Press Releases

    UNIS/SC/1181
    4 February 2000

     

    HEAD OF UN TRANSITIONAL ADMINISTRATION IN EAST TIMOR
    BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL

    Describes Improved Internal Security, But Says
    Poverty "Calamitous"; Asks for Quick Release of Resources


    NEW YORK, 3 February (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was now operating throughout East Timor and mechanisms to consult with East Timorese at all levels have been established, as have the basic elements of an administrative structure, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNTAET, told the Security Council in an open briefing this morning.

    Internal security had greatly improved and there was now no threat of violence for most people, he continued. However, in some areas along the border with West Timor, particularly in the Oecussi enclave, there had been incidents involving pro-integration militia members. With the exacerbation of poverty and frustration in East Timor, crime and disaffection were increasing and rivalries were re-emerging. These and many other urgent issues must be addressed. It was, therefore, too early to politicize the environment by seeking to draft a constitution for the territory.

    Mr. Vieira de Mello went on to say that the rate of return of refugees had slowed. Militia intimidation and misinformation contributed to that, but so did the lack of basic services and infrastructure, and genuine concerns about the safety of returnees. On the human rights front, the international investigative commission and Indonesian commission reports on human rights violations had been released last Monday. However, there were still no mechanisms to implement their findings. The UNTAET had assumed the lead in the human rights investigative process. Some 300 bodies had been found and 71 crime scenes examined. Mass graves had been exhumed in Oecussi and Liquicia, and further sites were to be examined.

    East Timor had been poor before the events of last year, but its situation was now calamitous, he added. Some 80 per cent of the population had lost their means of support, while at the same time, prices had almost doubled. He asked Council members to use their influence to seek quick disbursement of resources from the World Bank trust fund and to support flexibility in the use of United Nations resources.

    The Special Representative's report on UNTAET's work included a description of the carefully planned takeover from INTERFET that began on 1 February and would be completed by the end of the month. He outlined key objectives for UNTAET, including ensuring physical security of the East Timorese, providing access to a fair legal system, supporting repatriation of refugees and providing resources for their reintegration, and establishing basic administrative structures. Health and education must be put back on an even keel, he explained, and vital infrastructure must be fully restored.

    Speakers this morning welcomed positive developments, including the establishment of the National Consultative Council, steps taken towards national reconciliation and efforts to ensure good relations between East Timor and Indonesia. However, they also made it clear they understood that many serious and complex problems had yet to be addressed.

    The United Nations owed East Timor a debt, the representative of the Netherlands said. It must, therefore, try to turn the UNTAET operation into a paradigm of nation building. While he would not call the Council’s handling of the situation a paradigm of Council action, it must still be recalled that the issue had never left the Council and had always been handled by consensus.

    Jamaica's representative said the people of East Timor faced a perilous situation, with high rates of unemployment and illiteracy. The continuing incidents of violence and their apparent causes n- unemployment and frustration -n indicated the urgency with which UNTAET must carry out its tasks. She strongly supported UNTAET's role in establishing a viable and sustainable system of governance and public administration. The participation of East Timorese in that process was of fundamental importance, to create a sense of ownership. Long-term programmes should be elaborated over the next few months.

    Commenting on the human rights situation, the representative of the United States said the establishment of an international human rights tribunal might be avoided if Indonesia took action to bring those who committed violations to justice. If Indonesia did not deal with the problem, international pressure would mount. The United States was deeply concerned that there were still more than 100,000 people in refugee camps, and that repatriation had slowed to a trickle. The real problem was that elements in the Indonesian military continued to support pro-integration militias.

    Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Bangladesh, Canada, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Ukraine, Namibia, China, Tunisia, Mali and Argentina.

    The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and adjourned at 12:40 p.m.

    Programme of Work

    The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing on the situation in East Timor from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Sergio Vieira de Mello.

    The briefing comes soon after the release of two reports on human rights violations last year in East Timor: one from the Indonesian Government national institution, Komnas Ham; and one from an international panel established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.

    This morning the Council had before it a report dated 26 January from the Secretary-General on UNTAET (document S/2000/53). The report covers the activities of UNTAET and developments in East Timor since 25 October 1999. Addended to it are 11 regulations issued by UNTAET during this period.

    The UNTAET has initiated its operations throughout East Timor, developed consultative mechanisms with the East Timorese at all levels and established the basic elements of its administrative structure, the report explains. A number of basic legislative measures have been adopted, in consultation with the East Timorese. Internal security has greatly improved and most people now experience no threat of violence and can circulate freely. However, in some areas along the border with West Timor and in Ambino there have been incidents involving pro-integration militia members. On 12 January, the Indonesian armed forces, the International Force (INTERFET), and UNTAET signed a memorandum regulating their cooperation in the border areas, including the handling of incidents. The memorandum also formalizes the deployment of liaison teams within West Timor.

    The INTERFET will hand over to UNTAET during February, the report states. This process will be carried out in phases, and the transition will be completed by 28 February. Much of the United Nations force will transfer from INTERFET. When the transfer is completed, UNTAET's military component will constitute a military force of approximately 8,500 troops and military observers from 27 countries.

    Humanitarian assistance has brought some relief, but conditions are very difficult owing to the extent of destruction, lack of opportunity to earn a living and high prices, the report states. Crime is on the rise, especially in Dili and other urban sectors, mainly owing to the large number of unemployed.

    A National Consultative Council was established on 2 December. It is the primary mechanism through which East Timorese participate in the decision- making process, and is composed of 15 members, including seven from the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), one from the Catholic Church and three from political groups which had supported autonomy. The UNTAET has four seats on the Council, including that of the chairman. Two sectoral committees, one on macroeconomics and finance, the other on the civil service, have been convened, while others are in process. There have been five Council sessions, and thus far all decisions have been by consensus.

    The report states that on 12 December, Xanana Gusmao met with Joao Tavares, principal commander of the pro-autonomy militias, and Mr. Tavares subsequently announced that he would disband his militia in West Timor.Mr. Gusmao has also visited Jakarta at the invitation of the Indonesian Government, and the Secretary-General has extended an invitation to the Indonesian President to visit East Timor.

    At a donor meeting in Tokyo on 17 December 1999, convened jointly by the United Nations and the World Bank, a total of $522.45 million was pledged, of which $148.98 million is for humanitarian activities and $373.47 million for civil administration, reconstruction and development, according to the report. The UNTAET has established a structure to coordinate all external funded programmes.

    Poverty and the lack of work for a living are causing growing frustration, the report states. It details violent incidents in Dili and Baucau. In addition, it notes a number of incidents on the borders between West and East Timor, including the Oecussi enclave, involving military weapons and direct fire at INTERFET troops and at East Timorese civilians.

    Fundamental and urgent policy decisions must be made in many areas, while also meeting urgent humanitarian needs and public service requirements, the Secretary-General reports. The devastating effects of the systematic destruction and violence last September will continue to be serious impediments for the foreseeable future. It will be a priority in the next three months to create employment and provide public services, while supporting the reintegration of displaced persons. Expanding trade will be important in order to increase supply and lower prices.

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