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EAST TIMOR PEOPLE CHOOSE INDEPENDENCE

Updated: September 05, 1999 05:00 PM GMT
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The majority of East Timor people have voted against broad-based autonomy with Indonesia in the United Nations-organized referendum on the future of the troubled territory.

The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) announced that 344,580, or 78.5 percent, of East Timorese registered voters rejected the autonomy and 94,388, or 21.2 percent, accepted the offer.

The announcement of the ballot outcome was made simultaneously in Dili and New York on Sept. 4, five days after the Aug. 30 ballot.

Salesian Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, apostolic administrator of Dili, commented on the announcement, saying "vox populi vox Dei," which means that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

"Every one should forgive and embrace like brothers and sisters and accept the result of the population consultation with an open heart and wisdom," the 1996 Noble peace co-winner said, "The Jakarta Post" reported.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said the ballot´s result shows that East Timor people reject the proposed special autonomy and expressed their wish to begin the process of transition toward independence.

"After 24 years of conflicts, now East Timor stands on the threshold of a process of transition toward independence which we all hope to be peaceful and orderly," Annan said. His message was read by Ian Martin, UNAMET chief.

However, he noted that in the coming days East Timor people should be patient and calm, and the leaders should be wise and reasonable.

"Now it is time for all parties to take this opportunity to build the common basis for peace, and to ensure an era of stability and prosperity for the future generation of East Timor," Annan said.

The U.N. chief said that those who accept the autonomy should not see the outcome as a defeat, and the majority should not see it as a victory.

"There are no winners and losers today. Rather, this moment heralds the opportunity for all East Timor people to begin cooperation to build an independent East Timor in the future," said Annan.

He urged parties to end "the violence which for 24 years has caused untold suffering to East Timor. I ask them to begin in earnest a process of dialogue and reconciliation through the East Timor Consultative Commission."

Annan also thanked Indonesia and Portugal for their commitment to the process. "I am fully confident that the two governments will fulfill other duties in accordance to the May 5 agreement," he noted.

He ensured the East Timor people that the United Nations will not fail to help East Timor throughout the transition toward independence.

In his televised speech nationwide, President Bacharudin Jusuf Habibie said that the Indonesian government respects the decision of East Timor people, and asked all Indonesian people to accept the fact with sincerity and magnanimity.

Habibie said that he understood that people who may feel bitter that the majority of East Timorese rejected the special autonomy offer.

He called on all leaders and people of Indonesia and East Timor to cooperate to create an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence.

As military supreme commander, Habibie said he has instructed the military commander and the national police chief to maintain law and order in East Timor after the announcement of the ballot results.

He asked all military and police personnel to take stern measures against all parties who want to denigrate the honor of the nation by disturbing the security in East Timor during the transition toward the hand-over of the territory to the United Nations as stipulated in the tripartite agreement.

Habibie also said that he will report the results of the ballot to the Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (people´s consultative assembly) in the upcoming session scheduled for October.

The assembly is expected to revoke its 1978 decree on the status of East Timor as the 27th province of Indonesia.

END

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