Summary of SC work on E Timor
[E Timor excepts only]
Press Release SC/6784
CONFLICTS IN KOSOVO, SIERRA LEONE AND ANGOLA, QUESTION OF EAST TIMOR KEY ELEMENTS OF SECURITY COUNCIL'S WORK FOR 1999
As the Security Council pursued its mandate of securing, establishing and maintaining global peace and security, several issues in 1999 took prominence, among them, the Kosovo conflict in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; the question of East Timor, which had remained on the Council's agenda since the 1970s; the conflict in Sierra Leone; and the long-running civil war in Angola, which remains without resolution to date.
Light was shed on the "question of East Timor" through the holding of a United Nations-run popular consultation in that territory in August 1999. On 5 May, Portugal and Indonesia signed a set of agreements in New York entrusting the Secretary-General with organizing and conducting a "popular consultation" to determine whether the East Timorese people accepted or rejected a special autonomy for East Timor within Indonesia.
On 11 June, the Security Council established the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to carry out the consultation, in which about 98 per cent of the 451,792 registered East Timorese participated. On 3 September, it was established that 78.5 per cent of the voters had rejected the proposed special autonomy, thereby expressing their wish for independence.
Following subsequent outbreaks of violence, the Council, with the agreement of the Indonesian Government, authorized on 15 September a multinational force (INTERFET) to restore peace and security in the territory. The first elements of the force arrived in East Timor on 20 September. On 19 October, Indonesia formally recognized the result of the popular consultation, creating the domestic legal framework for East Timor's separation from Indonesia.
Since 1982, successive Secretaries-General have held talks with Indonesia and Portugal aimed at resolving the status of East Timor. On 5 May 1999, those two Member States signed a set of agreements in New York entrusting the Secretary- General with organizing and conducting a "popular consultation" to determine whether the East Timorese people accepted or rejected a special autonomy for East Timor within the unitary Republic of Indonesia. The agreements specified that rejection of the autonomy package would lead to United Nations administration of the territory pending a transition to independence.
Two days later, the Council adopted resolution 1236 (1999) welcoming the 5 May Agreements and the proposed United Nations involvement.
On 11 June, the Security Council established the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to carry out the consultation, at that stage scheduled for 8 August. Resolution 1246 (1999) established UNAMET until 31 August and approved the modalities for the consultation -- a direct, secret and universal ballot, to decide whether the East Timorese wished to accept special autonomy within Indonesia, or reject such autonomy, leading to East Timor's separation from Indonesia. That resolution also stressed the Indonesian Government's responsibility to maintain peace and security in East Timor and to insure the integrity of the consultation and the security of international staff and observers. All acts of violence were condemned.
Following an attack on a UNAMET regional office in the north-western town of Maliana on 29 June, a presidential statement issued by the Council that same day expressed grave concern at the attack, and demanded that it be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. It again stressed Indonesia's responsibility for maintaining peace and security in East Timor.
Further, it endorsed the Secretary-General's decision not to begin the operational phase until UNAMET was fully deployed, and his decision to postpone the ballot date for two weeks beyond the 8 August date.
On 3 August, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1257 (1999) extending UNAMET's mandate until 30 September, in response to a letter from the Secretary- General stating that he had decided to postpone the consultation until 30 August and asking for a one-month extension of the Mission's mandate. The Secretary-General had explained that the postponement was for technical reasons, and because of a delay in the registration process due to the security situation.
The Mission's mandate was again extended, this time until 30 November, by Council resolution 1262 (1999), adopted on 27 August. The same resolution authorized an expansion of UNAMET's civilian police component to 460, and its military liaison component to 300 personnel, in anticipation of the post- consultation phase of the operation.
Following the resolution's adoption, the Council President read a statement stressing that the popular consultation was a historic opportunity to resolve peacefully the question of East Timor.
On 30 August 1999, about 98 per cent of 451,792 East Timorese registered with UNAMET voted in the popular consultation.
In the first of two Council meetings on 3 September, the Secretary-General informed the Council that 344,580 East Timorese, or about 78.5 per cent of those registered, had voted to reject the proposed special autonomy, thereby expressing their wish to make the transition towards independence. The Secretary-General also called upon the Government of Indonesia to ensure a successful culmination of the process by carrying out its obligations to maintain law and order.
A second Council meeting, on 3 September, issued a presidential statement welcoming the successful popular consultation. It stated the Council's view that the consultation was an accurate reflection of the views of the East Timorese people.
The statement condemned the violence preceding and following the ballot, and reiterated Indonesia's responsibility to take steps to prevent further violence and to guarantee the security of UNAMET personnel and premises. The Council expressed its readiness to consider sympathetically any proposal by the Secretary-General to ensure the peaceful implementation of the popular consultation. It stated that the Indonesian Government must now take the constitutional steps to implement the results.
Following the announcement of the result, pro-integration militias launched a campaign of violence, looting and arson. As many as 500,000 East Timorese were displaced from their homes, in some cases by force.
On 11 September, the Council held an open debate with more than 50 speakers, focusing on the Government of Indonesia's failure to fulfil its obligation to provide peace and security following the popular consultation. Many speakers called on Indonesia to agree to the deployment of a multinational force in the territory. The Secretary-General told the Council that Indonesia's declaration of martial law had not restored order, and that Indonesian police and military forces were unwilling or unable to control the situation. All non-essential UNAMET staff had been relocated out of the territory, and only 86 international personnel remained in the headquarters compound in Dili.
At the conclusion of a visit by a Security Council delegation to Jakarta and Dili in early September, the Indonesian Government announced it would accept the deployment of an international force in East Timor.
On 15 September, the Council authorized, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, a multinational force to restore peace and security in East Timor. Resolution 1264 (1999) charged the force with the protection and support of UNAMET personnel and the facilitation of humanitarian assistance operations. Welcoming offers by Member States to organize, lead and contribute to the force, the Council called for personnel, equipment and other resources.
The first elements of the multinational force (INTERFET) arrived in East Timor on 20 September. On 19 October, the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly formally recognized the result of the popular consultation, thereby creating the domestic legal framework for East Timor's separation from Indonesia.
By unanimously adopting resolution 1272 (1999) of 25 October, the Council established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) with an initial mandate running until 31 January 2001.
Charged with the administration of East Timor and empowered to exercise all legislative and executive authority there, the mission would comprise a governance and public administration component, including up to 1,640 police officers; a humanitarian assistance and emergency rehabilitation component; and a military component of up to 8,950 troops and 200 military observers. The Council stated that UNTAET's military component was to take over from the Australian-led INTERFET as soon as possible.
The resolution also stressed that Indonesia was responsible for ensuring the safe return of refugees from West Timor and other parts of Indonesia, for their security, and for the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements. In particular, the Indonesian Government was charged with curbing violence and intimidation by militias.
On 22 December, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi, briefed the Security Council on the situation in East Timor. Pledges amounting to $522 million for East Timor had been made at a donors' conference in Tokyo, he told the Council, for humanitarian assistance, administration and capacity-building for self-government, and reconstruction and development.
He told the Council that the security situation in East Timor was largely stable. Military observers from the UNTAET were now deployed throughout the territory, and the peacekeeping transition from INTERFET to UNTAET was to take place in February under an agreement that would ensure that a strong operational capacity could be maintained through the changeover.
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