Subject: GU: Australia significantly increases pressure for U.N. force in E.Timor
Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 08:02:16 -0500
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo:

Australia significantly increases pressure for U.N. force in E.Timor

The Guardian [UK] Thursday April 1, 1999

*Australia offers troops for a UN force in E Timor

By John Aglionby in Jakarta

Australia has significantly increased the pressure on the United Nations to send peacekeepers to the rebellious Indonesian territory of East Timor by becoming the first Western power to commit itself to contributing to such a force yesterday.

But the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, said a clear and achievable UN mandate would have to be set in advance, as would the cost and risk of any mission to the former Portuguese colony invaded by Indonesia in 1975.

Mr Downer's change of policy on the issue is a response to the increasing tension in the territory. Anti-independence groups have intensified a vicious campaign of terror since the Indonesian president, B. J. Habibie, announced in January that he was willing to give the East Timorese independence if they rejected an offer of autonomy.

Backed by the Indonesian army, paramilitary groups have sprung up, killing civilians at random.

The secretary-general of Indonesia's human rights commission, Clementino dos Reis Amaral, said yesterday that on a recent trip to East Timor he found the situation 'worse than ever before'.

'People are afraid to go out at night and they go about their daily lives in an atmosphere of fear.'

Pro-independence groups have accused the army of trying to bring about a situation that might convince people that rejecting autonomy in favour of independence would provoke a civil war. They thus hope to boost support for Jakarta in the July vote.

Jose 'Xanana' Gusmao, the leader of the pro-independence forces, who is under house arrest in Jakarta, wrote in a paper delivered at a seminar in Jakarta yesterday: 'The message we get from Indonesia is: it's better to choose autonomy to avoid bloodshed.'

He accepted that pro-independence groups had committed atrocities, some in revenge and some against collaborators. But foreign diplomats and observers agree that they are responsible for only a minority of incidents.

Last week Mr Gusmao wrote to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights: 'If strong and effective pressure is not brought to bear on Indonesia, the people of East Timor are liable to lose their patience, and in the bloodbath that would ensue, the only humanitarian assistance required will be to help bury our dead.

'The situation compels me to call for an urgent UN presence to enforce peace and I urge governments of the world and the United Nations to support the establishment of such a presence.'

He has written similar letters to foreign ambassadors in Jakarta. Indonesia refuses to grant the UN permission to establish any sort of presence in East Timor.

Independent figures are backing Mr Gusmao. Mr Amaral said that at least 1,000 peacekeepers would be needed, in addition to civilian election monitors.

If a free vote is held, a sizeable majority of the 200,000 eligible voters - including East Timorese living abroad - are expect to reject the autonomy package.

Mario Carrascalao, the Jakarta-appointed governor of East Timor from 1982 to 1992, who now backs independence, said the situation was so bad that 1,000 soldiers would not be enough. 'I believe that if you want fair consultation you will need 10 fair peacekeepers in every village.' There are 442 villages in East Timor.

Basilio Araujo, a spokesman for the pro-Jakarta activists, dismissed the need for any peacekeepers.

He said: 'Barely any UN presence would be needed at all. Perhaps 13 civilian monitors, so there's one in each district, and certainly no peacekeeping soldiers. The Indonesian army can protect them.'

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