Dili, East Timor, 1 September 1999, 5:30 PM -- The appearance of roadblocks maintained by armed militia members, and intensifying paramilitary intimidation and violence in the two days following East Timor's historic vote is a worrisome sign, reports the International Federation of East Timor Observer Project (IFET-OP).
IFET-OP is the largest international observer mission in East Timor. Until yesterday, IFET-OP had teams in each of East Timor's 13 districts.
The deteriorating security situation has compelled four IFET-OP teams to leave their areas. IFET-OP teams have evacuated from Oecussi, Ermera, Manatuto, and Aileu over the last two days.
The reappearance of the paramilitary groups, apparently with the acquiescence of significant elements of the Indonesian authorities, has led to a rapidly intensifying climate of fear as the counting of ballots begins here in Dili. Throughout the territory, large numbers of people have gone into hiding or have fled into other areas.
IFET-OP is concerned that the international community may reduce its scrutiny of East Timor and the Indonesian military presence there in the aftermath of a generally successful day of voting.
As IFET-OP Co-Coordinator Saskia Kouwenberg explained, "We are afraid that the euphoria about the huge turn-out for the vote might lessen the vigilance of the international community. The current volatile security situation around East Timor demands that the United Nations is prepared to respond to widespread eruptions of more violence in the days to come. This will require far greater levels of support for UNAMET from the international community than the East Timorese people have seen thus far."
Postscript: As this goes to press, IFET-OP has received eyewitness reports of dozens of militia members (from Aitarak and Besi Merah Putih) being present in the Caicoli neighborhood of Dili. Many of the militia are armed with homemade guns and traditional weapons. They have just burned down one house in the area for unknown reasons.
In addition, members of Aitarak are attacking the neighborhood around the UNAMET headquarters in Dili. There are reports of shooting and clashes with local residents. An IFET-OP team is in the area, in refuge in a school building. The team reports that armed Indonesian soldiers are in the area. Local residents state that the Indonesian soldiers are working in concert with the militia.
Return to IFET's Main Page