Subject: SMH/E.Timor: UN retreats on spying allegation

Sydney Morning Herald March 21, 2001

UN retreats on spying allegation

By Mark Dodd

The United Nations mission in East Timor admitted yesterday that an internal security memo accusing a group of shipwrecked Indonesians of being spies was untrue.

Ms Barbara Reis, spokeswoman for the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), said seven Indonesians shipwrecked off Atauro island near Dili late last month were from Alor island and had been repatriated.

An internal investigation was trying to determine why a weekly UN security report circulated to senior UNTAET staff and heads of department had accused the seven of travelling to Atauro "to monitor and report" on a pilot civil registration project.

According to one foreign long-term resident on Atauro, the Indonesians were found near a UN civil registration site, which made locals suspect they were spies.

Other concerns raised in the report are being taken seriously, including a warning that a lack of safeguards on the Atauro-Dili sea lane poses a security threat to Dili.

The resident said unlawful landings by Indonesian craft were common on Atauro, which is part of East Timor but 20 kilometres north of Dili. It has a population of 7,500.

Meanwhile, the East Timor Transitional Administration has ordered a Singaporean company to demolish a controversial Dili hotel in an unprecedented warning to unscrupulous property developers.

Construction on Dili 2001 Hotel began in early January on prime beachfront property near the Cristo Rei environmental protection zone east of Dili. However, no planning permission had been sought or environmental safeguards for sewage disposal agreed.

After ignoring several warnings from UNTAET's infrastructure department, Engineering and Construction had almost completed the 128-room hotel, using Burmese labour.

It has seven days to appeal against the demolition order.

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