Subject: UNTAET: de Mello's Statement to Sec Council 29 Sept 2000


Open Briefing to the Security Council on East Timor Sergio Vieira de Mello Special Representative of the Secretary-General to East Timor (SRSG) and Transitional Administrator (29 September 2000)

Since I last briefed the Security Council on 27 June, we have witnessed two opposing developments. On the one hand, there has been a significant deterioration in security and escalation of violence in Nusa Tenggara Timur (West Timor), most tragically highlighted by the murders in Atambua on 6 September of three UNHCR staff. Security, and the measures required to restore it, will thus prominently feature in this brief. On the other hand, and more encouragingly, there has been much progress in the reconstruction being carried out by UNTAET in all spheres and in the establishing of those institutions which will prove critical for the viability of the future independent country of East Timor. I shall also be summarizing some of what has been achieved in this regard in my presentation. In order to enable me to focus on essential developments in this presentation, a note containing other salient information is being distributed.

Security in West Timor

Since 6 September, I have met twice with the Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Social Affairs of the Government of Indonesia, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. I stressed, as I had done on several occasions prior to this latest crisis, that the militias presented a serious threat not only, to East Timor but also to the integrity of Indonesia. I repeatedly called not just for their disarming but also for the arrest of their leaders, their disbanding and relocation.

As a starting point I believe it is essential to recognize that the root cause of our and Jakarta's problems on Timor island is the militia. Only when this problem has been effectively addressed will we be able to resolve the plight of the remaining East Timorese refugees and focus on developing friendly cooperation between East Timor and Indonesia. I have pledged our complete support to Foreign Minister Shihab's Comprehensive Plan of Action to bring about an end to the refugee crisis, but the Plan cannot succeed until the militias holding the refugees through threats and misinformation are removed.

And how should we resolve the problem posed by the militias? I must be frank and state that first of all the Indonesian authorities have to acknowledge and confront the fact that it is their responsibility alone to address this threat. We all realise that the militias are not the creation of the administration of President Wahid and that they do not act on instructions from the Government in Jakarta; we sympathize with the dreadful legacy with which the authorities have been left from previous policies towards East Timor. Nonetheless, the repercussions are likely to be more unrest and loss of innocent lives in West and East Timor unless the root of the problem is recognized and eradicated.

Regrettably, I remain skeptical that current activities will achieve this goal. Where resolution and a certain degree of ruthlessness would seem to be required, we are witnessing hesitation and prevarication. As many of you are aware, at the request of the Indonesian authorities I sent a small UNTAET delegation to attend a disarmament ceremony in Atambua on 24 September, attended by Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Minister Yudhoyono and a large array, of senior TNI and police officers. On the departure of the Vice-President and her delegation, the well-known suspect of crimes against humanity Eurico Guterres appeared in the midst of the police compound in which the ceremony had been held. He proceeded to incite his followers and, several militia members reclaimed some of the very weapons that formed the raison d'etre of the ceremony, unimpeded by the very numerous TNI and police presence. Subsequently, he and several hundreds of his followers agitated in and outside the station while my colleagues were hidden under armed protection in a room at the station for their own safety.

Prior to the ceremony my colleagues were informed by a senior TNI officer that all the required arrests had been made in the case of the 5 September killing of the militia leader Olivio Mendonca, also known as Moruk; a murder that occurred in the middle of the night in a remote village. The same officer informed my colleagues that there were still no suspects in the case of the killing the following day of the three UNHCR staff, a murder that happened in broad daylight in the presence of ten Indonesian police officers. Nor, for that matter, have anyone of the suspects been arrested for the killing of the United Nations soldiers.

There could hardly be a more eloquent demonstration of Indonesia's current inability - or refusal - to deal effectively with the problem. This is impunity running rampant. What is required is a coordinated, integrated and comprehensive strategy on the part of the Indonesian security forces, together with the necessary, will, to hunt down and break up the militias and bring their leaders to justice. And for that, members of the Council, we are still waiting.

This self-evident reality - that the militias are the problem - has, I regret to say, on occasion been lost in some of our discussions on the situation in Timor. The problem does not lie with the refugees, as is sometimes said, for they are a product not a cause of the crisis. And nor is this in some sense a "civil war" between East Timorese, as some in Indonesia increasingly attempt to paint the problem. There have been no crossings by armed elements from East Timor into the west, as was last week asserted before you. The threat faced is of militias, operating with impunity in West Timor, who are able freely to launch armed interventions across an international boundary into East Timor.

And nor does the solution lie with having joint PKF/TNI patrols on the border, as has been suggested by Indonesia on numerous occasions, including in this room, because the problem does not lie along the border but, as I have said time and again, deep inside West Timor. We have agreed, however, to coordinate our and TNI's patrols on each side of the border.

In his 19 September address to you, Coordinating Minister Yudhoyono also emphasized that reconciliation was a key requirement to a lasting peace. I agree with this. There has, however, been some suggestion that neither UNTAET nor the CNRT have been working sufficiently hard to encourage political dialogue with pro-integrationists. This is inaccurate: I have made repeated efforts to engage in discussion with the political leadership of the pro-integration umbrella group, Uni Timor Aswain (UNTAS). From the start, the National Consultative Council in East Timor had three seats reserved for those parties who voted against independence (one more than their percentage of the vote strictly required) but only two of these have ever been filled. Neither I nor Xanana Gusmao have received any reply to our overtures to engage in genuine talks. Further, time and again, we have organized "'look and see" visits by pro-autonomy leaders to visit East Timor and assess the situation at first hand; again, the response to these gestures has been poor.

UNTAET and the CNRT will continue to persevere in efforts for political dialogue and for reconciliation. Nonetheless, you will appreciate a pre-requisite to any talks is that our interlocutors issue a public renouncement of the use of violence to pursue political ends, as well as condemn the recent murders of UN staff. Further, a line needs to be clearly drawn between those political leaders with whom there can be dialogue and the murderers for whom there must be justice. I have appealed to the Indonesian Government to help us urgently draw this clear distinction between well-meaning pro-autonomy representatives and thugs such as Eurico Guterres who should be behind bars instead of being invited to attend meetings with high-level Indonesian officials as was the case in Denpasar on 14 September.

With regard to the investigations in to September 1999 abuses, the 1 September announcement by the Attorney-General of Indonesia of his first list of persons suspected of perpetrating human rights violations in East Timor last year was a very positive step. We are fully supportive of his efforts. We look forward to appropriate action being taken against all those listed, as well as for the investigation to bring its focus onto not just the perpetrators of the violence but also the commanders and architects who designed and ordered the destruction of East Timor in the wake of the Popular Consultations.

Security Situation in East Timor

Within East Timor we believe there are between, 80 to 150 armed militia in up to ten groups. Their aim appears to be to gather information relating to our military component, to establish themselves and to attempt to gain the loyalty of the local population in villages that are believed to have voted for integration. The presence of militia has caused the displacement of over three thousand persons. We have launched an operation - Operation Cobra - in Manufahi, the district with the most significant militia presence. It is aimed at inducing surrender, capturing or eliminating the militia. This is not an easy task, given the suitability of the terrain for insurgency activities and the limited number of specialized troops we can dedicate to the operation. Nevertheless, on 11 September, six militia surrendered and the active presence of the PK-F is making it very difficult for the remaining militias to continue to infiltrate and gain a foothold in East Timor. This was evidenced by the killing of one heavily-armed militia three days ago near the border in the New Zealand battalion area.

Political Activities

The major political event of the reporting period was the CNRT Congress held in Dili in late August. The Congress focused on the future vision of the national unity body, its relationship with its composite political parties and a range of national policy issues in the economic, social, security and political spheres. It also re-elected Xanana Gusmao as its president.

What also emerged during the Congress, and which has developed in the days since, has been friction between the main party, Fretilin, as the Timorese Democratic Union- (UDT) on the one hand and the CNRT leadership on the other. The Congress also spawned the birth of a new Timorese party, the Social Democratic Party, headed by Mario Carrascalao. This has led to an intensification of political activity and discord among East Timorese political leaders. There is some sense - and we will have to see how the situation develops - that this may lead to a breakup of the umbrella organisation and the commencement of party politics proper. I have been attempting to impress upon the Fretilin leadership that open political party activity is not incompatible with continued membership in the pro-independence coalition.

Key Developments

As you are aware, since mid-July we have a new Cabinet structure with eight Cabinet portfolios held by four Timorese, and four international UNTAET staff. The Cabinet sets policy and oversees its implementation on behalf of the Transitional Administration. Thus far, it has deliberated on a wide range of policies, and, inter alia, agreed to a framework for taxation, a criminal procedure code, a public buildings reconstruction plan, the reopening of the University of East Timor, a one hour shift in time zone for East Timor to allow for daylight savings, and a plan to develop legislation for the transport sector. It is currently working out procedures to resolve land ownership and property disputes and is engaged in a comprehensive budget review. The Cabinet has also endorsed a comprehensive Joint Border arrangement between Indonesia and the Transitional Administration, later signed with Indonesia, and approved our negotiating position in formal talks with Australia on the future of Timor Gap petroleum (scheduled to commence on 9 October). In another important step towards "Timorizing" the administration last Monday, I appointed last Monday Timorese District or Deputy District Administrators in all thirteen districts of the country. Consultations are also well advanced for the selection, through an independent committee, of thirty-three members of the new, all-Timorese National Council - that will replace the present NCC - and whom I intend to appoint in the course of the month of October.

On the future Defence Force: Importantly, the Cabinet also expressed its support to establish a Defence Force for East Timor, following the release of the King's College study. This decision was the result of intensive discussions, both within East Timor and elsewhere, in which there was broad agreement that East Timor required its own defence capacity. The favoured model calls for a force with a professional regular corps of 1,500, supported by 1,500 volunteer reservists, the core of which would be formed by re-trained FALINTIL fighters with the remainder to be broadly and professionally recruited. It is important that we proceed swiftly with this plan. The creation of an East Timor defence force will be undertaken within the provisions of resolution 1272 for capacity building and the creation of an effective administration.

Building on the King's College study, and with the support of expertise from Australia and Portugal, we are currently working on an elaborated budget and development plan for the future Defence Force. Once this plan is available as a draft, we intend to convene a meeting in Dili to bring together those States who are likely to want to contribute, either through the provision of training, cash or in-kind contributions, to the development of the defence force. At this meeting we would seek concrete commitments that would, we hope, allow training to be initiated before the end of this year. I should stress that we have presently no resources for this purpose in the Consolidated Budget of East Timor.

Political Transition and the Constitutional Process

The major elements of political transition are clear. As things currently stand, our plan is to hold national elections in the second half of next year with a view to establishing a Constituent Assembly. This Assembly will be tasked with drafting the Constitution, choosing the members of the new transitional government and serving as an interim legislation. Upon completion of the Constitution, the Assembly would become the new National Assembly of an independent East Timor.

The pre-conditions required for this exercise are a civic education campaign, approval of a law on political parties, and the creation a legal framework in which to hold elections. We have already begun the process in all these areas. We are now commencing with the training of trainers for a nation-wide civic education programme. A draft regulation on the establishment of political parties is being given wide circulation, for consultative purposes, as I speak.

Concluding remarks.

Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, while UNTAET has made demonstrable progress in administering East Timor in a strengthened partnership with the East Timorese leading to what you tasked us to achieve, namely capacity for self-governance, there are growing serious concerns regarding the security situation, particularly in West Timor. East Timor's future security is to a large extent dependent on the stability of its relations across the border with Indonesia. So long as West Timor houses those who wish East Timor nothing but harm and who have, as captive constituents, such a large number of refugees, then East Timor's already considerable struggles will be rendered that bit more arduous. We seek the Council's continued strong support to address this issue in an urgent manner. As we approach the first anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1272, allow me to reiterate today the invitation I made in late June for the Council to visit East Timor and assess first hand our achievements and shortcomings. You would, by your presence and concern, provide the East Timorese and UNTAET with strong encouragement at a particularly critical juncture of the transition we are conducting on your behalf.

October Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from