|Subject: Election Reports: Fears of
Violence; Refugees; SCMP Op-Ed
- Candidates allege manipulation of ETimor election
- Preview-Fears of violence as East Timor heads for vote
- Avoid violence, ETimor ruling party tells supporters
- Timor leaders urge peace ahead of vote
- Timor refugees pray to go home
- SCMP: In Timor's dreams [Op-Ed by Peter Kammerer]
Candidates allege manipulation of ETimor election
DILI, April 6 (AFP) -- Half the candidates in East Timor's presidential poll said Friday they fear many attempts have been made to manipulate the election process ahead of Monday's vote.
"We fear that there are a lot of attempts to manipulate the whole election process," the candidates said in a joint statement.
"There's been a lot of intimidation, a lot of violence, and a lot of threats. We fear that violence can occur on the day of the vote," they said.
At least 32 people have already been injured in clashes this week in and around the capital Dili, although most of the two-week presidential campaign has been peaceful, the UN has said.
The candidates' statement was read at a press conference by Joao Viegas Carrascalao, one of eight people seeking to replace President Xanana Gusmao in the election, the first since troubled East Timor's independence in 2002.
Joining Carrascalao was Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo, chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, who is a strong contender to win the election. Two other candidates, Lucia Lobato and Fransisco Xavier do Amaral, were also present.
"We ask the UN to guarantee security and to be aware of all these attempts of manipulation," Carrascalao said.
"We have in many cases made complaints to the proper authorities and so far we haven't seen any measures taken."
Carrascalao said the four candidates received identity cards for their own election observers only on Friday, leaving them insufficient time to prepare to oversee the election.
They alleged the ruling Fretilin party got its identity cards some time ago from a government department, the Timorese Technical Secretariat for Election Administration (STAE), which is organising the election.
"The timing is premeditated," Carrascalao told AFP. "It's a government department and we fear that the government is manipulating through this department."
Faustino Cardoso, the president of the Nation Election Commission, said he was aware of the identity card problem.
"We have been in contact with STAE. Most of the cards have been finalised. I strongly believe that everything is going to be ready for the election on Monday," he said.
The UN said 2,000 East Timorese and 232 foreign observers would monitor the ballot.
Two other presidential candidates, both considered possible winners of the election, did not join Friday's press conference.
But Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta and Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres's Fretilin party separately accused a priest who sits on the National Election Commission of interference.
The accusation was levelled against Father Martinho Gusmao, the Catholic church's commission representative and spokesperson.
Filomeno Aleixo, of Fretilin's central committee, said Martinho Gusmao "clearly prejudiced the outcome of Monday's ballot" by voicing support for de Araujo's candidacy.
Ramos-Horta said the church hierarchy was "equally shocked" by Martinho Gusmao's action, which he said was inconsistent with his role on the electoral commission.
But when contacted by AFP the priest said "it's not for the Catholic church to dictate" who people should vote for.
"Officially, as an institution, we say all candidates are Catholic and we have no preference," he said.
Aleixo, whose party led East Timor's independence struggle, said the electoral commission is supposed to act as an independent body that helps ensure free and fair elections.
Indonesia occupied East Timor for 24 years before the former Portuguese colony gained independence after a period of UN stewardship.
Violence has pulsed through the fledgling state. Last year at least 37 people were killed and more than 150,000 fled their homes in unrest that triggered the dispatch of Australian-led international peacekeepers.
Preview-Fears of violence as East Timor heads for vote
By Ahmad Pathoni
DILI, April 6 (Reuters) - East Timor's political and religious leaders appealed on Friday for calm after supporters of candidates contesting next week's presidential elections clashed during campaigning, sparking fears of further electoral unrest.
President Xanana Gusmao, interim Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta and Dili Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva urged voters to exercise their democratic right peacefully and called on political leaders to restrain their supporters.
"On April 9 we all should vote in a democratic atmosphere. To all candidates and citizens I appeal to you to accept whatever the results gracefully," Gusmao told a joint news conference.
Supporters of rival candidates clashed during campaigning this week, injuring more than 30 people and prompting international troops to fire tear gas and warning shots.
The violence has heightened fears the impoverished country of one million people, whose secession from Indonesian rule in 1999 triggered widespread violence by pro-Jakarta militias, could again descend into chaos.
Just over half a million voters will pick the new president in Monday's election that outgoing President Gusmao says is a chance to demonstrate his young nation is not a failed state.
"This election is very important in the context of the crisis, that we are not a failed state," Gusmao, a charismatic independence hero, said this week.
Eight candidates are running, including interim Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel peace prize winner who spearheaded an overseas campaign for his country's independence from Indonesia in 2002. If no one wins more than half of the vote, a run-off will be held.
Gusmao, an ally of Ramos-Horta, is not running for re-election but plans to seek the more powerful post of prime minister in separate parliamentary elections later this year.
TROOPS TO PATROL
Around 3,000 international troops and police will go on patrol to safeguard the elections, the forces' commander Mal Rerden said, while about 200 international observers are monitoring the voting.
Some of the 700 polling stations are so remote the ballot papers will be delivered on horses.
"East Timorese hope that this election will put an end to the crisis that has divided the nation and whoever wins will be accepted by the people," Julio Thomas, a political analyst from the National University of Timor Leste, told Reuters.
Pro-Jakarta militiamen went on a violent rampage following a 1999 vote for independence, killing about 1,000 people and destroying much of the territory's infrastructure.
East Timor again descended into chaos last May after the government sacked 600 rebellious soldiers. More than 30 people were killed and 100,000 fled their homes, until the government asked foreign troops to quell the unrest.
Gusmao has blamed this week's clashes on the Fretilin Party of ousted Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, accusing its leaders of allowing supporters to provoke violence.
Fretilin's candidate, Francisco Guterres, is a front-runner in the elections.
The party, which led resistance against Indonesian rule, is popular among East Timorese despite accusations of Alkatiri's involvement in last year's violence, which cost him the premiership.
Fretilin denied the accusations on Friday, saying its supporters had been victims.
"How could we be accused of provoking when those injured were mostly Fretilin members," Arsenio Bano, a member of the party's central board, told Reuters.
Bano criticised Gusmao for taking part in a campaign rally for Ramos-Horta on Wednesday.
"It is very regrettable that President Xanana took part in the campaign of one candidate. He is the president of the whole nation and he must not publicly express favour for any candidate," Bano said.
Avoid violence, ETimor ruling party tells supporters
DILI, April 6 (AFP) -- East Timor's ruling party appealed on Friday for party supporters to avoid causing unrest around Monday's presidential election.
It asked its own supporters as well as those of other parties to act "with a high degree of tolerance and restraint."
The statement said about 40 Fretilin supporters had been hospitalised since Wednesday in the capital Dili, the hilltop town of Gleno south of Dili, and in East Timor's second city, Baucau.
"Violence is a weapon of those who don't want democracy," Fretilin said.
The United Nations said at least 32 people were injured in election-related clashes Wednesday in and around Dili, although most of the two-week presidential campaign was peaceful.
Fretilin said its secretary general, Mari Alkatiri, visited the injured in hospital on Friday.
Alkatiri and the party's presidential candidate, Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres, expressed sympathy for the victims, regardless of their political affiliation, it said.
Fretilin led the independence struggle against occupying Indonesian forces, and won 57 percent of the vote in pre-independence legislative elections.
The party retains a solid base of support but has also been criticised for a lack of political openness and the use of intimidation.
Guterres is considered a strong candidate to win the election, along with Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta and a third candidate, Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Party.
Ramos-Horta replaced Alkatiri last year after unrest that left at least 37 people dead.
The election, the first since independence in 2002, is seeking a replacement for President Xanana Gusmao, who is not seeking re-election in the country formally known as Timor-Leste.
Timor leaders urge peace ahead of vote
By Karen Michelmore
Dili, April 6 (AAP) -- East Timor's religious and political leaders have appealed for calm as the tiny nation prepares to head to the polls to elect a new president on Monday.
East Timor's religious and political leaders on Friday appealed for calm as the tiny nation prepares to head to the polls to elect a new president on Monday.
President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, and Bishop of Dili Alberto Ricardo were united as they urged citizens to reject violence and accept the result of the poll, whatever the outcome.
Ramos Horta - who is seeking to switch jobs and is a frontrunner among eight candidates vying to replace Gusmao - earlier said he would ask Australia's troops and the United Nations to remain in the tiny nation for years if he wins the presidential vote.
"If I'm the president of this country I will ask the UN, Australia, New Zealand to stay on here for as many years as possible," he said.
"My first obligation is to ensure that women, children, the elderly, the farmers, the students are able to walk free in the streets without fear.
"Until such a time we cannot guarantee that with our own police force, I'm sorry but I will swallow my pride and I will ask Australia, New Zealand, please stay on."
Dili was quiet on Friday following the official end of campaigning, as thousands in the devout Catholic nation attended mass or visited their families in the outlying districts for Good Friday.
"All people must be brave and receive the results," Gusmao said in his native language Tetum.
"Don't use violence."
Bishop Ricardo said the election was a chance for the people of East Timor to elect a good leader.
"Don't be afraid because the election is your right, you have already shown what you have done before in the referendum (in 1999) when you voted for independence," he said.
"God will bless you to show you to vote for who will become the good leader, the leader who can try to find justice (and) truth.
"I appeal for all the people to vote for the leader who loves the people, who has no violence ... to bring this country a good future."
Ramos Horta also appealed for calm, particularly among those who contributed to the occasional violence that marred the otherwise buoyant election period.
"Fortunately the incidents were not of enormous gravity and magnitude. But incidents of this nature are always regrettable, deplorable," he said.
Timor refugees pray to go home
DILI, April 6 (AFP) -- As Easter hymns ring out from the chapel at the Sisters of Charity convent in Dili, a group of children, their feet bare and covered in dirt, run among a row of makeshift tents.
They are just a few of the 7,000 East Timorese refugees who have sought refuge at the convent to escape an outbreak of ethnic violence in the tiny state.
On Easter Monday, the country will hold its first presidential election since independence in 2002, but for many refugees like Da Silva, voting is the farthest thing from their minds. They just pray one day to be able to go home.
"We've been here for almost a year," explains 35-year-old Guilhermina da Silva, who lives with her husband, four sons and a daughter in a two-by-three metre (six-by-10-foot) area under a tarp suspended from the branches of a tree.
The family sleeps on a thin sheet on the ground. Scraps of canvas held up by stakes serve as the walls of their "home". As for furniture, they have a stool and a piece of wooden lattice, on which they have piled up their clothes.
"Sleeping on the ground has made us sick. When it rains, there is water everywhere," she says.
Da Silva is a Lorosae from the east of the country, while her husband Gervasio Hale Mauk is a Loromonu from the west. They never imagined that their marriage would one day force them to flee for their lives.
In early 2006, some 600 soldiers -- a third of East Timor's army -- deserted, claiming military brass had discriminated against them because they were from the west. The prime minister at the time, Mari Alkatiri, sacked them.
Factional fighting among the soldiers eventually degenerated into gang warfare in the streets of Dili, leaving at least 37 people dead and forcing more than 150,000 others to flee their homes. Some 37,000 are still displaced.
Last year, Da Silva and her husband lived in a Loromonu village, but mounting threats against Da Silva forced them to run.
"I was afraid to leave her alone in the house in the morning with the children and go to work," he explains. "Then they told me to leave. It's hard to fathom."
Friends advised them to head for the Sisters of Charity convent in the capital.
"The sisters told us, 'Everyone here is a child of Jesus.' They said to leave our problems at the door," Da Silva remembers.
Now the seven-member family lives on six kilogrammes (13 pounds) of rice per person per month. They have a four-litre (one-gallon) container of vegetable oil.
"We pray every Sunday and every night of the week," Mauk says. "We dream that after the Ninth (Easter Monday), the situation will get better. We want to go home, but only when things are calm."
The convent's Mother Superior, Sister Guilhermina Marcal, says some 23,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) passed through the facility from May to September 2006, as armed gangs continued to terrorise the population.
The number gradually dropped to some 3,800 in January but spiked again after fresh clashes. Today, some 7,000 people call the convent home.
"Every single place is occupied by IDPs, except the chapel for prayers and the basketball court -- we moved the tents to make a little space for the kids," Sister Guilhermina says.
Before, the convent was home to young female students. Now the library is filled with boxes of blankets. At night dozens of people sleep between the bookshelves.
The budget once used for the girl's dormitory is now doled out for buying rice. Sister Guilhermina, who has lived in Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia and Singapore, called all of her contacts to ask for help.
Religious orders from around the region sent blankets and milk for the newborns. But it isn't enough.
"Some people lost their house or their house was burnt. Some people came here because their neighbourhoods don't allow them to go home," she says.
"There are not enough toilets to accommodate everybody. All toilets are broken down and our pump was damaged.
"We face a lot of problems."
South China Morning Post
April 6, 2007
In Timor's dreams
Peter Kammerer firstname.lastname@example.org
The formula East Timor's leaders have for dragging their nation from poverty looks straightforward enough: use the revenues from the country's oil and gas reserves to create a vibrant economy. As simple as this may sound, they will need all the luck they can get - because no country has ever achieved that goal.
Time and again, history has shown that petroleum resources bring nations misery, not wealth. There are terms for this phenomenon in the development community: the "paradox of plenty" and the "resource curse".
Saudi Arabia is the world's most oil-wealthy nation, yet the per capita gross domestic product is just US$13,800 compared to Malaysia's figure of US$12,700 and Hong Kong's US$36,500. Iraq has the world's biggest estimated oil reserves, but corruption, mismanagement and the continuing insurgency mean that per capita GDP is US$2,900.
Monarchies, corrupt autocracies and immature democracies in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America ensure that the wealth from oil and gas goes to a small elite, and does not filter through to the general populace.
Even in Brunei, where the autocratic monarchy keeps citizens relatively well off - providing high-quality medical care, education and pension systems - the future is not certain. The price of petroleum is not guaranteed, nor are reserves finite.
There are examples of governments that have managed petroleum revenues wisely: Norway, the Canadian province of Alberta and the US state of Alaska top the shortlist. None is completely reliant on oil for its income, though. Norway, for example, uses little of the money in its oil fund, which is aimed at long-term development needs rather than immediate goals.
But the picture is generally negative. East Timor's leaders want their nation to be the shining example that bucks the trend. In 2005, they set up a petroleum fund to manage the revenues from a resource that they know will be exhausted in one or two generations. The billions of dollars they hope to accrue will be used to eliminate the catalogue of problems East Timor faces as one of the world's 20 poorest nations. Per capita GDP is US$800, on a par with Afghanistan.
Almost half of the population of 900,000 live on less than US$1 a day, the UN's recognised poverty line; an estimated 70 per cent are unemployed; 60 per cent cannot read or write; the average life expectancy is 57 years; one in 10 children will not live beyond five years of age; and so the misery list goes on.
A petroleum fund containing billions of dollars would go a long way to resolving these matters, were it not for a few other realities. Most of East Timor's infrastructure was destroyed during its fight for democracy, and education and health services are rudimentary. The nation's democracy is immature and factional fighting rife - 37 people were killed in political clashes last year and, with presidential elections set for Monday, battles have resumed. But perhaps most worrying of all - for those who put faith in oil and gas as being East Timor's future - corruption is rampant: the Berlin-based group Transparency International ranked it equal 111th with nine other countries on its latest corruption perceptions index of 163 countries.
Starting next year, and for the next few decades until the oil and gas run out, East Timor will be one of the world's most petroleum-dependent countries. The Dili-based non-governmental organisation La'o Hamutuk has calculated that 89 per cent of the total economy and 94 per cent of government revenue will come from oil and gas exports.
Officials claim that the petroleum fund has been set up in such a robust manner that it will ensure East Timor's future viability and prosperity. Never mind that there is no other nation on Earth that has successfully managed this feat with oil and gas alone.
I am an optimist by nature. The East Timorese fought hard for their freedom - first from Portugal and then Indonesia. They deserve to have the nation that they have dreamed of.
Reality and history dictate matters somewhat differently.
Peter Kammerer is the Post's foreign editor
------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service