesia invaded on December 7, 1975, in a move not recognized by the United Nations.

Ever since the U.N., Portugal and Indonesia agreed to hold the plebiscite, paramilitary militias -- armed and backed by the Indonesian military -- have threatened, attacked and killed unarmed civilians and pro-independence leaders in an effort to control the outcome of the vote. While the situation has improved as the UN presence expanded, IFET has already documented instances of intimidation.

The International Federation for East Timor Observer Project (IFET-OP) is composed of over 150 trained volunteers from throughout the world. The East Timor Action Network is organizing the U.S. component, which consists of 54 people from 16 states. IFET-OP opened an office in Dili, the capital of East Timor on June 22. The IFET-OP is monitoring the human rights situation as it relates to the UN-run consultation process, voter registration, political campaigning, and the actual vote.

The IFET-OP and Parliamentarians for East Timor are accredited by the UN mission in East Timor as a nonpartisan observers. Their reports will help determine the credibility of the election.

Additional information about the IFET Observer Project and East Timor at http://www.etan.org/ifet.

According to human rights groups and the Catholic Church more than 200,000 people -- one-third of the pre-invasion population – have been killed by the Indonesian occupation forces.

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