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East Timor: New York Press Conference

30 August 1999

Press Briefing

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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL

19990830
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The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**East Timor

Good afternoon. We will start with East Timor, and I have a statement attributable to the Secretary-General:

I am pleased to report that the people of East Timor turned out in the hundreds of thousands on Monday, 30 August, to express their will as to their future. Despite the violence which had again threatened the process in the week preceding the poll, all 200 polling centres in the Territory were open on polling day, and the voters cast their ballots in a calm and dignified manner.

While the last reports are still coming in to the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), it is clear that the turnout has been extraordinary. Well over 90 per cent of all registered voters have cast their ballots.

On the whole, polling proceeded smoothly, a testament to the determination and patience of the voters, despite some intimidation by militias outside some polling stations. It is with great dismay and sorrow that I have learned today of the murder of Joel Lopez Gomes, an East Timorese staff member of UNAMET, and am awaiting a full response. My heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Mr. Lopez Gomes.

Despite this deplorable act of violence and other sporadic incidents, I wish to pay tribute to the efforts of the Indonesian authorities, and particularly of the police on polling day. The role of the security forces will be even more important in the coming days as ballot boxes are transported to the central counting station and the count begins. During this period, I call upon all East Timorese groups to exercise the utmost restraint and patience, to ensure that the will of the East Timorese people may be fully heard.

The popular consultation represents a milestone in the implementation of the Agreements signed on 5 May by Portugal and Indonesia. I would therefore like warmly to congratulate both Portugal and Indonesia for the spirit of cooperation and collegiality with which they have brought the process thus far, as was well as the staff of UNAMET for their courageous efforts. I very much look forward to working with both parties and the people of East Timor to implement the result of the ballot, which must be accepted with maturity as determining the future of East Timor.

This was the statement of the Secretary-General following the ballot day in East Timor. I would like to add some other information on this.

As you have heard in the Secretary-General’s statement, over 90 per cent of the registered voters have cast their ballots. Incidents at seven polling stations caused their temporary closure during the course of the day for periods that ranged from 30 minutes to three hours. The last polling station closed at 6:30 in the evening, was in Kassa, Ainaro district, where polling was extended to compensate for a three-hour suspension of polling.

The sealed ballot boxes will be transported to Dili by midday tomorrow. The process of counting, verification and certification is expected to take up to a week before a result is announced.

As you know, in addition to the polling centres in East Timor and Indonesia, there were six others. Five of them are already closed for the day, or are about to close, given the different time zones. The one in New York opened at 9 o’clock this morning and will close at 6 in the evening. United Nations staff and official observers witnessed the opening of the centre this morning.

For the record, for those of you who weren’t here over the weekend, we put out the appeal the Secretary-General made to the East Timorese on Sunday, where he said that the popular consultation of the people of East Timor is a unique opportunity to settle a long-running dispute by peaceful means. And he appealed to all sides to live up to their responsibilities before history by respecting the democratic process.

There is also available a message that the Secretary-General had sent to the East Timorese a few hours earlier on Saturday.

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