Subject: CNN: 78.5% for independence
Date: Sat, 04 Sep 1999 05:25:58 +0100
From: Bruno Kahn <> Organization: CNRS

East Timor chooses independence from Indonesia

September 4, 1999 Web posted at: 10:14 a.m. H.K. (0214 GMT)

In this story:

Indonesia hasn't stopped clashes

Peacekeepers an unlikely prospect


DILI, East Timor (CNN) -- East Timorese voters overwhelmingly chose independence for their troubled homeland in this week's U.N.-sponsored ballot, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said late Friday, a decision that could bring an end to nearly 24 years of Indonesian rule.

In a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Annan said 78.5 percent of the voters had endorsed independence, rejecting an Indonesian proposal of special autonomy for East Timor under Jakarta's sovereignty. Only 21 percent voted in favor of autonomy.

"There are no winners, and there are no losers today," Annan said. "This moment heralds the opportunity for all East Timorese to begin to forge together a common future in what is to become an independent East Timor."

About 99 percent of East Timor's 450,000 registered voters participated in Monday's ballot, the first referendum held in the territory since Indonesia invaded it in 1975.

Since Indonesia's annexation of East Timor, which never was recognized by the United Nations, some 250,000 people have died in fighting between Indonesian troops and anti- Indonesian rebels.

"Today I ask all the parties to bring to an end the violence that for 24 years has caused untold suffering to East Timor," Annan said.

East Timor will not become independent immediately. Under an a May 5 agreement signed by Indonesia and Portugal, Indonesia remains in control of the territory until its legislature meets in November. Then, Indonesia is expected to turn over responsibility for East Timor to the United Nations.

Indonesian President B.J. Habibie urged calm in East Timor early Saturday, asking its citizens to respect the results of the vote.

"I call on East Timor society and the whole of Indonesian people to accept the fact sincerely and patiently," Habibie said.

In the days following Monday's historic referendum, anti- independence militias have rampaged across the island, killing U.N. staff and civilians and forcing thousands to flee. The escalating violence has forced U.N. monitors to withdraw from towns outside East Timor's capital.

A U.N. group of 54 international police officers and local staff fled Maliana, outside Dili, on Friday, as mobs of anti-independence activists seized effective control of the town.

"They don't respect anything. They are out of control now -- crazy," one of the police officers said. David Peace, an American participating in the U.N. mission, said Indonesian police did nothing to stop the violence.

About 20 houses in Maliana were reported burning, and pro- Indonesian militia members set fire to 20 to 30 houses in the town of Likita as well.

Members of the mission -- dubbed UNAMET -- say they can no longer protect themselves, much less the refugees who have flocked to their headquarters in Dili to seek shelter.

Indonesia hasn't stopped clashes

The escalation of violence also swept through parts of Dili, where gunshots rang out in two neighborhoods as vote counting began from Monday's historic referendum.

The United Nations has demanded that Jakarta provide more protection for UNAMET, which conducted the referendum.

Four U.N. staff members have died since Monday and another six remained missing Friday. The slain workers were among 4,000 East Timorese UNAMET hired to assist it.

"We came in here unarmed. We've been in these situations before," UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst said. "I draw your attention back to those who are responsible for this violence and those who are responsible for controlling this violence, and they are not doing that."

Indonesia's Defense Minister Gen. Wiranto said Friday he was sending 1,400 more soldiers to the region, and police said they would send 400 more specially trained officers over the weekend.

Peacekeepers an unlikely prospect

Though Indonesia this week indicated that it might allow a peacekeeping force into East Timor, such a force would need the approval of the U.N. Security Council. There does not appear to be support for such as force on the council, and Wimhurst said the world body can't move fast enough to deploy one in any case.

"To get the peacekeeping troops anywhere, it is an operation that takes a matter of months," he said. "But the situation on the ground here requires an immediate response, and the Indonesians have the wherewithal to deal with it."

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Post reported Friday that the Indonesian military had prepared a contingency plan to evacuate up to a quarter of a million people from the bloodied territory.

The newspaper quoted Col. Muhammad Noer Muis, East Timor's military commander, as saying an extra brigade of troops would be required to evacuate up to 250,000 people, both local residents and international visitors, from East Timor. But Muis said he hoped the plan would not have to be put into effect.

"We don't want the plan to materialize, but if it happens , we have a mission to protect the evacuees until they reach safety," he said.

Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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