IFET-OP, the largest international observer group in East Timor, reported today that the UNAMET administered voting process in a "free and fair" manner, but has serious concerns about the environment in which the consultation has taken place.
IFET-OP observers visited 135 out of 200 polling centers.
IFET-OP congratulated UNAMET for administering the registration, political campaign, and voting phases of the consultation process with such care and professionalism, especially the local staff who have faced enormous intimidation.
The massive turnout of the East Timorese people on August 30 suggests that voters overcame the climate of fear, demonstrating their resolve to have an effective say in the political status of their homeland. Undoubtedly, this is a strong tribute to the courage of the East Timorese.
However the vote took place amid an atmosphere of intimidation. Even more worrisome, threats and violence have increased significantly in the days following the vote. The Indonesian government has clearly not fulfilled its security mandate.
Saskia Kouwenberg, IFET-OP co-coordinator criticized the Indonesian government's handling of security following the vote. "The Indonesian government has clearly not fulfilled its security mandate," adding, "We need to put and end to militia impunity, and to the fiction that the militia are a legitimate political force in East Timorese society."
As a result, IFET-OP strongly urged UNAMET to expand its mandate to include peacekeeping troops under UN command.
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