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Pre-Election Statement on East Timor Elections, Aug. 8, 1999

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and The Carter Center are closely monitoring the public consultation process on autonomy in East Timor through neutral, nonpartisan observers assessing preparations for the vote, the security environment, and the fairness of the campaign. Following is the second in a series of weekly reports to be issued by The Carter Center observer mission before and after the consultation

Previous Carter Center reports noted a slight but encouraging improvement in the security situation in East Timor amid signs that the Indonesian police might take an active role in curtailing widespread harassment and intimidation of potential voters. Unfortunately, the past week has been marked by deteriorating security conditions, heightened pro-integration militia activity, and increased threats of violence and bloodshed if the autonomy option is rejected.

Top representatives of the Government of Indonesia have failed to fulfill their main obligations under the May 5 Agreements and in many cases have actively sought to undermine the popular consultation process. Carter Center observers have collected first-hand evidence of the following violations:

  • The Indonesian military (TNI) and government are actively supporting and directing armed pro-integration militias who are creating a climate of fear and intimidation.
  • The Indonesian police have consistently failed to take the steps necessary to maintain law and order, and in some cases have colluded with pro-integration militias.
  • The Indonesian government and TNI are actively campaigning for the autonomy option and providing resources and support to pro-autonomy groups.
  • The TNI has failed to fulfill its commitment to redeploy its troops and is maintaining posts in villages throughout East Timor.
  • TNI and pro-integration militia members are threatening bloodshed and war if the autonomy option is rejected.
  • Militia members have attacked several UNAMET registration centers with impunity, and both TNI and militia members have intimidated and threatened UNAMET local staff.
  • Militia members and TNI personnel have threatened and intimidated Carter Center observers and local staff.
  • Continued insecurity has prevented the return of up to 60,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes and threatens their ability to freely participate in the consultation process.

The Carter Center believes that it is within the power of the Indonesian government to create the conditions necessary for a free, open, and democratic consultation in East Timor. However, failure to immediately redeploy TNI troops, bring pro-integration militias under control, and establish law and order in East Timor may jeopardize the entire consultation process.

This report is based on interviews with police, military, local government and church officials, local residents, internally displaced persons, militia members, and others in Bobonaro, Liquica, Ermera, Dili, Baucau, Lautem, Manatuto, and Covalima districts during the past week, and on meetings in Dili with Indonesian government, military, and police officials; members of the Indonesian Government Task Force for the Implementation of the Popular Consultation; the Commission for Peace and Stability; Timorese nongovernmental organizations; UNAMET officials; representatives of international organizations; diplomats; and members of pro-autonomy groups (which favor integration into Indonesia), and pro-independence groups.

The Role of the Military: Carter Center observers continue to collect direct evidence of TNI support for and cooperation with armed pro-integration militias throughout East Timor. During the past week, Carter Center observers documented several cases of TNI soldiers and militia members detaining, interrogating, and threatening UNAMET local staff members and witnessed TNI personnel communicating with militia groups using two-way radios in a number of districts (the use of two-way radios by civilian organizations is illegal in Indonesia).

According to reports of international organizations, interviews by Carter Center observers, and the eyewitness account of a man who escaped, TNI soldiers also were implicated in the abduction and disappearance of five internally displaced persons in the Liquicia district. TNI personnel continue to tell Carter Center observers that they are providing security and "socializing," or promoting the autonomy option, often in cooperation with armed pro-autonomy groups. There has been no evidence of redeployment of TNI troops, despite continued assurances from the Indonesian government that TNI soldiers will be withdrawn from the villages.

The May 5 agreements that govern the popular consultation assign sole responsibility for maintaining law and order to the police, call for the strict neutrality of the military, forbid the use of government resources for campaign activities and call for the redeployment of TNI forces in the territory.

The Role of the Police: The Indonesian police have consistently failed to fulfil their obligation under the May 5 Agreements to maintain law and order in East Timor. Pro-integration militias continue to perpetrate acts of violence and intimidation with impunity in many parts of the territory, including Dili, and several militia leaders have openly admitted to Carter Center observers that they direct their followers to commit illegal acts. In some areas the police are still providing good security for UNAMET operations, but in others the police have failed to adequately protect UNAMET personnel and have done virtually nothing to ensure the security of ordinary citizens.

Police officers took no action to protect UNAMET local staff as they were beaten by militia members in Bobonaro on August 5. No arrests have been made in that case or in the case of the killing of a pro-independence youth in Dili on August 1, despite the fact that the killing took place in front of several witnesses and that the identity of the killer is widely known. There is also clear evidence of police collusion with pro-integration militia groups. Carter Center observers have witnessed police officers communicating with militia groups using two-way radios in several districts and have collected credible evidence of a militia leader who is also a serving police officer.

Threats and Intimidation: Local residents in all districts visited by Carter Center observers complain of persistent harassment and intimidation by pro-integration militias and TNI soldiers. Local government officials in a number of districts have openly threatened a "return to war" if the autonomy option is rejected, and militia leaders have told Carter Center observers that they regularly make similar threats.

Local residents in several areas have told Carter Center observers that TNI soldiers and militia members regularly threaten to kill anyone who votes to reject autonomy. UNAMET local staff members also have been detained, interrogated, and threatened by TNI soldiers and beaten by militia members over the past week. UNAMET local staff have been the target of an intense intimidation campaign in many areas and have been repeatedly threatened with death after UNAMET leaves East Timor.

Carter Center observers and local staff have also been threatened and intimidated by militia leaders and TNI officers in a number of areas. Shots have been fired within a few hundred meters of the Carter Center office in Dili on six different occasions over the past week.

Internally Displaced Persons: The internally displaced persons situation in East Timor remains largely unchanged, with between forty and sixty thousand people still prevented from returning to their homes by insecurity and threats of further violence. Carter Center observers visited internally displaced persons in a number of districts over the past week, with many complaining of continued threats, harassment and attacks from TNI soldiers and militia members. Carter Center observers witnessed internally displaced persons living under extremely poor conditions in some areas. In one case, internally displaced persons said that they had to resort to drinking from irrigation ditches because local militias had cut off their piped water supply.

Voter Registration: Registration was scheduled to close on August 4. After a two-day extension, the voter registration closed on August 6 (registration was extended until August 8 for sites outside of East Timor). The total number of individuals registered far exceeds original UNAMET estimates, and it appears that a very high percentage of eligible voters registered, despite persistent harassment and insecurity. UNAMET preliminary registration figures show 433,576 individuals have registered within East Timor and 12, 680 have registered outside East Timor for a total of 446,256. The Carter Center is particularly encouraged by indications that the large majority of internally displaced persons were able to register and intend to vote.

The Role of UNAMET: UNAMET has successfully completed the voter registration exercise under difficult conditions, and DEOs and other UNAMET staff continued to exhibit a high level of professionalism and competence at registration sites visited by Carter Center observers. The Center is encouraged by UNAMET plans to conduct grass-roots voter education programs over the coming weeks. The Center is concerned, however, that UNAMET continues to operate in many areas under conditions that are clearly not conducive to a free and open democratic process. Intimidation of and attacks on UNAMET local staff are particularly worrying. It is essential that the UN and Indonesian police provide adequate protection for all UNAMET staff, especially the thousands of Timorese employees who have been put at risk by virtue of their employment.

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