|Subject: AFP: UN assures equal campaign rights ahead
of East Timor vote
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 09:13:07 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
UN assures equal campaign rights ahead of East Timor vote
DILI, East Timor, June 26 (AFP) - The UN special envoy to East Timor, Jamsheed Marker, on Saturday pledged to ensure equal campaign rights for all parties ahead of the August ballot on self-determination.
"There cannot be a free and fair ballot unless all the parties have the rights to campaign equally," Marker told a press conference at the end of a three-day visit here.
"This will be our duty to make sure of that," he said.
Marker did not elaborate on the parties involved, which are divided into pro and anti-independence camps, with many of the pro-independence faction living in exile.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas has said campaigning for the August ballot would be confined to those residing in East Timor and excluded East Timorese activists abroad.
Alatas' statement followed a threat by self-exiled pro-independence leader Jose Ramos Horta last week to return to East Timor in July to campaign with or without Jakarta's permission.
He later withdrew the threat following a harsh reaction from Jakarta.
Indonesia has, however, given him a visa to attend a reconciliation dialogue in Jakarta involving representatives of the pro and anti camps,
Ramos Horta is due to arrive in Jakarta later Saturday and would attend the meeting on Sunday.
Alatas has said Ramos Horta may be allowed to visit East Timor, which he had left in December 1975, as long as he did not campaign there.
Marker did not state whether his statement concerned Ramos Horta but referring to the reconciliation dialogue he said it was important the pro-independence leader is involved "in a serious negotiating process, and that is perhaps the most helpful role that could be played."
The organisers of the talks, the two Roman Catholic bishops of the territory, have touted the dialogue as "the only major dialogue process initiated and managed wholly by East Timorese."
Marker said the UN attached importance to the process because it represents "East Timorese talking, negotiating, discussing among themselves."
He said he was ending his visit to the troubled territory with a feeling of optimism "tinged not so much with caution as with a serious realisation of the difficulties we still face."
"On the one hand we have had to overcome a lot of difficulties in terms of logistics and supplies to get this exercise going.
"And on the other hand, there is the issue of security which has been present in this territory for a number of years and cannot be expected to disappear overnight."
Violence between rival factions in East Timor has escalated since Jakarta said in January it was prepared to let go the territory it invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year, if the people rejected an autonomy offer.
The United Nations cited continuing violence by pro-Indonesian militia in the outlying areas of East Timor as one reason for postponing for two weeks the ballot which was orginally scheduled for August 8.
As Marker prepared to leave East Timor another batch of 30 UN civilian police arrived from Australia where they had received training.
The civilian police, to total 274, will advise the Indonesian police on security matters ahead of the polls.