Subject: Kyodo: Refugee Vote in W. Timor Marred By Fraud, Intimidation

[also: JP article sent earlier today included here as reference]

Kyodo News Service [Japan] June 6, 2001

Refugee vote in W. Timor marred by fraud, intimidation

KUPANG, Indonesia

Allegations of widespread fraud and reports of intimidation of voters marred an Indonesian-run vote Wednesday for thousands of East Timorese refugees in West Timor to decide whether if they wish to return to their homeland.

Usman Abubakar, secretary of the registration and polling team in Kupang, said at least 160,000 ballot papers have already been used in the poll and another 50,000 are needed for refugees who have yet to vote, even though the highest estimate of East Timorese still in West Timor is only about 140,000.

Officials admitted many Indonesians hoping to get government assistance to relocate within Indonesia or to gain places in East Timor have voted even though they are not refugees.

Abubaker said the polling teams have no indelible ink or other means to identify people who have already cast ballot papers and it believed many people have filled out several ballots.

Indonesian authorities also discovered at least one group of former pro-Jakarta militiamen forcing people to either opt to stay in Indonesia or skip the vote altogether.

The polling is being monitored by 32 international observers, including those from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor, but the observers have not been able to dispel widespread confusion.

The refugees have been in squalid camps in West Timor for nearly two years, many of whom were forced there by rampaging militiamen after the vast majority of East Timorese voted in August 1999 to end Indonesia's rule. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

In April, the local government in West Timor, apparently unable to cope with the prolonged refugee problem, said that 80% of the East Timorese want to go home.

The rest, including former pro-Jakarta militias and Indonesian government and military personnel, they said, prefer to stay in Indonesia, meaning they would be resettled in other parts of the country.

The voting Wednesday was designed to identify those who want to return, apparently with the hope that international agencies would return to the area to assist in getting people back home.

Aid agencies left West Timor after three UNHCR workers were murdered in Atambua in September by a pro-Jakarta mob.


BBC Worldwide Monitoring June 6, 2001 Source: Pos Kupang, Kupang, in Indonesian 31 May 01

Indonesia to aid repatriation of former East Timorese soldiers

Kupang: Dozens of East Timorese who were irregular military forces (Milsas) during Indonesian rule of East Timor have stated their wishes to return to East Timor. The Indonesian government would facilitate their repatriation.

Commander of 161 Wirasakti Kupang Provincial Military Command, Col Budi Heryanto confirmed this at the East Timorese refugee camp in Noelbaki village, Central Kupang sub-district on Wednesday (30 May).

He said the former Milsas members would return to East Timor in June 2001. "We expect in the second week of June at the latest. Their numbers are around 43 up to 48 people. I am not sure about the number", he said. They would return along with their family members of more than 100 people. "There are about 150 people altogether", he added.

According to Col Heryanto, there were more than 1,000 Milsas living in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) at the moment. "The total number of Milsas were about 2,000. Some of them did not evacuate to West Timor. More than 100 had already returned to East Timor and there are some 1,000 people remaining", he said.

At present, most Milsas are almost at retiring age. "We will continue to provide payments so they can make a new life in East Timor", he said...

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[this was sent earlier today, repeated here for reference]

The Jakarta Post June 7, 2001

Refugee registration runs smoothly

KUPANG, East Nusa Tenggara (JP): The registration of East Timorese refugees in West Timor ran smoothly on Wednesday with a tentative result of 9,226 out of 9,533 voters choosing to stay in Indonesia and only 277 choosing to leave.

Latest records, made available at the organizing committee's media center at 11 p.m. local time, indicated that three regencies, Kupang, Lembata and East Flores, and the mayoralty of Kupang had yet to submit their results, while eight other regencies had submitted their tentative results.

The registration process was scheduled to take place during the course of one day but was finally prolonged until Thursday as more people had yet to register themselves, pending the result from the three regencies and the Kupang mayoralty, Amin Rianom, the chairman of the registration's organizing committee, said.

The fact that the registration process progressed peacefully surprised many.

Thousands of eligible voters in Kupang had earlier threatened to boycott the registration but on Wednesday they peacefully amassed at the voting sites upon their own will. There are 48 registration sites in Kupang.

East Nusa Tenggara Police chief Brig. Gen. Yakobus Jacky Uli said, when touring the registration sites, that he was very happy with the security.

"We found no evidence of sabotage. Thanks must be given to the refugees, who were aware of the importance of the registration for the sake of their families' future," Yakobus said.

The refugees admitted that the registration was a decisive moment for them to choose whether to remain in Indonesia or to leave.

"The registration is very helpful for us to decide our own future," Emiliano Gomez, a refugee at Tuapukan camp, Kupang regency, told The Jakarta Post.

"The government of Indonesia cannot prevent anybody from choosing to stay in East Timor. And the government of Indonesia must take care with those intending to stay in Indonesia."

Leandro da Concencao Pirez, another refugee at Noelbaki camp said he preferred staying in Indonesia. "Our main problem will be receiving aid after registration. We used to receive Rp 1,500 and four ounces of rice per day. We demand that aid not be reduced after registration."

Despite the peaceful proceedings, many refugees said that they were skeptical about the fairness of the registration and "voting" process.

The registration sites in Tuapukan and Noelbaki were all poorly lit. Some of the booths used kerosene lamps and some others used candles.

Sole also said that committee members had been sloppy in carrying out their duties due to the absence of both local and international observers.

"As a refugee, I am doubtful about the registration process. How could the United Nation acknowledge all this," said Bas Sole, a refugee from the village of Oebelo.

According to Amin Rianom, there were only 41 observers, 12 of them from Korea, Portugal, Japan, Norway, the International Office of Migration (IOM), Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mozambique, the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET), China and Brunei Darussalam, for 507 registration sites.

The registration and voting was organized by Indonesia in a bid to help the refugees get a better life. Those who choose to stay in Indonesia will be resettled in the future.

"The registration is meant to be a preliminary step toward the orderly handling of population and demography," Rianom said, in the guidelines of a book on registration. (30/sur)


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