East Timor: UNAMET Daily Briefing Summary: 23 Sep 1999

News and Press Release
Originally published
Transcript of opening remarks of the press conference by Mr. Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor
Ian Martin: I am glad to have the opportunity to be meeting with you right after returning from Dili and just before going to New York to attend negotiations regarding the future and development of the United Nations presence in East Timor.

First, we want to share with you the statement issued by the Secretary-General regarding the death of Mr. Sander Thoenes. The Secretary-General says:

".....Mr. Thoenes died in the act of seeking the truth about the calamity that has been inflicted on East Timor. As other journalists in East Timor -- and in too many other parts of the world -- continue to do he faced danger from those who wish to hide the truth of the existence of their crimes. It is largely thanks to the courage and determination of men and women like him that these horrors and their perpetrators are brought to the attention of the world's conscience. Without their commitment to tell a story like that of East Timor as urgently and as clearly as possible the mission of the United Nations would be infinitely more difficult..."

Regarding the increasing tempo of UNAMET's activities, I want to make absolutely clear to anyone who doesn't understand it UNAMET never left East Timor. We had a team of ten UNAMET personnel headed by our Chief Military Liaison Officer, Brigadier Rezaqul Haider of Bangladesh, who remained after we closed the United Nations compound. They have been operating from the Australian Consulate that was made available to us. That is where we have continued to function from with a slowly increasing number of personnel since UNAMET and UN humanitarian personnel are sharing very limited accommodation. We have been constrained in how rapidly we could return people to Dili and East Timor.

There is also good news regarding the preparation of the UNAMET compound for us to resume activity from there. The security at the compound has been taken over by the British and Gerkah contingent with INTERFET. Not only are they providing security there but they are giving us a great deal of assistance in clearing up the compound with the assistance of the UK government's department for international development. We anticipate that quite rapidly we should be able to function again from the UNAMET compound. At the same time, emergency accommodation, both for office and living accommodation, is being prepared for the UN and other humanitarian agencies on the school compound that is next door to the main UNAMET compound.

During the period I was in Dili, we were able to visit Dare with INTERFET and have discussions with the internally displaced people there and leading CNRT representatives who are there regarding the humanitarian needs at the agencies are now moving to address as rapidly as possible. We also had discussions about their return to Dili, since the estimated 37,000 people who are in and around Dare are overwhelmingly from Dili itself. We are seeing increasing numbers of people coming back to Dili. The majority of them want their return to be managed in a way that is agreed with INTERFET when INTERFET says that security conditions are right for a major return.

I also had the opportunity yesterday to go to Whymori, the principal FALINTIL cantonment, to resume our face to face contacts with Commander Taur Matan Ruak. We never have been out of contact with him and have maintained telephone contact with him throughout. Yesterday was the first time for some time that we have been able to go in by helicopter and meet him and his colleagues again to discuss the humanitarian needs of people in and around Whymori and to gain information FALINTIL has gathered regarding humanitarian priorities. Mr. Ross Mountain, the Humanitarian Co-ordinator, and other representatives of the humanitarian agencies all closely discussed this with them. We also took offices from INTERFET to open liaison between INTERFET and FALINTIL.

Those first two visits out of Dili itself have been valuable and today I believe Brigadier Rezaqul will be travelling to Baucau where, as you know, INTERFET has also now established a presence.

I can't tell you exactly what the pace will be by which UNAMET will return to Dili and be deployed to other parts of East Timor because clearly it does depend upon the ongoing security assessment as well as the practicalities of living accommodation and office space. Certainly we are well on our way to the increased functioning of UNAMET. It is a priority for us to enable INTERFET to benefit from the experience of our military liaison officers and other staff who came to know the regions of East Timor rather intensively in recent months. It is also our priority to facilitate as much as possible the work of the UN humanitarian agencies and to get UNAMET itself back on the ground to pursue its role of implementing the outcome of the popular consultation.

In the meantime, of course, discussions will be taking place in New York looking ahead to the planning for a UN operation on a greater scale at the point at which the UN assumes fuller responsibilities for transitional administration in East Timor.