|=Subject: AP: Next Hurdle In E. Timor: End Violence
So Vote Can Go Ahead
Date: Sat, 08 May 1999 09:30:59 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
May 5, 1999
Next Hurdle In E. Timor: End Violence So Vote Can Go Ahead
Dow Jones Newswires
UNITED NATIONS (AP)--With the signing of a historic agreement giving the people of East Timor a vote on their future, the next hurdle is to stop escalating violence so voters can peacefully decide whether to remain part of Indonesia or seek independence.
The agreement signed Wednesday by the foreign ministers of Portugal and Indonesia and witnessed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan states clearly that ending violence and intimidation "is a prerequisite for the holding of a free and fair ballot."
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the former Portuguese colony the following year. It refused to allow U.N. peacekeeping troops to oversee the Aug. 8 ballot - and the agreement states that Jakarta is responsible for ensuring that voting is held "in an atmosphere free of intimidation, violence or interference from any side."
Stressing that ending violence is "crucial," Annan noted that Indonesian President B.J. Habibie had given his word that he would do his utmost to maintain law and order.
In a private memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, Annan spells out exactly what kind of "climate" must be created in East Timor before he can determine that adequate security conditions exist for the ballot to go ahead.
"As an urgent first step," he said, armed civilian groups must be brought under strict control.
Pro-independence rebel groups and pro-Indonesian militiamen blame each other for the upsurge in fighting following Indonesia's surprise announcement in January that it would offer the 800,000 East Timorese independence if they rejected wide-ranging autonomy. Both sides signed a peace pledge on April 21, along with top Indonesian military leaders, but the violence has continued.
Annan said a process must be instituted immediately for the "laying down of arms by all armed groups, to be completed well in advance of the holding of the ballot." Indonesian military forces must also be redeployed, though he gave no figures.
Independence activists have demanded a major reduction of Indonesian troops in East Timor and disarmament of the militias. Pro-Indonesian militia leaders oppose the U.N.-supervised ballot and have warned that they will fight for their cause.
The agreement says the parties should "take the necessary steps to achieve disarmament."
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed the former Portuguese colony the following year.
"That is certainly the desire and the determination of my government - to do so," Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said.
But he said Indonesia could not promise to disarm the militias immediately because of difficulties in getting pro-independence rebels down from the mountains. He also stressed that disarmament requires cooperation of both groups.
The agreement states that Indonesian police will be "solely responsible" for maintaining law and order, and that Annan will make an unspecified number of U.N. civilian police available to serve as advisers and to supervise the escort of ballot boxes to and from polling stations. He said they will be unarmed.
A 600-strong U.N. mission will oversee voting and a U.N. advance team has already arrived in East Timor, U.N. officials said.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama handed over a $10 million check from the Portuguese government to help finance the U.N. mission.
U.N. envoy Jamsheed Marker, who was been the key negotiator over the past two years, said he believes the U.N. presence "will provide a calming effect and an assurance ... of impartiality."
But Annan's memorandum notes with concern that public threats have already been issued to the United Nations by some unidentified individuals. Those who incite or threaten to use violence must be promptly arrested and prosecuted, it said.
There must also be an immediate ban on rallies by armed groups, freedom for pro-independence and pro-integration forces to conduct peaceful political activities, and free access to the media for both sides and the United Nations, the memorandum said.