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Two Years After Vote For Independence, The People of East Timor Hold First Elections To Choose A Constitutional Assembly

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The people of East Timor went to the polls today in overwhelming numbers in their first nationwide elections to choose an assembly that will write the constitution for the world’s newest nation. Two years ago, the East Timorese voted in an historic U.N. supervised referendum for their independence after 24 years of brutal Indonesian occupation. As soon as the results of the vote were announced, however, Indonesian troops and their militia allies burnt East Timor to the ground, displaced virtually the entire population, and forced hundreds of thousands of people from the country. Tens of thousands remain in squalid refugee camps in West Timor.
Voters in the elections today will choose from 16 parties for an 88 member assembly that will write the country’s constitution in a just three months. The Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretelin, is expected to dominate the balloting. But East Timor is still far from being a truly independent country; 9,000 UN troops continue to occupy the territory and East Timor will celebrate its independence almost wholly dependent upon foreign aid. And more than two years after they destroyed East Timor and murdered hundreds, not a single Indonesian general has been brought to justice.

GUEST: Jose Ramos Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Foreign Minister for East Timor
GUEST: Joaquim Fonseca, with the East Timorese human rights group Yayasan Hak. He is an official observer of the election process, and has been an active part of the NGO working group on the constitution.
GUEST: John Miller, Media and Outreach Coordinator for the East Timor Action Network, a grassroots organization working to support genuine self determination for East Timor.

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