Subject: SMH: Ramos-Horta - Remove District Administrators by August

Wednesday, May 24, 2000 Sydney Morning Herald

Time for UN to go: Timor leaders

By MARK RILEY, Herald Correspondent in New York

The East Timorese leadership has demanded the United Nations remove all its district administrators by August and replace them with local leaders, in the first significant step towards achieving full control of the territory.

The plea, issued by Nobel laureate Mr Jose Ramos Horta in a private meeting with the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, in New York on Monday, comes amid welling discontent with the pace of rebuilding under the UN Transitional Administration in Dili.

"I told the Secretary-General there is a growing level of frustration and disillusionment with the UN in East Timor, particularly among the young," Mr Ramos Horta said.

"But he knows there is still time for him to take decisive leadership action to correct the problems.

"If there is one place where the UN can be seen to succeed it is East Timor. There would simply be no reason, no justification, for the UN to fail."

The East Timorese leadership wants a higher level of involvement in the administration of the territory and sees the appointment of local district managers as a key way of achieving that end.

"At the moment, there is not one single East Timorese among the district administrators," Mr Ramos Horta said.

"The Secretary-General has agreed that this is not acceptable and that East Timorese people should take over where possible."

The UN's head of district administration, Professor Jarat Chopra, left his post in March, complaining that senior UN officials were putting the territory's future second to their own careers.

A fortnight ago, all 13 UN district administrators signed a letter of complaint in which they said autocratic decision-making by the same senior UN officials was threatening the development of democracy.

However, Mr Ramos Horta said the greater problem was that many of the district commanders were under-qualified.

"I know many of them have no experience, no expertise, no academic qualifications at all," he said, after delivering the keynote address to the annual peace awards in New York on Monday night.

"I asked one of them - an American lady - what her qualifications were, and she said only that she had worked in Yosemite National Park."

Mr Ramos Horta said he had told Mr Annan there were many East Timorese who were better qualified for the positions and asked him to deliver by August a clear timetable for the territory's move to independence, so it could be considered at the planned general meeting of the National Council for Timorese Resistance.

The pair discussed the possibility of conducting the territory's first national elections as early as August next year, on the second anniversary of last year's historic independence ballot.

Mr Ramos Horta said Mr Annan had given tacit support for East Timor's Falintil independence fighters to be allowed to form the nucleus of the territory's first national army.

"Initially, the UN was not favourable to us having our own national forces, but now it has realised that it is legitimate and fair that we do," he said.

The East Timorese leader has already conducted a round of discussions with the Clinton Administration in Washington and will speak with key diplomats and foreign relations experts before leaving tomorrow.

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