East Timor: UNAMET Daily Briefing Summary: 14 Sep 1999

News and Press Release
Originally published
Press conference with David Wimhurst
Darwin, 14 September 1999 (4:00 p.m.)

The information I have so far is that as of about 10 minutes ago 11 planes were on the ground and they had brought out 1544 people. At this point nobody is sure whether the last plane has arrived or not so it could be that another plane is due or not. We've always said we believed something over 1500 so this could be the total amount and the rest of the UNAMET staff is brought out. We're told that on the last plane 45 UNAMET staff came out which would suggest to me that was indeed the last flight. They've just landed and they'll be going through formalities at the airport.

There's going to be one addition to the number of passengers apparently one of the refugees went into labor immediately upon arriving here and is as we speak giving birth in hospital. So there'll be one new member to that group.

In the Security Council I have no news apart from the fact that the Security Council is considering the deployment of a multinational force but I have no news of how those discussions are going and nor I'm afraid do I have any further updates on the delivery of humanitarian assistance which is being planned in Jakarta. So I'm afraid I'm a bit out of information apart from the local stuff.

Q: David what about the fact that the Security Council have posponed that discussion (They've posponed?)...well they've posponed for a day. Obviously you'd be one of the people asking for a rapid response is that upsetting that they've delayed it?

The Security Council presumably is writing it's resolution, right it's drafting the resolution and it's consulting member states. That's what it has to do in these circumstances so if they put it off until tomorrow it means they're engaged in that activity but clearly they are aware of the urgency of the situation.

Q: Was the airport secured for the evacuation by Australian troops or Indonesian troops?

I have seen reports that it was secured by Australian but I've not been formally told so I can't confirm it.

Q: Have you any information on reports that the UNAMET compound in Dili has been attacked by gunfire?

I've heard from a number of sources now reporters calling me from abroad that that is the case of course we can't confirm it but if it's true it simply is further proof that the militias are still active in Dili and are still engaged in destroying every last remaining building in the town.

Q: Can you tell us what you've heard reports of (inaudible)?

In fact there are news report that I cannot confirm that the UNAMET compound is now on fire in Dili.

Q: Do you know anything about the militia threatening to (inaudible) in West Timor population?

We know that the militias are in areas of refugee concentration in Atembua and Kupang. There have been alarming reports again unconfirmed of violent actions against refugees. I myself tried to phone people in that area of Kupang and they were too frightened to talk on the phone. It's very difficult to get information out. We're trying to pursue all avenues we have to get information. I know that there are journalists actually there. There are some journalists in Kupang and elsewhere and I hope that their reports will be available.

Q: The chicken pox outbreak amongst some of the children do you know how many children are affected?

No I don't. That's something I have to get from the medical authorities who do the medical examinations as the refugees come in and are cared for.

Q: David when will the planes stop coming from Dili?

When the job is done. We always said about 1500 over 1000 I think we'll only know the final number when the last plane comes in. Now it could be that the last plane has come in and the total is 1544 take off the 45 or so take off 57 of those will be UNAMET staff so it's something in the order of 1470 or something...1480.

Q: Under which conditions did the Indonesian authorities allow those refugees to leave Dili?

This was a decision made by President Habibie himself. They put no conditions, no. And we were allowed to evacuate. It was our insistence we would not leave without these refugees - that's what was agreed to.

Q: Did the convoys have any trouble getting to the airport?

No, they did not have any trouble getting to the airport as far as I've heard.

Q: They were given an escort or something like that?

Yeah, they were protected on the way to the airport.

Q: All UNAMET staff left Dili then?

There are 12 remaining people United Nations personnel in Dili. They are presently in a safer and smaller facility. They consist of Military Liason Officers, Civilian Police Officers, one Political Officer, security and humanitarian assistance officers.

Q: Do you have any news about the three journalists still in the compound?

I've no news. I assume those three journalists left with everyone else.

Q: Do you have any information about the fate of the refugees in the hills behind the compound?

No, their condition remains serious obviously. The last time I spoke to anybody on that subject it was clear that they'd run out of food. They were actually eating coffee leaves and that situation now has now obviously got worse. So the priority is for humanitarian assistance to be brought in.

The Indonesian president has said yesterday that he would allow airdrops to be made so that has to be organized rapidly and those countries with the air assets capable of doing that should get moving obviously. The humanitarian aid organizations are amassing food, a 747 jumbo jet arrived at the airport this morning carrying supplies. That is being stored in a warehouse at the airport but it needs to be moved out.

Q: Is the UNAMET mission effectively over now (inaudible) multinational force going it?

The UNAMET mission still exists except it exists here in Darwin right now. A mandate has nothing to do with Darwin. A mandate is to implement the second phase of the mission itself which was to basically carry out the result of the vote which is a clear expression of the desire to become independent.

United Nations through UNAMET would have been, if all had gone well, would have been actively engaged now in reconciliation, peace building, confidence building measures and moving forward to a handover from the Indonesian authorities at which point the United Nations would establish a transitional administration taking care of East Timor until such time as it became independent and this process is still likely to last several years.

All of that now has been completely blown out of the water by this wave of violence that has shattered East Timor so we are now here waiting for the next step to take place.

Q: It's not going to be blue berets going in?

Well it depends entirely on the Security Council but at the moment it looks like a multi-national force with the approval of the Security Council. That is the next phase plus the humanitarian assistance but obviously now there has to be massive rebuilding of East Timor and that would include a return by UNAMET to continue the phase of it's work that's now been interrupted.