Head of UN Transitional Administration in East Timor briefs Security Council

News and Press Release
Originally published

Press Release SC/6799 - 20000203
Describes Improved Internal Security, But Says Poverty `Calamitous'; Asks for Quick Release of Resources

The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was now operating throughout East Timor and mechanisms to consult with East Timorese at all levels have been established, as have the basic elements of an administrative structure, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General andehead of UNTAET, told the Security Council in an open briefing this morning.

Internal security had greatly improved and there was now no threat of violence for most people, he continued. However, in some areas along the border with West Timor, particularly in the Oecussi enclave, there had been incidents involving pro-integration militia members. With the exacerbation of poverty and frustration in East Timor, crime and disaffection were increasing and rivalries were re-emerging. These and many other urgent issues must be addressed. It was, therefore, too early to politicize the environment by seeking to draft a constitution for the territory.

Mr. Vieira de Mello went on to say that the rate of return of refugees had slowed. Militia intimidation and misinformation contributed to that, but so did the lack of basic services and infrastructure, and genuine concerns about the safety of returnees. On the human rights front, the international investigative commission and Indonesian commission reports on human rights violations had been released last Monday. However, there were still no mechanisms to implement their findings. The UNTAET had assumed the lead in the human rights investigative process. Some 300 bodies had been found and 71 crime scenes examined. Mass graves had been exhumed in Oecussi and Liquicia, and further sites were to be examined.

East Timor had been poor before the events of last year, but its situation was now calamitous, he added. Some 80 per cent of the population had lost their means of support, while at the same time, prices had almost doubled. He asked Council members to use their influence to seek quick disbursement of resources from the World Bank trust fund and to support flexibility in the use of United Nations resources.

The Special Representative's report on UNTAET's work included a description of the carefully planned takeover from INTERFET that began on 1 February and would be completed by the end of the month. He outlined key objectives for UNTAET, including ensuring physical security of the East Timorese, providing access to a fair legal system, supporting repatriation of refugees and providing resources for their reintegration, and establishing basic administrative structures. Health and education must be put back on an even keel, he explained, and vital infrastructure must be fully restored.

Speakers this morning welcomed positive developments, including the establishment of the National Consultative Council, steps taken towards national reconciliation and efforts to ensure good relations between East Timor and Indonesia. However, they also made it clear they understood that many serious and complex problems had yet to be addressed.

The United Nations owed East Timor a debt, the representative of the Netherlands said. It must, therefore, try to turn the UNTAET operation into a paradigm of nation building. While he would not call the Council’s handling of the situation a paradigm of Council action, it must still be recalled that the issue had never left the Council and had always been handled by consensus.

Jamaica's representative said the people of East Timor faced a perilous situation, with high rates of unemployment and illiteracy. The continuing incidents of violence and their apparent causes - unemployment and frustration - indicated the urgency with which UNTAET must carry out its tasks. She strongly supported UNTAET's role in establishing a viable and sustainable system of governance and public administration. The participation of East Timorese in that process was of fundamental importance, to create a sense of ownership. Long-term programmes should be elaborated over the next few months.

Commenting on the human rights situation, the representative of the United States said the establishment of an international human rights tribunal might be avoided if Indonesia took action to bring those who committed violations to justice. If Indonesia did not deal with the problem, international pressure would mount. The United States was deeply concerned that there were still more than 100,000 people in refugee camps, and that repatriation had slowed to a trickle. The real problem was that elements in the Indonesian military continued to support pro-integration militias.

Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Bangladesh, Canada, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Ukraine, Namibia, China, Tunisia, Mali and Argentina.

The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and adjourned at 12:40 p.m.

Programme of Work

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing on the situation in East Timor from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The briefing comes soon after the release of two reports on human rights violations last year in East Timor: one from the Indonesian Government national institution, Komnas Ham; and one from an international panel established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.

This morning the Council had before it a report dated 26 January from the Secretary-General on UNTAET (document S/2000/53). The report covers the activities of UNTAET and developments in East Timor since 25 October 1999. Addended to it are 11 regulations issued by UNTAET during this period.

The UNTAET has initiated its operations throughout East Timor, developed consultative mechanisms with the East Timorese at all levels and established the basic elements of its administrative structure, the report explains. A number of basic legislative measures have been adopted, in consultation with the East Timorese. Internal security has greatly improved and most people now experience no threat of violence and can circulate freely. However, in some areas along the border with West Timor and in Ambino there have been incidents involving pro-integration militia members. On 12 January, the Indonesian armed forces, the International Force (INTERFET), and UNTAET signed a memorandum regulating their cooperation in the border areas, including the handling of incidents. The memorandum also formalizes the deployment of liaison teams within West Timor.

The INTERFET will hand over to UNTAET during February, the report states. This process will be carried out in phases, and the transition will be completed by 28 February. Much of the United Nations force will transfer from INTERFET. When the transfer is completed, UNTAET's military component will constitute a military force of approximately 8,500 troops and military observers from 27 countries.

Humanitarian assistance has brought some relief, but conditions are very difficult owing to the extent of destruction, lack of opportunity to earn a living and high prices, the report states. Crime is on the rise, especially in Dili and other urban sectors, mainly owing to the large number of unemployed.

A National Consultative Council was established on 2 December. It is the primary mechanism through which East Timorese participate in the decision-making process, and is composed of 15 members, including seven from the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), one from the Catholic Church and three from political groups which had supported autonomy. The UNTAET has four seats on the Council, including that of the chairman. Two sectoral committees, one on macroeconomics and finance, the other on the civil service, have been convened, while others are in process. There have been five Council sessions, and thus far all decisions have been by consensus.

The report states that on 12 December, Xanana Gusmao met with Joao Tavares, principal commander of the pro-autonomy militias, and Mr. Tavares subsequently announced that he would disband his militia in West Timor. Mr. Gusmao has also visited Jakarta at the invitation of the Indonesian Government, and the Secretary-General has extended an invitation to the Indonesian President to visit East Timor.

At a donor meeting in Tokyo on 17 December 1999, convened jointly by the United Nations and the World Bank, a total of $522.45 million was pledged, of which $148.98 million is for humanitarian activities and $373.47 million for civil administration, reconstruction and development, according to the report. The UNTAET has established a structure to coordinate all external funded programmes.

Poverty and the lack of work for a living are causing growing frustration, the report states. It details violent incidents in Dili and Baucau. In addition, it notes a number of incidents on the borders between West and East Timor, including the Oecussi enclave, involving military weapons and direct fire at INTERFET troops and at East Timorese civilians.

Fundamental and urgent policy decisions must be made in many areas, while also meeting urgent humanitarian needs and public service requirements, the Secretary-General reports. The devastating effects of the systematic destruction and violence last September will continue to be serious impediments for the foreseeable future. It will be a priority in the next three months to create employment and provide public services, while supporting the reintegration of displaced persons. Expanding trade will be important in order to increase supply and lower prices.


SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor, said that the Council had before it the report on the first three months of the Transitional Administration. The report conveyed the situation of the East Timorese as they recovered from the events of last year. Following the consultation, a large proportion of the population had lost their homes, their possessions and their security. They did not have access to water or sanitation. All public buildings had been burned or ransacked. Television services and radio were destroyed or damaged. Cross- border trade was closed, as was the airport. The social and economic consequences had been massive. East Timor had been poor before then, but its situation was calamitous since. The majority of people had lost their means of support and, at the same time, prices had about doubled.

No local mechanisms existed for the maintenance of law and order, he explained, and property disputes were widespread. There was rising criminality and disaffection, at least in part as a consequence of unemployment and of youth with no option but idleness, but also because local rivalries and conflicts were re-emerging. The East Timorese were impatient for improvement.

The UNTAET had set itself key objectives for the first six months, he said. It must first ensure the physical security of the East Timorese, and their access to a fair legal system. It must support repatriation to East Timor for those who wished to return, and provide resources for their reintegration. It must establish basic administrative structures at the district and national level. The situation must be moved from humanitarian relief operation to one of establishing public services. Health and education must be put back on an even keel. Vital infrastructure must be fully restored.

The economy must be set on a solid footing, he continued. To that end, regulations for economic and agricultural activity had either been or would be passed in near future. A revenue base to sustain government had to be established. The UNTAET must also collect and collate evidence of human rights violations.

The challenges were huge, he said. In the border areas, and in the enclave of Oecussi, militias posed a threat. There had been eight cross-border incursions in the past two weeks in Oecussi. The UNTAET peacekeeping force would repel threats with the same determination shown by INTERFET. At a district level, law and order was also of increasing concern. In Baucau, gang battles involving hundreds took place on an almost daily basis.

Only 480 civilian police had been deployed in East Timor, he said, and their ability to penetrate and understand the society was limited. The UNTAET was looking to integrate local people into the process of protecting law and order, and over the next few weeks a police assistance programme would be established, whereby former East Timorese policemen of quality would serve as police assistants. That was an interim measure, pending the establishment and training of a genuine local police force. A new police academy, as a key part of that process, would begin in March. Discussions had been held with Falantil, which had stated it would make unarmed people available to assist in the development of crime prevention strategies.

It was critically important that the judiciary become fully functional, he said. Some judges had been appointed, but they needed support. Courts lacked basic support staff and equipment. The prisons were in worse shape, and the INTERFET detention centre was currently at full capacity. The Baucau and Dili prisons must be refurbished as a matter of priority, if UNTAET was to have the capacity to arrest and hold criminals.

The rate of return of refugees had slowed as the rainy season set in, he said. In part, that was because of militia intimidation, and misinformation and disinformation about the situation in East Timor. However, it was, in part, also attributable to factors like the lack of basic services and infrastructure, and to genuine concerns about the safety of returnees. Many, especially those previously employed by Indonesia, were hesitating until they had clear indications of the future of their benefits, including pensions, and clear indications of their chances of joining the new East Timorese civil service. The World Bank programmes would provide much needed support, but there was also an immediate need for funding through the United Nations for employment and for the rebuilding of communities.

Since UNTAET has commenced, there had been good progress in the establishment of consultative mechanisms to allow full East Timorese participation in the administration of East Timor, especially at the central level, he said. The National Consultative Council had met five times since December and had reached agreement on eight important areas under discussion. The independent public service commission had been established.

The consultation process reflected the basic philosophy that guided the work of UNTAET, he said. That held that UNTAET was not so much an interim administration as a co-architect, with the East Timorese people, of a national administration that would serve long after UNTAET’s departure. The transitional judicial commission, led by the Bishop of Baucau, had held "town hall" type meetings to discuss justice, and other open meetings had been held across the country. From mid-November, there had been daily consultation with the CNRT on important matters outside those covered by the Consultative Council. Consultations had also been held with pro-autonomy groups, either on the margins of the Consultative Council, or through visits to West Timor and Jakarta.

Results of the consultations with pro-autonomy groups had been mixed, he said. Some were still hostile to the United Nations. Others were keenly interested in communication and in receiving assurances about their return and their prospects for participation. Xanana Gusmao had actively and expressly promoted reconciliation.

However, further effort was required, he continued, and relations with Indonesia were key. He had twice visited Indonesia, with encouraging results. Last week he had agreed with Indonesian officials on comprehensive, bilateral negotiations about asset and liability claims. He hoped to have the agenda for those negotiations approved before Indonesian President Wahid's planned visits to Dili in three weeks time.

It was necessary to rebuild the regulatory framework, through the National Consultative Council, he said. Regulations had been enacted to establish a judicial services commission, a central fiscal authority, a central payments office and a public services commission. Regulations were in place on currency and on the licensing of foreign exchange. Those on ports, on the licensing of banks and on government procurement would be enacted soon. The International Monetary Fund had provided invaluable support in those areas.

It would be difficult to re-establish the basic infrastructure, he said, and his main concern was that infrastructure and development projects in the Six-month reconstruction plan, to be funded from the World Bank trust fund would, in all likelihood, not be implemented for some months. The UNTAET had an exceptional partnership with the World Bank. In addition, the Tokyo donor conference had been most successful. Notwithstanding those two facts, the time delay could make the East Timorese feel that little was being done, except for improving United Nations' facilities. He asked Council members to use their influence to seek quick disbursement of resources from the World Bank trust fund and to support flexibility in the use of United Nations resources. Bilateral assistance would also be necessary.

On the human rights front, the international investigative commission and Indonesian commission reports on human rights violations had been released last Monday, he said. What mechanisms would be used to implement the findings of those reports remained to be seen. The UNTAET had assumed the lead in the human rights investigative process. It was essential that information from all sources be collated. Thus far, some 300 bodies had been found and 71 crime scenes examined. Mass graves had been exhumed in Oecussi and Liquicia, and further sites were waiting to be examined. A human rights centre had now been established in Dili.

In the coming months, serious challenges would have to be faced, he said. Those would include addressing the high expectations of the East Timorese people, who had thus far shown tremendous patience. A code of conduct for UNTAET staff had been put into effect. A civil service must be created. A stipend was being provided this week to those who had kept public services functioning, on a voluntary basis. A provisional pay scale would soon be established. Unemployment must also be addressed.

The UNTAET had received strong support from the Council, and he was confident that that would continue and the Council would remain its strongest ally, he said. He also expressed the hope that the harassment of refugees would not continue and that the militias and extremists in West Timor would be disarmed and disbanded once and for all. He had received assurances from Indonesian officials that that would happen. He asked the Council to ensure that the Transitional Administration had access to funds to carry out its mandate, and especially its governance function.

On the military situation, he said that a carefully planned takeover from INTERFET had begun on 1 February, with eastern East Timor now under United Nations command. The transfer would continue over the next three weeks and would be completed by the end of February. He would remain mindful of the requirement for a regular assessment of the necessary level of United Nations military strength, with a view to decreasing it, he stated.

On East Timor's political future, it would be premature to attempt to predict when the constitutional drafting process should begin, he said. That process would also mean promulgating regulations governing new political parties and elections. In light of the urgent problems that must be faced, it was too early to politicize the environment and distract East Timorese from pressing emergency issues. He imagined that UNTAET would start reflecting on the timetable for the process in the second half of 2000.

As a remote country with few resources, East Timor was of little strategic importance, he said. However, its people had fought and suffered for decades for their independence, and the United Nations owed East Timor a debt. The establishment of East Timor also represented an unprecedented challenge to the international community, as it was starting from nearly nothing. The UNTAET provided a chance to prove a paradigm of nation building, he concluded.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said the systematic and objective approach presented this morning suggested that East Timor could become a paradigm of nation building. He expressed concern that money was not being made available fast enough on the ground to allow elements of the UNTAET package to get under way. On the security situation, there was mostly good news, but some worrying elements as well. He welcomed the progress that had been made in the transition from INTERFET to UNTAET, but expressed concern about militia activity. Both INTERFET and UNTAET would have to watch that matter closely. He asked for UNTAET’s assessment on militia’s influence, activity and ability to mount continued disruption. The sooner that those elements of the militia desisted and recognized the need to work for the common objective of an independent East Timor, the better.

The rise in crime was another concern, he continued. Some 80 per cent of the population was now without means of support, yet prices were twice as high as before the consultation. That situation required a complex strategy. Crime would only come down when ordinary people had the means to pursue their livelihood. But, there was also need for effective police monitoring. When local police were brought in, they must operate according to international standards and, for that reason, training would be essential. Regarding human rights, he welcomed the publication of both reports on human rights, which illustrated graphically the seriousness of what happened last year. Those responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian law must be brought to justice. All cases must be pursued vigorously, "even if they lead to the top", he said.

ALAIN DEJAMMAT (France) said the Council was confident about Mr. Vieira de Mello’s capability and determination to complete the tasks of "co-architecture". It was not a matter of filling a gap, but rather of constructing a new edifice. Mr. Vieira de Mello had met with many East Timorese. Reference had been made to those in West Timor and refugee camps and the pace of their return, but many Timorese had gone abroad even further. Was there any estimate on the number who had gone to countries other than Indonesia and who might wish to return to East Timor? he asked.

He said the two keys for achieving success were human rights and justice, on the one hand, and economic prospects, on the other. Economic prospects would make it possible to provide assurance to all Timorese that they could live together. As shown by the report of inquiry, activities of the Indonesian authorities was ground for hope that impunity would be done away with. France had noted with interest the voluntary efforts being carried out within Indonesia itself. It seemed possible that justice could be done. That was a recent satisfactory element.

Regarding the economic situation, he said it was important to be able to provide some immediate prospects to the people of East Timor. There would be no genuine reconciliation if those in the camps could not be assured that they could be reintegrated. The time period involved for receiving sums and their becoming available was too long. There was need for more specifics, beyond appeals. What, financially speaking, were the ways and means of transferring funds, to allow the to function properly? he asked. Everything that could be done to reduce the financial burden of the force could be useful. Savings could then be channelled towards civil administration.

ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the report of the Secretary-General was a comprehensive and somber document and that he was also grateful for Mr. Vieira de Mello’s frank report. Clearly he and his team were doing wonderfully well under difficult circumstances. He hoped and wished that their efforts continued to bear fruit.

He believed that law and order should be a priority, and urged that the full complement of civilian police be deployed as soon as possible. Last month he had been advised that only one quarter of the mandated had been deployed. Expediting deployment must be a priority. The return of refugees from West Timor was also important. He asked the Indonesian Government and others to facilitate the return.

Capacity-building was a key area, he added. It was important that the United Nations not be seen as calling the shots, but was building local capacity to allow locals to take charge. He was, therefore, happy that the Consultative Council was meeting regularly. The focus should be on human development and governance. That type of focus had been fruitful elsewhere. Also, the education of girls should be built into efforts to address unemployment. Regarding the establishment of a judicial system and a civilian administration, he was happy to hear that East Timorese were playing a lead role in the preparation of the criminal code and that training was ongoing in Australia.

That the Indonesian Government was forthcoming in the search for reconciliation was important, he said. President Wahid’s planned visit to Dili was an important signal, as had been Mr. Vieira de Mello's visit to Jakarta. Reports on human rights violations indicated that such violations must be addressed, but it was also important to take steps to ensure there was no reoccurrence of such violations. In addition, regional support was essential for East Timor, and he believed that the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the South Pacific (ESCAP) should play key roles.

East Timor posed a challenge, for the creation of infrastructure and for the establishment of development, he said. Mr. Vieira de Mello had asked for quick disbursement of funds. Mechanisms to do that should be possible. It would be very frustrating to see efforts fail for lack of disbursement of funds. The Council should not allow enthusiasm for independence among East Timorese to sag.

ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) welcomed the constructive steps taken by UNTAET, the CNRT and the Indonesian Government to work together to speed the return of refugees, but said he remained concerned at continued instances of West Timorese militias targeting civilians and INTERFET troops. He called upon the Indonesian Government to redouble efforts to halt such acts of violence. While encouraged by increasing numbers of refugees registering to return, he asked what the assessment was for prospects for reconciliation for pro-autonomy advocates or former militia who would like to return.

Indonesia should be given the opportunity to prosecute its nationals for serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, he said. He was encouraged by President Wahid's statements that there would be no impunity for human rights abusers. Canada was troubled by the recent rise in violent crime in East Timor and the potential for serious social problems resulting from high unemployment and a shattered infrastructure. Thus, Canada supported Mr. Vieira de Mello’s efforts to integrate East Timorese into UNTAET functions and decision-making processes.

He said Canada was contributing a reinforced infantry company of approximately 250 personnel to INTERFET. Its current contribution would be withdrawn by the end of March 2000. The Canadian company was projected to "rehat" to blue berets on 21 February. As he had stated before, that should and could have been a United Nations peacekeeping operation from the start. While Canada intended to provide five staff officers for UNTAET, if required, the bulk of its assistance was likely to take the form of humanitarian assistance.

M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the East Timorese had high expectations of the international community, and of the United Nations in particular. They faced a perilous situation, with high rates of unemployment and illiteracy. Clearly, the needs of the East Timorese must be addressed. Jamaica strongly supported the work of UNTAET and its role in establishing a viable and sustainable system of governance and public administration. The participation of East Timorese in that process was of fundamental importance, to create a sense of ownership.

She said she was encouraged by the cooperation of the Government of Indonesia and hoped the forthcoming visit of that country’s President would lead to normalization of relations and acceleration of the return of refugees. While the rate of return had been encouraging, the situation in the camps was a cause of real concern. The international community’s cooperation - as witnessed in the pledging conference - must be commended, but she noted that Mr. Vieira de Mello had called for the quick disbursement of funds.

The continuing incidents of violence and their apparent causes - unemployment and frustration - indicated the urgency with which UNTAET must carry out its tasks. She commended those counties that had provided training facilities to the East Timorese, stressing that human resource development was essential. There was need for long-term programmes to be elaborated over the next few months. The reports on human rights violations must be addressed by the international community, and by the Government of Indonesia in particular.

ANDREI E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said the Secretary-General’s report provided sufficient grounds for a satisfactory assessment. It showed there had been a substantive improvement in the security situation. Mechanisms had been established for East Timorese participation, which would strengthen national reconciliation. And the Transitional Administration had been successfully established. That marked only the outset of travel along a complex path, but he believed a good start had been made.

The Russian Federation was concerned by reports of activities by pro- integration militias, incidents on the border, and the intimidation of refugees, he said. It was counting on the rapid implementation of agreements made between Xanana Gusmao and Joao Tavares regarding the militia. General stabilization was unthinkable without economic stability. He was gratified that the international community had responded to the call for resources. There had been a positive start to restoration, he said. He wished Mr. Vieira de Mello and all UNTAET success.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) noted with concern reports of increased crime related to poverty and the settling of past disputes. The situation must be addressed urgently so that a culture of peace prevailed, rather than one of violence and impunity. It appeared that police were more needed than peacekeeping troops. Development and reconstruction programmes must be undertaken urgently. He expressed gratification at the overwhelmingly positive response at the donor meeting in Tokyo last year. He welcomed projects by UNTAET and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that had provided employment.

As for the settling of old scores, he said serious efforts must be made for conflict resolution. He asked for more information on disarmament efforts. All parties should step up and use the national council. Traditional institutions, such as the church, could and should also play a role in that regard.

It was also important that East Timor undertake reconciliation with its neighbour Indonesia, he stressed. Malaysia looked forward to the visit by Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta to Jakarta. Much work remained to be done to rehabilitate East Timor and that must be undertaken urgently. The international community must continue to give its strong support to UNTAET. Regarding human rights violations, those responsible for human rights violations must be brought to justice. He noted that Indonesia had taken serious steps in that regard.

VOLODYMYR YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) noted with pleasure that the internal security situation had normalized. The United Nations force should adopt a firm posture regarding the maintenance of security throughout the territory. He also welcomed positive developments in relations with Indonesia. He was glad to note that UNTAET had established the basic elements of civil structure. The devastating effects of last September would continue to be impediments for the near future.

He said his delegation was deeply concerned about the situation of refugees in camps in West Timor, and their ongoing intimidation by the militias. He welcomed the 12 January agreement between the Indonesian armed forces, INTERFET and UNTAET regarding border security. The Ukrainian delegation was also deeply concerned that the crime rate had increased, threatening international security in the territory. Poverty and unemployment were causing growing frustration, and should be addressed as a priority. His delegation was studying both reports on human rights, and was impressed that the Indonesian Government was pursuing the matter seriously.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said his delegation was gratified that the overall security situation had improved. It was unfortunate, however, that crime and gang violence were on the rise, primarily due to socio-economic problems. At the same time, that was to be expected, given the turmoil that existed in East Timor. He noted the great influence that unemployment had on the situation, as well as efforts under way to address the matter, such as road rehabilitation projects. To what extent would programmes presently envisioned impact on the overall unemployment situation? he asked. What level of interest had been shown thus far by other job-creating entities, such as the private sector, in the development of East Timor?

The critical outstanding concern remained the plight of the refugees in camps in West Timor, he said. It was disappointing that militias operated in the camps and that they prevented the United Nations from operating freely in those camps. How were those militias operating -- openly or disguised? he asked. Had Mr. Vieira de Mello had the chance to take the matter up with the Indonesian Government? And, if so, what response had he received? Were there any visible efforts to curtail militia activities? He then noted the progress achieved by the Indonesian National Commission of Inquiry, and said the process should be allowed to take its course before the international community took further steps.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) welcomed the positive developments described in the briefing. It was no small matter that, for most people, there was now no threat of violence. He further welcomed the close cooperation between UNTAET and the East Timorese, and the recruitment of local staff, and expressed satisfaction with the cooperation between the United Nations, donor countries and relief agencies. Some negative aspects remained, and all those seemed to be related with the poor state of the economy -- including the increased crime rate and the re-emergence of long-standing conflicts.

The situation of the camps in West Timor was intolerable, he said. It was not acceptable that the UNHCR's access was restricted. He was also deeply concerned that border incidents continued despite the signing of the memorandum on cooperation between the Indonesian armed forces, INTERFET and UNTAET in January.

All agreed that those responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice, he said. That was also the view of the Government of Indonesia. He welcomed that Government’s commitment to bringing those responsible for human rights abuses to justice through Indonesia’s national judicial system. The United Nations owed East Timor a debt and must, therefore, try to turn the UNTAET operation into a paradigm of nation building. Another argument for aiming that high was that the East Timor crisis had been handled from the start on a consensus basis. While he would not call the Council’s handling of the situation a paradigm of Council action, it must still be recalled that the issue had never left the Council.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said he was gratified by the positive evolution of the East Timor situation, which would not have been possible without efforts by all parties, including the United Nations. He appreciated the work that UNTAET had undertaken in difficult and harsh conditions. He also noted that the Council could not be over-optimistic about the situation and that difficulties remained, notably in reconstruction and rebuilding of infrastructure, in establishment of a judiciary and the rule of law, and in the creation of employment. It had not been easy to come this far and the achievement needed to be nurtured. Reconciliation and reconstruction should be the most important task.

The smooth transition from the international INTERFET force to United Nations peacekeeping was important, he said. China had always supported the establishment of a United Nations operation. The full component of United Nations civilian police should be deployed as soon as possible. The gradual assumption of self-government was also important. The UNTAET had benefited from cooperation with East Timorese in the National Consultative Council. Broad consultation should continue, as should the training of local people in administration and governance.

Also, promotion of reconciliation was important, he said. The maintenance of the unity of purpose shown by the CNRT would be a key element in the smooth transition to independence, and inclusion of pro-autonomy groups in the National Consultative Council was also important. He hoped East Timorese leaders would continue to perform the positive role they had played so far. The active promotion of relations between East Timor and Indonesia would aid stability and would help in finding solutions to unresolved questions, such as those relating to refugees. He hoped the Secretary-General’s visit to the region would foster those relations.

China would support United Nations activities to assist in the smooth transition to independence, he said. China was ready to become a friend and a partner of the East Timorese in the transition. Mr. Gusmao had visited China and was received warmly. China had provided aid, and would continue to assist East Timor, within its means. At present, East Timor was faced with rebuilding all sectors of its society and assisting was a challenge to the United Nations. China was pleased by the excellent start that had been made, and hoped all concerned would continue their good work.

Regarding the human rights situation, China noted that the international commission and the Indonesian Government commission had released their reports, he said. He also noted that the Indonesian President had said he would study the national report, and act on its findings in accordance with Indonesian law. China believed the Indonesian Government was able and ready to investigate and prosecute any human rights violations.

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said that, despite the precarious situation and remaining difficulties, Tunisia welcomed progress in East Timor and the results achieved so far. He hailed UNTAET for its efforts and its determination. He welcomed the fact that the general attitude emphasized reconciliation and the establishment of good relations with East Timor's neighbours. He also welcomed the goodwill shown by the Indonesian Government and its efforts to find solutions to problems that followed the crisis, including human rights problems. He agreed there was a need to strengthen humanitarian capacities in East Timor. Coordination between various humanitarian agencies would maximize effectiveness. He welcomed the financial support offered by the international community, demonstrated during donors’ conferences.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said today’s open briefing method was positive and useful to Council members and non-members alike. He had a few questions to raise, but some had been voiced by his colleagues, and he would not restate them. He praised the positive evolution of the relationship between East Timor and Indonesia and welcomed the considerable efforts to achieve progress in civil administration and governance since UNTAET was established.

On the economic and social prospects, he said the pledges made at the donors’ conference in Tokyo should be released as soon as possible, so UNTAET and its partners could act in an effective manner. With reference to human rights issues, his delegation was concerned about ongoing violations, but was gratified that Indonesian authorities had taken positive measures. Perpetrators must be identified and punished. His delegation would be studying the two reports in depth. He expressed gratitude to all those working to achieve peace and reconciliation in East Timor.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States) said he hoped history would record East Timor as another United Nations success. But, the matter was not in the hands of the United Nations alone. Among the issues of concern were the growing unrest and crime in Dili. He urged that World Bank trust funds begin to flow immediately. Also, there should be broad support by the international community on the creation of a civilian police force. The consultative relations that had been created with the East Timorese were a model for other parts of the world.

But, he continued, reconciliation between Indonesia and East Timor would be undermined as long as there continued to be refugees in the camps. The United States was deeply concerned that the number of persons there still exceeded 100,000, and that movement out of the camps had slowed to a trickle. He was puzzled by the UNHCR's inability to do more on that situation. The real problem, though, had to do with some elements of the Indonesian military, which continued to support militias, even now. He expressed strong support for the Secretary-General’s call to encourage the Indonesians to conduct a more thorough investigation and to take action on their own. He supported the brave members of the Commission of Inquiry, which had done impressive work.

If Indonesia could not deal with the problem internally, it must realize that international pressure would mount, he said. He hoped people in Indonesia understood that the world was listening. The best way to avoid what they did not wish -- the establishment of an international tribunal -- was to take effective action. He applauded the Commission’s report and awaited the Indonesians’ response to it. Expressing strong support for United Nations efforts in East Timor, he said he looked forward to the day when the Council would be told that East Timor was the first new nation of the millennium.

President of the Council, ARNOLDO MANUEL LISTRE (Argentina), speaking as his country's representative, said there was little to add, but he could not fail to thank the Secretary-General and Mr. Vieira de Mello for their reports and Mr. Vieira de Mello and his staff for their work. Now that the military transfer was under way, he wished also to thank those Member States that had contributed to INTERFET, and the leaders of that force.

The United Nations had undertaken an important task in preparing East Timor for independence, he said. Some progress in key areas had been made but, as the reports indicated, much still needed to be done. He was concerned about the West Timor refugee situation, and about the conduct of militia elements, particularly in the Oecussi enclave. The growing social tension was also a cause for concern. That tension was linked with the negative economic situation. He hoped priority would be given to addressing that concern.

It was very important to normalize relations with Indonesia, he continued, and there was a real need for genuine reconciliation. He trusted that continued bilateral visits would help with reconciliation and relations, and would provide solutions to the refugee and border problems. In informal consultations, the Council would have to examine the Secretary-General’s letter on the human rights situation, and it would also be appropriate for it to look at the information provided by Indonesia, he said.

Mr. VIEIRA DE MELLO then responded to questions and comments. He said he felt strengthened and stimulated by the meeting; he had noted the suggestions and would take them back to Dili. Several speakers had asked about militia activity and what could be done to tackle the problem. The Indonesian Government -- the armed forces and police in particular -- played a primary role. But he had received indications that were encouraging.

Militia activity today represented the remnants, the vestiges of militia groups, he continued. Generally, there were small bands of 15 to 30 elements each, and they were particularly active on the eastern and western borders of the enclave of Oecussi. Most of the small groups appeared to be commanded by one individual, whose name was well-known and in the report of the Secretary- General ["Moko" Soares]. Last week, he had been promised by an Indonesian official that the person in question would be detained, and today had received a report that he would be interrogated by the joint investigative team of the United Nations civilian police, as well as by Indonesian elements.

He added that the same Indonesian General had also indicated the steps he had taken to search camps for weapons and, despite his limited resources, he would increase patrols on the Oecussi enclave on the side of the Indonesian border. Meanwhile, Mr. Vieira de Mello had instructed Force Commander Jaime de los Santos (Philippines) to establish close relations with the Indonesian armed forces and Indonesian authorities.

But, repression of die-hard, hard-line militia leaders was not sufficient, he went on. They must be deprived of their political base. For that to happen, political dialogue must be strengthened with pro-autonomy, pro-integrationist groups outside East Timor. Those elements had just held a congress, which had not been entirely successful in terms of promoting a moderate stance. In fact, it had demonstrated the need to engage pro-autonomy leaders in systematic dialogue. They must be involved and reassured that if they opted for democratic means, they could engage in normal political activities in the new framework being established for the functioning of political parties in East Timor.

As far as disarming inside the territory, he said the Falintil had been cantoned on the basis of the 5 May Agreement. They had been disciplined and respected the Agreement. They were not allowed to carry their weapons outside a certain area in the hills above Dili. The INTERFET had collected, found in caches or retrieved from individuals, 17 tonnes of weapons. Soon, those would be dumped into the high seas, with a small symbolic ceremony in Dili. The new police force would be trained in international standards in the new policy academy, once that building was rebuilt and equipped, he said.

Regarding access to funds pledged in Tokyo in December, he said he would be discussing with the World Bank in the next few days how to accelerate the process. He would ask whether the Bank could agree to rapid disbursements of funds for reconstruction projects, without interfering with the processes from which the World Bank could not deviate. Further, he would discuss the possibility of directing to the United Nations trust fund some of the funds that had not been earmarked in Tokyo. Bilateral contributions had enabled the launch of small projects that had kept electricity and water going and enabled some projects to be launched, such as those involving road maintenance and repair.

Turning to questions on employment, he said the prospects for creating jobs in the near future were minimal. Private investors lacked the confidence to come in and help deal with the problem of unemployment. In the medium-term, however, he hoped there would be interest in coming to East Timor, but that was likely only after the proper economic and fiscal regulatory environment was established.

Regarding Timorese in exile, he said there was no list of those persons, but the CNRT had provided a few dozen names of East Timorese who might be willing to return. An effort was now under way to reach those people and find out under what conditions they would agree to return. Statements had been made this morning regarding the connection between normalized relations and economic activities. Normalization would depend on the reopening of the borders between East and West Timor. Jakarta wanted the borders to be open as soon as possible, but it would be possible only when security was ensured.

He noted the suggestion that reducing military forces would enable the reallocation of funds. The security situation -- and the resulting military requirements -- were re-evaluated periodically. When possible, he would be the first one to recommend to the Council that there be a gradual reduction of the mission's military component.

He said he had also noted suggestions on the issues of education and adult literacy, and would make sure they were integrated into the plan of action for education for the year 2000. Two days ago, in Geneva, he had met with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and discussed technical cooperation activities that her Office was eager to launch, including the creation of an East Timor human rights commission.

To comments on safeguarding the unity of the CNRT, he said that was a priority for all. He had attempted to achieve that goal in the participatory way the Consultative Council was operating. Discussion of issues that were likely to be decisive or lead to a premature politicization of the environment had been delayed because they could weaken the commonality of purpose that had developed in the CNRT. The upcoming visits by the Secretary-General, and the Presidents of Portugal and Indonesia, to East Timor would also be important in boosting the unity of the East Timorese people.