Subject: ACFOA on East Timor: 'Back to the beginning'
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 08:46:43 +0000
From: Gerry van Klinken <>




The delegation found a pervasive climate of intimidation and human rights violations in East Timor. Records from one NGO showed 308 violations had occurred in April, most perpetrated by the military and militias against civilians. Civil servants are being required to sign a form to indicate which way they will vote in the ballot and pro-independence officials are experiencing severe intimidation. The police, who have formal responsibility for security, show little evidence of being able to enforce the rule of law or arrest perpetrators of human rights.

One of the conditions identified by the UN Secretary General for carrying out the Ballot is the full cooperation of the Indonesian authorities. At present, this is absent and the evidence indicates that a concerted effort is being made by government officials and the military to ensure a vote for autonomy, in direct breach of the 5 May Agreement. We heard many accounts of complicity by some bupati and camat (regency and district heads) in direct support for the military, the militias and the pro-autonomy campaign. This includes funding support.

There are between 40-50,000 internally displaced people living in appalling conditions. Many are in 'camps' controlled by the militias. Humanitarian organisations are facing extreme difficulties in reaching these people as local authorities and militias frequently deny their existence or refuse access to them. They are in urgent need of food and medical care and it is imperative that the UN maintain intense pressure on those denying access to them to grant it.

More generally health needs are particularly acute, and trusted church clinics are under intense stress. The security situation is preventing the normal coffee harvest, as well as harvest of subsistence crops, to proceed and nutritional problems are likely to worsen.

UNAMET has been set an impossible timeframe and some delay to the Ballot is necessary. Because of the continuing intimidation, the conditions for holding a free and fair Ballot cannot be achieved. The resources committed to East Timor by the UN are inadequate to the task, both in the shorter and the longer term.

It is urgent that the UNAMET electoral information messages to the East Timorese population be given clearly in an effective and credible education and communication process. In order to achieve this, the UNAMET measures already taken through STT and RRI must be supplemented.

The tripartite agreement allows for official monitors from Indonesia and Portugal and for other civilian monitors. UN officials affirm that additional civilian monitors would be most welcome. Given that UN personnel and UN Volunteers will be insufficient to provide adequate cover for the planned 700 polling places, these civilian monitors are seen to have an important supplementary role. An international coordinating mechanism for them needs to be established in Dili as a matter of urgency.

Over the past twenty-four years, a culture of violence has developed in East Timor. The need for peace building was acknowledged by all. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only institution with the status and influence in East Timorese society to bring about an effective dialogue among all the various groups.

It is clear from the tenuousness of peace-building initiatives that the post-Ballot period will be a critical one in establishing a lasting peace in East Timor. There is no adequate local institutional infrastructure to ensure an ordered transition or one in which ongoing violence from the losers, whichever they may be, will be avoided.


  • · That the UN Secretary General take into account that the conditions for a free and fair Ballot are absent at present and that more time will be required for even their minimal establishment.
  • · That, if the Ballot is delayed, it not be delayed indefinitely, but only for long enough to allow UNAMET to carry out its mandate.
  • · That the numbers of UNAMET personnel be urgently increased to allow it to carry out its mandate effectively.
  • · That UNAMET negotiate access to relevant international broadcasters as another channel for the dissemination of information concerning the Ballot.
  • · That the Indonesian Government, at all levels, implement the terms of the tripartite agreement, including the prohibition on public funds being used for any aspect of the campaign.
  • · That the Indonesian military also abide by the terms of the tripartite agreement and withdraw wholly from any involvement, overt or covert, in the carrying out of the Ballot. This redeployment to be carried out immediately.
  • · That the police be given full support in carrying out their responsibilities for ensuring security and enforcing the rule of law.
  • · That pressure should be brought to bear on the Indonesian Government to ensure humanitarian access to the IDPs; assistance in the form of food aid, water, sanitation and health care is urgent.
  • · That Portugal maintain and assist in the coordination of substantial resources to the carrying out of the Ballot.
  • · That Portugal provide substantial resources to peace building, human rights, development and the strengthening of civil society, both during the transition and afterwards.
  • · That funding set aside by the Australian Government to support the Ballot be made available to support UN accredited civilian monitors, including: · adequate support to the identified coordination mechanism in Australia including for the selection and training of volunteers; · airfares and some logistical support for the volunteers selected; · the immediate establishment of a small unit in Dili to organise the monitors.
  • · That a comprehensive and independent nutrition survey be undertaken and that negotiations take place with all parties to allow full access to all areas so that this and UNICEF's immunisation campaign for children can proceed as a matter of urgency.
  • · That all concerned governments provide strong and active support to the efforts of the Churches to strengthen dialogue and peace building in East Timor.
  • · That the Indonesian Government reconstitute the Commission for Peace and Stability (KPS) to include a broader representation of local East Timorese organisations and representatives of civil as well as political society.
  • · That any KPS officials demonstrating partisan support for either Ballot option be removed immediately.
  • · That a UNAMET presence be maintained in East Timor after the Ballot and beyond the transition period, the length of time necessary to be reviewed a year after the Ballot.

Janet Hunt Executive Director Australian Council for Overseas Aid Private Bag 3 Deakin ACT 2600 Ph: 61 2 62851816 Fax: 61 2 62851720


Back to June Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99