Subject: SMH: Elections possible next year, says UN

Sydney Morning Herald Thursday, March 16, 2000

Elections possible next year, says UN

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent, in Dili

East Timor is likely to have a United Nations-supervised election next year to appoint its first democratically elected parliament, the UN's chief administrator for the territory says.

Expressing a note of exasperation at the slow pace of reconstruction, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of UNTAET [United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor], said he wished he had a magic wand to translate donor pledges into instant public works projects.

While East Timor remained in a state of emergency, demands for political milestones that would lead the UN-administered territory to independence were not being ignored, he said.

Mr Vieira de Mello said that while it was preferable to focus on reconstruction and building a civil administration, "one cannot hold the political horses for too long".

"Perhaps after the CNRT [National Council for Timorese Resistance] congress in August, the time may be ripe for us to begin a very broad consultation with East Timorese civil society on what the Constitution of East Timor should look like," he said.

"We should let this grow out of an East Timorese process of reflection at all levels, going all the way down to traditional chiefs in the remotest villages of this country."

By early next year the transition would shift to a second phase, including the drafting of a constitution, regulations governing the formation of political parties, and an electoral law.

"I'm sure elections must take place in 2001," Mr Vieira de Mello said. "Would these be elections for a constituent assembly, as I presently believe should be the case?

"All of these questions are still premature, but that's how I see things unfolding from August or September this year, with elections possibly taking place in the middle of the year 2001."

He said that next week he would sign into effect a regulation establishing the long-delayed Civil Service Commission, responsible for the filling of up to 7,000 jobs.

He said 12,500 East Timorese had applied so far to enlist in a new police force, whose recruits will begin training on March 27 at a UN-run police academy.

The UNTAET chief said that while the security situation remained stable in the Oecussi enclave following last month's arrest of the militia leader Moko Soares, he remained very concerned about recent cross-border attacks by pro-Jakarta militia.

"President [Abdurrahman] Wahid was here only two weeks ago and I think on the security front developments have been very disappointing," he said, referring to pledges by the Indonesian President that he would crack down on the militias.

Mr Vieira de Mello confirmed that on Monday UNTAET and the CNRT had held their first talks on the future role of some 1,000 armed Falintil independence fighters.

He admitted conditions at their cantonment in Aileu were "ghastly" and promised immediate UN help to improve food supplies and sanitation. The meeting did not resolve the question of Falantil's future, but did cover several options, Mr Vieira de Mello said.

The independence leader Mr Jose Ramos Horta was a little more forthright.

He said the CNRT had decided that, given the security situation and the legacy of the post-ballot violence, East Timor required a small, well-armed indigenous security force, whether it was police, army or a French-style gendarmerie, and the UNTAET mandate should, if necessary, be revised to include such a role for Falintil.

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