Subject: Selfish Bureaucrats Ruining East Timor, Says Ex-UN Planner

Sydney Morning Herald May 6, 2000

Selfish bureaucrats ruining East Timor, says ex-UN planner

By MARK RILEY, Herald Correspondent in New York

The architect of East Timor's administrative blueprint for independence has accused United Nations bureaucrats of putting the territory's future second to their own careers in a way that "borders on criminal negligence".

Professor Jarat Chopra launched the stinging attack on former senior UN colleagues after walking out of his job as head of the UN's Office of District Administration in Dili just four months into a two-year appointment.

"I believe they have no sincere commitment to the spirit and the letter of the mission's objectives, nor any genuine consideration for the country or the people of East Timor," Professor Chopra said.

"The object of the game for these people is seeing what level they can attain in this mission to propel them up the power structure for the next.

"If the mission in East Timor ends in disaster, that is fine for these individuals as long as they attain a certain bureaucratic status and can move on."

Professor Chopra is a veteran of more than a dozen UN missions since 1989. He is a research associate and lecturer in international law at Brown University in the United States and a former special assistant in peacekeeping at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

The UN gave him the crucial role of designing and implementing an administrative framework for the new East Timor.

Visiting New York for meetings with foreign affairs colleagues, Professor Chopra said the East Timorese should do all they can to wrest sovereign control of their country from the UN administration, known as UNTAET, either through their own representative body or by forcing an early general election and handover of power.

Professor Chopra said the experiment of investing sovereign control of the territory in the UN has failed because the interests of the East Timorese people have been secondary to the self-interest of the bureaucrats.

He claims the UN administrator in East Timor, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, has been insulated by his senior bureaucrats from the daily operations of the mission and from the obvious problems developing on the streets outside.

"The mission is not on top of the problems that are spiralling out of control in East Timor because the pattern for bureaucratic paralysis was set very early on and has become so deeply ingrained that not even [Mr Vieira de Mello] can stop it," he said.

"Sergio is like a pre-constitutional king with enormous legislative and administrative powers in his hands, but he is virtually powerless to control his own organisation."

Professor Chopra said the mission had the opportunity soon after its arrival in November to set a firm timetable for independence and establish clear milestones along the bumpy road to an ultimate transfer of power to the East Timorese.

He claims the senior bureaucrats blocked that move because it did not suit their own career designs.

"They called themselves the Government of East Timor, this rather pathetic group of three or four people sitting around a table with an agenda of self-advancement and self-aggrandisement," Professor Chopra said.

"I believe that acting this way at a time when you have the future of a country in your hands is bordering on criminal negligence."

Mr Vieira de Mello has responded to Professor Chopra's criticisms by saying it was a shame that the former district administration chief had not brought the issues to his attention earlier.

However, Professor Chopra claims he tried on several occasions to inform Mr Vieira de Mello, but his memos were intercepted each time by the same bureaucrats he held responsible for the mission's failings.

He walked out of his job after being frozen out of the power structure.

"One day my computer disappears, and then my desk ...

"Is it with this childishness that we should fulfil a mandate that entrusts us with nothing less than the fate of a people and a territory?"

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