Monitor - All the News of the World: The international press anticipates the East Timorese independence referendum

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The Independent Culture
THE PROSPECTS of a descent into outright civil war in East Timor after the vote - whatever the outcome - remain high. This is one of the great tragedies of East Timor. After 25 years of occupation by Indonesia and the deaths of tens of thousands of East Timorese, as a people they are no closer to a peaceful resolution of a conflict that engulfed the territory during the decolonisation process which led to the Indonesian invasion in 1975. Mr Gusmao's obvious fears of yet more violence in his homeland amount to a plea to the UN and to countries such as Australia to monitor closely and, if necessary, act resolutely should the situation in the territory deteriorate after the ballot.

The Age, Australia

WITH LESS than a week to go in the historic referendum, the UN and the global community have utterly failed the people of East Timor. The ballot has already been postponed twice because of concerns over security. This time, however, the UN is adamant that the referendum will go ahead despite mounting violence. Just about everyone is warning that East Timor is a bloodbath waiting to happen. We must heed that warning. In Rwanda the world sat on its hands despite numerous warnings of possible bloodletting. We cannot and must not let it happen again, this time to East Timor.

The Nation, Thailand

IT WILL weigh heavily on everyone's conscience, not to mention China's world image, if the UN is forced to look the other way while pro- government paramilitary forces intimidate or slaughter East Timor's independence movement. The Clinton and Howard governments are wise to have developed options to deal with all foreseeable contingencies. The best outcome would be for the military option to prove unnecessary because it turns out that Indonesia really is on the verge of a dramatic, peaceful, brilliant transition to democracy. Indonesia is about to become the world's third most populous democracy or its No 1 mess. Either way, it is impossible to ignore.

LA Times, US