|Subject: IPS: UN Announcement of Delay in Vote Draws
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 08:55:32 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
RIGHTS-EAST TIMOR: UN Announces Delay in Vote
By Farhan Haq
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 (IPS) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's decision Tuesday to delay a vote on the status of East Timor drew sharp reaction from supporters of independence who blamed Indonesia for the lack of adequate security in the territory.
''I think this is going to be a big embarrassment for Indonesia,'' said Constancio Pinto - UN representative of the pro- independence National Council of Timorese Resistance - after Annan announced that the vote, scheduled for Aug. 8, would be postponed until later that month.
''We have certain conditions which have to be fulfilled'' before any vote, Annan said in Moscow Tuesday. ''We have to ensure that the security situation was conducive and appropriate, that the logistical problems were solved, that we could deploy everybody on time.''
After studying the situation, ''we felt a brief delay would be beneficial. So we have delayed it briefly, but the ballot will go ahead in the month of August and the East Timorese will have a free choice,'' Annan said.
The UN Security Council was expected to accept a three-week delay in the vote, in which East Timorese above the age of 17 can opt either for independence, or autonomy under Indonesian rule.
The vote probably will be taken Aug. 29 but the United Nations is not likely to announce the new date before UN envoy Jamsheed Marker, who is traveling to East Timor Thursday, returns to brief the Security Council, officials said.
Pinto said that the Timorese self-determination movement could accept a brief elay to ensure safety; but he added, ''We hope this will be the only delay of the vote.''
In any case, he said, the delay underscored what critics of Indonesia's 23-year occupation of East Timor have claimed is Jakarta's unwillingness or inability to provide the necessary security for a free and fair vote.
Under a UN-brokered agreement on May 5 between Indonesia and Portugal, Indonesia was given the sole responsibility of providing security and maintaining law and order in the run-up to the August vote, Pinto noted.
''The announcement from the UN secretary-general to delay the vote until the end of August revealed that the Indonesian government has not fully complied with the New York agreement,'' he argued.
''We hope this will put Indonesia on the spot,'' said John Miller, spokesman for the US-based East Timor Action Network. ''They control security in the territories. It is their militias that are responsible for the terror and fear that are preventing a free and fair vote in East Timor.''
Both UN officials and outside human rights experts had previously warned that the level of violence within East Timor was too high to allow a fair referendum.
Amnesty International, in a report released Monday, cited at least 34 examples of extra-judicial executions of pro-independence Timorese, which it blamed on pro-Jakarta paramilitaries.
Florence Martin, UN representative of Amnesty International and part of an Amnesty team which visited East Timor last month, told IPS that a delay in the Timor ballot is ''par for the course'' given the level of violence there.
She added that ''three weeks is nothing'' in terms of the time needed to calm tensions on the ground.
The United Nations appeared to be counting on 900 outside officers - including 270 civilian police and 50 military liaison officers who arrive in East Timor in the next few weeks - to calm the situation.
So far, however, reports contine of violent harrassment by the militias, occasionally even as UN officials are able to witness such acts.
''A campaign of state-sponsored terror in East Timor is in full swing,'' the Australia-based East Timor International Support Centre said in a statement delivered to the UN Decolonisation Committee.
The group alleged that Indonesia's military was actively supporting the militias, a charge denied by Jakarta but echoed by several human rights groups.
''The Indonesian armed forces are actively working to sabotage the UN vote,'' the Centre contended. ''This is in direct contravention of their obligation of neutrality under the UN agreement.''
In recent days, pro-Jakarta groups have also accused the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) with ransacking homes and harrassing Timorese and have asked for some UNAMET officers to be replaced.
''We are astonished that they can make public statements about UNAMET activities that they don't even bother to verify,'' said UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst about some of the militias' accusations.
The current climate could work against the Indonesian government's efforts to repair its international image - badly battered by its 1975 invasion of East Timor and the deaths of some 200,000 Timorese, or more than a quarter of the population, in the aftermath.
On Tuesday, the US Senate unanimously supported an amendment to a State Department authorisation bill, asking President Bill Clinton's administration to ''intensify their efforts to prevail upon the Indonesian government and military'' to crack down on the militias.
The Senate criticised Indonesia for including some militia leaders in its civil defense forces. It argued that such a policy ''violates the May 5 agreement which states that the absolute neutrality of the military and police is essential for holding a free and fair ballot.'' (END/IPS/fah/mk/99)