East Timor: Briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General

News and Press Release
Originally published
Briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Ian Martin Thursday, 2 September 1999
This is a near verbatim transcript of the briefing given at UNAMET Headquarters, Dili, East Timor, by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, Mr. Ian Martin.

Ian Martin: Good morning. Once again I have to read to you statements by the Secretary-General and the Security Council in response to deplorable acts of violence in East Timor. The statement of the Secretary-General is as follows:

"The Secretary-General strongly condemns the violence that took place outside the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) headquarters in Dili on Wednesday in which it has been reported that at least two people have been killed. As a result of the violence, several local hundred people have taken shelter in the UNAMET compound.

The Secretary-General calls on the Indonesian police to arrest those responsible for the violence and to take immediate steps to ensure it does not happen again. He urges the Indonesian authorities to take firm action to control armed groups and reminds them of their responsibility to protect all UNAMET staff, both international and local.

The United Nations will not allow this violence to deter it from completing arrangements for the popular consultation so that the will of the East Timorese people can be determined."

The press statement following an emergency meeting of the Security Council on East Timor is as follows:

"Council Members were briefed on recent events in East Timor by the Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs on the first of September.

Council Members welcomed the smooth conduct of the popular consultation on the 30th of August.

Condemned, however, in the strongest terms the violence in Dili, which has taken place since.

Underlines the need for the popular consultation process and its follow-up to be completed in an atmosphere of peace and security without further violence.

Demands that the local authorities in East Timor take steps to arrest those responsible for the violence and bring them to justice.

Demands, also, that the Indonesian Government take immediate steps to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future in compliance with the responsibilities for maintaining peace and security as set out in the 5th of May Agreement and that it guarantee the security of UNAMET personnel and premises."

I want, of course, to add my own condemnation of yesterday's violence to those expressed by the Secretary-General and the Members of the Security Council. And I want to couple that with one particular call. On Sunday, leaders of Falintil and the PPI made public statements that their members were under orders not to move around with weapons and that the Indonesian police should arrest any who were found to do so.

Those public statements were followed by a commitment by the Chief of Police that the Indonesian police would take such action and a statement of support by the local TNI commander. Yesterday made clear that that action has not been taken. I call again for those commitments to be fulfilled. Because it is clear that it is only by preventing armed groups from continuing to move around and terrorize others in Dili and elsewhere in East Timor that security can be restored. It is not adequate for there to be a response and a belated response at that, to particular incidents of violence when they erupt.

I also want to refer to a lead that has been given by Mr. Xanana Gusmao, which I think is a significant indication of a commitment to law and order. One of his supporters was accused of responsibility in the murder of the Aitarak member, whose funeral took place yesterday. On the instructions of Mr. Gusmao that man surrendered himself to the police and is now in police custody under investigation for his responsibility in the murder. If all leaders on either side, and particularly those who have armed men under their authority would act likewise, then that would be a step to restoring security. I draw further attention to the demand, both of the Secretary-General and of the Security Council, that those responsible for yesterday's violence should be arrested.

I want at this press conference to respond to one other matter. You will have seen a press statement from the United Front for East Timor Autonomy challenging the integrity of UNAMET in the conduct of the poll and referring particularly to allegations that local staff of UNAMET on polling day acted in a biased way so as to coerce, direct or persuade voters to vote for option two. I want to make clear that not only was the poll conducted under the closest scrutiny of a very large number of observer delegations, as well as a certain amount of scrutiny from the media, but also the procedures for the popular consultation contain strong guarantees of its integrity and, in particular, proper processes for investigating any allegations that it has not been properly conducted.

The ultimate responsibility in that respect lies not only with our Chief Electoral Officer, who must investigate and present the Electoral Commission any relevant information, but ultimately on the independent Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission wrote to the United Front for Autonomy, as well as to the official Indonesia observer delegation asking them to let the Electoral Commission have all allegations and inviting the United Front for Autonomy to appear before the Electoral Commission in a hearing this morning at 10:00 a.m. I trust that the United Front will be appearing before the Electoral Commission to present their allegations and concerns so that those could be properly considered there. Thank you.

Question & Answer:

Q: ...why did it take ninety minutes for the Indonesian police to respond to yesterday's violence?

IM: Ninety minutes is an exaggeration. It was a little over 20 minutes before the first Brimob responded to the call from our joint operation centre to the UNAMET premises. Of course, that is an inadequate response and we made that clear. We haven't yet had the opportunity to discuss that directly with Colonel Sulaen.

I want to add one other thing I should have added in my initial statement. That is that Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, who has been in Denpassar since he left Dili on Tuesday morning, is travelling now to Jakarta where he expects to meet with Foreign Minister Alatas and with Defence Minister General Wiranto. Obviously, these matters will be discussed there.

Q: What other than words can stop this violence?

IM: I can only say that the responsibility rests with the Indonesian security forces who have repeatedly said that they have the capability to deal with violence in East Timor and who have to act in ways they have not yet acted to deal with those who are carrying and using arms.

Q: You have praised the Indonesian police for a job well done, would you now consider that praise unwarranted?

IM: I think the praise was appropriate to the arrangements on polling day, which is the context in which it was given. Both Ambassador Marker and I have made clear that that did not detract from the criticisms we have made of police performance in relation to violence before the ballot. It certainly isn't going to prevent us from making appropriate criticisms of the police performance yesterday and other instances since the ballot.

Q: Do you know how many people were killed in yesterday's violence and considering that UNAMET CivPol and MLOs are unarmed, what do you think could have happened if the militias carried out a full attack against UNAMET headquarters?

IM: It is clear that we would not have been in the position to prevent worse violence if the mob had indeed attempted to attack the compound itself, which it didn't. The violence has been reported in some quarters as an attack on the UNAMET compound, but I think it is clear to those of you here that it was not that. Regarding the number of deaths, we are still trying to confirm that. It is clear that one man was killed in a machete attack immediately outside our compound and I believe that at least one other was shot dead nearby. It may be more than that, but I can't say more than that for certain at the moment. The Indonesian police so far have only confirmed one death.

Q: What is UNAMET's policy on letting displaced persons into its compound?

IM: We can't allow United Nations premises to be a refugee camp in anything other than a dire emergency, and of course yesterday it was appropriate to allow people who were urgently seeking shelter to come into our compound. Today, UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), whose mandate it is to assist displaced persons, will be making arrangements for them to be looked after elsewhere. Clearly, in general, we want to make sure that the displaced people are adequately catered for but not in UNAMET premises.

Q: Were there any threats against the counting house were the ballots are being counted?

IM: No, that was prevented. We had no warning of any action against the counting centre itself and indeed no such action has happened.

Q: Were there shots fired outside the counting centre?

IM: Shots occurred in a lot of places in Dili yesterday. But we have no indication that there was any direct threat to the counting centre.

Q: What information do you have about injuries to UNAMET local staff yesterday and damage to their homes?

IM: I have no information regarding injuries to UNAMET local staff. Certainly, it is clear that the homes of staff themselves, or their families have been affected.

DW: We have a report of at least one house being burnt down.

Q: According to a report from IFET a local UNAMET staff was killed in Oekussi a few days ago. Do you have any information on that?

IM: I have no knowledge of that. We will ask IFET for what the particulars of that are. We certainly have knowledge that there were deaths in Oekussi and violence since the ballot, but this is the first time it has been suggested that our local personnel were directly affected.

Q: [inaudible]

IM: I have not spoken directly to Colonel Silaen so what I am about to say is not from him directly. I was informed by the TNI that two TNI platoons were placed on readiness to support the police if necessary in conformity with the general arrangement for possible TNI support to the police of which we had been previously informed.

Q: What specific measures has UNAMET taken to protect local staff?

IM: We have no possibility of protecting either ourselves, our international staff, our local staff or anybody else other than to place all the pressures we can upon the Indonesian authorities to fulfill their responsibility. Obviously, we have been making arrangements for local staff who need or want to stay elsewhere than their homes to do so.

Q: Do you have any plans to increase security at UNAMET regional offices?

IM: Our only possibility is to ask for additional security for our offices. I should say that I have been told under the orders of General Wiranto himself one of the instructions that has been given from Jakarta is additional security for UNAMET personnel and premises.

Q: Given what happened yesterday and the consistent failure of the Indonesian forces to provide security, does that strengthen the case for the presence of an armed peacekeeping force?

IM: I am aware that a number of people have said so, but that is not really a question for me. That is a question for the Security Council and for Member States and also for the Secretary-General. Any advice I have will be to him not at a press conference.

Q: When will the results of the ballot be announced and will we be given a heads up?

IM: We are not able to predict how long either the counting process or the Electoral Commission's considerations will take. We are a little more than half way through the reconciliation process at the moment. I am afraid I cannot give you any undertaking at the moment as to how much notice we will give you when we can calculate it.

Q: [inaudible]

IM: I have no information that they arrived. I understand that in response to those reports the Indonesian police set up a roadblock on the road coming into Dili from Liquica.

Q: Isn't it time for the UN to consider strong economic sanctions against Indonesia....?

IM: Again, that is not a question for me. That is a question for Member States to consider themselves.

Q: Is there any way under UN rules that an armed peacekeeping force can be deployed to Indonesia without its consent?

IM: There is, of course, chapter VII of the UN Charter which allows the Security Council to act on the basis of a threat to international peace and security. I am simply factually telling you what the Charter says. Nobody has suggested that Chapter VII action is appropriate in the case of East Timor.

Q: Who was the target of yesterday's attack?

IM: I am not able to say with certainty exactly where and how it started. The targets seemed to have been local people, not UNAMET itself. Which local people I can't tell you.

Q: How many local people were affected yesterday and how many refugees were housed at UNAMET headquarters last night?

IM: The answer to the last question is a few hundred and the answer to how many people were affected must considerably more than that, hundreds. But I can't give you any precise estimate.

Q: ...when do you make a recommendation to say when there is a need for a security response...?

IM: It is not my responsibility to make an assessment as to when there is a general need for a security response. I am the United Nations designated official for security, meaning the security of United Nations personnel and therefore I am responsible for the measures that we take at any one time to give guidance and instructions to our personnel. That is the nature of my responsibility.

Q: What was the mood of UNAMET staff yesterday during the violence?

IM: Obviously, people were extremely concerned. They were concerned for the local people who were under attack and were fleeing into the compound. They were concerned for our local staff and I am sure they were legitimately concerned for themselves.

Q: ...how worried are you about the safety of your staff?

IM: I am particularly concerned about the safety of our local staff. The level of my concern for our international staff is not as high, although we have had international staff now caught up in several incidents that caused minor injuries and could have caused more major injuries. My main concern at this moment is that our local staff should not be further targeted by public criticism which I believe will be found to be largely ill-founded and that the Indonesian authorities recognize that their security of UN personnel extends to our local staff as much as it does to our international staff.