DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 1, 1999     vol. 10, no. 165

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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HIGH VOTER TURNOUT POINTS TO EAST TIMOR INDEPENDENCE

        DILI, East Timor (CWNews.com) - Local officials in East Timor on Tuesday predicted that the huge voter turnout in a referendum on the territory's future means a choice for independence rather greater autonomy within Indonesia.

        The UN-organized vote saw up to 95 percent of the more than 430,000 registered voters in East Timor cast their ballot, despite threats of violence from anti-independence militias backed by Indonesia's military.

        Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, invaded mainly Catholic East Timor, a former Portugese colony, 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.

        "We had a massive (vote). That wouldn't happen if people wanted things to stay the way they are," said a human rights worker who monitored the vote. "A new country has been born." East Timor has been dominated by foreign nations for centuries, first by Portugal and then by Indonesia.

        Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Carlos Belo of Dili appealed for calm on Monday and for pro- and anti-independence factions to work together for peace. "My appeal to the leaders is that they are able to convince their bases to accept the verdict of the people and to lay down their arms and help to make political compromise to .. work for peace and reconciliation," he said. "If they are Timorese they have to work together. If they are not, they leave the territory."

        Votes began arriving in Dili on Tuesday and a final result is expected in about a week.


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September 1, 1999       volume 10, no. 165
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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