I. Introduction

The popular consultation on the future of East Timor on 30 August 1999 was an event of historical magnitude. For the first time, after centuries of colonial rule and 24 years of Indonesian occupation, the people of East Timor have been given the opportunity to express themselves on their future. For many years, the European Parliament has been one of the most vocal supporters for the struggle of the East Timorese people to win their right to self-determination (latest resolution on 15 April 1999, PE 278.539). Following the terms of the Agreement on the Future of East Timor, signed on 5 May 1999 in New York by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Foreign Ministers of Portugal and Indonesia, the East Timorese people were asked whether they would accept or reject a constitutional framework for autonomy within the Republic of Indonesia. In case of rejection, East Timor would separate from Indonesia. The people of East Timor made a very clear choice: 78.5% (344. 580 voters) rejected the framework for autonomy, only 21% (94.388 voters) were in favour of remaining within Indonesia.

Following the Common Position adopted by the General Affairs Council on 19 July 1999, the European Parliament decided to send an ad hoc delegation to observe the popular consultation. The delegation was composed as follows: Mr José Pacheco Pereira (PPE, Portugal) , Vice-president of the European Parliament, Mr Carlos Candal (PSE, Portugal), Mr Carlos Costa Neves (PPE, Portugal) and Mr Jules Maaten (ELDR, Netherlands). The parliamentary delegation was part of an EU observation team which also comprised delegations from the Member States of the EU and the European Commission. Mr David Andrews, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland and Personal Representative of the Presidency, acted as spokesperson for the entire EU team (see attached composite report of the European Union observers). The MEPs' objective was to enhance the visibility of the European Union and contribute with a strong international presence to the peaceful conclusion of the consultation.

II. Organisation of the popular consultation

UNAMET (United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor) was established by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to carry out the process. Ambassador Jamsheed Marker was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General. According to the agreement regarding the modalities for the popular consultation, Portugal and Indonesia were entitled to send an equal number (50 each) of official observers. However, other international entities were welcomed to observe the consultation under the terms of UNAMET's code of conduct. A Trust Fund was also established, to which the European Union contributed 5 million Euro.

Mr Ian Martin, Head of UNAMET, led a team of 900 staff members, including electoral officers, international civil police, information, administration and political officers and military liaison officers. 200 registration and polling centres were set up on the territory and 13 external ones in Indonesia, Portugal, Macau, United States, Mozambique and Australia. Each polling centre had between 2 and 8 polling stations (850 in total) which could accommodate 600 voters each.

Voter registration took place during the period of 16 July through 6 August, with no major incidents reported, although some polling centres were closed temporarily for security reasons due to militia activity. This was followed by two weeks of campaigning (14 August through 27 August) and a two-day cooling off period. The ballot day was postponed twice due to security reasons. The counting of the votes took place centrally in Dili, the territory's capital. It is important to note in this context that there was no regional splitting of the votes for security reasons. The results were announced by the Secretary-General of the United Nations simultaneously in New York and Dili on 4 September 1999.

The Electoral Commission was composed of three members: Mr Patrick Bradley, Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland, Mr Johan Kriegler, South African Constitutional Court Justice and Ms Bong-Scuk Sohn from the Korean National Election Commission.

UNAMET conducted the popular consultation in a very competent and efficient way and, despite the extremely difficult circumstances, provided other international observers with all the necessary assistance. The European Parliament's delegation congratulates Ambassador Marker and Mr Ian Martin for a most successful operation.

III. Political context of the popular consultation

The European Parliament welcomed the signing of the 5 May Agreement and appreciated the policy shift in Jakarta initiated by President Habibie. In particular, it is important to note President Habibie's commitment to grant the territory independence in case autonomy was rejected, which is what the East Timorese people have overwhelmingly chosen. What has been rejected is a constitutional framework which provided for the establishment of the Special Autonomous Region of East Timor (SARET). Its institutions, a Regional Council of People's Representatives of the SARET, elected on the basis of universal suffrage by persons of East Timorese identity, and a Governor elected by the Regional Council, would have had competence over some economic, political and social policies, including local taxation, control over non-strategic natural resources and local policing. Defence and international relations would have remained the responsibility of the Central Government in Jakarta and the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) would have maintained a military presence. Following 24 years of human rights abuses and the death of 200.000 people due to starvation, disease and violence, the East Timorese could not envisage remaining within the Republic of Indonesia. Independence, however, will have to be approved by the Peoples' Consultative Assembly in Jakarta.

MEPs met before the consultation with Xanana Gusmao, the leader of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, who is under house arrest in Jakarta. The European Parliament has repeatedly called on the Indonesian authorities to release Xanana Gusmao. MEPs were very pleased to learn precisely the day of the meeting that he would finally be released on 15 September 1999.

Xanana Gusmao thanked the European Parliament for sending observers to East Timor and requested MEPs to act as visibly as possible on the territory. The presence of international observers would give the East Timorese people the necessary confidence to face the threats and intimidation committed by the pro-integration supporters and express themselves on ballot day. Xanana Gusmao expected that the East Timorese people would reject the autonomy package, but also said that if the contrary were the case, he would respect the results, provided that the consultation was free and fair. His main concern was that violence and intense intimidation, particularly in the western districts of East Timor, might jeopardise the consultation process. Xanana Gusmao urged the international community to exert pressure on Jakarta to accept the deployment of a peace-keeping force in East Timor.

The main concern throughout the entire process was indeed the lack of security, which dominated the registration process, the campaigning and the days immediately before and after ballot day. Tension and violent incidents between pro-integration and pro-independence supporters and in particular acts of terror and intimidation committed by the pro-integration militia groups did threaten the consultation process to the extent that ballot day had to be postponed twice. As agreed between the UN, Portugal and Indonesia, the responsibility to ensure an environment free of violence and intimidation and the general maintenance of law and order rested with the Indonesian security authorities, the neutrality of the TNI and the Indonesian police being an essential prerequisite. Unfortunately, Indonesian police officers did little to stop intimidation and violence. The international media have reported extensively about the riots in Dili and in other parts of East Timor and all observers agreed that although the Indonesian police was perfectly capable of controlling the situation, there was clearly no will to do so. In addition, MEPs had reason to believe that all pro-integration militia activity was well orchestrated and it could not be excluded either that they received arms and logistical support from the TNI.

MEPs discussed the security situation with Colonel Neville Reilly, Deputy Chief of the UN Military Liaison Officers (MLOs). About 50 MLOs were based in the different administrative regions of the territory and were mandated to liaise with the TNI. The Military Liaison Officers were also in contact with the Falintil (National Liberation Armed Forces of East Timor) and the pro-integration militia groups. MEPs were pleased to hear that the contingent of MLOs was going to be increased to 300, which would further facilitate the monitoring of the reconciliation efforts between Falintil and the pro-Jakarta groups.

Perhaps the clearest indication to which extent East Timorese were intimidated were the figures of internally displaced people. The UNCHR representative in Dili estimated that around 40.000 people left their homes and communities, mainly in the western districts and very often, MEPs were told, houses were occupied by the militia groups or burned. The concern over internally displaced people was also shared by the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC runs about 70 projects on the territory, mainly in the areas of nutrition, water supply, medical assistance, education in life skills and reunification of families. They estimated that some displaced people had been away from their communities for 5-6 months. The ICRC was preparing for a deterioration of the humanitarian situation after the announcement of the results.

Tribute should be payed to the Catholic Church for offering refuge in their compounds to hundreds of East Timorese. As a matter of fact, the European Parliament's delegation stayed during the observation mission in compounds of the Salesian Fathers in Dili and Los Palos. At night, the compounds accommodated hundreds of people that were afraid of militia attacks. On some occasions, militia groups drove around the compounds and gunshots could be heard, which further terrorised the locals.

IV. Observation of the ballot day

Following a coordination meeting with the other observer teams from the European Union, the European Parliament's delegation decided to observe polling stations in the eastern districts of the territory, including Hera, Manatuto, Laleia, Baucau, Fuiloro and Los Palos. Militia activity before ballot day had been reported in particular in the western districts of East Timor, but also in Los Palos, where a well-known local traditional leader, locally referred to as "King" , had been killed by the militia on 27 August. The presence of the European Parliament's observers in that remote district was considered by UNAMET to be most useful. The delegation was escorted by the Indonesian police from Dili to Baucau.

MEPs were impressed by the very high turnout (99%) and by the discipline of the crowds in the polling centres, which were open from 6.30 am to 4.00 pm. No irregularities were observed. The electoral officers were highly competent and helpful. Special attention was dedicated to old and disabled people. There were large queues from very early on and voting had been completed in some polling centres by mid-day, which for instance was the case in Sagadate (Baucau), where almost 100% of those registered had turned out. MEPs had the opportunity to meet Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau, one of the advisers of the Consultative Commission, which is composed of 25 members of the pro-independence and pro-Jakarta groups and has the objective of facilitating the reconciliation process on the territory. He is, together with Bishop Felipe Ximenes Belo and José Ramos Horta, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, one of the key figures in the peace and reconciliation process in East Timor. At the end of the day, the delegation observed the closure and taking into custody of the ballot boxes by UNAMET in Los Palos and examined all the security arrangements.

Due to the distance between Dili and Los Palos, the European Parliament's delegation stayed over night in the compound of the Salesian Fathers in Fuiloro, close to Los Palos. Although there were no major incidents in the area during the ballot day, hundreds of people left their homes in fear of the militia groups and spent the night inside the compound, too.

In general, the ballot day was concluded peacefully and successfully. The Indonesian military and police acted in a correct way. The day after, however, militia groups resumed their activities and the situation escalated seriously in the following days. The European Parliament's delegation had several encounters with militia groups on 31 August 1999, on the way back from Los Palos to Dili, and was stopped at one of the road blocks near Manatuto, but waved through when recognised as international observers.

The popular consultation was free and fair. As mentioned above, a composite report covering the findings of all EU observers was presented after the consultation (see attached). The EU observer team left East Timor on 1 September for Jakarta. The original intention of the European Parliament's delegation was to remain in Dili for some more days in an attempt to deter more violence. However, the delegation had to travel back for logistical reasons.

V. Conclusions

The international community still has to face the real challenge. The situation in East Timor has deteriorated seriously in the last days and it does not suffice anymore to continue urging the Indonesian authorities to abide by their international obligations and maintain law and order on the territory. Irrespective of whether the Indonesian forces in East Timor are willing or able to control the situation, it is now imperative that a peace-keeping force is deployed as soon as possible. The European Parliament hopes that the People's Consultative Assembly in Jakarta will respect the will of the East Timorese people and act correspondingly without unnecessary delays.

The European Parliament condemns the increased violence and urges all the parties involved to step up their reconciliation efforts. The people of East Timor have expressed themselves on their future, their right to self-determination must be respected and their choice must be implemented. The international community has the responsibility to ensure that this happens. The European Parliament is committed to assist the East Timorese people in their efforts to build a viable, stable and democratic society and invites the European Commission and the Member States of the European Union to further examine East Timor's development needs and provide the necessary assistance as soon as the circumstances allow it.

Once again, the European Parliament's delegation congratulates UNAMET for conducting the popular consultation so successfully. MEPs wish to thank the Presidency and the European Commission's Representation in Jakarta for all the assistance received and in particular the Salesian Fathers for their hospitality and support. Last but not least, we are grateful for the assistance received from East Timorese who took a personal risk in helping us throughout the mission.


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