Wed, 24 Mar 1999

New body set up to ensure peace ahead of Timor ballot

JAKARTA (JP): The National Commission on Human Rights declared on Tuesday establishment of a commission on East Timor to ensure peace for the planned direct ballot in July, Antara reported.

Established in the capital of Dili, the Independent Commission on Human Rights of Timor Loro Sae, the local name for the province, is aimed to ensure all East Timorese can peacefully make the choice between the government offer of a wide-ranging autonomy or independence.

"We aim to prevent human rights violation during the process... and try to delay a mass exodus of migrants," the national commission's spokesman Clementino Dos Reis Amaral said in Dili.

Doctors and teachers have demanded transfers out of the province, citing intimidation by locals.

In a recent meeting in New York between Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas, his Portuguese counterpart Jamie Gama and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, it was agreed that a "direct ballot" would take place in East Timor in July.

The new commission was recommended after a 12-day observation in the troubled province by members of the national commission -- B.N. Marbun, Maj. Gen. (ret) Samsuddin and Samsidar. The latter is also a member of the National Commission on Violence Against Women.

The new 30-member commission will try to stop military activities by armed civilian militia and the security forces to provide the public with calm in making their choice.

The commission is to hold its second plenary meeting after the New York dialog scheduled to end on April 23.

Several people have died in clashes since the government announced it was mulling giving the province independence.

"This new commission will work until July as an independent, democratic, nonpolitically-oriented body," Marbun said.

Samsuddin cited poor security in East Timor. "In our 12 days of observation there, at least 10 people were killed, including three Armed Forces personnel."

Seperately in Covalima regency, south of Dili, a prointegration group comprising community leaders, called Laksaur Merah Putih, was inaugurated in a traditional oath-taking ceremony on Monday. It is named after an eagle.

The group of 351 members saluted the national red and white flag and drank animal blood mixed with traditional liquor, Antara reported.

On Monday, the agency reported that Ali Alatas was confident that a direct ballot would prove that most East Timorese wanted integration.

"It is time to show Jose Ramos Horta (a leading advocate for East Timor's independence) that East Timorese choose freedom through integration," he said in a discussion on East Timor.

Meanwhile, Minister of Population/head of the National Family Planning Coordinating Board Ida Bagus Oka denied activists' allegations that the government imposed the family planning program in the province to eradicate native East Timorese.

"The program is agreed to by community and religious leaders in East Timor," Oka was quoted as saying by the agency. (edt)