|Subject: SMH: Poll still alive, UN envoy says
Date: Sat, 15 May 1999 11:25:43 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Sydney Morning Herald 15/05/99
EAST TIMOR Poll still alive, UN envoy says
By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili
The United Nations spokesman on East Timor, Mr David Wimhurst, says he is confident a vote on self-determination will take place on August 8, despite more killings this week by pro-Indonesian militias and a threatened boycott by independence groups.
"The agreement is in place. We're going ahead with this mission," Mr Wimhurst said here. "I'm not in any way pessimistic - we're off to a good start." Not everybody shared his optimism. The euphoria that followed the signing in New York 10 days ago of an agreement between Portugal and Indonesia offering East Timorese a choice between autonomy within Indonesia or independence was short-lived.
On Sunday and Monday, at least three people died and a dozen more were wounded in attacks by pro-Indonesian gangs armed with cudgels, homemade muskets and cutlasses.
Responsibility for ending the violence lies with Indonesian authorities, and their credibility is now on the line, the UN says. Mr Wimhurst said: "It is incumbent upon the Indonesian authorities, particularly the police here, to make sure this consultation process is carried out in a secure environment. I think that the pressure will be on them to make sure that is done.
"We have an agreement, and it has been signed by Indonesia, and Indonesians obviously expected to respect this agreement, and its public servants and its officers of law and order are expected to respect that agreement and make sure it goes ahead in the way it has been planned." Mr Wimhurst said full deployment of an estimated 850 UN personnel including about 250 police would not take place until mid-June.
One of the UN civilian monitors' first jobs would be a census of eligible voters among the 800,000 population and in other places where there are many East Timorese, such as Sydney, Darwin, Jakarta and Lisbon.
UN officials would conduct a widespread voter education campaign on radio, television and local print media to explain the autonomy proposal and the implications of a "yes" or "no" vote, he said.
Votes would not be counted in villages but, for security reasons, in several central locations. Voting patterns would also remain secret, Mr Wimhurst said. Regardless of the outcome of the August vote, a UN presence would be maintained in East Timor to oversee an orderly and peaceful transition.
However, this week's violence already clouds the outlook.
The armed forces chief, General Wiranto, had earlier confidently told Parliament that support for the main pro-independence group, the National Council for Timorese Resistance, had eroded, and that those favouring autonomy were in the majority.
Paramilitary violence has driven independence supporters into exile or hiding and, despite promises from Jakarta, no timetable or agreement is in place for disarming pro-independence fighters or their militia protagonists.
A veteran independence fighter said: "Everybody here wants independence, but the militias are forcing people not to vote independence and pointing guns at them. There is no UN peacekeeping force here to protect them."
The exiled independence activist and Nobel prize laureate Mr José Ramos Horta, has warned of a ballot boycott because of the continuing violence in the province. His warning was reaffirmed by Mr David Ximenes, an independence leader hiding in Dili.
Mr Horta criticised Jakarta's reluctance to release the independence leader Xanana Gusmao, under house arrest in Jakarta following his earlier release from prison, where he was serving a 20-year sentence for inciting rebellion.