|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/SC/1258|
|Release Date: 30 August 2000|
Security Council Holds Open Meeting on Latest Developments in East Timor
Council Briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping
NEW YORK, 29 August (UN Headquarters) -- It was difficult to assess the objectives behind increased militia activity in East Timor, but its intent seemed to be to continue a pattern of violence against civilians and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in order to undermine the transition process, Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing an open Council meeting on the latest developments in the territory, he said that in the worst case, the militias might be attempting to destabilize East Timor through offensive, guerrilla-style operations; discredit UNTAET and create doubts among the East Timorese about its effectiveness; and undermine the ability of the peacekeeping force to maintain security by inflicting casualties at every opportunity.
He said that since the 24 July killing of a New Zealand peacekeeper, confirmed reports of militia activity and movements had increased. On 10 August, in the most serious incident to date, some 20 militia had attacked a Nepalese battalion of UNTAET, killing one Nepalese soldier and wounding three others. On 17 August, a Fijian patrol had exchanged fire with a group of suspected militia, and just last night, Australian UNTAET members had had a similar firefight with militia.
He said that after a review of the security situation, the UNTAET Force Commander and the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, had concluded that it was essential to maintain the current force level to counter those threats. Accordingly, the previously announced downsizing of the force by the end of January 2001 would be delayed.
He went on to say that the refugee situation in West Timor had deteriorated concurrently with the rise of militia activity. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other agencies had practically ceased all operations in refugee camps due to security concerns. There had also been an escalation of violence and attacks on humanitarian workers. Humanitarian agencies were seriously concerned that the militias intended to force a suspension of international assistance to the refugee camps.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, condemned the 22 August assault on a UNHCR team, describing it as part of a relentless series of assaults on humanitarian personnel and refugees since the end of spring. With particular concern, the European Union took note that UNHCR had been forced to suspend its operations.
Taking note of the Indonesian Government's new commitments to settle the refugee question, he called on that Government to restore law and order in the camps, create secure conditions for the refugees and international humanitarian personnel, allow free and secure humanitarian access to the camps and immediately arrest and prosecute extremist militias who were striving to sabotage the reconciliation process in East Timor.
Indonesia's representative said his Government was formulating a comprehensive plan to expedite a resolution for the refugee problem. It would entail continuing existing programmes for repatriation to East Timor or resettlement in Indonesian territory; closing the refugee camps closest to the border; and relocating to temporary transit camps those refugees choosing to remain in Indonesia prior to their permanent resettlement in West Timor or other parts of Indonesia.
Indonesia's Attorney-General was making final preparations to name those suspected of involvement in the violence following last year's popular consultation, he continued. That action would be the culmination of protracted investigations which reflected the Government's firm commitment to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice with a view to building a new era of amity and friendship for the benefit of the two peoples.
Also this morning, Council President Hasmy Agam (Malaysia) expressed, on behalf of other members, the Council's profound condolences to the Governments and peoples of Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as to the bereaved, in connection with the deaths of two soldiers killed while serving with UNTAET.
Other speakers this morning were the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Russian Federation, China, Namibia, Jamaica, Argentina, Canada, Mali, Tunisia, Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia, Norway, Brazil and New Zealand.
Council Work Programme
The Council met this morning to consider recent development in East Timor.
HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that since the 24 July killing of a New Zealand soldier, there had been an increase in militia activity and movements. The Council had already been informed of the 2 August incident in Maliana, in Bobonaro District, in which a small group of well-armed men had exchanged fire with United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) troops. Two suspected militias dressed in TNI (Indonesian armed forces) uniforms had been killed. A similar incident had occurred on 6 August, near Batugade, in the same district, resulting in the wounding of at least one militia member.
He said that on 10 August, in the most serious incident to date, approximately 20 militia had attacked a Nepalese battalion of UNTAET, killing one Nepalese soldiers and wounding three others. On 17 August, a patrol of Fijian troops had exchanged fire with a group of suspected militia between Suai and the West Timor border. Last night, Australian UNTAET members had exchanged fire with militia north-east of Maliana, but there had apparently been no casualties.
Since the Mission had assumed responsibility from the multinational force in East Timor (INTERFET) on 23 February, militia activity had been restricted to the districts of Ermera, Bobonaro, the Oecussi enclave and Cova Lima, he said. However, over the last month, militia elements had also been operating in the districts of Ainaro, Manufahi and possibly in Aileu, Dili and Liquica. The UNTAET had reported that there might now be 60 to 120 militia in at least eight groups operating in East Timor. They had recently shown a greater degree of operational effectiveness and more willingness to engage UNTAET peacekeeping troops. That level of activity reflected a degree of coordination and preparation not seen before.
Present militia objectives were difficult to assess, he said. But it was felt that their intent was to continue a pattern of violence against civilians and UNTAET in order to undermine the transition process. In the worst case, they might be attempting to destabilize East Timor through offensive guerrilla-style operations; discredit UNTAET and create doubts among the East Timorese about its effectiveness; and undermine the ability of the peacekeeping force to maintain security by inflicting casualties at every opportunity.
The militia posed a demonstrable threat to peace and security in East Timor, he said. The UNTAET had taken action to respond to that threat by deploying a company from Manatuto (Sector East) to Dili (Sector Central). That had relieved UNTAET troops in Sector Central from static protection tasks and enhanced UNTAET's ability to quickly meet additional security incidents in Dili or elsewhere in Sector Central, should the need arise. At the same time, another company from Sector East had been placed on six hours notice to provide support in Sector West and Oecussi.
He said that after a review of the security situation, the UNTAET Force Commander and the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, had concluded that it was essential to maintain the current force level to counter the threat. Accordingly, the previously announced downsizing troops in Sector East from the current 1,636 to 500 by the end of January 2001 would be delayed. The situation would be kept under review and the Council would be informed of any further adjustments to the level of the force or to its modus operandi.
Official contacts and cooperation between UNTAET and the TNI continued to be good, he said, and information on militia personnel and activities was exchanged via the joint Tactical and Coordination Working Group. However, the events of the past month again raised serious concern regarding the capacity or willingness of the TNI -- or elements within the TNI -- to prevent militia activity in West Timor and to take urgently required measures to prevent incursions across the border into East Timor and to ensure the security of refugees in West Timor.
Turning to the refugee situation in West Timor, he said that concurrent with the rise in militia activity, the situation in West Timor had steadily deteriorated. Militia were openly active in the camps and border areas. The UNHCR and other agencies had practically ceased all operations in the camps due to security concerns. Since the first week of August there had been almost no land returns to East Timor and family reunion meetings at the border had been suspended. There had also been an escalation of violence and attacks on humanitarian workers.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) compound at Atambua had been targeted during a 12 August militia demonstration without intercession by the TNI or police, he said. Subsequently, UNHCR, IOM and a non-governmental organization had relocated most of their staff. On 22 August, militia had attacked and seriously injured three UNHCR staff delivering humanitarian assistance to a refugee camp. It had taken more than two hours for security forces to arrive at the scene. Humanitarian agencies were seriously concerned that the militias' intention was to force a suspension of international humanitarian assistance to the refugee camps.
He said the Indonesian authorities had arrested two suspects and strongly condemned the militia activities. Earlier this month Indonesian Foreign Minister Shihab had announced that his Government planned to find a solution to the present impasse on refugees. A delegation from the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs had visited Dili on 23 August.
On the political front, the National Timorese Resistance Council (CNRT) Congress would conclude today, he said. The CNRT leadership, including its President, Xanana Gusmao, had stood down at the opening of the Congress pending its decision as to the Council's future.
MARK C. MINTON (United States) said today’s Security Council meeting was timely in marking the progress of the East Timorese people in their long march towards peace and independence. While it was encouraging to hear about the Mission’s great work with the civil and economic institutions in the region, it was disturbing to hear about the rise in activities by the militias, apparently encouraged by the Indonesian Armed Forces. Therefore, while the Council must support efforts to improve the East Timorese economy and social situations, it must also help find a solution to the dire situation with refugees and ensure that the militia activities come to an end.
He went on to say that in celebration of the upcoming anniversary of the popular ballot in East Timor, the United States State Department had just yesterday released a statement noting that the refugee camp situation in the territory was unacceptable, and could not be tolerated. The Council must make that clear in its work today. The State Department had also urged a workable plan for resettlement of refugees -- something that the Council had also urged.
It was possible that the upcoming anniversary would prompt more violence, he said. Today’s meeting must show that such violence would not be tolerated. It was also important for the international community to continue to support and urge the further cooperation of the Government of Indonesia in all the efforts of UNTAET. He hoped that today’s proceedings would reflect the Council’s willingness to support UNTAET’s work.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said that the Council was again faced with a situation where militia violence in East Timor had raised its “ugly head”, where UNTAET personnel had been subject to fatal attack and where the UNHCR had been forced to suspend its activities in West Timorese refugee camps. It was therefore not inappropriate to be reminded of just why the Council was involved in East Timor.
The reason was that one year ago tomorrow, over 90 per cent of the registered voters in the territory had risked their lives to have their say on the way they wanted to be governed, he said. When those voters had chosen independence, the Security Council had been genuinely moved and had reacted immediately by issuing a presidential statement underlining the need for the result of the vote to be implemented in an atmosphere of peace and security and without further violence.
Sadly, he said, that had not been the case. “Spoilers” had set out to undermine the 5 May accords and the 30 August ballot through violence. At that time, the Council had acted swiftly and unanimously to authorize the dispatch of INTERFET to restore law and order. The Council needed to show the same level of commitment and determination today. Fine words were no longer enough. It was time to turn them into deeds.
As militias were again attempting to undermine the peaceful implementation of the ballot result, as the border situation was seriously deteriorating and as militias had begun to specifically target UNTAET staff, it was time for the Council to act, he said. That violence could not continue. Indonesia must cooperate more closely with UNTAET to end cross-border incursions from West Timor, to disarm and disband militias and to prosecute militia members for crimes. The UNTAET had achieved much over the last year, but much more remained to be done. The Council must remain vigilant and show its determination not to allow the excellent work of the Mission Head and staff to be jeopardized by militia violence.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) expressed concern over the recent developments regarding UNTAET and the militias. Refugee repatriation had almost ground to a halt and the situation in the refugee camps remained tense. UNHCR personnel and other aid workers continued to be targeted by the militias. As in the past, Bangladesh strongly called for appropriate action to stop the militia activities.
He noted the decision by the Indonesian authorities to close down refugee camps in West Timor in a matter of months. That step should be taken in full coordination and cooperation with UNTAET and UNHCR. That way, the solution would be sustainable and would contribute to the ultimate goal of repatriation of East Timorese refugees.
Stressing that it was indispensable that UNHCR complete the refugee repatriation process before the closure of the camps, he said that, for the interim, efforts must be made to ensure the security of the refugees as well as of the international aid workers in West Timor. Bangladesh welcomed the initiative of the Government of Indonesia in speeding up the repatriation process and recognized that its success would depend on the financial aspect as well as the creation of social and economic conditions on both sides of the border that would be conducive to repatriation and resettlement.
ALPHONS HAMER (Netherlands) said that his country subscribed to the statement to be read by the representative of France on behalf of the European Union.
He said that while East Timor seemed to be on the right track, a great deal of reconstruction and rebuilding remained to be done. That great project could not be jeopardized by the premature withdrawal of hands-on international involvement. However, the military situation remained as precarious as ever and had even deteriorated, given the activities of the well-trained and armed militias.
Under the present circumstances, it would be difficult for humanitarian tasks to be carried out, including the registration of refugees. The Netherlands requested the Secretariat to assess how realistic were the statements of Indonesian Foreign Minister Shihab. Indonesia’s intention to indict 33 people suspected in last year’s human rights violations gave some hope that the country would fulfil its obligations with regard to East Timor.
ANDREI E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said positive achievements in East Timor had been interspersed with negative developments. Positives such as the opening of the first employment centre in Dili, had been offset by the recent cessation of peace work in West Timorese refugee camps by UNHCR. The refugee camp situation should be resolved as soon as possible. In that regard, plans recently announced by Indonesia would help. He hoped that the second year of the United Nations work in East Timor would prove richer in good news.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that tomorrow was a day of significance in East Timor, as the population would mark the anniversary of embarking on the road to nation-building. Over the past year, UNTAET had accomplished a great deal, such as creating jobs, restoring order and establishing a joint cabinet. All that progress was admirable in that it had occurred under difficult conditions.
He said UNTAET had been engaged in nothing short of building a new country from scratch. This was unprecedented in United Nations history. In that regard, it was important to note that the Mission and the international community should respect local cultures and tradition, as well as the will and law of the inhabitants of the region.
He expressed concern over the security situation in East Timor, particularly the increase in incidents of violence at the border areas, as well as continued violence against United Nations staffers and other humanitarian workers. He hoped that this situation could be thoroughly investigated and that, in the meantime, the Indonesian Government would cooperate to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers in the region. His delegation welcomed news of the imminent closure of West Timorese refugee camps and hoped that would be a step in the right direction to resolve that serious issue. Help from the international community and cooperation from the Indonesian Government was crucial. He hoped that Indonesia would continue to cooperate with the work of the United Nations Mission at all levels.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that when the people of East Timor celebrated the first anniversary of the popular consultation tomorrow, they would no doubt do so with a mixture of joy and sadness. While they should be joyful that they had exercised their free will to determine their own futures, there would no doubt be sadness at the continued violence and killings which they had endured before and after the vote. It would be important for the East Timorese to realize, nevertheless, that they were indeed on the road “of no return”, with full independence to be achieved by next year.
Turning to other issues, he said that his delegation was satisfied with the progress under way for the selection of the representatives of the National Council. That expanded body would better facilitate consultations with the East Timorese. Similarly, other positive developments, such as the ending of the first diplomatic course, were welcome.
On the security situation in the region, he said that the infiltration of armed militia’s from West Timor remained a concern. He called on authorities to take effective measures to prevent further incursions. The plight of refugees in the West Timorese camps was also a concern. In that regard, he welcomed the Indonesian Government’s measures to close down the camps in order to stop the militia activities. It was important to note that that should be done in strict accordance with international humanitarian provisions and with the assistance of the international community to assist Indonesia with the resettlement of refugees not returning to East Timor.
M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), noting that none of the positive developments in East Timor would have been possible without the involvement of the international community, said that involvement must continue. She expressed deep regret that the UNHCR had been forced to suspend its work due to the harm caused by militia attacks. Jamaica looked forward to receiving the results of investigations being conducted with the cooperation of the Indonesian authorities.
She urged the Indonesian Government to do its utmost to end incursions across the border with West Timor. It was clear that the militias continued to act with impunity -- they must be disarmed, disbanded and brought to justice.
LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said that the task performed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the staff of UNTAET had been carried out in extremely difficult circumstances. He expressed condolences to the Governments of Bangladesh and Nepal on behalf of the Argentine Government and people.
He noted said that notwithstanding certain positive developments, the security situation in East Timor had deteriorated in the last month. Argentina reaffirmed its appeal for the disarming of the militias and their separation from the refugees in the West Timor camps. Argentina trusted that Indonesia would make the decisions necessary for the realization of those goals.
MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) expressed deep concern over the deterioration of the security situation in East Timor. Canada had taken note of the Indonesian Government’s intention to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations following last year's popular consultation. Its intention to restore order in the West Timor refugee camps must be pursued vigorously. He asked Mr. Annabi to confirm whether Indonesia had taken the necessary measures to that end and what plans there were to ensure the refugees' reintegration into East Timor.
He said his country had taken note of the Indonesian Government’s decision to close refugee camps in West Timor and reiterated that all refugee returns must be voluntary. Besides the problems caused by militia activities, refugees faced other problems hindering their return to East Timor. It was probable that few of them would return as long as questions relating to their resettlement, East Timor's infrastructure and other aspects remained unresolved.
ISSOUF MAIGA (Mali) said that in considering the situation in East Timor, it was important to take note of the strides that had been made by the United Nations Mission during the past year, including the devising of consultative machinery and improving social conditions, while providing safety and security for most people. But, as the Secretariat had made clear in its previous briefing to the Council, reform and rehabilitation of the Timorese political system should be undertaken swiftly and ensure the broadest representation of the peoples in the region.
In that regard, he continued, the United Nations Mission must strive to ensure that pluralism and transparency characterize all political reform activities; this would be the only way to ensure a comprehensive political transition and bring East Timor closer to independence.
Militia attempts to undermine all the strides that had been made in the region were unacceptable, he continued. The decision by UNHCR to temporarily suspend its work in the region only underlined the seriousness of that problem. The international community should therefore urge the Indonesian Government to step up its efforts to bring an end to this outright violence and help UNTAET find new ways to deal with the persistent intimidation of refugees by the militia. Repatriation of East Timorese refugees was of the utmost importance and the Council must remain vigilant to ensure that the strides made were not undermined further.
MOKHTAR CHAOUACHI (Tunisia) said that on the anniversary of the people of East Timor’s expression of their desire to commence the process toward independence, the work of UNTAET deserved a great deal of recognition. While recognizing the Mission’s many achievements, the Security Council should encourage it to do more -- to reach even higher. The Council should also encourage increased cooperation form the Indonesian Government.
It was important to realize, he continued, that recent setbacks on the security front and continued militia activity, while serious, in no way detracted from the importance of the work of the Mission to lay the foundation for a new East Timor.
Turning to the grave situation of the refugees in the country, he said that their dire circumstances might be exacerbated by the further suspension of the work of humanitarian organizations. It was time for the international community, along with the help of the Indonesian Government, to seek ways to put an end to the destabilizing militia activities in the West Timorese refugee camps, as well as the increased incidents of violence in border areas. Such activities could only adversely impact the already sensitive nature of the public law and order.
VOLODYMYR KROKHMAL (Ukraine) was greatly concerned at the current security situation in East Timor and condemned the recent attack on UNHCR staff. He believed that ensuring the security and safety of humanitarian workers and all people in the region should be a priority concern for the Security Council.
He went on to say that safe repatriation of Timorese refugees was of the utmost significance and he deplored ongoing acts of intimidation by militias as well as the incidents of cross-border violence with West Timor. Those activities should cease immediately. He urged the Indonesian Government to assist UNTAET in its efforts to address that situation.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that since many of the issues related to the transitional process in East Timor had been discussed in previous Security Council sessions, he would confine his comments to the security situation, the question of an East Timorese force and the refugee situation.
He was most deeply concerned about the refugee situation, both in respect to the condition of the refugee camps and the dangerous conditions along the repatriation route between East Timor and Indonesia. While the Mission could contain militia activity inside East Timor, it could not be expected to totally secure the border. The increasing number of incidents between the militia and United Nations patrols also further delayed East Timorese repatriation. He hoped that the problem would not significantly affect East Timor's security, and trusted that more strenuous efforts would be made to rein in the militias and expedite repatriation of refugees from West Timor.
He noted that in their first move out of forced cantonment since United Nations deployment in East Timor, the Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL) would join UNTAET in security operations along the border. The FALINTIL's plan to join the territory's defence had come as the Mission had signaled that the organization would be recognized as the core of that defense plan. It was also recognized that top UNTAET officials had met with East Timorese army commanders to discuss proposals for a security system for an independent East Timor. The options would involve conscription or maintaining a volunteer reserve force of a varied number of troops.
Turning to his final point, he said that in contrast to success in several areas, the suffering of thousands of refugees that remained in East Timor had not yet been satisfactorily addressed. He expressed concern at the seriousness of the current situation, particularly in areas where UNHCR and the IOM had suspended activities due to intimidation by militias against the staff of those organizations. He maintained that the key to any solution of the problem of refugees in the region was the separation of former militias and soldiers from genuine refugees, maintenance of law and order in the camps, and clarification of the status of East Timorese employed by the Indonesian Government.
JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said that the Union remained extremely concerned about the situation of tens of thousands of East Timorese refugees in West Timor. The Union urged Indonesia to respect fully and unconditionally its commitment to assist those who wished to be repatriated and to end the campaign of disinformation and intimidation conducted by the militias in the refugee camps.
The European Union condemned in the strongest possible terms the 22 August assault on a UNHCR team, he said. Far from being an isolated act, it was part of a relentless series of assaults on humanitarian personnel and refugees since the end of spring. The European Union took note with particular concern that UNHCR had been forced to suspend its operations.
He said the Union also took note of the Indonesian Government's new commitments to settle the refugee question. It called on that Government to take measures for the restoration of law and order in the camps, the creation of secure conditions for the refugees and international humanitarian personnel, for free and secure humanitarian access to the camps and for the immediate arrest and prosecution of extremist militias who were striving to sabotage the reconciliation process.
Condemning the killing of two UNTAET Blue Helmets and the recent death of a Bangladeshi soldier, he said conditions were in place to enable East Timor to pursue genuine national reconciliation. The territory had enjoyed unprecedented support from the international community and the largest budget of any peacekeeping operation. However, the Mission must be evaluated throughout its work to ensure proper distribution of resources.
PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said her country wished to see the future emergence of a stable, democratic and secure East Timor, which would have good relations with Indonesia and its neighbouring region. It was particularly appropriate that today's meeting, taking place on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the territory's popular consultation, should be open to non-Security Council Members.
She said that while UNTAET had continued to carry out its mandate in a thoroughly professional manner and with commendable decisiveness, it was clear that very serious problems remained, as indicated by the tragic deaths of peacekeepers from Bangladesh, Nepal, New Zealand and Australia, as well as attacks on humanitarian aid workers. Australia was also concerned by suggestions of a change in the pattern of militia attacks, including better operational effectiveness, coordination and preparation.
A credible refugee registration process was vital, she stressed. For that reason, the Indonesian Government’s proposal to close the refugee camps in West Timor was a welcome step in the right direction. Australia was working with Indonesia to explore the practical steps necessary. It had contributed more than 1 million Australian dollars to facilitate the closure and the voluntary repatriation of East Timorese refugees.
She expressed Australia’s willingness to assist in ending militia activities once and for all by disarming and separating them from the refugees in the West Timor camps. The success of UNTAET could not be jeopardized, particularly so soon after the report of the United Nations Panel on Peace Operations had been released.
HANS BRATTSKAR (Norway) noted both the increasing speed and scope with which projects implemented to ensure progress in East Timor had grown over the last few months. That was particularly true in the areas of physical reconstruction and the development of government structures. While the critical humanitarian crisis was abating, enormous challenges remained ahead. The primary goal for the international community must now be to further assist the East Timorese in their nation-building efforts to create an independent, democratic and prosperous State.
He went on to say that Norway fully supported UNTAET's work and noted that one of the most important challenges at this stage was greater participation by the East Timorese themselves in building their own future. In that regard, he welcomed the initiatives taken to transform the National Consultative Council into a National Council. That newly created body would be broader and more representative.
He continued to be seriously concerned about the security situation on the border with Indonesia and in refugee camps in West Timor, he said. Those situations had led to the temporary withdrawal of UNHCR from West Timor. He called on the Indonesian authorities to prevent militia activities in and around the refugee camps and on the border. Norway also supported the investigation of human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law in the region during the last year. In that regard, the Indonesian Government was urged to continue its efforts to address those issues in accordance with its responsibilities, and in cooperation with the United Nations and the international community.
GELSON FONSECA, Jr. (Brazil) said that there were no easy solutions to the situation in East Timor -- the numerous transitions through which the country was going in its move from oppression to self-determination and finally independence would take patience, resolve and determination. The current situation was characterized by a mix of old and new challenges that the international community and the East Timorese people would have to face together, in close cooperation and partnership. He paid tribute to the progress of the East Timorese people and the work of the United Nations Mission.
On the security situation, he said that while it was true that the security environment had improved dramatically since the deployment of INTERFET and its transition to UNTAET, much remained to be done. Completing the process of stabilization in the region required a renewed effort to bring an end to criminal action of militia groups. Those committed to violence as a political means should not be allowed to cause further damage to the progress achieved thus far. There must be “zero tolerance” for those who wished to bring back the "dark days of old" and spark new violence in East Timor.
In that regard, he continued, the international community should convey to extremist groups the message that there was no alternative to the democratic process. The help and cooperation of Indonesia was crucial and it was expected that the Government would expedite the implementation of important agreements they had signed with UNTAET on the areas of security and border control. It was also fundamental that further efforts be undertaken to disarm, disband and arrest the extremists that used West Timor as their base of attacks perpetrated in East Timor.
Turning to the political transition of East Timor, he said that for democracy to take root, the people must feel that they were in charge of their own destinies. Political pluralism, open debate and fair expression of ideas were key, and, in that regard, he was certain that the First Congress of the CNRT would be an important step. It was essential to stress that the future of an independent East Timor would depend on continued cooperation of the international community. The solidarity that had been shown during the past year to ensure East Timor's emergence as a democratic State should not be allowed to fade away right at the moment when it was needed most.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said that in June his delegation had expressed its concern to the Council following attacks on United Nations peacekeepers in East Timor. Then, in July, when a New Zealand peacekeeper had been killed by the militia, his delegation had again taken the opportunity to address the Council on the issue. On both occasions, New Zealand had called for renewed efforts by the Indonesian Government to rein in the militia in West Timor.
Since that time, he continued, a Nepalese peacekeeper serving with the New Zealand-led battalion had been killed. That incident, along with the recent brutal attacks on UNHCR staff, underlined the fact that the situation appeared to be getting worse, not better. The continued aggressive behavior by the militia was intolerable. He reiterated New Zealand's expectation that the Indonesian Government would take effective action against those in West Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia who sought to undermine East Timor's political and territorial integrity through intimidation and violence against United Nations personnel and East Timorese civilians.
Following the historic ballot in last year, he continued, it was high time that East Timor's political and territorial integrity was respected.
MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia), expressing condolences over the deaths of the Bangladeshi and Nepalese peacekeepers, reiterated his Government's strong condemnation of all acts of violence, including the most recent in which three United Nations humanitarian staff had been injured, leading to the suspension of repatriation efforts by UNHCR and the IOM.
He said that repeated rumours by irresponsible quarters that Indonesia had sanctioned such actions must be kept in perspective. Allegations that the militias were now better equipped and that they wore camouflage uniforms did not mean they were supported by the Indonesian armed forces. Such material could easily be acquired on the black market.
To avoid the occurrence of incidents in border areas, he said, Indonesia had proposed joint border patrols and border posts with UNTAET, but the Mission had rejected the proposal. The Indonesian military had always barred armed people from entering East Timor and had detained the leader of one militia group who had been organizing a 200-man force for cross-border strikes.
He said his Government had announced its intention to deal comprehensively with the refugee problem within three to six months. The registration of refugees was essential in that process. Indonesia acknowledged the role of the United Nations in trying to determine how many people wished to remain in Indonesian territory and how many wanted to return to East Timor.
A comprehensive plan of action was being formulated to expedite a resolution for the refugee problem, he said. Its elements would include the continuation of existing programmes for repatriation to East Timor or resettlement in Indonesian territory; the closure of the refugee camps closest to the border; and the relocation to temporary transit camps away from the border of those choosing to remain in Indonesia prior to their permanent resettlement in West Timor or other parts of Indonesia.
He said Indonesia's Attorney-General was making final preparations to name those suspected of involvement in the events following last year's popular consultation. That was the culmination of protracted investigations and reflected the Government's firm commitment to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice within the framework of building a new era of amity and friendship for the benefit of the two peoples.
Mr. ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in response to a query about the resignation of Xanana Gusmao, that the CNRT Congress had been discussing its reorganization in relation to issues of transition and eventual independence, so in some ways it was normal for the leadership to stand down. It was likely that Mr. Gusmao would continue to play a key role and he had indicated his readiness for such a role if that was the wish of the rank and file.
Regarding the military assessment of the security situation in East Timor and its implications for UNTAET, he recalled that he had described the Mission’s concerns about the possible motivation behind the increased militia activity as well as UNTAET’s measures to restructure and redeploy its forces. It was difficult to predict how the situation would evolve, but it would be kept under review. The Secretary-General would indicate whatever additional measures might be required.
On investigations into the killings of UNTAET personnel, he said there was a joint investigation with Indonesia regarding the New Zealand soldier killed in July near the border with West Timor. However, the Bangladeshi and Nepalese soldiers had been killed well inside East Timor and the Council would be informed of the results of that investigation.
Regarding the reintegration of refugees into East Timor society, he said those returning had generally been well received despite a few isolated incidents. At the present time, the main issue was creating the conditions to allow prospective returnees to come back in conditions of full security. Mr. Vieira de Mello would be visiting Jakarta to discuss issues related to that question with the Indonesian authorities.
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