DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     August 31, 1999     vol. 10, no. 164

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          DILI, East Timor (CWNews.com) - After months of violence by anti-independence militias, East Timor began voting on Monday to decide its future in a regional referendum.

        Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year in a move not recognized by the United Nations. In January, President B.J. Habibie proposed a referendum to allow Timorese to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or full independence. Since then, anti-independence militias, armed and trained by the Indonesian military, have killed dozens and displaced thousands in an effort to intimidate voters.

        Thousands of Timorese crowded voting booths on Monday despite threats of violence in the UN-monitored poll. UN officials estimated that 90 percent of registered voters cast ballots. They said they will need about seven days to count and verify votes.

        Optimistic independence supporters predicted that the enormous turnout meant success for their cause, allowing East Timor to break with Indonesia. "We are convinced that we have won because our people have suffered under Indonesia," said Leandro Isaac, a prominent independence leader.

        Indonesia's justice minister, however, accused the UN election team of bias, calling the members "people who take sides with the pro-independence faction." "If it is true that there was intimidation and coercion, the vote should be repeated," Justice Minister Muladi told the national news agency Antara, referring to allegations that UN officials intimidated voters into casting their ballots for independence.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

August 31, 1999       volume 10, no. 164


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