|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/SC/1218|
|Release Date: 28 April 2000|
| Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Briefs Security Council,
Describes Month of "Steady Progress" in East Timor
NEW YORK, 27 April (UN Headquarters) -- Steady progress had been made in East Timor over the past month, with security on the border with the Indonesian province of West Timor remaining generally stable, and even improving, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi, told the Security Council at an open briefing this morning.
Following a visit by the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, to Jakarta, militia activity had decreased and cooperation with the Indonesian armed forces had improved noticeably, he said. Two Memoranda of Understanding -- on border security, and on judicial, legal and human rights matters -- had been signed by representatives of Indonesia and the United Nations, and both had contributed to improvements.
In the same period, he continued, about 7,000 refugees had returned to East Timor, and access to refugee camps in West Timor had greatly improved, with Indonesia also showing flexibility on the continuation of its aid to the camps. However, economic and social conditions remained a concern, and the East Timorese had demonstrated some impatience at the inability of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to address those problems more quickly.
He said that approximately 1,200 private businesses had now been registered and an investment promotion unit was being established within UNTAET. Various schemes had been established by the United Nations, other intergovernmental institutions and individual Member States and others were planned. UNTAET was paying 4,221 civil servants and about 7,000 primary school teachers. Some 140,000 students were now in school.
A crucial issue that had recently arisen was the new position of the National Council for East Timorese Resistance (CNRT), which was calling for the establishment of an army based on its armed wing, Falintil, Mr. Annabi said. He expected that issue to be given important consideration at the CNRT's Congress in August.
Responding to Mr. Annab's briefing, the representative of the United States said that, despite the improvements, the international community expected the Indonesian Government to take further action to end relationships between its military and militias operating in West Timor refugee camps. The Indonesian military must close down all militia training camps, disarm the militias and arrest those facilitating their infiltration into East Timor, he said.
Jamaica's representative said that unemployment remained the key problem in East Timor and was a cause for grave concern. If it persisted at the present rate B- about 80 per cent -- criminal activity could only increase. Community participation was a good opportunity to engage the local people in short-term, labour-intensive activities, which, while not an end in themselves, were a necessary means to engage the East Timorese in rebuilding their country.
The Netherlands' representative said it was crucial that East Timorese support the reconstruction and continue to believe in it. They were reportedly becoming disillusioned, because thus far they could not see any concrete results of UNTAET's efforts in their everyday lives. While UNTAET was doing an excellent job, that disillusionment must be taken seriously, because participation by East Timorese would be a key to the success of the restoration projects.
Tunisia's representative said that continued international assistance was very important, as was the establishment of a normal economic environment. The solidity of financial institutions would underpin reconstruction and development. Thus, the prompt disbursement of funds by the World Bank and others was of crucial importance.
The representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Argentina, Russian Federation, Mali, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Namibia, China and Ukraine also spoke.
The meeting commenced at 11 a.m. and concluded at 1:25 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to hear an open briefing on the situation in East Timor.
HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that, since the last briefing on East Timor on 21 March, there had been steady progress. The overall security situation had remained relatively stable and on the border it had improved. In March, there had been increased incursions from West Timor. In the last week of March, the Secretary-General's Special Representative visited Jakarta and raised the issue with the Government, and subsequently militia activity had decreased and cooperation with the Indonesian armed forces had improved noticeably. A Memorandum of Understanding had been signed by the Force Commander of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the Indonesian armed forces commander in West Timor. The arrangements it contained had worked well, so far, for example in addressing inadvertent border crossing by military personnel, including by United Nations helicopters into Indonesian airspace.
Some 7,000 refugees had returned to East Timor over the last month, he said, bringing the total of returnees to a little over 160,000. Access to the refugee camps in West Timor had improved considerably and the Indonesian Government had been flexible on continuation of aid to the camps in West Timor. Indonesia had originally announced it intended to cease support to the camps at the end of March, for economic reasons. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asked for breathing space of some three months to allow the refugees to decide whether to return or not, he noted.
Indonesia reported that there were currently 126,000 refugees still in West Timor, he said. Others considered that figure to be too high. Accurate information would be available later, when UNHCR completed a registration exercise in mid-May. Many refugees were regarded as sympathetic to the former autonomy movement and UNTAET continued to work to ensure they would be received peacefully when they returned. The head of an umbrella organization of former pro-autonomy groups had recently met with the Secretary-General's Special Representative, and UNTAET had remained in contact with former pro-autonomy supporters.
Economic and social conditions remained of concern and would continue to be so, he said, given the destruction of East Timor's infrastructure and the lack of skilled labour. The East Timorese looked to the United Nations to solve their difficulties, and had shown some impatience at UNTAET's inability to address concerns at a faster pace. That impatience focused on UNTAET's recruitment for public services. Rapid recruitment would provide temporary relief, but would create a public service that East Timor would not be able to sustain. A public meeting had been held to explain that, and Xanana Gusmao, president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), had spoken at length about the need to keep the civil service lean and had urged East Timorese to avail themselves of assistance provided to promote private enterprise in the territory. Approximately 1,200 private businesses had now been registered and activities were under way to promote such businesses and to create a favourable business climate. An investment promotion unit was being established in UNTAET and would be a focal point for that effort.
To encourage East Timorese enterprise, UNTAET, the World Bank and the Portuguese national bank had signed an agreement to provide small loans to East Timorese entrepreneurs, he said. In addition, UNTAET was opening offices in Dili and Baucau to help those looking for employment.
Reporting on the UNTAET plan to repair local infrastructure, he said some 2,750 were now employed by the operation. In addition, on 15 April, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank had launched a community empowerment project. Representatives to determine the priorities for the project had been elected in 5 of the 13 districts and the first cash disbursements had now been made. Bilateral efforts were also under way, including a transitional employment programme (15,000 jobs for six weeks) run by the United States' international aid programme. Should that prove successful, similar projects were envisaged.
The World Bank/Asian Development Bank trust fund had allocated $30 million for emergency reconstruction of roads, pots and power facilities, he explained, and $4 million would be disbursed from UNTAET's Trust Fund over the next three weeks for reconstruction of government premises.
The East Timorese National Consultative Council had continued to meet, he said, and the first draft of a criminal procedure code would be presented to it shortly. Other things currently under consideration included regulations for vehicle registration, broadcasting, registration of non-governmental organizations and the establishment of foreign government offices.
Recruitment of civil servants continued, he said, and decisions had been taken on working hours and other conditions of service. Pending establishment of a salary scale, 4,221 were now receiving stipends. Also, 7,000 primary teachers were now being paid by UNTAET, and 140,000 students were now in school -- 85 per cent of pre-ballot numbers. Eight judges, four prosecutors and eight public defenders had now been hired.
A Memorandum of Understanding on legal, judicial and human rights matters had been signed, he said, which would facilitate the prosecution of crimes. The High Commissioner for Human Rights had also sent a mission to Indonesia to assist in the development of a project for the prosecution of human rights violations.
UNTAET currently had 626 international staff, 1,400 local staff, 228 United Nations volunteers, 1,113 civilian police, 8,043 troops and 198 military observers, he reported. Currently the required number of troops was being reviewed, and the outcome of that review would be reported to the Council.
Benchmarks to be achieved on the road to East Timor's independence included the drafting of a constitution, the election of a legislature, laying the foundation of a legal system and establishing a functional administration, including a judiciary, a police force and a financial system, he said. Consultations on those matters were ongoing.
Another important issue was territorial security, he said. The CNRT had originally envisaged that East Timor would not have security forces, except those associated with the police, but that position had changed and it now envisaged the establishment of an army, with naval and air components, based on Falantil.
Mr. Gusmao had written to the Secretary-General on the matter, which was sensitive and complex. It was being studied carefully in consultation with the CNRT and East Timorese, and would be an important item on the agenda of the CNRT Congress scheduled for August.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States), reported first on the Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, saying that President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia had reaffirmed his high enthusiasm for the trip, which was a benchmark event. The Joint Military Commission would receive the Council mission in Lusaka. While there would have to be some adjustments in logistics and timing, there would be no changes in the mission=s arrival time in Kinshasa. However, it would be necessary for the mission to visit other capitals in the region.
Turning to East Timor, he said his Government remained deeply disturbed over reports about the relationships between elements of the Indonesian military and militias operating in refugee camps in West Timor. While welcoming President Wahid=s repeated pledges to solve the problem, and strongly supporting him in those efforts, the international community was not satisfied and expected the Indonesian Government to take action on its own to ensure stability in the border areas.
He said that while the agreement between the Government of Indonesia and UNTAET was a positive development, the Indonesian military must stop all militia activity in areas under their control, including closing down all militia training camps, disarming the militias and arresting those facilitating infiltration into East Timor. The United States and other Security Council members urged concrete action against the militias, not simply by moving them elsewhere, and an end to all military collaboration with them.
The refugee camps in West Timor were miserable and depressing places that threatened the health of women and children, as well as everyone else unfortunate enough to be in them, he said. He stressed the need to avoid another episode like that of Gaza, whose refugee camps had turned into a permanent feature of the Middle East. The United States was very unhappy that 80,000 to 100,000 refugees remained in the West Timor camps, many failing to return home because of disinformation, lies and fear. The continuing existence of the camps was an international disgrace that must be dealt with.
Regarding benchmarks towards independence, he said there was nothing more difficult than deciding when a people should take full sovereignty and independence. If they were pushed too rapidly, there might be an unfortunate outcome; the same result could occur if the delay was too long. There was a need to discuss the issue continually and to encourage the East Timorese towards independence as rapidly as possible.
He drew attention to the fact that in the last 12 months, the Security Council had authorized the undertaking or substantial expansion of five major peacekeeping operations on three continents: East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo and a possible expansion in Lebanon. That commitment would cost a great deal of money. It must not be forgotten that smaller peacekeeping operations like the United Nations Interim Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) played an indispensable role. Peacekeeping must not be allowed to fail, otherwise the future of one of the key functions of the United Nations would be called into question.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said there was potential for a deterioration in the security situation, particularly with the continuing involvement of Indonesian military elements with the militias in West Timor. The United Kingdom was extremely concerned and had taken steps to make that concern known to the Indonesian Government at the highest level. While it was encouraging to note the improving situation in the refugee camps, it was imperative that collaboration with the militias by Indonesian units cease.
He said it was important that the Indonesian Government take urgent steps to allow those refugees who wished to return to East Timor and resettle to do so swiftly. There were two sides to the coin: when they did return, they must do so in a safe and sensible manner; but delays in their return should not be allowed to hold up the rest of East Timor's reconstruction process.
Regarding East Timor's intention to establish a small self-defence, he said it was necessary to address the territory's defence needs in a thoughtful way. The United Kingdom had offered to fund an independent study by experts to clarify the debate and to allow discussion on an informed basis.
He said that the list of benchmarks towards independence was extremely useful, as it set out the parameters of the task. The process must not be hurried, but it must also not be unnecessarily delayed either. It was important that the underpinning for independence be in place.
The United Kingdom was increasingly concerned about bureaucratic delays in getting things going in East Timor. There had been long delays in processing the United Kingdom's nominations for forensic work and in obtaining the necessary paperwork for the release of the second tranche of British assistance to the peacekeeping mission. Not only did delays keep assistance from reaching the mission, they increased frustration among the population if UNTAET was not seen to be delivering quickly enough. There was a need to improve coordination between the mission and Headquarters, as well as within the Secretariat.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said that the representative of the United States had correctly pointed out that the East Timor mission could be seen as a model. Of course there were still difficulties, and Council members were aware of them, but he noted that there had been an improvement even though the problem of refugees in West Timor continued.
Noting that among the refugees were former East Timorese officials to whom some form of pension was due, he asked whether their pensions from the Indonesian authorities would continue if they returned to East Timor. He also asked for information on developments regarding the delimitation of the maritime border with Australia, and on the exploitation of maritime resources on that border.
On the future of the United Nations presence and the timing of East Timor's eventual independence, he agreed that it was difficult to determine correctly when independence should take place. The views of the East Timorese themselves should be heard on this, as it was ultimately up to them to determine when they felt ready to shoulder the responsibilities of independence.
LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said that UNTAET deserved congratulations, as did the East Timorese on their attitude to what had taken place. The two Memorandums of Understanding signed in the last few weeks were important steps forward. He congratulated the Indonesian authorities for those cooperative measures and called on them to make sure the measures resulted in concrete action in the field.
He noted an increase in social tension as a result of the precarious economic and social situation East Timorese people found themselves in, and he trusted that the proposed programmes and those currently in place would help reduce the tension. The United Nations must redouble its efforts to convey reassurance to the East Timorese, and a broadcast facility providing information in locally-understood languages and accessible to all should be created. It would greatly assist in the reassurance process.
ANDREI GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) noted that there were still serious problems in East Timor, but that the overall stable trend was a positive one. The important thing was that the problems were being solved; perhaps not as quickly as would have been desired, but nevertheless steadily.
He said that the Indonesian Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UNTAET, confirming that there was political will to solve the problems of East Timor. The success of UNTAET's work was to a large extent a result of the efforts of the Secretary-General's Special Representative,
MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) expressed serious concern about the slow delivery to those in the field of the means to enable them to begin reconstruction. He attached the highest priority to the necessity of providing the East Timorese with the economic opportunity that would enable them to make a living and have a future in a rebuilt country.
He said he was gratified that refugees had been returning home from West Timor. The momentum would be strengthened if projects financed by the World Bank special trust fund started to function. A rapid start of those projects would provide employment. Mali was also gratified to note the progress achieved in the consultative process aimed at bringing about the full participation of the local people in the decision-making process.
F.A. SHAMIM AHMED (Bangladesh) said that the return of ex-combatants and their subsequent settling down in East Timor would be indicative of how the issue of national reconciliation would unfold. The CNRT would have a critical role in ensuring the safety and security of returnees. On the one hand, that would convince others to return and on the other, it would augur well for the establishment of the rule of law. The agreement between UNTAET and the Indonesian Government on improved border security coordination between East and West Timor would stabilize those areas and have a salutary effect on cross-border incursions and on the return of refugees.
He said that the establishment of district advisory councils should provide UNTAET with the opportunity to involve the local population in governance issues, including law and order. Bangladesh strongly supported the decision to appoint as many women as possible to those councils. The organization of the Public Service Commission and the induction of East Timorese members, as well as the continued training and appointment of judges, marked the beginning of UNTAET=s transformation into an East Timorese civil administration. Nothing would count more for the local people than the ownership of nation-building efforts.
By far the most difficult problem faced by UNTAET was the poverty and unemployment situation, he said. It had recently generated heightened concern in the media and had the potential to undo all that UNTAET had achieved. It was important that East Timorese on both sides of the mental divide see themselves as partners in progress. A national reconciliation process imbued with pragmatism, fairness and justice would help them to put the past behind them. The judicial cooperation between UNTAET and the Indonesian authorities would greatly facilitate the investigation of human rights violations, but also instil a new realism in the people's minds about cooperation and the mutuality of interests between Indonesia and East Timor.
MOHAMMAD KAMAL YAN YAHAYA (Malaysia) said he welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding signed by UNTAET and Indonesia on border security cooperation. Adherence to it would help avoid a recurrence of any untoward incidents and would facilitate both repatriation and border security.
Malaysia also supported efforts by UNTAET to create employment and build infrastructure, he said. It was good that many activities had commenced, but he also noted that many more had not yet begun. That seemed to be the key to East Timorese concern and disgruntlement, which had been highlighted by the media recently.
Efforts must be made to facilitate disbursement of funds for reconstruction, he said. It was also imperative for East Timorese to be involved in planning and implementation of projects, as that involvement would provide a sense of ownership and also prevent a culture of dependency from developing. The local community must be the main implementers of reconstruction programmes. At the same time, the international community owed it to the East Timorese to see the projects through until a new nation could be established.
The discontent among East Timorese must be contained, otherwise there was a risk of violence which would be exploited by the militias, he said. He reaffirmed Malaysia's support for rehabilitation and reconstruction, and for UNTAET. Malaysian officials had recently consulted with the East Timorese leadership and the Secretary-General's Special Representative for East Timor. Both the Special Representative and Xanana Gusmao of CNRT had been told of Malaysia's willingness to help, and he looked forward to constructive relationships between Malaysia and its neighbours, the East Timorese, in the future.
SELMA NDEYAPO ASHIPALA-MASAVYI (Namibia) said she recognized the daunting task that UNTAET and the international community were facing in East Timor. Consultations and participation of East Timorese at all levels remained crucial, to ensure that reconstruction projects were successful.
She was glad to note that the UNHCR reported that life had returned to normal in most areas of East Timor, with children returning to school, but also recognized that major problems, such as large-scale unemployment, persisted. That there was an urgent need to address the unemployment situation was beyond doubt, and UNTAET's job creation and empowerment projects were welcome.
CHEN XU (China) said that although the task of reconstruction was a daunting one, the work had begun with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other United Nations agencies. While China welcomed the participation of the local people, there was a serious shortage of skilled civil service and other personnel. Only with reconciliation and stability could reconstruction and independence be assured. It was hoped that the various parties would continue to work in earnest towards that end.
He expressed concern about the large number of refugees remaining in West Timor, and welcomed measures by the Government of Indonesia to ensure security along the West Timor border with East Timor. China would continue to provide personnel and financial assistance whenever possible.
CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said there were numerous difficult challenges still facing UNTAET and the people of East Timor in laying the foundations for an independent country. Recent developments, including UNTAET=s appointment of East Timorese to positions in the civil administration and the establishment of district advisory councils, would allow the East Timorese to voice their concerns on governance issues, including law and order and humanitarian matters.
He welcomed the decrease in militia activities and the drop in support for them by certain Indonesian military units. However, Jamaica was concerned that many refugees remained in camps in West Timor, and looked forward to a quick resolution of the problem.
Unemployment remained the key issue and a cause for grave concern, he said. About 80 per cent of the East Timorese population was unemployed. If that persisted, there could only be an increase in criminal activity. Community participation was a good opportunity to engage the local people in short-term, labour-intensive activities. While those activities should not be seen as ends in themselves, they were a necessary means to engage the East Timorese in rebuilding their country.
He said that those responsible for gross violations of human rights must be held accountable. The recent agreement on cooperation between the Government of Indonesia and UNTAET would help to bring such people to justice. Jamaica took note of the essentially smooth return of refugees and ex-combatants to East Timor.
VOLODYMYR G. KROKHMAL (Ukraine) said Ukraine shared many of the concerns already expressed by Council members this morning, especially on security matters. It also shared concerns over economic and social issues, and believed that the situation would only improve with support from the international community. He welcomed the activities aimed at improving that situation by intergovernmental agencies and bilateral efforts, as detailed by the Assistant Secretary-General this morning.
On the Memorandum of Understanding on legal, judicial and human rights matters, he supported cooperation on investigations of human rights violations and the prosecution of those responsible. Clearly UNTAET and Indonesia had much to occupy themselves, with the need now to establish a framework for the restoration of justice.
He noted that the number of refugees had decreased significantly, but that there had been a problem over the past few months with sporadic provision of food rations to those who remained in West Timor. That was a cause for concern. Resolution of the unemployment problem and work on integration would accelerate their return.
The high rate of unemployment was a problem, he said, and could potentially lead to increases in the crime rate. Timely police deployment was therefore important, and he noted that a Ukrainian rapid reaction police unit had recently joined UNTAET.
Reconstruction would create new job opportunities and would contribute to internal stability. It was also important to stop cross-border incidents; he was pleased by Indonesia=s efforts to clamp down on militia activities in West Timor.
PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said this current Council meeting made it clear that the United Nations and its Security Council were committed to the success of their involvement in East Timor. The Council was conscious that it was not just dealing with East Timor's future but that the Council's reputation was at stake. Precisely because it had acted expeditiously in response to the 1999 crisis, the world was now watching closely.
Constant attention and financial support were required, he said. He noted that an international newspaper had yesterday carried an article jointly written by representatives of the United Nations and the CNRT which emphasised the need for donor support. The Netherlands would shortly transfer about $2.2 million to the UNTAET trust fund, in additional to previous donations.
It was also crucial that East Timorese supported the process of reconstruction and continued to believe in it, he said. They must, therefore, understand the obstacles to reconstruction and the inevitable limitations on the United Nations and others. Recent media reports indicated that a certain disillusionment was developing, because people could see no concrete results of efforts thus far in their everyday lives.
That disillusionment should be taken seriously, although it did not mean UNTAET was not doing its job. UNTAET was performing its duties very well, particularly given the utter destruction and neglect it faced on arrival. The absence of any infrastructure had also necessitated enormous preparatory work that was largely invisible to outsiders.
However, if the East Timorese became demoralized, that was the international community's business, and it, and UNTAET, would have to deal with it. Perhaps a stepped-up information campaign and more visible projects would help. East Timorese must be given greater ownership of projects, because a key to their success would be participation by East Timorese.
Cooperation in the National Consultative Council was also important, he said, but it was not easy to assess to what extent involvement at the top gave the East Timorese sufficient sense of their influence and involvement. There were also obstacles to that involvement, such as the lack of qualified personnel. He understood that the search for qualified local people and the provision of training were under way, but he sought further information on that question.
UNTAET was now correctly focused on domestic reconstruction, he said, but external matters also required attention, including East Timor's relations with Indonesia. The first steps in establishing that relationship gave rise to optimism. Equally important was East Timor's integration in the wider region, including possibly its participation in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), if that organization's members thought it appropriate.The international community could not remain silent on the situation of the East Timorese refugees, he said. He himself sought answers to a series of questions on their plight. How many refugees had asked to be returned to East Timor, and what would their prospects be on their return? Were aid organizations in a position to provide support to returnees? He also sought information on whether Indonesia was being sufficiently cooperative in the repatriation process, including in restraining the militias. His information was that the militias still enjoyed almost unrestrained capacity to act in West Timor.
ODHMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) said that he welcomed the information that, despite some remaining difficulties, there was less militia activity. Tunisia congratulated the Indonesian Government for its support for the United Nations and for its efforts for East Timorese refugees. Assistance from the international community was very important for East Timor, as were reconstruction and the establishment of a normal economic environment in East Timor. The solidity of financial institutions would underpin reconstruction and development, and thus the disbursement of funds from the World Bank and others was of crucial importance.
Current Council President, ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said that as the issues Canada wished to raise had already been flagged by other Council members, he would not exercise his right to speak in his representative capacity.
Mr. ANNABI, responding to remarks by delegates, said he shared the concerns raised about slow disbursements. The trust fund for UNTAET had received $24 million, of which $14 million had already been allocated and approved for expenditure. It was important to continue working with the World Bank to accelerate disbursements on the ground.
Regarding the payment of pensions, he said that question had been examined with the Government of Indonesia, which had agreed to pay pensions until East Timor became independent. However, it was necessary that the Government continue to pay pensions after independence.
He said that UNTAET, in collaboration with the CNRT and the East Timor National Consultative Council, was working on a treaty that would spell out the status of the Timor Gap after independence. Negotiations were continuing, and it was hoped that they would lead to the rapid conclusion of an agreement.
|* * * * *|