IFET-OP released its first public report this week, which is available at http://www.etan.org/ifet/liquica1.html. It deals with the July 4 attack against an unarmed convoy of humanitarian aid workers and the plight of displaced persons. As the convoy was returning from Sare, where it had delivered 25 tons of badly needed food and medicine to a refugee camp, members of the Besi Merah Putih militia group attacked them in the town of Liquica. One member of IFET-OP was accompanying the convoy and was able to provide a first hand account of both the camp and the attack.
Tens of thousands of East Timorese have fled their homes over the past six months in the wake of militia violence. The IFET-OP report points out that the validity of the popular consultation scheduled for August is seriously jeopardized by the Indonesian government's failure to facilitate the return of the displaced persons to their homes and to disarm the pro-integration militias.
The Indonesian government has officially condemned the attack. However, high ranking military and police officials continue to cite the attack as evidence of partisanship on the part of UNAMET, some going as far as to falsely accuse UNAMET staff of firing out of their vehicles, thus provoking the attack.
The field office in Dili, after collecting much information about prices in East Timor and likely IFET-OP expenses, has refined its budgetary projections. Our financial manager has also created a clear system to manage finances and deal with accounting. The outlook for funding from various sources is improving. The IFET-OP Dili office has now rented a car for travel through East Timor, as well as a motorcycle for travel within the city of Dili. These additions are already increasing our effectiveness.
On July 8th, UNAMET informed us that the Indonesian government would probably require election observers in East Timor to have social- cultural visas. We are still investigating the best way to apply for these visas, which must be obtained outside Indonesia or East Timor. UNAMET has set up accreditation procedures, and some of us have applied. We are still working out how the accreditation and visa processes interact, and will let you know when it is resolved. The UNAMET Code of Conduct, information form, and other related material is posted on the IFET web site.
IFET-OP SCOUTING MISSIONS
This week two IFET-OP teams went to different parts of East Timor to gather information and develop contacts for future observers stationed in these areas. One team went to Los Palos and the other to Viqueque, both towns where UNAMET has set up branch offices.
The team traveling to Los Palos brought back valuable information regarding accommodations, communications, and the security situation in the area. They also made many local contacts with people in the area, including the local UNAMET office. The team traveling to Viqueque also gathered useful information about housing in that city, made local government and UNAMET contacts and obtained valuable information about road conditions throughout the eastern part of East Timor.
Both teams report that at present the general atmosphere is much less tense than it has been west of Dili. Thus far, apart from threats made against UNAMET in Viqueque, there has been no major militia violence in these areas.
To date there have been three major incidents involving UNAMET and local militias. On Tuesday, June 29th, militia members threw rocks at the UNAMET office in the southwestern town of Maliana causing minor injuries to one member of the UNAMET staff and seriously damaging the UNAMET office. In the town of Viqueque UNAMET staff were temporarily relocated back to Dili after two instances of militia members surrounding UNAMET headquarters there and threatening the staff. UNAMET has since re-opened their office. Finally, UNAMET staff in Liquica were attacked before, during and after the attack against the humanitarian convoy, leading to the withdrawal of UNAMET staff from that town. In addition to these attacks, there have been many threats, mostly indirectly against UNAMET personnel. One high-ranking militia leader has recently threatened the life of UNAMET spokesperson David Wimhurst, in a local newspaper.
As of July 8th, UNAMET had dispatched personnel to check the security situation in Liquica in preparation for possibly reopening the UNAMET office there. In addition, the head of UNAMET, Ian Martin, went to Jakarta this week where he met with General Wiranto, head of the Indonesian Military (TNI), and with the head of the Indonesian Police to express the UN's security concerns.
Several senior Indonesian cabinet ministers are visiting East Timor early this coming week, and UNAMET is waiting to see how they plan to address the security situation.
As this IFET-OP Bulletin goes to press, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan informed the UN Security Council that the start of voter registration will be delayed from July 13th to July 16th to give Indonesia time to take "concrete steps" to insure security for the East Timorese people and UNAMET personnel.
OUTSIDE EAST TIMOR
IFET-OP coordinators and activists are working hard around the world. In the last two weekends, training sessions for potential IFET-OP observers have been held in Washington, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver and Chicago. One is scheduled this week for London and others will be held soon in Tokyo, Darwin, the Netherlands, Norway and elsewhere.
We continue to recruit and select people to go as IFET-OP nonpartisan volunteer observers to East Timor. Information, including application forms and a list of country coordinators, is on the IFET-OP web site.
This is the second weekly bulletin to further inform you on all aspects of the IFET Observers Project. Please forward any comments or suggestions to our email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Last week's premiere edition is available by email or on paper from the IFET international office in New York or from the IFET web site www.etan.org/ifet.