|Subject: DJ: Voter Safety Worries U.N. as East Timor
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:35:36 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Dow Jones June 15, 1999
Voter Safety Worries U.N. as East Timor Eyes Freedom
DILI, East Timor -- This disputed province is growing calmer but still has a "long way to go" before those who support breaking away from Indonesia feel secure enough to vote in a referendum on independence, less than two months away, the chief United Nations official here says.
"It's a priority for us both to assess and also to try and have a positive effect upon a security situation, which is still a great concern around the country," said the official, Ian Martin, who heads a United Nations mission that arrived here in May.
He said his first task had been to assess whether people felt secure enough even to register to vote in the referendum. It is set for Aug. 8, and will take place as part of a U.N.-brokered agreement signed on May 5 by Indonesia and Portugal, the former colonial power.
Since January, political violence, carried out mainly by militias and gangs that want to remain part of Indonesia, has claimed more than 100 lives, mostly those of independence supporters.
"There's a long way to go" Martin said, "if pro-independence supporters, many of whom have left their homes in recent months, are going to feel that they can return in security, which is what they have to do for registration let alone ballot campaigning."
Many of those who support independence have gone into hiding and are only now beginning to emerge.
"It's only beginning to happen very slowly," Martin added. "I don't think yet anything like a sufficient sense of confidence has been created. Inevitably it will be slow to return after what has happened in the recent past."
Since the arrival of the first U.N. personnel last month, the security situation in the provincial capital, Dili, has noticeably improved, Martin said, despite "a good deal of apprehension" and continuing threats of violence.
He said Dili was clearly a lot calmer than the outlying districts of Liquica, Maliana and Suai, where the United Nations continued to receive "disturbing reports."
U.N. officials here have faced challenges enforcing certain provisions of the May 5 accord and making sure that all parts of it are clearly understood.
As Martin put it, "I'm not sure that the agreement has really begun to be understood or explained certainly down to local level among government officials, who may have been given a very different expectation of what they were to do."
For instance, the agreement strictly prohibits use of Government money for spreading propaganda about the autonomy proposal or supporting political and militia groups allied to Jakarta.
"We've certainly begun to raise that as an issue with the Indonesian authorities," Martin added, "and we will have to absolutely insist that any evidence that it is continuing must lead to prompt and firm action on their part."
He expressed concern that military and police chiefs in the province had allowed several pro-Jakarta militias to join village-level civil defense groups that have policing powers.
East Timor's regional police commander, Col. Timbul Silaen, said recently that he did no object if a hard-line militia commandant, Eurico Guterres, joined the civil defense.
"I'm surprised by that statement," Martin said, adding that although he was not entirely clear on the legal basis, "certainly it is something that exists in many parts of Indonesia."
He said his group had "made clear" that "it is the police and only the police who shall play the security role, so we expect to progressively see that is the case."