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Press Briefing by the Special Representative. Dili, 14 Oct 1999, Darwin

News and Press Release
Originally published
This is a near verbatim transcript of the briefing given by Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, at the Turismo Hotel in Dili, East Timor - Thursday, 14 October 1999:

IM: Good morning, I am pleased to be in Dili for the first time since I went to New York to take part in the tripartite discussions between the Secretary-General and the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal and to attend Mr. Xanana Gusmao's first meetings at the New York Secretariat.

I had the opportunity to brief the Security Council regarding the situation in East Timor and participate in some of the planning discussions that have now been set out in the report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council proposing UNTAET - the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor. The report, as you probably know, is now the subject of formal consultations in the Security Council. We won't know when UNAMET will transform into UNTAET until we know when the Indonesian NPR is going to consider the status of East Timor under Indonesian law. In the meantime, we are pressing ahead as rapidly as possible in redeploying the staff of UNAMET who have remained available in Darwin as well as bringing in any additional staff who are authorized for the so-called phase two of UNAMET which envisages an expanded number of civilian police whose presence is clearly politically needed in the present situation and for the UNTAET period.

As of yesterday, numbers of international personnel went up to 177. We have another ten civilian police coming in today. Yesterday, our presence in Liquica became a continuous one and today our presence in Viqueque will become a continuous one, as well. We have carried out assessments in Suai and Manatuto which will lead rapidly to the UNAMET presence there. So, day by day our numbers on the ground are increasing within the constraints, not only with security, but also with logistical and communications possibilities.

UNAMET's priorities at present, I think, are pretty clear to you. They are to assist INTERFET as best we can in its public security responsibilities, both through our military liaison officers and through our civilian police who are assisting in the investigation of recent killings and other serious crimes. We are doing what we can to fill the administrative vacuum following the departure of almost all Indonesian authorities and pending formal United Nations authority when UNTAET itself comes into being through a small number of civil affairs officers who are beginning to get underway. Local committees in Dili and elsewhere are addressing some of the urgent issues of administration. And thirdly, of course, to support the humanitarian efforts of the UN and other agencies.

I look forward to now being a periodic presence at these briefings. I will be happy to answer any questions you have now.

Question & Answer:

Q: When do you think UNTAET will be deployed and when do you think East Timor will become an independent state?

IM: As far as a UN authority is concerned, the UN is anxious for that to be in place as soon as possible to fill the administrative vacuum and is anticipating an early decision by the NPR... We hope it will follow very rapidly on the presidential elections in Indonesia on the 20th.

On the second issue, that is very difficult to say, Mr. Xanana Gusmao has said, for example, to suggest that a two to three year period for a United Nations administration might be appropriate before the handover to a fully independent government. It will be a progressive process in which East Timorese will be associated with the United Nations Transitional Administration both as staff members in administrative functions and then in a consultative capacity when the appropriate form of consultation with representatives of East Timorese can be decided.

Q. Will Xanana Gusmao be the highest ranking official in East Timor?

IM: I imagine that Mr. Gusmao will be involved in the consultative arrangements, rather than in the formal administration. There had been an agreement on an East Timorese consultative commission in which Mr. Gusmao and other representatives of the CNRT would have been major participants. Clearly that is going to be the case, although the previously determined composition of that now needs to be reconsidered.

Q: Are you happy with the resources you have to investigate the human rights question...?

IM: No. Certainly there are not at the moment adequate resources to carry out investigations. That is now not primarily a matter for UNAMET. It will be the primary responsibility of the commission of investigation that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is mandated and in which the Secretary-General has charged the High Commissioner for Human Rights with appointing and then resourcing. UNAMET has a good deal of information from our presence here to date and that information continues to accumulate as our current staff are involved in securing evidence in co-operation with INTERFET and carrying out more recent investigations. I wouldn't suggest that UNAMET at the moment is carrying out anything comprehensive or even substantial investigations into the extremely serious human rights violations that have occurred. What we will do is wherever we can to facilitate that investigation when it is up and running and ensure that it has available to it all information that UNAMET has.

Q: Are you concerned that evidence is deteriorating or disappearing?

IM: I think that is certainly a concern and I hope there will be additional investigative staff on the ground as soon as possible.

Q: We have been told in the past two weeks that the UN is making an effort to preserve documentation and archives, that doesn't seem to be occurring. Offices are being burnt....What is being done to preserve these documents?

IM: We can only do what we can. Neither UNAMET or INTERFET have the resources to, in a comprehensive way, secure documentation, secure property and to secure other important assets.

Q: People in charge of the cleanup have been tossing papers out of offices and burning them rather than saving them...

IM: I am not aware that UNAMET is failing to take care of any significant documentation in any buildings where we have a responsibility or de facto involvement...

Q: In light of what has happened here since the popular consultation, there have been suggestions that perhaps the UN should have waited until armed peacekeepers were deployed in time for the voting process. What do you think about that, do you think it was a little premature?

IM: I think that would have carried a very substantial risk that the popular consultation would never have taken place. I find that overwhelmingly even the East Timorese - who have suffered greatly -- regard it as a major achievement that the popular consultation did take place and I think the people are best able to make that judgement.

Q: Is the UN prepared to provide any forces or observance for this proposal on a buffer zone that would prevent the kind of incident that happened on Sunday?

IM: As General Cosgrove said, he just raised this issue with me and it is something I have to refer to New York. It raises quite major questions regarding the mandate of our military liaison officers, which at the moment is as designed for the UNAMET I period. I can't really say anymore until I have had the opportunity to put some possibilities to New York and get an official reaction from this.

Q: (inaudible)

IM: I am told we are indeed preserving the documents in the Governor's office.

Q: (inaudible)

IM: I think both justice and reconciliation are extremely important for the future of East Timor and how exactly each of those is to be pursued as a major question. I think Xanana Gusmao himself has made it clear that both justice and reconciliation are under the political agenda.

Q: (inaudible)

IM: Clearly those who have taken part in serious criminal acts, or are still doing so, are likely to be beyond the scope of reconciliation. At the same time it is important that East Timorese, whose past views have been in favor of integration or autonomy, as well as those who have been in favor of independence all along, are as fully associated as possible with the East Timor of the future.

Q: (inaudible)

IM:....If East Timorese are to reconcile that requires them to be demonstrably independent of Indonesian control.

Q: Is the UN doing anything to re-establish communications... there are no telephone communications here and people I have spoken to have felt very cut off from the outside world?

IM: There is rather little that can be done immediately and that will come under the mandate of the humanitarian agencies and then the development agencies who will take a lead from the major World Bank-led assessment mission that will be visiting East Timor shortly. I am not sure what can be done on an interim basis...There is an Indonesian Government task force arriving in Dili today to look at transitional issues. This was something that was always intended and had previously been announced and was postponed by the Indonesian authorities. I am told it is arriving today and that will give us an opportunity to raise some of the most urgent questions to get some of the most important services functioning.

Q: How many local staff have actually returned, and how many do you know are still alive and well?

IM: I can't give you all the figures on all of them. We currently have some 200 local staff working for us, including some of our former local staff who remained in East Timor. None of our local staff who were evacuated to Darwin have yet returned, but we are in the process of setting a framework that will enable them to return both to work and to East Timor as many of them now wish to do. At the time of the ballot itself we had around 4,000 local staff employed. Many of those were employed simply for the five-day period immediately running up to and over the ballot and were recruited locally in relation to the particular polling station. It is going to be a long time before we are able to know the fate of all of those 4,000 people as distinct from the core staff who worked at headquarters in Dili and at the regional offices on a longer term basis. We are extremely anxious to do that and obviously we have the kind of records to enable us to do that, but it is going to be part of the general process of discovering who have come back from the hills, who comes back from Kupang or Atambua...Everyday we are extremely happy to learn of additional local staff who we know are alive and well. But how many are not it is really not possible to say.

Q: Any word on the arrival of the human rights investigators?

IM: No. The members of the commission itself have not yet been appointed and announced by the High Commissioner. I know the office of the High Commissioner is also looking urgently at the question of getting investigative staff on the ground, but I can't give you a time table.