Subject: SMH: UN peace mission at war with itself

Sydney Morning Herald Saturday, May 13, 2000

UN peace mission at war with itself

By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili

Autocratic decision-making by a few senior United Nations officials in Dili threatens the development of democracy in East Timor and the ultimate success of the peacekeeping mission, according to a protest note signed by angry UN district administrators.

"As you will now be aware, there is widespread concern amongst the District Administrators, in particular about the clear lack of consultation and the consequent lack of input on policy issues," the memo says.

"This is particularly worrying as the exclusion of the DAs tends to exclude the concerns of the Timorese people with whom we work on a daily basis."

The memo paints a grim picture of a UN mission at war with itself, while lacking direction and unable to focus on delivering a successful and peaceful transition for the East Timorese struggling to rebuild their country after 24 years of destructive Indonesian rule.

It follows the resignation in March of the UN's head of district administration, Professor Jarat Chopra, who complained of persistent interference in his work by a small group of senior UN officials based in Dili.

The memo concedes complaints by the pro-independence National Council of Timorese Resistance that the UN is failing to engage East Timorese in the transition to full independence.

Dated April11, the three-page memo is addressed to Mr Jean-Christian Cady, the Deputy UN Special Representative and head of UN administration, and signed by the 13 UN district administrators.

It contains a sharp rebuke about the lack of consultation with DAs on important policy decisions, specifically the creation of district advisory councils and the appointment of East Timorese as deputy district administrators.

"There is a strong risk that we [UN] will miss the golden opportunity of carrying out a hands-on democracy-building process at local level if there is no local participation in a transparent system," the memo warns. The decision to appoint East Timorese as deputy DAs, if not handled correctly, could politicise the embryonic East Timor public service, it adds.

"These high-level posts might satisfy the international community's demand for involvement but will not increase our authority at a local level if the process is not handled correctly. Unless it is part of a broader integration strategy it is likely to be perceived as tokenism."

The absence of a "coherent program" for training East Timorese could result in an unwelcome dependence on former pro-Jakarta public servants, some of whom are returning under the UN's refugee program, the memo says. Under Indonesian rule, East Timorese were excluded from senior positions in the public service. The UN opened a public service training school last week.

The memo warns of tensions posed by the return of refugees with links to the former Indonesian administration and appeals for urgent steps by the UN to address the issue of reconciliation.

It suggests the UN register claims by East Timorese who lost property in post-ballot violence last September as one means of avoiding "popular justice".

Meanwhile, more than 300 students met in Dili yesterday to protest at delays in the resumption of their tertiary education, including the reopening of Dili University, closed since September.

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