PRESS BRIEFING ON EAST TIMOR
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 May 1999
At a Headquarters press briefing today, the Director of the Asia and Pacific Division of the Department of Political Affairs, Francesc Vendrell, said that by the middle of June the entire United Nations mission should be deployed in East Timor.
Speaking at the daily noon briefing, he said that the personnel of the mission would consist of approximately 600 international staff, 400 of which would, in all likelihood, be registration and polling officers -- 2 per polling station. There would be 15 to 18 core staff, including political and civilian advisers to the mission. The head of the mission should be deployed by 20 May. An undetermined number of civilian police should be there by the middle of June, as well.
The number of the police would be determined after the return of the police advance team, which was currently in East Timor, he continued. That team was expected back in New York by next Monday. He was unable to give the exact number of civilian police, because the agreement with Indonesia and Portugal on the principle of having police advisers had been reached just two and a half weeks before. "So, inevitably, this is a little bit behind schedule, compared to the deployment of the civilians," he said.
Asked to provide the name of the head of the mission, Mr. Vendrell said that recruitment was underway. He hoped that he would be able to announce the name within the next 48 hours.
Turning to the question about the tasks of the civilian police, he said that according to the agreement, they would advise the Indonesian police in East Timor on the maintenance of law and order, which -- also according to the agreement -- was the responsibility of the Indonesian authorities. They were also supposed to supervise the escorting of ballot boxes and ballot papers to and from the polling stations. Beyond that, their responsibilities would depend on the advice received from the advance team, which was currently in East Timor.
Asked whether they would be armed, Mr. Vendrell said that the usual approach was that the civilian police were to be unarmed. So far, he had no reason to believe that they would carry sidearms. However, it would "very much depend" on the report of the advance team.
Responding to a question regarding the capacity of the personnel, he said that they would be in East Timor as advisers, and it would be up to the Indonesian police to follow their advice. There was no way to force the advice on the Indonesian police. Inevitably, they would be aware of what was going on around them, and more information would be available from them about the situation on the ground.
Has the United Nations officially requested contributions for civilian police advisers from governments? a correspondent asked. Mr. Vendrell answered that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was soliciting contributions. Exact numbers were as yet unknown, but the Department had already been in touch with a series of missions "to put them on standby in terms of providing civilian police".
Asked about the list of "six core countries" that had been requested for contributions, Mr. Vendrell said that he could not confirm it. He thought "the core group of countries" were a number of countries that President Habibie had mentioned following his meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia 11 days ago. Those were some of the countries that Indonesians thought could help them provide the police. "We certainly have no difficulty with those particular countries", he said. I don't think we are meant to be limited to that". The matter would, to a big extent, depend on the talks that the Secretariat would have with those and other countries. Those countries themselves had not been consulted when their names were mentioned by the President of Indonesia.
Asked why the Secretary-General's memorandum to President Habibie on the security arrangements was not among the agreed documents, Mr. Vendrell said that the Secretary-General had been in touch with the President and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. Discussions had also taken place with the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal prior to the signing of the agreement. Issues of security had been discussed, both orally and in writing.
"Of course, we had to tell the Indonesian Government the elements that we would like to see in place in order for the Secretary-General to be able to report to the Council by the middle of June that the operational part of the mission can begin", he said. He was sure that those elements were recognized by the Indonesian Government as important, and there had been no need to spell them out in a formal agreement.
Regarding the deadline for "laying down of arms" by the militias in East Timor, he said that there was no such date, but it was envisaged that it would happen well in advance of the poll. It would have to happen by early July, at the latest.
Asked if the Secretary-General would make his final determination in mid-June on whether the ballot would go ahead, he said that the registration process should begin in the third week of June. For that to happen, there needed to be minimum security conditions, minimum ability for the various political groups to express themselves, and freedom for the voters to register. Before that, the Secretary-General would have to decide whether the situation was devoid of intimidation or any kind of threats. However, that would not be the only time that the Secretary-General would be looking at the security situation. He would have to evaluate it throughout the entire process. Thus, even if he were to say that the situation permitted the opening of the registration process, he might be forced to stop the process later on, if the situation were to change.
Asked to clarify the number of United Nations personnel to be deployed in East Timor, Mr. Vendrell repeated that it would consist of 600 people by the middle of June. There would also be support and other staff, including the public information component, which was essential for conducting the educational and information campaigns in the territory. The police was separate, and its number would be determined after the return of the advance team.
Responding to a comment that the civilian police would probably consist of about 200 people, he said that the final figure would depend on the report of the advance mission. Numbers had been mentioned by both the President of Indonesia and the Prime Minister of Australia. The figure would be approximately one civilian policeman per ten national policemen, which could come to 250 to 300 people.
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