Darwin, 16 September 1999
I'll start with the humanitarian aid program. You probably heard this morning - the Australian briefing - food drops could be planned for later today. This is Oz Aid and the Australian Air Force. I think this is subject to final approval from the Indonesians.
There were discussions on going on that issue. The World Food Program will be bringing in, I understand, a specialized plane that is also able to do food drops. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is assembling humanitarian goods on the ground here to be airlifted into East Timor once the security situation improves following the arrival of the Multi-National Force.
The office of the coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs which is a division of the Office of the Secretary in New York has sent Mr. Ross Mountain to coordinate humanitarian assistance for the East Timor crisis. He arrived this morning in Darwin at 5:30 and I very much hope that tomorrow he will be here and will be able to fill you in on details about the humanitarian assistance program.
From Jakarta UNAMET tells me that there are discussions ongoing to visit West Timor with Indonesian government officials to make an assessment of the humanitarian situation there and UNHCR in Jakarta is very, very concerned about the plight of the humanitarian situation in West Timor and specifically the refugees, many of whom as you know were forcibly deported to that area.
From Dili, yesterday, two of our humanitarian officers one from the United Nations High Commision for Refugees and one from the Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Assistance Mr. Kevin Kennedy being the latter and Christian Koch being the former, drove to Dare and they took with them six metric tons of rice which they acquired from TNI stocks. There are an estimated 50,000 refugees now in the Dare area who are desperately in need of assistance. This was one small drop, really, in that ocean of need but it was a good first step. Water is scarce in Dare and unless more food comes in rapidly the situation can only deteriorate.
In Dili it is reported quiet. Many more people are pulling out, trucks are leaving and heading westward some of them military trucks. Offices of the regional military command are emptying.
There are refugees still waiting on the quayside but no sign of vessels yet and I understand the militia are still active and busy in Dili. I spoke to the Dili compound this afternoon and I understand that yesterday Brig. Rezaqul who is our chief Military Liason Officer travelled to Baucau where he met with Bishop Nacimento. The situation in Baucau appears to be quiet - the militia are also heavily present there but Baucau has not been destroyed in anywhere near the same extent that Dili has.
I will not repeat what was said at the press conference this morning by Admiral Chris Barrie so you know what's going on on that front. In the refugee situation here we presently have 300 local staff located in five hotels in Darwin. 60 of our local staff are still in the tent city and they will be moving into hotels by the end of this week. I have no further information about the large number of refugees who arrived yesterday. The Australian Government is completely in charge of their situation and their transportation to wherever they are to be taken.