up-date August 10th:
Dear IFET members,
As you know, IFET is not planning a large-scale observer project for the upcoming August 30 assembly elections in East Timor. In an earlier email, I explained that logistical considerations, as well as the fact that 8-30 is but one day in a complex, many-month-long process of political development, led us to conclude that organizing an observer project like we did in 1999 would be neither practical nor the best way for the international solidarity community to serve East Timor’s political development.
In response to that email, I received messages from a number of graduates of IFET-OP-99 who will be in East Timor on August 30, as will I. Monitoring that voting exercise, to a limited degree, could be a useful component of broader monitoring and support for the entire nation-building process. I am suggesting that IFET register as an International Electoral Observer Organization, and that 1999 observers who will be in East Timor and not otherwise engaged register as IFET observers for 2001. This will give us access to the electoral process, and more credibility and information for our analysis and commentary on the overall process of political development.
The UNTAET Independent
Electoral Commission (IEC) just extended the deadline for observer organisation
accreditation to 16 August. Individual observers for each organization
can be nominated until 23 August. For more details on this process, check
out their website at
Please let me know
as soon as possible if you think this is or is not a good idea. Also, if
you would like to be an IFET observer this year and plan to be in East
Timor during the vote period, please let me know so your name can be submitted
to the UNTAET IEC.
Thank you. Unfortunately, I will not arrive in East Timor until the 25th of August. After that I can be reached at 61-(0417)923273. I’ll be in New York until the 22nd, and reachable by email after that.
I have discussed this with La’o Hamutuk and, although this is not a priority for them, they have offered meeting space for IFET (and other NGO) observers who wish to coordinate on Sunday, 26 August. Let me know if you would like to participate.
Obviously, we are not expending the time, the resources, the person power, the advance planning, or any of the other essential factors for a complete observer mission. But I still think we can play a useful role on August 30, and can hopefully support the efforts of La’o Hamutuk and other East Timorese NGOs as they continue to encourage UNTAET and other institutions to fulfill the promise of true independence and democracy for East Timor.
Thank you for your support and your feedback,
Dear IFET and other East Timor activists,
A number of people from around the world have asked if the International Federation for East Timor (IFET) is going to organize an observer project for the upcoming August 30 constituent assembly election in East Timor, as we did for the referendum two years ago.
Based on advice from East Timorese NGOs, on our capacity, and on our assessment of the current situation, we will not be organizing such a project. If someone reading this feels differently, and wants to take on the responsibility, this question could be re-opened. This is a decision based on priorities and resources, not on principle.
The Carter Center, International Republican Institute and several governments are sending observers or assisting East Timorese NGOs in developing monitoring projects. Some international groups in East Timor will also observe, as will some East Timorese NGOs. As far as I know, there will not be an internationally organized volunteer observer project coordinated by IFET or anyone else.
We reached this decision reluctantly, after discussions with La’o Hamutuk, Yayasan Hak, and other East Timorese NGOs. Among the principal reasons are the following:
1. In 1999, we believed that the presence of internationals throughout the country would help deter military/militia violence and enable the East Timorese to vote freely. No such threat of violence exists in 2001 -- except for the approximately 100,000 East Timorese “refugees” still stuck in West Timor, and they’re not allowed to vote anyway.
2. In 1999, there was a clear process, and every East Timorese understood the decision on the ballot. This year, the process is confusing and rushed. Instead of a yes/no vote, people are choosing among 16 political parties and hundreds of candidates for a body whose function and future are not well understood. What needs monitoring is not the day of the vote, but the entire process which has and will be going on for years. This is being done by East Timorese NGOs, with some support from internationals, and could be strengthened significantly with long-term support from people with experience and knowledge in constitutional development. However, the benefits of observers coming for a few weeks during just one part of the process do not justify the effort.
3. The 30 August 1999 vote was the critical point in unlocking the long-denied right of East Timorese self-determination. The 30 August 2001 vote is one step in a many-year transition. In spite of the efforts of some on the U.N. Security Council (France and the U.K. in particular) to phase out UNTAET after August 2001, this vote will not mark the beginning of self-rule. Independence will come sometime in 2002, and UNTAET, in consultation with De Mello-selected East Timorese leadership, will continue to govern until well into next year.
4. It takes a huge amount of work, money and time to organize an observer project, even one much smaller than the 140 people we sent in 1999. Nobody has offered to take on that responsibility this year, and neither La’o Hamutuk nor any of the other East Timorese organizations have the personnel or resources to assign to this, given all the other issues (including civic education and political transition) competing for their time.
I apologize if you receive this message multiple times. I wanted to be sure it got to everyone who participated in IFET-OP 1999 or expressed interest in an observer project this year. Please pass this message on to others who might be interested.
Thank you for your continuing support for the East Timorese people as they navigate the difficult waters of the channel from occupation through destruction to independence. They still need international help in many forms, and we in the international community owe it to them for tolerating the crimes against humanity committed against East Timor for a quarter-century.
Viva Timor Lorosae Independente,
P.S. Several observers from 1999, including myself, will be in East Timor on 30 August 2001 and may offer some observations. If you expect to be there and would like to be in touch with other informal, unorganized observers, please let me know how to contact you.
Charles Scheiner, U.N. Representative
International Federation for East Timor
P.O. Box 1182, White Plains, New York 10602 USA
Telephone:1-914-428-7299; fax:1-914-428-7383 hand:1-914-720-9205
For information on East Timor write firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out ETAN’s web site: http://www.etan.org
IFET information is at http://etan.org/ifet
La’o Hamutuk is at http://www.etan.org/lh
Federation for East Timor Updated Feb 13
The International Federation for East Timor was founded in 1991 by East Timor solidarity groups from four continents as a clearinghouse for non-governmental organization (NGO) initiatives on East Timor and to support those initiatives, particularly in United Nations fora. IFET is accredited with the U.N. Department of Public Information and has a U.N. Representative in New York. Our secretariat is in the Philippines. IFET participates in U.N. hearings and conferences, supplies analyses and statements to the media, and lobbies the U.N.-Portugal-Indonesia East Timor talks to ensure that the human and political rights of the East Timorese people
Email Charlie Scheiner: email@example.com Homepage: http://etan.org/ifet
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