|Subject: ABC: VOTE ON EAST TIMOR'S FUTURE FADING
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 16:56:21 -0400
From: "Sharon R.A. Scharfe" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
ABC ( Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio News
VOTE ON EAST TIMOR'S FUTURE FADING
The chance of the United Nations conducting a vote on East Timor's future on August the 21st or 22nd is fading.
The U-N says unless security improves quickly in the next few days, it will have to delay voter registration, which is due to start next Tuesday.
That, in turn, will cause another postponement of the vote, which has already been moved from its original date of August the 8th
Leading East Timorese independence figure Jose Ramos Horta, says he'd accept a new delay but he says the international community must impose sanctions on the Indonesian military.
>From Canberra, Graeme Dobell reports....
At one level, the United Nations says preparations for the vote are going well. The U.N. envoy to East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, says Indonesia has been very helpful on 90 percent of preparations. Mr Marker was in Canberra talking to the Australian Electoral Commission about the conduct of the ballot.
To ensure the secrecy of voting he says counting will be done centrally rather than in East Timor's districts. And using an Electoral computer, based in Darwin, the count could be completed in a day. But on security - for the UN and for the voters, time is running out. The UN says if security doesn't improve quickly there'll be an unavoidable slippage in the timetable.
MARKER: It really depends on how quickly the security situation improves, and we hope that they will be able to do something rapidly within the next two or three days because now we really have got to the wire and something needs to be done. I think they realise that.
DOBELL: Mr Marker says the UN will have to decide by the weekend if voter registration is to start next Tuesday. Reigstration would involve opening 200 offices across East Timor. And the UN special envoy says Indonesia must act to meet its absolute responsibility to provide security
MARKER: Basically the creation of secure conditions..now there can be various signals for example, everybody knows these attacks talk place. Everybody knows who the perpetrators were but nobody as yet knows if there have been any arrests. We've demanded that that take place, that that would at least be a signal and a sign to these hoodlums, as I continue to call them and will continue till the end of time, that they be brought to book.
DOBELL: The East Timor independence leader, Jose Ramos Horta, says it's time for the international community to put direct pressure on Indonesia, using selected sanctions targetted at the military and its interests. He says today it's hard to say when there can be a vote in East Timor
RAMOS HORTA: There has to be a reasonable space between voter registration to enable the UN to cross check, double check the registration itself because we have information about thousands of false ID's being issued to Indonesians from West Timor in order to tip the balance in favour of the pro integration. The security conditions have to improve significantly for voter registration to take place and for the actual ballot. So I personally have the fullest confidence in the UN, they are behaving in a manner that shows integrity, independence, impartiality. So what ever decision they make in terms of postponing the registration of voters and the actual ballot I would certainly endorse it. The conditions on the ground at this stage if they do not change in the next few days are not appropriate for voter registration to begin.
DOBELL: Is it not a good time because of the attacks on the UN or because of a wider uncertainty in East Timor?
RAMOS HORTA: No there is wider uncertainty that has been gonig on for several weeks; the attacks on the civilian population, the abduction of entire villages, there are tens of thousands of villages who are abducted, who were forced out of their villages, kept in concentration camps without access by humanitarian organisations, they are in dire conditions and there is an escalation with the attack carefully selected against the UN. This was part of a whole process to intimidate the people of East Timor and to intimidate the U-N into packing and leaving.
DOBELL: If the vote is deferred beyond August, does that mean the intimidation is working?
RAMOS HORTA: Absolutely yes to some extent, however I hope and I believe that the militia campaign orchestrated behind the scenes by the Indonesian army, if anything will only strengthen the resolve of the U-N because the U-N cannot afford to loose out in this test of wills.
DOBELL: Are you worried though that if the August vote is deferred that the window of opportunity might start to close, that the Indonesian political process might start to move against a vote for East Timor?
RAMOS HORTA: I don't how the Indonesians can afford to roll back the process in East Timor just because there is a change of Government in Indonesia. International agreements cannot be subject to changes in domestic policies or governments of a country. Indonesia signed an international agreement that binds the state, binds any Government. If the new Indonesian Government or the new Indonesian Parliament want to roll back the agreement it will have devastating consequences, there will be hundreds of thousands of people in East Timor protesting in desperation.
First broadcast 07/07/99
© 1999 Australian Broadcasting Corporation