Indonesian Army Chief Hopes for Peaceful Election in East Timor
Indonesian army chief General Endriartono Sutarto Tuesday expressed hopes for a peaceful election this week in the former Indonesian province of East Timor.
"We hope that the elections will proceed safely and peacefully and that is a must. As a newly established country, any jolt will carry a negative impact both on East Timor itself or on its neighbours," Sutarto was quoted by the state Antara news agency as saying.
Sutarto said the local command in Indonesian West Timor had strengthened border security. Troops were ready to help with any influx of refugees from East Timor in case of violence associated with Thursday's election.
Piet Tallo, the governor of the Indonesian province covering West Timor, has said that authorities are preparing 174 barracks to accommodate any refugees from East Timor in the post-ballot period.
Indonesia closed its border checkpoint with East Timor on Sunday and will only reopen it on September 5.
Hundreds of thousands of East Timorese fled or were forced to flee their homes into West Timor following a rampage by pro-Indonesian militiamen after the territory voted overwhelmingly for independence on August 30, 1999.
Cash-strapped Indonesia has been eager to repatriate the refugees. Some have opted to stay in their camps for the time being to see whether the ballot to elect a constituent assembly will bring peace.
There have also been allegations that pro-Indonesian militiamen who control the camps in West Timor are preventing some people from returning.
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the next year. East Timor came under UN administration in October 1999 following the pro-independence vote.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations' administration for East Timor, said Tuesday he foresaw no violence during the election. He said any closure of the border was unnecessary -- JAKARTA (AFP)
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