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East Timor - 1999 - Popular Consultation

The balloting was conducted on August 30 1999. The delegation was tasked with supervising the voting under the conditions of the May 5th agreement – which was mandated by the Indonesian Republic and the Portuguese Republic in which it was signed by those governments and the United Nations. The popular consultation would allow for the East Timorese to have the opportunity to either accept or reject a special autonomy arrangement while remaining under national Indonesian governance, although a rejection would enable East Timorese full independence from Indonesia, and it would be granted by the Indonesian parliament. UNAMET neither supported the proposal for autonomy within Indonesia, nor did it advocate its rejection, rather its responsibility was to conduct the consultation in a completely impartial manner. The agreement stipulated that, after the vote, UNAMET would oversee a transition period pending the implementation of the decision of the East Timorese people. However, once the results of the vote in favor of independence were announced, pro-Indonesian militia groups commenced a rampage through East Timor killing or displacing thousands from the region.

Peter Bartu was the Political Affairs Officer for the Bobonaro District office of UNAMET. In this capacity, he served as the lead for the Maliana team of local and international UN staff and liaised with the Indonesian police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and military. He also adjudicated conflict resolution and crisis management between pro-autonomy and pro-independence groups. 

Jean Marie Stratigos was a United Nations Volunteer and team leader for voter registration and voting sites with responsibilities for managing election activities through the electoral cycle. After the August 30 vote, he volunteered to relocate to Dili and assist with the ballot tabulation process. 

In the recording above, you can hear Peter and Jean Marie themselves speak about their experience of observing the election for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).

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