Subject: UN starts building pillars of authority

Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, October 20, 1999

UN starts building pillars of authority

By MARK RILEY, Herald Correspondent in New York

The birth of the world's newest nation has been a long and painful process, and East Timor faces an infancy filled with more challenges as it attempts to build an independent society from the ground up.

The transition is expected to take anywhere between two and four years, during which the latest addition to the family of Asian sovereign states will remain under the foster care of the United Nations.

It is a task the UN has undertaken many times before, most recently when Namibia was granted independence from South Africa in 1990.

It is a task that requires a lot of money. It is certain that the final bill will run into the tens of billions of dollars.

The first step - Indonesia's parliament formally relinquishing all claims to sovereignty over the territory - was expected last night or today.

The next important step is expected early Friday morning (Australian time) when the UN Security Council votes on the establishment of an interim administrative authority, to be called the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor, or UNTAET.

Even though the Indonesian Government may have relinquished its claims to sovereignty over the territory, the UN will not assume official control until the Security Council mandate is issued.

In the meantime, the UN has begun assembling about 500 administrative officials to oversee the reconstruction of the civil and physical infrastructure all but demolished in the chaos that followed the vote for independence on August 30.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, has recommended an interim administration that will place a UN special representative in control of the territory until East Timor has had its first independent elections. If, as expected, the Security Council accepts Mr Annan's recommendations on Friday, the administrator will effectively become a benign dictator with extraordinary powers at his or her disposal to make, repeal and amend any laws necessary to ease the path to independence.

Mr Annan will name the administrator some time after the Security Council deliberations. UN officials said the most obvious option open to Mr Annan would be to appoint the present head of UNAMET, Mr Ian Martin, to fill the position in the short term. Mr Martin could then be replaced by a permanent administrator some weeks or months later.

Pressure is building on Mr Annan from Asian countries such as Malaysia, which occupies a Security Council seat, to appoint an Asian.

UN officials said it was normal for such selection processes to be shrouded in "high politics" and suggested there may be a number of administrators filling the job over the next two to four years.

The UN will retain much of the existing administrative structure in East Timor, which was inherited by the Indonesians from the Portuguese colonial administrators.

The country will remain divided into 13 districts, with UN controllers appointed in each region, reporting directly to the administrator.

Mr Annan's first important task will be to create a priority list of urgent projects needed to establish a foundation of civil administration. Hospitals need to be rebuilt and doctors found to fill them. Schools, shops, banks and government offices all need to be re-established.

Reconstruction committees are being set up in each town and village as people return home. These committees have been asked to report on the most urgent projects.

The UN's special envoy to East Timor, Mr Jamsheed Marker, is overseeing the recruiting of international experts, from bureaucrats to engineers, to help with the reconstruction program.

"Basic services, such as water, power, communications, sanitation, all have to be addressed quite urgently," he said.

"But the primary objective remains with security. There is no police force there now; the police stations are empty, the jails are empty."

Mr Annan has recommended sending 1,600 UN-sponsored police to East Timor to patrol the streets and to help establish a domestic police service.

At the same time, the UN has begun building the framework for an interim judicial system, based largely on that left behind by the Indonesians.

One of the greatest problems faced by Interfet, the Australian-led military force in East Timor, has been the absence of a court system, forcing it to set free militia members suspected of crimes ranging from vandalism to theft and murder.

The UN hopes to have a judicial system operating by the end of next month, but aims to reopen the jails within days.

It is expected that Interfet will convert to a UN peacekeeping force in December or January, easing the financial burden on Australia, which has been footing the largest part of the bill.

Mr Annan has called for a peacekeeping force of up to 9,000 soldiers, although the US is lobbying hard for that number to be reduced to 8,000. Under the UN's assessed contributions system, the US is responsible for about a third of the cost of all peacekeeping missions.

Back to October Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Search this site                 powered by FreeFind

If your browser does do not support forms use: Search   Site Map   What's New

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from