May 23, 1999

Hon. Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General
New York, NY 10017
By fax to 212-963-2155

Dear Excellency,

When we wrote to you before you negotiated the May 5 Tripartite agreement, we were concerned about aspects of the popular consultation in East Timor. We are gratified that some of our points were addressed, although the most important ones were not. We understand the importance you place on moving the process forward, with the intention that when a U.N. team was in East Timor it would be possible to increase the pressure on Indonesia to take its security responsibilities seriously.

We are encouraged by your selection of Ian Martin to head UNAMET, by the serious commitment to a meaningful peace process we have heard during discussions with U.N. personnel over the past two weeks, and by the forthright statements issued by UNAMET's press spokesman in Dili.

Eighteen days have passed since the New York agreements were signed 20% of the way to August 8. During this period, the militias and their Indonesian military sponsors have become more blatant in proliferating terror throughout East Timor. Since the beginning of 1999, they have forced more than 35,000 East Timorese people to flee their homes, many into paramilitary-controlled virtual prison camps. Killings continue almost every day. The close cooperation between Indonesian police and military personnel and the paramilitaries has become even more visible.

In our May 3 letter to you, we expressed concern that Indonesian forces, rather than the United Nations, were given responsibility for security in East Timor during the August consultation. When this was raised after the signing ceremony on May 5, you expressed the need for realism, and asked the journalists "What would you suggest?"

Regrettably, during the last two weeks it has become abundantly clear that the Indonesian military are doing everything they can to sabotage your efforts to solve the problem of East Timor in a peaceful, democratic and fair manner. It is as if the April 21 Peace Pact, in which Mr. Alatas placed so much stock during the tripartite negotiations, does not exist. East Timor has become a law-free zone, where Indonesian-backed militias murder and commit mayhem with impunity.

When UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst decries unprovoked militia killings of unarmed civilians, Col. Tono Suratman demands to censor his statements. The Indonesian Foreign Ministry calls U.N. people "biased" when they criticize paramilitary violence. Although U.N. personnel personally observed Indonesian armed forces training militias a few days ago, President Habibie says he needs proof that "rogue elements" of his military are supporting the violence.

But it is not "rogue elements"; it is the military from the top down. A few days ago, Gen. Wiranto belittled the U.N. role in East Timor: "They will only give suggestions to the Indonesian Police."

Every U.N. person we have spoken with acknowledges that a popular consultation in the current climate of fear would not accurately reflect the wishes of the people of East Timor. Yet the climate continues to worsen, and the U.N. process is proceeding. If the people of East Timor are not able to return to their homes, to live without fear of terrorism, that process will be a cruel hoax. We believe it can still be salvaged, but only through prompt and effective United Nations action to control the military/paramilitary violence. There are fewer than eleven weeks remaining.

The International Federation for East Timor will send teams of non-partisan NGO observers to East Timor before and during the August 8 vote, to assist the U.N. in ensuring that the vote is free and fair. U.N. personnel have told us that they will not be responsible for the safety of our observers, and we do not expect any special treatment. But the United Nations is conducting the popular consultation and is therefore responsible for the safety of all people in East Timor during that period, be they East Timorese, Indonesian, or other nationals. And the U.N. is failing in that responsibility.

When you report to the Security Council tomorrow, we urge you to ask for more than authorization to continue with the process agreed upon on May 5. That agreement assumed the good faith of Mr. Alatas and the government he represents. But in the last two weeks, the Indonesian government has shown no good faith, no indication that it respects the papers it has signed, the institution of the United Nations, or the collective wishes of the international community. Their recent unilateral attempt to change the date of the consultation is another example of the low regard in which they hold the agreements they have made with you.

In our May 3 letter to you, we asked the United Nations to take responsibility for security in East Timor. Events since then have made that request all the more imperative. We urge you to ask the Security Council for authorization to send U.N. peacekeepers to East Timor not merely to advise the Indonesian police, but to replace them with people who take the responsibility to protect the population seriously. This must be done as rapidly a possible each day of delay allows paramilitaries to kill new victims.

We suggested that you go to Jakarta to meet with President Habibie to underscore the importance of restoring peace to East Timor; that would still be useful. Perhaps you could go to East Timor as well, to further demonstrate to the Indonesian government and the international community the seriousness of the U.N. commitment to making this process work.

On May 17, UNAMET spokesman David Wimhurst said "Words by the Indonesian Government are not enough. Determined action must be taken by the appropriate Indonesian Security authorities to curtail the activities of the armed militias..."

Words by the United Nations are not enough, either. Determined action must be taken by the United Nations to curtail the activities of the militias. The Indonesian military and its civilian leadership are playing the international community for fools, and the credibility of the United Nations itself is at stake.

Thank you for your attention, and for your continued commitment to a just peace process in East Timor.


Charles Scheiner
United Nations Representative

Cc: Security Council Member States

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