Subject: IO: UN team visits East Timor to prepare for direct vote
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999 09:24:37 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Indonesian Observer 25th March 1999 Nation UN team visits East Timor to prepare for direct vote

JAKARTA (IO) — A six-member team of United Nations officials arrived in East Timor yesterday to prepare for a direct vote on autonomy in the former Portuguese colony.

The team, led by UN Director for Asia-Pacific Affairs, Francesco Vendrell, also includes Tamrath Samuel, Horacio Boneo, Terry Burke, Mike Dora and Henry Thompson.

Upon their arrival, the UN delegates held a closed-door meeting with Wira Dharma District Military Commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, who overseas security in East Timor.

They are also expected to have talks with community leaders and local government officials, including East Timor Governor Abilio Jose Soares.

Samuel, a UN representative on East Timor affairs, said no decision has been made on whether the territory will be secured by a UN peacekeeping force while the province decides whether to accept autonomy or choose independence.

"We have been studying this," Samuel was quoted as saying by Antara after the team arrived in the East Timor capital of Dili.

He said if East Timor rejects the wide-ranging autonomy offered by the Indonesian government, it will be set free.

Indonesia earlier this year said it would grant independence to East Timor if its people reject an autonomy package that is being crafted in negotiations at the UN headquarters in New York.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Alatas, who frequently claimed Indonesia would never hold a referendum on East Timor’s independence, said he hoped the ballot could be held in July.

The UN team will submit its report in April for the next round of tripartite talks between Indonesia and Portugal, under the aegis of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a bid to achieve a lasting solution to the East Timor issue.

"We want to know how to organize the future of East Timor in the international world," Samuel said.

Vendrell, Samuel and Boneo are slated to return to Jakarta today, while Burke, Dora and Thompson will stay until Sunday.

The UN team should have arrived in Dili on Tuesday, but was delayed because their aircraft was hit by engine trouble.

The National Commission on Human Rights has formed a panel in East Timor in an effort to help promote reconciliation among rival factions in the territory where recent sporadic violence has erupted between supporters and opponents of independence.

The newly formed human rights panel, which has 30 members, will also try to guarantee the safety of non-indigenous people who live in East Timor.

Some Indonesian doctors and teachers have been threatened and attacked by East Timorese.

Immediate reconciliation

Dili Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo yesterday urged all East Timorese to reconcile immediately to avert a civil war in the territory. "There is no other way to solve the problems of East Timor except through reconciliation. This reconciliation can be reached not only by pro and anti-integrationists in East Timor, but also by those living abroad," he told a Roman Catholic mass attended by about 1,500 parishioners in Dili.

Belo was quoted by Antara as saying priests should become peacemakers, and urged his congregation to repent for their sins.

The bishop reiterated that lasting peace cannot be achieved through hostilities but only through penitence and constant talks.

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