Subject: UN, dignitaries pay tribute to East Timorese, urge return of refugees

also: [ABC transcript] Tight security in East Timor for Independence Day

UN, dignitaries pay tribute to East Timorese, urge return of refugees

DILI, Aug 30 (AFP) - UN and foreign representatives paid tribute here Wednesday to the courage of East Timorese who voted for their independence, held out an olive branch to those who didn't, and urged the return of the last 100,000 refugees.

The digniarties were addressing some 8,000 people who thronged the seafront parade ground in front of the old white Portuguese governor's palace to celebrate the first anniversary of the vote that made them a free country.

"This is your day -- one of happiness and hope but also of mourning and rememberance," UN transitional administrator Sergio Vieira De Mello, said.

He was referring to the some 1,000 East Timorese who lost their lives to an an orgy of terror, arson and murder launched by vengeful Indonesian-backed militias after the August 30 1999 vote.

Said US Senator Tom Harkin: "Today one year later, you stand together as one people, living proof that while oppressors can burn down buildings, they cannot extinguish the thirst for democracy that lives in the soul of the Timorese people.

"This anniversary is first and foremost a time for remembrance," Harkin said, mentioning two priests he met in the town of Suai before the 1999 vote.

The two were slaughtered in their church by militiamen along with the refugees they were sheltering.

"I will never forget them," Harkin said, pledging US support to tackle the lingering militia problem.

De Mello delivered a message to the East Timorese who were pushed out at gunpoint by the militias to West Timor, and are still stranded there, many of them held by the same militias which fled there in the face of UN troops.

"For them to know that we remember them ... and with a determined effort on the part of the Indonesian government, those of you who wish to return, and we know that you are the majority, should be allowed to do so," De Mello said.

Rousing cheers greeted De Mello's message to the 21.5 percent of the population who voted on August 30 last year to remain with Indonesia.

"For those who voted autonomy -- they lost. But they remain full fledged East Timorese -- including those who mistakenly opted for violence ... even they decide to return, they will be treated with justice," he said.

And to the militias, who have engaged in a new spate of attacks against UN peacekeepers, De Mello said: "I ... appeal to you to lay down your weapons and to surrender."

But De Mello also warned the militias.

"Let there be no mistake, this peacekeeping force is poised and ready to handle any situation," he said, praising the two peacekeepers -- one New Zealander and one Nepalese -- who were killed in the past month.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he hoped that despite the trauma of the past "you can look to the future with confidence."

Downer also urged East Timorese to move closer to their old occupier, Indonesia.

"Constructive and positive relations between East Timor and Indonesia will ... be fundamentally important to you," Downer said.

"You share a common border and your future prosperity is predicated on establishing close links."

The man who organized the vote, Ian Martin, who returned from London for the celebration, spoke briefly, praising the courage of his staff at the time -- both local and foreign.

"By the end of this day, the first of them would be dead, and in the coming days others would be singled out because they were UNAMET staff," Martin said.

The last speaker, East Timorese independence hero Xanana Gusmao, using the local dialect Tetum, spoke of the future.

"In this celebration, we will think about how to develop our new democracy and we will help all the people to develop this country, not just some of the people," Gusmao pledged.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation The World Today - Wednesday, August 30, 2000 12:17 p.m.

Tight security in East Timor for Independence Day

COMPERE: We did of course mention that UN troops are manning checkpoints around the city as armoured cars with machine guns of course continue patrolling potential trouble spots because of the security situation and the infiltration of those militia.

The situation outside this main city is tense as Geoff Gunn, consultant with the UNTAET, has been telling our reporter, Edmond Roy.

GEOFF GUNN: PKF spokespersons on radio are doing their level best to discount rumours of militia in Dili and discounting rumours of kind of enhanced militia activity, although on the other hand (they) are cautioned to take all kind of precautions like don't travel at night, or radioing ahead to their destination and avoiding unnecessary travel, but imagine that with security in Dili is just about at a peak.

EDMOND ROY: Presumably all the security will make Dili safe but what about outlying areas?

GEOFF GUNN: The PKF have already conceded that up to 120 or up to 10 groups of militia have already penetrated. That was made very, very clear with the tragic death of the Nepalese peacekeeper.

Ten days ago I travelled to... country I was ordered out by... on the grounds of bad security and the possibility of militia attacks and that's only about one hour drive from Dili.

EDMOND ROY: What does it mean for the reconstruction of the nation basically if you have reports and rumours on the one hand that militia gangs are ready to attack and on the other are quite unsure of what, you know, how to go forward.

GEOFF GUNN: It's very damaging. I worked for the... department. My mission was to visit all the districts and I'm simply not visiting the ones that I just mentioned and our counterparts in the districts have had to curtail their activities.

Quite frankly it's damaging for reconstruction. It gives great cause for concern to NGOs (non-government organisations) in the field as to their own safety, so, yes, in terms of morale, in terms of personal safety, in terms of the ordinary Timorese themselves, it's a setback.

EDMOND ROY: So what does this mean in terms of the future? How will East Timor get to its potential if, you know, they are grappling with this as you say on a daily basis?

GEOFF GUNN: Exactly. There's been some order of peacekeepers in the east where there are no apparent security problems... one wonders just how long the international community can support, you know, armed international peacekeepers in this country, so it's got to be brought back to the diplomatic table.

There's got to be pressure on, you know, sustained international pressure on Jakarta to root out the problem. The militia now entering the country are better armed than they were a year ago. They're armed with basically Kalishnikovs where in the past they had... machetes and a motley assortment of weapons, but now they're armed with modern weapons and that's of great concern.

COMPERE: Dr Geoff Gunn is a consultant sociologist with the UN temporary administration in East Timor speaking there with Edmond Roy.

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