Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and The Carter Centerare closely monitoring the public consultation process on autonomy in EastTimor. The Center opened an office with two observers in Dili on July 4.They will be joined next week by eight long-term observers, who will travelthroughout East Timor to assess preparations for the vote, the securityenvironment, and the fairness of the campaign, while remaining strictlyneutral and nonpartisan. The following is the first of a series of weeklyreports to be issued by The Carter Center observer mission before andafter the consultation
Dili, East Timor...The past week saw a significant decrease in the level ofintimidation and violence directed at personnel of the United NationsMission in East Timor (UNAMET) who are supervising the upcoming popularconsultation. However, the security situation for the people of EastTimor does not seem to have improved significantly.
Initial reports on voter registration, which began on July 16, indicatepotential voters flooded registration centers all across East Timor duringthe first few days of voter registration. The Carter Center is greatlyencouraged by the opening of registration and the high turnout so far.Clearly, the large majority of the people of East Timor are committed toparticipating in a peaceful, fair and democratic consultation.
However, this commitment is being severely tested by an atmosphere ofviolence, intimidation, and insecurity that continues to pervade mostareas of East Timor. Information gathered in direct interviews duringfield visits by Carter Center observers and from other independent reportsfrom all parts of East Timor, indicate that pro-integration militias inmany areas are threatening to harm or kill those who do not vote forautonomy. Similar reports indicate that the militias also are largelyresponsible for creating tens of thousands of internally displaced personsand preventing them from returning to their homes to participate in theconsultation.
This report is based on field visits to Liquica and Ermera districtsduring the past several days, including observation of the opening ofregistration, and on meetings in Jakarta and Dili with senior IndonesianGovernment, military, and police officials; members of the IndonesianGovernment Task Force for the Implementation of the Popular Consultation;the Commission for Peace and Stability; Timorese non-governmentalorganizations; UNAMET officials; representatives of internationalorganizations; diplomats; members of pro-autonomy groups (which favorintegration into Indonesia); and members of pro-independence groups.
The Carter Center is particularly concerned about the following problems,which must be addressed to ensure that conditions established by the May 5New York Agreements for the popular consultation are met:
- Intimidation of Voters: While all sides must accept some responsibilityfor the hostile climate that now prevails, our interviews and otherindependent reports indicate that responsibility for the large majority ofincidents of intimidation and violence lies with pro-integration militias.These groups are subjecting potential voters to an intense and systematiccampaign of intimidation in an attempt to influence the outcome of theconsultation. Individuals interviewed by The Carter Center observers spokeuniformly about widespread harassment and intimidation by the militia, anddescribed similar incidents of militia visiting people at their homes atnight and threatening violence after the poll if autonomy is rejected.Similar reports from other independent groups indicate such incidents areoccurring throughout East Timor.
According to paragraph 1 of the Security Agreement, the appropriateIndonesian security forces are responsible for ensuring a secureenvironment devoid of violence and intimidation. In addition, paragraph 4provides that the Indonesian police are solely responsible for themaintenance of law and order during the consultation process.Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the Indonesian Police havebeen successful in improving the security situation. For theconditions of the New York Agreements to be fulfilled, the activities ofviolent militia groups must be curtailed.
- Internally Displaced Persons: The United Nations High Commissioner forRefugees has documented the existence of more than 32,000 internallydisplaced persons in East Timor, most of whom report having been drivenfrom their homes in the past six months by pro-integration militias as adirect result of their presumed political beliefs. It appears little isbeing done to facilitate their safe return to their homes. Some militialeaders have openly stated that they will not permit internally displacedpersons to return home until after the completion of the consultation.
For internally displaced persons to be able to participate in theconsultation as provided in the New York Agreements, it is essential thatadequate security conditions exist for all of them to return to theirhomes immediately and to ensure that no others are driven from their homeby violence and intimidation.
- Active Campaign for Autonomy: According to many credible observers,elements of the Indonesian Government and military continue to campaignfor the autonomy option in violation of the New York Agreements. Onesenior army leader in Dili admitted that the military is activelypromoting the autonomy package and distributing food and services topeople to encourage votes for autonomy.
Such practices are in violation of paragraph 1 of the Security Agreement,which establishes that the absolute neutrality of the Indonesian armedforces and the Indonesian police is essential. Similarly, the "Agreementon Modalities for the Popular Consultation" provides that officials of theIndonesian Government will not participate in the campaign in support foreither option. It is imperative that all sides abide by thesecommitments.
- Need for Redeployment: Although senior military commanders indicatedto Carter Center observers that all military forces in East Timor will beconfined to their barracks in advance of the consultation, no timetablefor this redeployment has been established and military units continue tooperate throughout the territory. To improve the current climate of fear,a timetable for completion of the redeployment of the Indonesia militaryshould be established and implemented.