|Subject: AGE: Militia may try to sink UN ballot says
Date: Sat, 07 Aug 1999 09:58:53 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
The Age Thursday, August 5, 1999
Militia may try to sink UN ballot
By LINDSAY MURDOCH - INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT - DILI, WEDNESDAY
International observers who have documented the stockpiling of weapons in East Timor suspect pro-Jakarta militia and elements of the Indonesian military plan to sabotage the United Nations ballot to decide the future status of the territory.
The International Federation for East Timor said today it had received persistent reports that weapons stockpiling was taking place in many parts of East Timor, especially near the border with West Timor.
The reports come amid a far larger than expected turnout of 420,000 East Timorese to register for the ballot, indicating voters are defying what observers and human rights group describe as a continuing climate of intimidation and terror by Indonesian-backed militia forces.
``The security situation is still far from what is necessary to ensure a free and fair process,'' the federation, a group backed by human rights organisations from many countries, said in a report obtained by The Age.
``Fear is pervasive among many in East Timor that militias and elements of the Indonesian military will use these weapons either to disrupt the vote ... and/or to engage in acts of terrorism after the announcement of the results of the ballot,'' it said.
A spokesman for the federation, Mr Will Seaman, said in Dili that a UN official had reported seeing Indonesian soldiers last week handing over weapons to militia near the town of Same.
``The picture emerging of the stockpiling of weapons is very disturbing,'' Mr Seaman said.
The federation, which has 21 authorised foreign observers stationed around the territory, called for the UN to boost its presence, saying it feared ``greater levels of Indonesian military-orchestrated violence'' after the ballot.
While the security situation has improved in Dili, where hundreds of UN personnel are now living, paramilitary groups continue to operate outside the town with impunity, UN officials say.
The head of the UN mission in East Timor, Mr Ian Martin, said today the UN was ``still pressing for action to be taken where there are indications specific TNI (Indonesian soldiers) have continued to be involved in militia activity.'' He did not elaborate.
The criticisms follow an apparent attempt by top Indonesian military officers to improve relations with the UN in East Timor.
At a party in Dili hosted by the military last weekend, senior police and military commanders pledged in front of UN officials, including Mr Martin, to ensure that the ballot was held in a climate free of intimidation and violence.
Relations between the UN and the army have been tense after international condemnation of violence in East Timor in recent months.
Only days before an official 10-day campaign period begins, the UN fears a fresh outbreak of violence could disrupt the ballot scheduled for 30 August.
The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, said in a letter to the UN Security Council that ``conditions required for a largely technical exercise such as registration are notably less stringent than those which will be necessary for campaigning in the run-up to the consultation (ballot).''