Subject: AGE: Timor gets down to basics

Also: Scrooge of East Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Age June 1 2002

Timor gets down to basics

By Jill Jolliffe

A week after East Timor became independent, the terrace of Dili's City Cafe is near deserted. Days before, it was crowded with media crews, international VIPs who had graced the independence ceremony and the United Nations officials who have made it their watering hole since it opened in 2000.

Now they're flying out in droves, and the East Timorese are left facing the harsh realities of self-government after the exodus.

Phones and Internet services in government offices were disconnected on May 25, as computers were trundled out. The phone contracts had been paid for by the now non-existent UN Transitional Administration in East Timor. They should have been renewed by the incoming East Timorese Government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, but someone had forgotten to ensure continuity.

At the national radio and television station, which has flourished under UNTAET tutelage since 1999, there is a worse crisis; broadcasts might cease in coming days. If the radio goes off the air, the rural population will be isolated because Radio Timor Lorosae, formerly Radio UNTAET, is the only news medium that reaches the countryside.

International donors have invested heavily in the training of young East Timorese journalists, and now 26 face unemployment, along with technical workers. As the crisis develops, Dr Alkatiri visited the station to reassure staff that they would stay on air. Not all are convinced. "Who do we hand power to?" an outgoing UNTAET staff member said. "We have no counterpart in place."

UNTAET officials had repeatedly warned of this danger if the transition was not prepared, but the problem is larger. International donors believe the country's new constitution does not give sufficient guarantees of press freedom, and have withheld backing.

"Alkatiri thought the regulation on public broadcasting would satisfy the donors," a UN source said, "but he underestimated the benchmark they require for media independence."

A compromise is being hammered out - an emergency $US350,000 ($A620,000) bailout package from a few donors to allow broadcasting to continue for several months more.

The average East Timorese is worried about surviving alone, but the UN is not pulling out altogether: UNTAET has been replaced by the UN Mission of Support in East Timor led by Indian diplomat Kamalesh Sharma, with a new support team of international experts.

There are two great sources of anxiety. One stems from the knowledge that Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri's appearance at the independence ceremonies did not indicate that problems with Indonesia have ended. Invited personally by President Xanana Gusmao, she came against opposition from some military circles.

Despite UN promises, not a single Indonesian officer has yet been convicted for 1999 war crimes.

About 50,000 refugees deported to West Timor at that time remain there. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees issued a statement shortly before independence, saying it would no longer provide repatriation assistance, but Commissioner Ruud Lubbers later said UNHCR would extend the deadline by six months.

UN peacekeepers remain at the West Timor border, which is quiet, but a decision this week by the Indonesian army to move its regional military base from Bali to West Timor is not reassuring.

"At present East Timor and Australia have yet to become a threat, but in the future things may be different," West Timor Deputy Governor Johannes Pake Pani told The Jakarta Post.

The other great worry is unemployment. Several thousand people have been recruited for the new public service, but the emptying of hotels and restaurants will cut jobs in the service sector.

Nina Sane, 19, and her fiance Januario Tilman, 25, are a typical young couple.

They are dirt-poor, but they have an irrepressible spirit, and form part of the human capital that is East Timor's greatest asset as it rises from the ashes. Independence was a joyous moment for them. "I'm optimistic about the future" Mr Tilman said.

May 31, 2002


Joseph Fitchett

International Herald Tribune


Bill Clinton presumably didn't notice any problems during East Timor's independence celebrations last week. After nearly two days' flying time to the Pacific as the Bush administration's representative, Clinton spent only a few hours in Dili, the new capital. But Secretary-General Kofi Annan might have paid more attention to local complaints that departing United Nations officials took away nearly $10 million worth of computers, generators and other equipment that they had been using. Some administrative offices were stripped bare, say journalists and official guests from Lisbon, who took special interest in the UN handover because Portugal ran East Timor until 1975. According to Carlos Monjardino, chairman of the Portuguese-Asian philanthropic foundation, Fundacao Oriente (endowed by funds from Macau's casinos), "UN officials said the decision involved sophisticated equipment liable to impose maintenance costs too high for East Timor. " UN officials retorted that $50 million in imported infrastructure remains: It belongs to a reduced UN mission, slated to stay a year. Noting that East Timor expects a bonanza from offshore oil, Monjardino said the UN action felt "mean-spirited."

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