Subject: SCMP: UN diplomat cites racism as he quits East Timor position

Also: Allegations of "white" policy in East Timor serious

South China Morning Post Thursday, January 10, 2002


UN diplomat cites racism as he quits


The chief of staff for the United Nations mission in East Timor has resigned, citing management failures and racism as reasons for his departure.

When Nagalingam Parameswaran leaves the capital, Dili, this week there will be no senior manager at the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet) from a Southeast Asian country.

In his resignation letter, Mr Parameswaran said Untaet "has become very much a 'white' mission, an Eastern mission with a Western face".

But UN sources said that while he may have a point about his origins working against him, the underlying reasons for his departure were more to do with debate over fundamental UN policy and office politics.

Mr Parameswaran, a Malaysian diplomat, has worked hard during his time in Dili on a key plank of UN policy - the bringing back to East Timor of the tens of thousands of refugees held by militia bosses in neighbouring Indonesian West Timor.

He has been the only senior figure capable of speaking to the Indonesians in their language and has managed ties with militia leaders such as Nemecio de Carvallho, who has been brought back successfully to East Timor.

But opponents within the UN, especially its Serious Crimes Unit, have accused Mr Parameswaran of "making too many deals" with the Indonesians, or of concentrating too much on the reconciliation aspect of the returns policy and not enough on justice against the militia bosses.

"He was disliked for his work with the militias from the beginning, and then his approaches began to bear fruit and other people started to encroach on his area," a UN source said.

In his resignation letter, Mr Parameswaran names the deputy to the Untaet chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello, as "often excluding" him from key decisions.

The respected New Zealander Dennis McNamara was brought in as Untaet deputy last year, partly to improve the Serious Crimes Unit's performance.

Debate on the justice versus reconciliation issue infects the whole question of East Timor's survival as an independent nation surrounded by Indonesia, the former invading power.

Mr Parameswaran's claims of racism are more controversial.

"If you go by the number count of white versus brown in the senior levels of Untaet, then Param is quite right," a senior Western diplomat at Untaet said.

"Param's point is that with his departure there will be no senior Asean figure at Untaet and he's right. My question is whether that was intentional and I don't think it was.

"I will say though that it is a shame that the UN didn't make more effort to hire people who can speak Indonesian and Tetum [the East Timorese language].

"Untaet was anti-Indonesian from the beginning and only realised the importance of close ties to Jakarta too late."

The Star [Malaysia] Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Allegations of "white" policy in East Timor serious


PUTRAJAYA: Wisma Putra hopes the United Nations will conduct an investigation into allegations made by a Malaysian diplomat of intervention in his work by his superiors in the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet).

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said he knew Datuk N. Parameswaran, who has 33 years of experience as a diplomat, to be a "good officer" and contributed much to Untaet's efforts in the initial stages.

"He has always been working in international affairs and would not have written such allegations in his letter unless there is some truth. Parameswaran would have experienced such a situation during his stint with the UN or he would not have written about it at all," he told reporters after giving away the ministry's excellent service awards here yesterday.

Parameswaran's allegations, Syed Hamid added, were a serious matter and that the world body must take this opportunity to probe the truth behind these claims to overcome its "weaknesses and attitude" in its administration of East Timor.

"This is important bearing in mind that the UN is an employer of workers of all races and nationalities, and thatit has declared its main principle to be the recognition of all men regardless of creed or colour. It would have been strange if, in practice, the body does not adhere to these principles," he said.

Syed Hamid was commenting on a report in The Star yesterday that Parameswaran had resigned as Chief of Staff of Untaet, alleging intervention from Untaet's higher-ups and the mission's "white policy."

In a letter to the UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, Parameswaran had claimed among others that senior Untaet officials were encroaching into his role and responsibility to the point that he was often excluded from key policy decisions made in the mission, and that such intervention was also triggering other important resignations.

Untaet is headed by Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and his deputy is Dennis McNamara from New Zealand.

Prior to taking up the job, Parameswaran was the Foreign Ministry's Asean director-general and was seconded to UN under a two-year contract.

Asked whether Malaysia would specifically request that UN carry out a probe on these claims, Syed Hamid said: "It's up to the UN to investigate and make corrective measures because Parameswaran is employed directly under the world body, and it is a complaint made by one of its staff."

Asked if these would affect Malaysia's commitment in future peacemaking measures under UN, he said the episode should not "interfere" with the country's current policy.

Asked about Parameswaran's future with the ministry, Syed Hamid said “there might be another job for him", but declined to elaborate further.

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