|Subject: ANFREL Expresses Grave Concern On the East
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:32:52 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
ANFREL Expresses Grave Concern On the East Timor Situation Prior to the August Popular Consultation
A five-member team of observers organized by the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), a Bangkok-based network of human rights and electioning monitoring groups in Asia conducted a pre-consultation observation mission in East Timor and Indonesia last July 10 to 20, 1999 to assess the situation prior to the scheduled August 21 popular consultation and to observe the on-going voter registration in East Timor and in Jakarta, respectively.
The team, composed of monitors from Thailand, Philippines, Japan and Indonesia visited offices of United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), the agency in-charge of supervising the popular consultation, Peace and Stability Commission (KPS), met with representatives of pro-integration and pro-independence groups, local organizations working on human rights, local and international election monitoring organizations, religious congregations and organizations working with internally displaced persons and students. Besides Dili, the team also visited Los Pallos and Bacau in the eastern part of the island. The team also spent a few days in Jakarta to observe voter registration and meet with some East Timorese in the capital.
Based on the meetings and consultations held and actual observation conducted, the team expresses the following concerns which need to be addressed immediately by authorities concerned:
On the security situation
The reported incidents of militia attacks on the UN offices and personnel in Liquicia and Mallana happened a few days before the team arrived in Dili. People interviewed said that although the situation is a little bit better compared to the past months, still nobody dare to stay late at night outside their homes because of fear. The team was informed that a number of big businessmen had already left East Timor. A number of districts besides Liquica and Mallana, remain sensitive areas as militia forces continue to threaten the local population, creating fear among the people.
Along the border of East and West Timor, more troops were deployed in the area, creating fear among the people living in the vicinity areas. Just before the group left, the Suai incident happened, causing the death of one and serious injuries to four local residents. The team was informed of the past cases of killings, torture, disappearances and harassment of people identified with pro-independence movement by the groups and individuals they interviewed.
Generally, the security situation is tense and uncertain. Although in some areas, it is generally peaceful but it is obvious that people have deep fear of the government military and police. This kind of atmosphere is obviously not conducive to holding a free and fair polling, rather this would affect the willingness of people to come out to register and vote. If even the security of the UNAMET personnel and international observers could not be guaranteed, the ordinary people have reason to be afraid of their own security especially after the polling when reprisal is most likely to take place against those who voted in favor of independence. People expressed fear especially after the polling when the UNAMET and international observers are no longer around and they have to bear the acts of reprisal of the losing side. There is a need to address urgently the security situation as this would undermine the people's right to exercise their free choice.
On the situation of internally displaced persons
The team was informed of the increasing number of internally displaced persons ranging from 80,000 to 100,000 in different parts of East Timor both in the urban centers and rural areas due to militarization. In Atambuan alone, an estimated 6,000 have fled to the site and yet there is no registration of voters in the area. Aside from their miserable situation of not having enough food and proper housing and sanitation, their rights to register and vote would be deprived because they don't have or they lack the legal documents to prove their real identity. The idea of returning to their villages where they are supposed to register is most unlikely as they consider it a threat to their security and lives.
On the rights of political prisoners
Hundreds of political prisoners languish in various detention centers in East Timor, Bali, Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia. The team was informed that the detainees are not informed of the requirements for registration and the procedures for both registration and voting.
On East Timorese living outside East Timor
There is also quite a big number of East Timorese living outside East Timor. Most of them went on exile after the Indonesian troops' occupation in 1975. Concentration of East Timorese are found in Jakarta, Yogjakarta, Sumatra, Ujung Pandang in Indonesia; Darwin, and Melbourne in Australia, Macau and Portugal. The team was informed that most people are not well aware of the requirements and process related to the registration and voting.
Based on the Agreements of parties involved in the popular consultation, a 'secure environment devoid of violence or other forms of intimidation is a pre-requisite for the holding of a free and fair ballot in East Timor'. To the team's assessment, this environment is not present in East Timor and therefore undermines the people's confidence in exercising their free choice during the actual popular consultation.
ANFREL calls on the Indonesian Government to fulfill its resposibility under the May 5 Agreements to ensure the security of East Timorese people. The team believes that unless the troops are withdrawn and the local militia are disarmed, there is no guarantee that human rights violations, threats and intimidations will come to a halt. While there are other requirements to achieve a conducive atmosphere for the holding of the polling, this is a very important first step to ensure a less threatening atmosphere for the holding of the popular consultation.
ANFREL believes that the Indonesian Government's responsibility can be best fulfilled and its goodwill demonstrated by pulling out its troops from the territory and disarming and disbanding the local militia.
Action on the numerous human rights violations need to be done to restore the people's confidence and to lessen their fear and anxiety.
ANFREL calls for immediate action on the situation of internally displaced persons and requests the authorities to allow them to register wherever they are.
Political prisoners should have access to information and be allowed to exercise their right to register and vote.
East Timorese citizens living outside East Timor should also be informed of the requirements, the place for registartion and voting and the procedures.
ANFREL appeals to the international community and to the media to keep their vigilance in the monitoring of the situation in East Timor and in supporting the people of East Timor in their exercise of their freedom to choose and determine their own fate and their long search for justice and peace.