|Subject: ACFOA on East Timor: 'Back to the
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 08:46:43 +0000
From: Gerry van Klinken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
BACK TO THE BEGINNING:
REPORT OF AN AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR OVERSEAS AID (ACFOA) DELEGATION TO EAST TIMOR, 5-12 JUNE 1999 :
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
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.
Janet Hunt Executive Director Australian Council for Overseas Aid Private Bag 3 Deakin ACT 2600 Ph: 61 2 62851816 Fax: 61 2 62851720