Subject: ETO:UN02: Voter registration phase
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 12:06:21 +0200
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <>

East Timor Observatory / Observatório Timor Leste / Observatoire Timor-Oriental

All peoples have the right to self-determination... all armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence. (Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples - UN Gen.Ass. Resolution 1514, 14/12/1960)

Ref.: UN02-1999/08/20eng

Subject: Voter registration phase

Summary: The registration process undertaken by the UN in East Timor has particularly highlighted three aspects of the situation in the territory: 1. One camp is afraid of the UN-organised popular consultation; all the threats are coming from the same side – the pro-integration with Indonesia side. 2. The Timorese have flocked in large numbers to the voter registration centres. After 23 of military occupation, and in spite of widespread intimidation, the massive turnout is considered a sign of the people’s determination to participate in the consultation. 3. The successful implementation of the registration process is just the first step: · For the election campaign and the ballot itself security conditions will have to be far better than those seen during the registration period. UN Secretary General (UN SG) Kofi Annan himself has stressed this very requirement: "As I am sure the Council realizes, 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" (letter to the Security Council, 27-7-99). · The next stage is causing major concern because of the persistent threats being made. The US State Department’s view was emphatic: "Indonesian officials – some officials – and anti-independence militia leaders have suggested in recent days that a vote for independence will result in extensive violence or even civil war. This is intimidation, or worse; it is unacceptable." (Briefing 12-8-99). Action is needed to prevent the worst from happening.

Schedule 1) Under the 5 May 1999 Agreements in New York, the period comprising 13 June to 17 July was to be devoted to "preparation and registration" for the popular consultation in East Timor. Given that "a continuous 20-day period" was established for voter registration, registration should have commenced on 28 June. 2) For logistical and security reasons, the UN SG requested that voter registration be postponed, and that it should commence on 13 July instead, the date of the ballot itself being altered from 8 to 22 August. The latter date was later changed yet again to 30 August. 3) On 13 July, Kofi Annan announced a further 3-day postponement of the start of registration, the new date being 16 July. This was the latest date possible within the schedule for the different stages of the process. A later date would involve a further postponement of the ballot. "I decided to start voter registration on the basis of the positive assurances given by the Indonesian authorities … significant, visible improvements to the security situation must be observed in the immediate future" (letter to the UN Security Council, 15-7-99). 4) An extension to the registration period was announced on the last day: 2 days in East Timor and 4 days abroad, thus ending on 6 and 8 August respectively.

Voters 1) Eligible voters are persons over 17 years of age who either were born in East Timor themselves, or whose father or mother was born in East Timor. Persons married to someone in either of these two categories are also eligible. 2) Various documents can confirm eligibility but people were required to present two: one document to establish their identity (ID card, passport…), and one to prove their eligibility to vote (birth, baptismal or marriage certificate…). 3) UNAMET has had to take into account both the reported falsification of ID cards, and the fact that thousands of Timorese (the internally displaced persons – IDPs) had their documents taken from them after they were forced to flee from their homes. To overcome these problems, UNAMET distributed forms that those wishing to register had to get signed by either a religious leader or village chief. They also had to report to the UNAMET centre with a registered voter who was prepared to attest to the candidate’s identity. 4) Timorese living overseas who did not possess the required documents could register to vote after presenting an affidavit.

Voter registration centres 1) 400,000 was the UN’s estimated number of candidate voters resident in East Timor, and 35,000 living in the rest of the world. The UN decided to set up 200 voter registration centres in the territory and 13 abroad – 5 in Indonesia, 4 in Australia, 1 in Portugal, 1 in Macao, 1 in New York and 1 in Mozambique. (For the sake of comparison, Indonesia set up 917 registration centres in East Timor for the Indonesian elections.) 2) In East Timor, the voter registration process was organised by UNAMET; outside the territory it was the responsibility of the International Migration Organisation, except in Australia where the Australian National Electoral Commission dealt with its organisation. 3) The registration centres had to be open for 20 consecutive days (closing for half a day every 5 days so registration officials could rest). Voters will have to cast their vote in the same area in which they registered. The 200 registration centres in East Timor will be sub-divided into 700 voting posts.

UNAMET 1) The UN Mission organising the popular consultation comprises the following: · 667 staff members and electoral officials (DEOs), 242 of whom are UN staff and 425 volunteers; · 274 unarmed civilian police officers (CivPol) recruited by the UN to advise the Indonesian police force in East Timor; · 50 soldiers (MLOs – military liaison officers), to liase with Indonesian military personnel; · Timorese working as drivers, interpreters, electoral officials, etc., whose numbers will increase from the current approximately 550 (for the registration process) to 3,645 at the time of the ballot. 2) Logistical difficulties encountered on the ground, especially in terms of security, delayed the entire process. By 28 June, when registration ought to have been underway, only 304 of the 667 UN staff members and DEOs, 74 of the 274 CivPol, and none of the MLOs had actually arrived in East Timor, while less than 10 of the 200 registration centres had been set up. Not only was the presence of the electoral officers (DEOs) essential to the registration operations, but the CivPol and MLOs were vitally important to improve the security situation.

Observers 1) Official observers: numbers were agreed during the negotiations - 50 from Portugal and 50 from Indonesia. 2) The UN could accredit observers nominated by other countries, national and international organisations, and NGOs that agreed to comply with the UN’s Code of Conduct. 3) Once accredited by the UN, candidate observers had to obtain a social and cultural permit from the Indonesian authorities. Some candidates who had been accredited by UNAMET had their permit applications rejected by the Indonesian authorities. 4) The main international organisations present on the ground during the registration phase were: the Carter Center – linked to former US President Jimmy Carter; IFET – International Federation for East Timor, an umbrella for 35 organisations from 22 countries; ANFREL – Asian Network for Free Elections, whose HQ is in Thailand; APCET – Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor, whose HQ is in the Philippines. 5) Although by 7.8.99 UNAMET had approved 1,223 applications for accreditation, most of the observers had still not arrived in East Timor. A large number of those who had arrived belonged to Indonesian NGOs.

Security "With UNAMET’s deployment, security conditions in Dili and Baucauhave visibly improved … however, the relative calm in Dili and Baucau has not extended throughout the rest of East Timor, particularly in the western districts, where the situation remains very serious. In many areas, the report says, pro-integration militias, widely believed to be operating with the acquiescence of army elements, carry out acts of violence and intimidation against the population" (Kofi Annan’s verbal report to the Security Council, SC/6695 of 29.6.99).

Intimidation and disruption 1) Just before the start of registration, militias and local authorities went from door to door with counterfeit registration forms, telling people that they did not have to go to the UNAMET centres to register for the vote (Irish Times, 21.7.99). 2) Several civil authorities and militia leaders threatened to boycott registration: "One citizenship ID card should be enough to register. If there is another 3) requirement, Bobonaro people can just as well not register "One citizenship ID card should be enough to register. If there is another requirement, Bobonaro people can just as well not register", threatened Guilherme dos Santos, the Governor of Bobonaro (Japan Economic Newswire, 17.7.99). "We don’t want to accept the results of the popular consultation if we boycott the popular consultation", concluded the Mahidi militia chief (AFP, Cassa, East Timor, 23.7.99). 4) 29.6.99. 100 members of the Dadorus Merah Putih militia, among whom both serving and retired Indonesian soldiers were identified (ABC radio, Australia) attacked the UNAMET centre in Maliana. In the attack, a South African DEO and 11 Timorese were injured. The DEOs were temporarily withdrawn from the centre (UNAMET, briefing 29.6.99). 5) 1.7.99. UNAMET decided to temporarily withdraw its 7 DEOs working in Viqueque because, on two occasions, they had been threatened by militiamen. The second time, the militiamen were armed (UNAMET, 2.7.99). 6) 5.7.99. Some UNAMET personnel accompanying the humanitarian aid convoy that was attacked by the BMP militia near Liquica, were threatened by armed militiamen. Several members of humanitarian organisations were subjected to ill-treatment, and one had to be hospitalised as a result (UNAMET, 5.7.99). The only response on the part of the Indonesian police was, on UNAMET’s insistence, to detain some of the militiamen later. 7) 13.7.99. 10 militiamen attempted to force their way into the UNAMET residence in Maliana but were prevented by Indonesian police. UNAMET welcomed this intervention. (UNAMET, 14.7.99). 8) 16.7.99. First day of registration. The Mahidi militia threatened villagers in Salesa, Suai district. In the subsequent clash between villagers and militiamen, one militiaman was killed and another injured. Four registration centres were subsequently closed as a security measure. Two further centres (Baucau and Alas) remained closed for logistical reasons (UNAMET, 16 & 17.7.99). 9) 18.7.99. In Cassa (Ainaro), two militiamen demanded to be allowed to register although they had only one of the obligatory two documents. They made threats against the DEOs, and the centre was temporarily closed. In Dili, Aitarak militiamen fired shots from their truck at a passing truck full of villagers. Another person was kidnapped from the marketplace in Dili (UNAMET, 19.7.99). 10) 19.7.99. The registration centre in Lebos (Maliana) had to be closed down as a security measure after 200 militiamen gathered in the town (UNAMET, 20.7.99). 11) 23.7.99. Kofi Annan said he was encouraged by the absence of fresh threats against UNAMET in recent days but that "much remains to be done to realize the assurances from the Indonesian Government on the ground, and activities of militias and security problems continue to be a source of serious concern" (UNAMET, 23.7.99). 12) 25.7.99. Between 20 and 30 militiamen turned up to register at the centre in Balibo, carrying only one document. They threatened to return with more militiamen and destroy the Balibo 1 and Balibo 2 registration centres. Consequently, the centres were temporarily closed. UNAMET’s spokesperson pointed out that threats had been made prior to the incident (UNAMET, 26.7.99). 13) 30.7.99. A UNHCR delegation visited the displaced persons’ camp at Faulara (Liquica). Just hours after the visit, local militiamen burned down the homes of at least five people who had gone to register in Hatolia. IFET has gathered their testimonies, and has a video about the incident. (IFET, 2.8.99). 14) 31.7.99. Stones were thrown at a UNAMET vehicle in Dili (UNAMET, 2.8.99). 15) 1.8.99. An individual (member of the CNRT) was killed in Dili. The Indonesian police, assisted by UNAMET, are investigating the case (UNAMET, 2.8.99). 16) Hundreds more displaced persons arrived in Ermera and Bobonaro last week (Carter Center., 4.8.99). 17) Timorese soldiers and civil servants were asked to give their voter registration numbers to their superiors (UNAMET, 4.8.99). Intimidation has become more subtle since UNAMET’s arrival (Carter Center, 4.8.99). 18) 5.8.99. 20 Mahidi militiamen threw stones at students and UNAMET personnel in Ainaro. An Australian CivPol was injured. In Batugade, 50 to 100 militiamen invaded the registration centre and attacked two Timorese interpreters. Four centres were closed down (UNAMET, 6.8.99).

Indonesian soldiers and police 1. "We have been told that both the police and TNI have been ordered to take weapons from militia members if they are found with weapons in public. We have been assured that roadblocks or checkpoints will be removed" (UNAMET, 15.7.99). 2. Indonesian military have been over zealous in trying to persuade voters how they should vote (UNAMET, 16.7.99). 3. "The militias are being presented by some officials as civil defence forces, a case in point being the reported appointment of the head of one militia to a position in a proposed civil defence force for Dili" (Kofi Annan’s verbal report to the Security Council, SC/6695 of 29.6.99). 4. Further military forces have been positioned along the border. The people are afraid of the police and the armed forces (ANFREL, 30.7.99). 5. Soldiers now go around in civilian clothing. IFET observers saw armed militiamen in the centre of Maubisse (Ainaro). They frequently enter and leave military and police posts (IFET, 2.8.99). 6. "We are still pressing for action to be taken where there are indications where specific TNI officers have continued to be involved in militia activities" (UNAMET, 4.8.99). 7. Even though the killer of the CNRT member murdered on 1.8.99 in Dili has been identified, Indonesian police have done nothing to arrest him (Carter Centre, 11.8.99). 8. Soldiers are positioned in all villages, in spite of assurances given by the Indonesian Government that they would be withdrawn. The Carter Center has been informed of several cases in which Indonesian soldiers and militiamen arrest, interrogate and threaten local (Timorese) UNAMET personnel. Carter Center observers witnessed soldiers and militiamen communicating with each other via two-wave radio equipment. Civilians in Indonesia are not allowed to use such equipment. (Carter Center, 11.8.99). 9. In Maubisse, Dili, and the Ainaro region, militias are stockpiling weapons: "A UNAMET civilian police officer in the latter area, informed IFET-OP team that he had recently witnessed members of the Indonesian military distributing weapons to militia members" (IFET, 2.8.99). "The Indonesian military) and government are actively supporting and directing armed pro-integration militias" (Carter Center, 11.8.99). According to Bishop Belo, "They are openly and clearly distributing guns in Baucau, Laga (and in other places)" (Catholic News Services, New York, 6.8.99).

Results 1. In his report to the Security Council, Kofi Annan announced that, mid-way through the registration period, 240,000 Timorese had registered, of whom 234,000 were in East Timor itself. The SG emphasised that co-operation between UNAMET, the authorities and Indonesian police had led to an improvement in security conditions, but that they were still inadequate. "The people of East Timor are showing laudable determination to participate in the popular consultation despite continuing intimidation", said Kofi Annan (report, 27.7.99). 2. On 27 July, the first meeting was held between UNAMET and the Timorese armed resistance leader, Taur Matan Ruak. The FALINTIL decided to canton their forces, thus taking another step towards facilitating their registration. 3. Mrs. Carina Perelli, head of the UN’s Electoral Services, announced that the results of the registration period had surpassed the UN’s expectations. In many of the centres, all potential voters had already registered. In other centres, registration of displaced persons had been increasing recently. Personnel would be reinforced in these centres in order to cope with the influx (UNAMET, Dili, 30.7.99). 4. The recent drop in numbers of people registering (17,410 on 3rd, 11,515 on 4th, 3,415 on 5th, and 3,149 on 6th) show, according to UNAMET, that the requirements have been met. 5. The final total of people registered to vote is 446,666: 433,576 in East Timor and 13,090 overseas. 913 registrations were rejected, mostly on account of the candidates being under the required age (UNAMET, 10.8.99). 6. In spite of the prevailing insecurity that marked the voter registration period, UNAMET’s assessment of the process is positive: no registration centre was closed for more than one consecutive day, out of a total of 4,400 days/centre (200 centres x 20 days). Days/centres closed = 20. 7. UNAMET confirmed that false ID cards were presented, especially in Batugade, on the border with Indonesia (UNAMET, 7.6.99), but said that cases of people whose documents had been confiscated were more numerous. Those responsible for confiscating documents were identified as being militiamen and village chiefs (Jeff Fischer, UNAMET, 22.7.99). 8. The Indonesian Government protested about the fact that 600 Portuguese, who fulfilled the voter eligibility criteria (born in East Timor, married to Timorese) had registered to vote (AFP, Jakarta, 13.8.99). 9. The publication of voter lists for checking/challenging purposes, that was meant to happen immediately after the registration period and to last for 5 days, only commenced on 19 August. The increasingly unsafe conditions will make consulting/disputing the lists even more difficult.

Conclusions · Registration was possible but, as ANFREL observers pointed out, if UNAMET was unable to guarantee the safety of its own personnel, it could not possibly ensure the safety of the Timorese. · The relative security that enabled, in spite of everything, registration to go ahead, falls short of security requirements for the ballot - the UN SG himself has pointed this out. · A campaign period is, in theory, a time when feelings of rivalry are more likely to be aroused than during the voter registration phase. It is probable, therefore, that those not in favour of the ballot will intensify their efforts during the campaign period to disrupt and provoke clashes in an attempt to get the consultation invalidated or postponed. Observers are almost unanimous in believing that "the day after" the vote will be crucial, especially if the majority vote has been in favour of independence. There have been frequent threats from the pro-Indonesia side that, should they be defeated, they will make the other side pay a very high price for their victory. Unfortunately, a look at the past shows that they are quite capable of doing just that. The presence of an international military force in East Timor from the day of the vote until the Indonesian Consultative Assembly reverses the 1976 unilateral decision on East Timor’s integration (the period referred to in UN documents and diplomatic circles as Phase II) must be considered a priority, if another genocide in East Timor is to be prevented

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor’s transition process a programme by the ‘Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere’ and the ecumenical group ‘A Paz é Possível em Timor Leste’ Coordinator: Cristina Cruz
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE - 1069-069 Lisboa - Portugal ph.: 351 1 317 28 60 - fax: 351 1 317 28 70 - e-mail:

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