UNITED NATIONS: In a decision that further widens the United Nations role in world affairs the Security Council established a mission to organize and conduct a referendum in Western Sahara to enable people to determine whether they want to remain independent or join Morocco.

This is the first time that the world body will be involved in the entire process of polling including preparing electoral rolls establishing polling booths and conducting free and fair elections using its own personnel. Till now it has mostly monitored or supervised the elections as was the case in Namibia and Nicaragua. The referendum is expected early next year provided the officials are able to sort out differences between various parties and no major obstacle comes in way.

The United Nations mission for a referendum in western Sahara (Minurso) will also be responsible for monitoring the ceasefire between Morocco and the Popular Front for Liberation of Saguia El-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisanio) in the phosphate rich sparsely populated territory which was a colony of Spain only 15 years ago.

Minurso is the second field operation established by the United Nations within three weeks the first being the 1440-member United Nabons Iraq-Kuwait observer mission (Unikom).

The Saharan mission will have around 2800 troops police and civilians and the operation is estimated to cost about two hundred million dollars.

The countdown for a referendum in the 250000 sq km territory will begin when the United Nations general assembly authorities its budget at a special session expected sometime in May after the United Nations secretariat is able to complete all the paper work.

The transition period will begin within sixteen weeks of the authorization of the budget with the ceasefire between Morocco and Polisario and will end with the declaration of the results some 20 weeks later.

Following the announcement of ceasefire Minurso will verify reduction in Moroccan troops to not more than 65000. Both Moroccan and Frente Polisario troops will be confined to designated locations. It will also oversee the release and exchange of political prisoner’s liberation of all Saharan prisoners of war repatriate Saharan refugees and non-residents eligible to vote identify and register voters. Cong -I admits putting up criminals? NEW DELHIA question at 4 news conference about the Congress-I “fielding criminals” in the Lok Sabha elections rattled the party spokesman Pranab Mukherjee and led him into making confusing statements .

When the issue of candidates for Delhi came up a newsman asked how the party was fielding as the Outer Delhi candidate Sajjan Kumar against whom there were several cases of murder pending over his involvement in the 1984 Sikh massacres after the death of Indira Gandhi.

Mr Mukherjee appeared taken aback by such a question. After a few moments he managed to say that the cases were pending in a court of law and the party did not therefore find anything wrong in his candidature.

Question: How could you oppose Sanjay Singh’s election to the Rajya Sabha on similar grounds earlier?

Mukherjee: That was an indirect election which did not receive the mandate of the people but only legislators on the directive of the party. This is a popular election where people have to elect him directly. You cannot compare this issue with that of Sanjay Singh but with that of George Femandes.

Almost in unison the journalists challenged this remark and pointed out that Fernandes was not facing a murder charge. Mukherjee explained that he was not going into nature of the case as such but the similarity of the Situation. Both were facing criminal charges he maintained. Question: Are you going to withdraw the charges against Sajjan Kumar in case he is elected? Mukherjee did not appear to understand the question. The journalists then pointed out that if the case was comparable to that of Fernandes one would expect the charges against Sajjan Kumar too to be dropped.

The Congress-I spokesman said the court would have to decide the matter. When the court gave its verdict against A.R. Antulay he resigned chief minister ship of Maharashtra. “I expected Biju Patnaik the Orissa Chief Minister to do the same thing too when the High Court there passed strictures against him” Mukherjee went off at a tangent.

Question: Did Indira Gandhi resign after the Allahabad High Court judgment against her?

Mukherjee: It was not a criminal charge. It was an election petition.

While things were going from bad to worse for the Congress-l spokesman the junior spokeswoman Margaret Alva tried to come to his rescue saying the Congress-I had opposed the induction of Sanjay Singh into the Union Cabinet.

Such replies having failed to satisfy the journalists they allowed it to peter out.

The spokesman was asked in what manner Rajesh Khanna was better than Vyjayanthimala Bali for the New Delhi seat (it was rumored that she would be fielded against L.K.Advani).Mukherjee said that only one candidate from each party could contest and therefore only one was being fielded

Question: Is the party really serious about contesting the New Delhi seat?

Margaret Alva said that the Dany was “very serious”. Why else would Advani panic and file his nomination from Gandhinagar as well? She tired. Similarly she felt Vajpayee too had to file a second nomination from Vidisha.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 10, 1991