International Federation for East Timor
Observer Project

Issues #7-8: August 7-22, 1999

Special Double Issue: IFET-OP Grows Daily!

Since our last issue two weeks ago, the size of the IFET-OP presence in Dili has increased five-fold. We apologize for not issuing a bulletin last week -- we were busy interviewing, orienting and placing more than 100 volunteers from all over the world. As of one week before the August 30 consultation, we have 107 observers from 16 countries in our Dili office staff and 13 teams in 12 of East Timor's 13 sub-districts.

Security Concerns

Because the Indonesian police are not fulfilling their commitment under the May 5 New York Agreements to provide comprehensive security for the consultation process, many in East Timor are fearful that violence may escalate before or during the vote next Monday, or when the results are announced about a week later. The IFET-OP has developed a comprehensive security outline, and are developing detailed plans for our teams in the field and the four houses we have rented in Dili. We are providing transportation (cars and drivers) and communication (including satellite phones where necessary) for each of our teams. We have had consultations with European Community Ambassadors, U.S. and other embassy officials, the Indonesian police responsible for East Timor, UNAMET, and other observer missions to discuss security issues.

The first line of security for our teams is their visibility and relationship with the people where they are living. IFET-OP volunteers build rapport with local authorities, police, UNAMET civilian police and electoral officers, community leaders and other local residents. We explain that we are nonpartisan observers, to serve as a bridge between what happens there and the rest of the world. This "social security" is the best protection possible, both for IFET-OP observers and for the people in the towns where we are.

IFET-OP Teams in the Field

We have rented houses and deployed teams in every area of East Timor. IFET observers can receive personal email at -- but it may be several days before the message gets to them, and they may not be able to reply. IFET-OP teams are currently working in Aileu, Ainaro, Baucau, Dili, Ermera (Gleno), Liquica, Los Palos, Maliana, Manatuto, Maubisse, Oekusi, Same, Suai and Viqueque. We have rented houses and are living in each of these locations except Liquica, which is served from Dili. Upon arriving in a town, an IFET-OP team first makes contact with the police and local authorities, and then with various community leaders and advocates on both sides of the campaign. They settle into a house which an IFET-OP advance team has arranged, and begin observing and inquiring about events and perceptions related to the campaign and other aspects of the consultation. Each team reports in nightly by phone and files a written weekly report. Although nobody on any of our teams has been injured, several have witnessed violent or intimidating incidents, and have reported such events to the appropriate authorities, UNAMET, and IFET-OP headquarters in Dili.

Joe Nevins and Pam Sexton, our "roving team," just returned to Dili after visiting six teams in the field, bringing news and updates, and coming back with information, requests, and a more complete picture of the situation around the country. Other IFET-OP staffers are continuing to visit teams, delivering new members and training them for election day observation.

Media Coverage and Interviews

The IFET Project has been featured in numerous media all over the world, including newspapers in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Australia. We have also done numerous radio interviews, and are visited by many journalists every day. Please let us know of any coverage you see at home.

A few IFET Observers have begun to return home, and are available for media interviews.

Financial Support

The IFET Observer Project has received generous donations from individuals and IFET-OP component groups from various countries, too numerous to list here. Last week we were visited by the Canadian Ambassador to Indonesia, who has approved C$10,000 (about Rp 50,000,000) to support our project. We look forward to support from other quarters, which will help us improve our effectiveness and security.

Violations and Intimidation Prevent Free Campaigning

On August 17, IFET-OP issued a comprehensive report covering the first few days of the campaign phase of the consultation process. Our Report #5 detailed a number of attacks against pro-independence campaign offices, and concluded that "The current situation in East Timor demands an immediate and radical change in the behavior of the Indonesian security forces. Unless that happens, there is a serious possibility that the TNI-backed paramilitaries and the Indonesian military itself will engage in widespread violence aimed at disrupting the vote and/or engage in large scale violence against the general population around the time of the vote." We recommended IFET-OP issued a media alert on August 19 describing shots fired by militias and a Kopassus soldier to scare people in the middle of Manatuto, and then shooting up the pro-independence CNRT office. Three dozen bystanders fled into the IFET-OP house (150 meters from the shooting) and sought shelter there for about an hour. Similar incidents have occurred throughout East Timor.

As this Bulletin goes to press, we are writing a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan describing our assessment of the situation one week before the vote. We are recommending that the U.N. escalate its presence and commitment in an effort to compensate for Indonesia's failure to provide adequate security for both sides to campaign, and to reduce the level of fear which will distort the results of the consultation.

We called on the U.N. to demand that the Indonesian police disarm and disband the militias, push for the immediate withdrawal of Indonesian military personnel from East Timor, and introduce a larger international security presence to maintain security following the vote. The letter included an appendix detailing a score of recent violent incidents and violations of UNAMET procedures -- creating a climate of fear and presenting "a compelling case for rapid and forceful action by the United Nations, the international community, and the Indonesian government." The full text of the letter and the report are on the IFET-OP website at


We continue to broaden our contacts with other international and domestic observers here in East Timor. Among those we have been in frequent communication with are the Carter Center, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), Yayasan HAK (an East Timorese human rights group), KIPER (an Indonesian and East Timorese ballot monitoring group), Parliamentarians for East Timor and many others. We are sharing team contact information with these groups, and coordinating Consultation Day placements.

Office Organization

As we approach the end of the Consultation process, IFET-OP has placed qualified people in key staff positions in our Dili office, as follows: We've also elected our Executive Body for the IFET-OP project: Joe Nevins (USA), Saskia Kouwenberg (Netherlands), Antonio da Rocha (Brazil), Charlie Scheiner (USA), Hendra Pasuhuk (Indonesia/Germany), and Maggie Helwig (Canada, external). All members except Maggie are here in Dili and actively involved in carrying out the project.

We held our Constituent Assembly here in Dili on Sunday, August 15. Representatives from IFET-OP constituent groups in seven countries spent the day assessing where we are with the project and analyzing our finances. We evaluated our team structure and preparation, and planned for how to observer the rest of the consultation process. Security of our people in East Timor was also a major discussion, and we started some discussions on our post-vote report and what the project will be doing after the consultation.

East Timor field office (Dili)
Tel. 62-390-321969 fax:62-390-321264

International coordinator (New York)
Tel:1-914-428-7299 fax:1-914-428-7383

25 August 1999

Return to IFET's Main Page