East Timor: UNAMET Daily Briefing Summary: 17 Sep 1999

News and Press Release
Originally published
Press conference with David Wimhurst
Darwin, 17 September 1999

I'm very pleased to introduce today Mr. Ross Mountain who has been appointed by the Secretary General as the humanitarian coordinator for the East Timor Crisis. He arrived in Darwin yesterday and he'll be speaking about the entire humanitarian assistance to East Timor and I think some of you know Mr. Patrick Burgess who has been in Dili with UNAMET since its inception almost and he is a humanitarian affairs officer still working for UNAMET. So I'd like to hand it over to Mr. Mountain.

Thank you very much. As mentioned I just arrived yesterday morning in Darwin having spent two days in Jakarta. I was appointed on the weekend and obviously came out here as quickly as I could. We have been given responsibility for working with all actors concerned with humanitarian assistance including the United Nations set of actors, the Indonesian government, non-governmental organizations, the Red Cross institutions in order to see how we can best provide humanitarian assistance both in eastern Timor and western Timor. The mandate as mentioned is related to the East Timorese Crisis and therefore it deals with two parts of the island and other aspects that relate to that.

One of the early aspects that we've been dealing with because of problems of secure access has been how we can reach the displaced people particularly those who are in the mountains in East Timor. I'm please be able to say that though the combined efforts and following extensive negotiations particularly in Jakarta the first of the airdrops should be taking place virtually as we speak with the Royal Australia Air Force plane flying toward East Timor now. This is being organized under the auspices of the United Nations in particular the World Food Program and late last night we got the approval from the Indonesian authorities to proceed.

The flights will be dropping on this run essentially rice and blankets it will be going to the mountains near Emmera. It will be dropping some twenty pallets to some twenty thousand displaced in that area and we hope that on the basis of a successful operation this morning, on the basis of the negociations that are being carried out in order to get this off the ground and again we are very grateful to the Australian government for having made available the plane and indeed I think the supplies are indeed from them that we will be able to move ahead with additional flights in the days ahead. Obviously there are many needy people who require assistance in East Timor and we're also of course concerned with West Timor. We are handling the issues of West Timor out of Jakarta rather than out of Darwin at this stage.

The task is enormous but we have been very gratified by the response that has come from the international community to dealing with the humanitarian aspects and I would underline the importance of the neutral humanitarian aspects. We are eager to reach the displaced persons wherever they are including in West Timor no matter which way they voted in the referendum in order that they can have protection and assistance. I was very pleased when I spoke to the Minister of Coordination in Jakarta. The emphasis that was placed by him following a recent visit to West Timor that there should be facilities made available early on for the return of the displaced to their homes when they wish to return and of course that relates to the whole issue of security safety and so on.