|Subject: RT: Security Council worries about
West Timor refugees
UNITED NATIONS: Security Council worries about West Timor refugees
UNITED NATIONS, May 25 (Reuters) - Security Council members called on Indonesia to break up armed gangs who still hold sway over at least 90,000 East Timorese refugees eight months after they were herded into camps in Indonesian West Timor .
Hedi Annabi, an assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, told a Security Council debate on Thursday that only about 1,000 people had returned home over the past month.
He said the gangs, or militias, who went on a killing, burning and looting rampage in East Timor last September, continued a "campaign of disinformation" about conditions at home, which had discouraged people from returning.
More than 200,000 people out of a population of 850,000 fled or were forced out of East Timor to the western part of the island by army-organised militia protesting an overwhelming vote in favour of independence from Indonesia last Aug. 31.
Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.
Several U.N. ambassadors said false information was only part of the problem. Bangladesh's ambassador, Anwarul Chowdhury, said the refugees were being harassed.
And Dutch ambassador Peter van Walsum told the council "militia activity and intimidation continue unabated."
He said he was convinced the Jakarta government wanted to stop the abuse and recognised difficulties it had in doing so. "Nevertheless the government of Indonesia has to step up its efforts in this regard," he said.
Van Walsum noted a Security Council resolution last October called for "immediate and effective measures" for resettling the refugees.
"All of that continues to be valid today with the exception of the word 'immediate' which obviously has lost its meaning in a resolution which is seven months old," he said.
British representative Stewart Eldon called on the U.N. refugee agency to conduct a census of the camps and find out who was there and why they had chosen not to return.
Annabi said refugee officials hoped to complete such a survey in June but had also been delayed by security problems.
Order was restored in East Timor by an Australian-led force, which has now been replaced by U.N. peacekeepers. Annabi said the United Nations felt it could reduce the 8,400 U.N. troops by 500 over the next six months. But van Walsum objected, saying the council had to be briefed first.
The United Nations is helping prepare the devastated territory for independence by building democratic institutions and trying to get the economy going. Some 80 percent of the population is unemployed.
Eldon said money contributed for reconstruction was not being spent. "Bureaucratic impediments to getting things done seem to increase rather than the reverse," he said.
Annabi said $14.1 million in a U.N. trust fund of $28.6 million had been disbursed but the World Bank, which had collected $38.4 million of $147 million pledged by donors in Tokyo last year, had only spent $2 million to date.
However, he said the bank had now finished planning the health, education and agricultural projects it would fund and was expected to spend up to $40 million in coming months.
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