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Press Briefing



PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY-GENERAL'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR EAST TIMOR

19990929

28 September 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY-GENERAL'S SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE

FOR EAST TIMOR

As of today, United Nations staff were back in the United Nations compound in East Timor's capital, Dili, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, Ian Martin, said this afternoon at a Headquarters press briefing.

The United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) was firmly in place in East Timor, and that had allowed him to participate in meetings at Headquarters regarding the situation in East Timor, the Special representative continued. Yesterday, he had taken part in a meeting between the Secretary-General and the President of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), Xanana Gusmao. He had also participated in meetings between Mr. Gusmao and the Deputy Secretary-General, and had held meetings with senior United Nations officials, including Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sergio Vieira de Mello; Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet; and Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Hans Corell. He would also be participating in bilateral and trilateral discussions this afternoon. Tomorrow, he would travel to Washington, D.C. for the World Bank information meeting on East Timor.

Meanwhile, Mr. Martin said, the mission for which he remained responsible, UNAMET, was back on the ground in steadily increasing numbers. As of today, some 55 UNAMET staff had been employed; 29 of them were liaison officers, eight were civilian police and the remainder were UNAMET staff. UNAMET was redeploying to the extent that security conditions permitted. As of today, the staff were operating completely from the UNAMET compound in Dili, having completely moved out of the Australian Consulate that had been kindly made available after evacuation of the compound.

No international staff had been lost during the violence in East Timor, Mr. Martin said in response to a question. However, four local staff were known to have been killed and many others were missing. Those were among the 4,000 local staff who had been hired for a five-day period to administer the ballot. Immediately after the ballot, those staff had dispersed and they had not been expected to remain as UNAMET staff. Those who had taken refuge in the compound had been evacuated to Darwin, Australia. "The whereabouts of others, like so many East Timorese, will remain unknown." The United Nations remained committed to identifying their whereabouts, but it would be a slow process once UNAMET was fully redeployed.

In response to questions about UNAMET having prior information about possible attacks by anti-independence forces as far back as July, Mr. Martin said there were constant reports and, indeed, public statements by pro-autonomy and militia leaders that there would be


Martin Briefing - 2 - 28 September 1999

violence in the event of a pro-independence outcome in the ballot. "The problem was in assessing a situation that was a clear effort to intimidate. The extent to which actions would or would not be carried out was always very hard to assess." There were very specific threats of actions planned before the ballot, most of which did not transpire, but it was difficult to evaluate the capacity and likelihood of their being put into effect.

Asked about a militia document that was purportedly a hit list of targeted individuals compiled in August, Mr. Martin said there were many such documents, some of which appeared legitimate and some self- evidently not genuine. He would have to see the document before he could answer.

"What criteria were used to evaluate authenticity of those documents? Where any sent back to Headquarters?" another correspondent asked. "Those lists and threats were summarized in our regular reports. I'm not sure which were sent back to Headquarters", Mr. Martin answered. Replying to further questions, he said there was consistent concern there would be violence after the ballot, but the evaluation did not anticipate the scale and the extreme, organized nature of the violence that actually took place. In response to a question about Indonesian prisoners reportedly working as election officers, Mr. Martin said he was aware of no such activity.

Would UNAMET be able to transform itself into the new authority in East Timor and how fast would that occur? a correspondent asked. The planning had always referred to three phases, Mr. Martin answered. Phase one, up to the ballot; phase two, from the ballot until after the decision by the Indonesian MPR (People's Consultative Assembly) leading to a formal transfer of authority to the United Nations; and phase three, the exercise of that authority. It had been assumed that UNAMET would continue to be the United Nations presence during phases one and two, but a formal transfer would be reflected in a change of name for the United Nations presence on becoming a transitional authority. That would follow on the vote of the MPR. The timing of that vote was an uncertain factor of Jakarta politics. It was expected in late October or early November.

Asked whether he would be the head of the transitional authority, Mr. Martin said personnel decisions were up the Secretary-General. There would be some continuity between UNAMET and the transitional authority, but it was too soon to say to what extent. Asked whether he wanted to head up the transitional authority, Mr. Martin said that was not a topic he would discuss at a press briefing.

How far had discussions gone with Mr. Gusmao about a Timorese role in the transitional authority? Would UNAMET's current structure hamper its ability to become that authority? Mr. Martin was asked. He said: "The spirit of yesterday's discussions was very much a recognition of the importance to the United Nations, to be in constant,


Martin Briefing - 3 - 28 September 1999

close consultation with representative East Timorese leaders". The precise form such close consultation would take was a matter for further discussion, but the spirit was already very clearly established.

Asked whether shared authority could be foreseen between UNAMET and East Timorese leaders, Mr. Martin said the assumption had always been that the relationship would be one of close consultation with East Timorese leaders, but not a direct sharing of authority. The transfer of formal authority to East Timor would clearly follow from elections that would be held by the transitional administration.

In response to a final question about investigations into human rights abuses in East Timor, Mr. Martin said UNAMET had a lot of information from the period of its presence that would be relevant to an investigation. The usefulness of UNAMET's information would be assessed once the constitution and staffing of the investigation was determined.

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