United Nations officials in East Timor said today they are forging ahead with Monday's independence referendum despite continuing violence.
At least one person was killed and another seriously injured today in an attack by anti-independence militia on a rural western village near the town of Maliana. Houses and trucks were set on fire.
Ian Martin, head of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), which is organizing the ballot, lambasted Indonesian security forces for failing to stop the violence. "Once again, heavily armed police failed to intervene when faced by large groups of people openly carrying firearms in front of them," Martin said.
"Clearly there was not adequate security in Dili yesterday. However, our plan is to go ahead with the schedule on Monday and we will continue to make those preparations."
At least six people were killed on Thursday when militia supporting integration with Indonesia clashed in central Dili with independence sympathizers. Sporadic clashes in which two people were injured continued until late this afternoon amid rumors of an attack on U.N. offices.
In Jakarta, Foreign Minister Ali Alatas voiced regret for Thursday's violence and said, "I am sure the police will be able to restore order quickly and take the necessary measures so there will be no postponement of the popular consultation," Reuters reported.
At the United Nations, the Security Council voted to increase its police and military liaison presence in East Timor; Indonesia remains responsible for security there.
Today was the last day of a 10-day campaign season that allowed integration and independence groups to stump for votes. There will be a two-day "cooling-off period" before the vote.
Both sides accused each other of provoking Thursday's clash to derail the ballot and pledged support for the world body's determination to hold the independence vote on Monday.
"We believe in the U.N. and we support the continuation of this process," said Leandro Isaac, director of the National Council for Timorese Resistance, a group backing independence. "Our people have faced these threats and intimidation before and we are prepared to face them again."
A different view prevailed among several residents seeking refuge today in U.N. headquarters. "How can they hold a vote if we are too scared to go to the polling both?" said Domingos Perreira, 30, a farmer fleeing with his family. "Unless UNAMET escorts me to vote and then takes me home, how can anyone guarantee my safety?"