|Subject: AFP: UN mission checks voters
'registration' ahead of East Timor polls
Date: Fri, 02 Jul 1999 09:18:42 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
UN mission checks voters 'registration' ahead of East Timor polls
MANATUTO, East Timor, July 2 (AFP) - The UN mission in East Timoris checking allegations of an illegal voter registration drive ahead of an August ballot on autonomy or independence in this Indonesian-ruled territory.
Local government representatives have visited villages here to find out whether residents supported autonomy under Indonesia or independence, a source in this town said.
"They entered the villages saying you must vote autonomy. The roads will be better. But if there is independence, war will return," the source said.
Official voter registration for the UN-sponsored ballot to determine whether the population in the former Portuguese colony will accept or reject autonomy under Indonesia, is not scheduled to begin for about two weeks.
UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst said allegations of improper registration in Manatuto will be investigated.
"(If it is going on) it is completely illegal. It is a complete violation of the agreement," Wimhurst said.
A blank copy of the registration form circulated by the officials, and obtained by AFP, has on its masthead: "List -- people's vote about special autonomy for East Timor."
It contains a space for the name of the subdistrict, then columns for people's names, gender, their age and address. The column for voting preference offers two choices: "Accept autonomy" or "Reject Autonomy."
The Committee for a Free and Independent Ballot -- a monitoring group formed by the Dili-based rights watchdog the Foundation for Human Rights and Justice (YHAK) -- has accused East Timor's Jakarta-appointed governor of having approved three billion rupiah (384,000 dollars) for each district to spend on promoting autonomy.
The source in Manatuto said about 4,000 names were already on the list but only 700 had expressed a preference for autonomy. The source speculated that the list could be a means to get more government money to promote autonomy.
In Manatuto, a community bordered by bright green rice fields halfway between Dili and the coastal city of Baucau, the pro-autonomy side has hung two banners across city streets.
"Autonomy brings brotherhood," says one message outside the local military command.
"Autonomy equals peace and prosperity," says the second red banner in in front of a police station at the other end of town.
Similar banners have been strung up in Baucau, East Timor's second-largest city.
UNAMET says the signs are not allowed until the campaign officially begins in August.
"We've made it clear that all pro-autonomy or pro-independence banners promoting either one side or the other side are not allowed outside the campaign (period)," Wimhurst said.
Similar banners were removed from the streets of Dili weeks ago.
Despite the pro-autonomy messages in Manatuto and Baucau, local residents and UNAMET staff say the situation there is calmer than in other districts like Maliana and Viqueque, where intimidation by pro-Indonesian militias forced some UN workers to flee this week.
"People are not afraid. The UN is already here," the Manatuto source said.
"In May it was hot here but since June there is no more trouble."
Militia still ride around town at night on their motorcycles and at times intimidate people, but the kidnappings have stopped and they seem to have put aside their weapons, the source said.
A church source in Baucau reported similar calm in the hilly city where, he said, most people support independence.
"The people are moving more freely and those whose faces I never saw, they are coming out of their homes," he source said.
A local student agreed things are better in the city, but added: "In the mountains there is intimidation. You must vote autonomy."
Denise Dauphinais, who heads UNAMET's Baucau and Manatuto district office, said her teams have been greeted by curious crowds as they visit rural areas to explain the UN's role.
"People are really interested," she said.
After two weeks in the area, UNAMET has found the region "very quiet and calm," Dauphinais said.