Subject: SCMP in Dili: East Timor's Rocky Road to Full Independence

South China Morning Post Monday, November 13, 2000


Rocky road to full independence

Photo: Men with a mission: delegates from the UN Security Council arrive at Dili airport yesterday. Associated Press photo


East Timorese officials and UN administrators told a visiting Security Council delegation yesterday that the territory was still plagued by difficulties 14 months after voting for independence.

During its trip, the team will monitor the progress of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet) and the situation with East Timorese refugees and militia in Indonesian West Timor.

"There is progress being made here by Untaet but of course there are also difficulties," said delegation leader Martin Andjaba, Namibia's UN ambassador. "We hope that every effort will be made to overcome those difficulties."

The delegation, consisting of a seven-member team from the Security Council and support staff, will spend two days in East Timor meeting heads of UN departments before travelling to West Timor tomorrow, and then Jakarta, where it will meet Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Jakarta said yesterday it was preparing 5,000 soldiers and police to safeguard the delegation's visit to West Timor.

"We're here to assess and review what progress has been made with regard to Security Council Resolution 1272 - the preparations for preparing the people of East Timor for independence," Mr Andjaba said. "Secondly, and this is most important, we will look at the situation of the refugees of East Timor who are suffering in the camps in West Timor, to look at what can be done to bring them back and bring them back immediately."

The UN's chief administrator in East Timor, Serio Viera de Mello, told the Security Council team he accepted efforts by Jakarta to disarm and disband the militias were under way, but he wanted to see proof of a sustained effort.

Mr de Mello also said the arrest in Jakarta of former militia leader Eurico Guterres last month was a step in the right direction. "But it is insufficient in terms of removing the head of the monster. Disarming and disbanding [the militias] are useless unless you disband the command and control centre," he said.

A member of the transitional cabinet, Joao Carrascalao, said inadequate funding meant many areas would be unable to provide even the most basic facilities for returning refugees.

"We need at least US$100 million [HK$778 million] to rehabilitate the basic services that the population needs and to set up a proper administration, and now we're running on a budget of US$15 million," he said.

The delegation will travel to Kupang, the provincial capital of West Timor, tomorrow and then to Atambua, where it will assess the plight of about 100,000 East Timorese refugees living in squalid border camps.

UN and international aid agencies withdrew from West Timor after three UN staff were killed in Atambua on September 6. Although the Indonesian Government has taken over the task of distributing aid, refugees in camps around Kupang complain they are now without vital medical and food supplies.

The delegation will check on compliance with the Security Council resolution, which said East Timorese militia operating in West Timor should be disarmed and disbanded and those responsible for the UN workers' murders be brought to justice.

In a speech to the Security Council in New York last month, Indonesian Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab said thousands of militia weapons had been neutralised and that the Government was doing its best to control the situation in West Timor.

But some militia leaders still operating in the province say they have many automatic weapons.

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