Subject: UN Wire: McNamara Defends Against Racism Charge

UN Wire

EAST TIMOR: McNamara Defends U.N. Against Racism Charge

U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor deputy head Dennis McNamara, in an interview today with UN Wire, responded to a senior former employee's charges of racism at the U.N. mission, defending the multinational character of the United Nations and calling the allegations "totally unbased and erroneous."

McNamara was responding to charges made by former UNTAET Chief of Staff Nagalingam Parameswaran of Malaysia, who wrote this week in his resignation letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that "UNTAET has become very much a 'white' mission, an Eastern mission with a Western face. ... With my resignation, there will effectively be no high-level Asian civilian representation in this mission."

According to McNamara, the charges are unfounded given the high composition of Asians and representatives of developing countries at UNTAET. McNamara cited, among others, UNTAET's Thai force commander, Winai Phattiyakul; deputy chief of staff for civil-military affairs Tan Keng Cheong of Singapore; and the Brazilian head of UNTAET, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

"The allegations are quite misplaced and almost racist themselves," McNamara said. "The U.N. does not need lectures about multinationalism. That is the very reason for its existence."

The New Zealander also commented on indirect calls made Tuesday by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar for a U.N. investigation into Parameswaran's charges, as reported by the Kuala Lumpur Star. McNamara said there should also "be an investigation into how a confidential letter of resignation got leaked" to Malaysia's press.

McNamara said Parameswaran's resignation came just two days before his contract, which was not being renewed, was set to end (Scott Hartmann, UN Wire, Jan. 10).

McNamara Calls "Encroachment" Accusations "Irresponsible," "Scandalous"

In an interview published yesterday by LUSA Agencia de Noticias, McNamara refuted Parameswaran's charges that, in his position as UNTAET deputy head, McNamara encroached on Parameswaran's responsibilities, particularly with regard to the latter's involvement in the repatriation of refugees still residing in West Timor.

"These are scandalous and totally unbased accusations. For 25 years, I worked with the U.N. refugee agency and did more in the area of refugees during my lifetime than I did in any other matter," McNamara said.

According to McNamara, who was brought in as deputy head partly to reform UNTAET's problematic Serious Crimes Unit, Parameswaran's charges are those of a "disgruntled employee."

"He is a disgruntled and frustrated official. ... All this translated into irresponsible public commentary," McNamara added. "I think the criticism is intimately linked to his personal frustration, since as chief of staff he never had the necessary competence to carry out his functions."

McNamara said that the fact that Parameswaran's contract was not renewed "speaks for itself," adding that the number of repatriated refugees in the last year and a half has been "below expectations."

When asked to comment on charges made by Timorese and U.N. sources that the Malaysian was close to pro-Indonesian militia figures, McNamara added that "resolving the problem of refugees is not done only by negotiating with the militias" (LUSA Agencia de Noticias, Jan. 9, UN Wire translation).

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