East Timor: Briefing Summary for Friday, 3 September 1999

News and Press Release
Originally published
UNAMET Spokesman David Wimhurst informed correspondents that last night in Maliana militia surrounded UNAMET regional headquarters at around 6:30 p.m. Two houses belonging to local staff were burnt down and two local staff [drivers] were killed. Brimob eventually disbursed the militia in front of the regional headquarters. The militia rampaged through Maliana all night, the Spokesman said. By this morning, at least 20 houses are reported to be burning in Maliana and all UNAMET staff, amounting to about 30, are inside the local police station for protection.
In Liquica overnight 20 to 30 houses were burnt in the Hatukesi and Loiahar areas. The number of IDPs in the church compound in Suai is now at 2,400. In Dili overnight it was quiet, but this morning there are reports of shootings in Delta Comoro and there is militia activity in Becora.

The ballot count is approaching its final stages. The ballots are being taken in blocks of 100 from each of the different areas and then mixed together with other areas to avoid identifying any result by areas. The Spokesman requested correspondents not to interview observers as they left the counting house to avoid any leaks. The mixing of the ballots would be open to the press for a short period in the morning only.

A correspondent asked if the increase in militia activity in areas such as Maliana, Liquica and Viqueque is part of an increasing pattern of violence. Mr. Wimhurst responded that it was true that militia activity was on the rise. UNAMET has responded, the Spokesman said, by continuing to pressure the Indonesian authorities to live up to their obligation to provide adequate security. When asked if the United Nations was planning on evacuating UN staff from of the problem areas, Mr. Wimhurst said that UNAMET was monitoring the situation closely and would continue to reevaluate as conditions warranted. The Spokesman also informed correspondents in response to a question that additional five UN local staff members were missing in Maliana. In response to another question, Mr. Wimhurst indicated that the UN was taking additional measures such as the establishment of a curfew, vehicle convoying, etc., ensure the safety of its personnel, including local staff.

A correspondent asked the Spokesman if the United Nations was considering the establishment of "an enclave" in central east Timor if the ballot goes towards independence. Mr. Wimhurst said that no such plan had ever been under consideration.

In response to a question as to whether the UN had requested that the Indonesian military (TNI) reinforce the Indonesian police in East Timor, Mr. Wimhurst indicated that the TNI deployment followed an agreement last week between the police and the military designed to help ensure that firearms remain within the "cantoned" areas. When asked whether he believed the UN had been deceived by the breaching of this agreement by both the militia and the police, Mr. Wimhurst said that he was disappointed that the Indonesian authorities had not made "fuller efforts" to carry out their responsibilities.

The Spokesman was asked what the UN position was on an increased role for the TNI in providing security. Mr. Wimhurst responded that it was the responsibility of the Indonesian authorities to provide security for East Timor.

In response to a question, Mr. Wimhurst said that any UN peacekeeping force would take some time to deploy and that it would be impossible for any forces to deploy prior to a political agreement. When asked if he believed the UN Security Council's demand for "an immediate increase in security" had been implemented, Mr. Wimhurst said that he did not think so, pointing to last night's incidents in Maliana as an example of the lack of progress.

When asked whether he thought the Indonesian Police's response to the escalation of violence had been sufficient, Mr. Wimhurst replied that to the contrary, the response of the Indonesian police had been "totally inadequate". When asked if he believed there was a campaign of concerted attacks against UN personnel, Mr. Wimhurst drew the media's attention to the killing of four UN local staff in the past several days. The same correspondent followed up by asking if Mr. Wimhurst felt that the UN was now "defenseless". The Spokesman pointed out that UNAMET had always been an unarmed mission and that security had always been the province of the Indonesian authorities.

A correspondent asked Mr. Wimhurst whether the Electoral Commission now hearing objections to the process would be finished soon. The Spokesman indicated that while the hearings were scheduled to finish today (3 September), the object of the exercise was for the Commissioners' to review the complaints fully and thoroughly in a public forum.

A correspondent asked Mr. Wimhurst if in light of the current situation if he felt the United Nations had made a fundamental mistake in allowing the Indonesian authorities to be responsible for security. The Spokesman replied that the accord signed in May in New York by which the Indonesian authorities have the responsibility to provide security was the agreement.

When asked why the briefing given by the Spokesman's office in New York painted a rosy picture while the reality was quite the contrary, Mr. Wimhurst clarified that the disparity was due to the time difference between Dili and New York City.