East Timor Special Representative’s Press Briefing
Briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Ian Martin Friday, 27 August, 1999
This is a near verbatim transcript of the briefing given at UNAMET Headquarters, Dili, East Timor, by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for East Timor, Mr. Ian Martin.
Ian Martin: Last night I reported to the Secretary-General on the deplorable violence that occurred yesterday in Dili in the course of which several people lost their lives. I am going to read you the statement issued by the Secretary-General yesterday, as well as the statement issued by the President of the Security Council after there had been an emergency briefing of the Security Council. This is the statement of the Secretary-General:
"The Secretary-General is appalled by the widespread violence in Dili today, including the loss of lives. He demands that the Indonesian authorities take immediate steps to restore and maintain law and order. The Secretary-General again reminds the Indonesian authorities of their obligations under the 5 May 1999 arrangements. It is crucial that, even at this late stage, concrete and effective steps be taken by Indonesia to control the militias who, it is increasingly clear, are intent on disrupting the popular consultation. Those who are responsible for planning and carrying out these acts of violence and lawlessness must be arrested.
The Secretary-General is determined that the United Nations should fulfil its responsibilities to the people of East Timor and should not be deterred by threats and intimidation from the lawlessness elements."
As I said, there was an emergency briefing of the Security Council following which the President made the following press statement:
Heard a briefing from USG for Political Affairs on recent events in East Timor;
Condemned strongly the acts of violence in Dili on 26 August 1999;
Called on all parties to stop the violence and to cooperate in measures designed to ensure that the ballot will go ahead in conditions of peace and security on 30 August;
Strongly support the Secretary-General's intention to proceed on that basis;
Called on the local authorities to take concrete steps to prevent further violence, to investigate the events of 26 August and to bring those responsible to justice;
Called on all parties, particularly the Indonesian Government, to cooperate with UNAMET and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its staff."
I will just refer back to the statement of the Secretary-General that "it is crucial that, even at this late stage, concrete and effective steps be taken by Indonesia to control the militias..."
Those of you who have been covering the popular consultation so far know that UNAMET has consistently said that the major problem of violence during the popular consultation has been the failure to take effective action to check militia violence. Yesterday, although there were some clashes between supporters on both sides, all that was witnessed by members of UNAMET suggested that it was the militias who were carrying weapons. Once again, heavily armed and equipped police failed to intervene when the militia violence was carried out in front of them. It is essential that the Indonesian police, who under the agreement have the responsibility for security for the popular consultation, take action to arrest and remove weapons from those who continue to move about freely with them, to threaten, and as we have seen yesterday to kill.
Question and Answer:
Q: Xanana Gusmao has called for peacekeeping troops in East Timor. Do you have any comments on that?
IM: I was not aware that Mr. Xanana Gusmao had issued that call. Let me, since you mentioned him, welcome the statement from the Indonesian Government that he will be released on the 15th of September. We would have been very pleased had it been sooner, but we welcome the fact that there is now a firm commitment to his release soon after the ballot. So far as the question of peacekeeping troops is concerned, we, as the Security Council makes clear, are working within the framework of an agreement under which Indonesia, at its own request, assumes the security responsibility. We continue to require and expect that that responsibility will be fulfilled more effectively than it has been fulfilled.
Q. What if it not?
IM: We have to insist that it is. Any other action, if it not fulfilled, will be a matter for the Security Council to consider further.
Q. Have you put your concerns to the Indonesian authorities and the Indonesian police and what were their reactions?
IM: We put it at several levels. The Commissioner of our police has put it to the Chief of Police. I put it to the Head of the Indonesian Task Force. As you may know, the tripartite senior officials meting was going on in Lisbon yesterday with the participation of Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, so our concerns, of course, were immediately raised there by the United Nations as well as by Portugal with the Government of Indonesia. All we have so far is statements deploring the fact that the violence occurred, but no specific indication of what additional measures will be taken.
Q. There are allegations that members of the Indonesian army also opened fire...?
IM: We are not in a position to confirm that and, as you know, we don't have a direct law and order or investigative responsibility or capacity. We can only refer information that comes to us to the police, and then to the extent that they are open to the advice of our police, and assist them in investigating it. We are in the process of collecting statements that we will convey to the Indonesian police that would assist them in identifying and pursuing those responsible for yesterday's violence.
Q. Are you aware of those allegations that the military also fired, as well?
IM: I have heard them as allegations, but I am not in a position to confirm them.
Q. What is your assessment on the situation in the western part of East Timor and do you has a response to the militia's call for a partition of East Timor after the popular consultation?
IM: Some of our greatest security concerns have been in the western districts of East Timor, the districts of Bobonaro, Cova Lima, Ainaro, and Manufahe. Those concerns continue, although I had no fresh reports yesterday of security incidents in those areas.
So far as the call for partitioning of East Timor is concerned, that is not something that will be given any consideration by the international community or, I am convinced, by the Government of Indonesia. The commitment of this popular consultation is on the basis that the Territory of East Timor, as a whole, either becomes an autonomous province within Indonesia or separates from Indonesia. The Government of Indonesia has indicated its consistent support for that by indicating that it agrees with the United Nations that the vote should be counted and announced as one single block of votes and not become the basis for any suggestion of partition of the Territory.
Q. There have been many calls by the Indonesian Government and the police that they will abide by the 5 May Agreement. What makes the Secretary-General believe that changes will take place at this late stage?
IM: I can only hope Indonesia's very keen awareness that the eyes of the world are on East Timor, will finally have that effect. Not only your presence here, but the presence here of an unprecedented number of international observers, including high-level observers from countries whose relations with Indonesia are of great importance to it, do mean that the Government of Indonesia recognizes how serious any failure to follow through on its commitments under the 5th of May Agreement will be.
Q. How many people were injured and killed yesterday, and was a decision taken to withdraw UN staff from the streets?
IM: I cannot give you a final confirmation of the number of people killed. It is clear that it is at least five and probably several more. We are still in the process of collating information. It is not easy to know whether different reports relate to the same cases or different ones.
A decision was taken to stop the movement of UN vehicles around the streets for obvious security reasons, yes.
.Q For how long?
IM: I can't tell you exactly, but from fairly soon after major violence erupted until around 7:00 p.m. I could give you precise information, but I cannot immediately do so.
Given the continued clashes and violence, do you still think that there are adequate conditions for the popular consultation to go ahead on Monday? IM.: We are only now in the process of discussing further with the Indonesian police their precise arrangements for Monday. We intend to press them on what those arrangements are. I can't at this moment say whether we are satisfied that those arrangements will be satisfactory.
Q. Do you think there is adequate security...?
IM: Clearly, there was not adequate security in Dili yesterday just as there has not been adequate security in Maliana, Viqueque and in other places in recent days. That is why the statements make clear that the Indonesians have a responsibility to do more than is being done to ensure security.
IM: It is hard to know what combination of lack of will, commitment and lack of capability is involved. I do indeed believe, as your question implies, that at the highest levels of the Indonesian Government there is a wish to see the popular consultation completed peacefully. At the same time, that is not translating into the conduct of Indonesian security forces on the ground. They, as well as we, have to see what more can be done to bring those two closer to each other.
Q. If you were an ordinary person in Dili, how keen would you be to go out and vote?
IM: I don't think I am going to put myself in the position of an East Timorese because I have never had to show the kind of courage and determination to exercise my democratic rights that the Timorese showed during the registration process when, despite substantial intimidation, the overwhelming majority of those eligible clearly registered. The fact that that happened suggests that they are likely to remain very determined to have their say on Monday and creates a very considerable moral responsibility on the part of the United Nations to do everything we can to make sure they will still have that opportunity.
Q. You said that the Indonesian security has been inadequate. Are you leaving open an option for the vote not to go ahead on Monday?
IM: Our plan is to go ahead on Monday. We are continuing to make all the preparations necessary to open polling throughout East Timor on Monday. Obviously we have to assess the situation in particular places day by day. But our firm intention is to go ahead with this ballot on Monday.
Q. There have been repeated failures by the Indonesian police to control the militias... don't you think it is time for tougher action by UNAMET?
IM: Certainly, it is time for tougher action by the Indonesian police. There are cases where we have seen the Indonesian police make some efforts to check militia violence, although almost never by actually arresting those involved or seizing their weapons. That is the particular further step that is essential if militia violence is to be checked.
IM: We have on a number of occasions drawn attention to clear reports that TNI elements have been operating inside on some occasions while they are supporting the militia. We have said to the TNI that it is extremely important that they support the police in the police's responsibility to deal with militia.
Q. What effect do you think Xanana Gusmao returning to East Timor would have?
IM: I believe that potentially it could have a very positive effect on the security situation. I know from my own discussions with him that he is eager to be in East Timor in order to use all his influence to calm the situation, both by appealing to his own supporters to remain calm, and by reaching out in further efforts to achieve reconciliation with those who have been his political opponents. I believe he has a very positive role to play.
Q. What will be the impact of yesterday's violence on campaigning today, and do you plan on attending closing ceremonies?
IM: We were unable, because of the violence yesterday, to hold the meeting of the campaign committee that we hoped would have planned the joint closing ceremony to which the two parties were committed in principle. I am unable to tell you at the moment whether that will be able to go ahead.
Q. Cantonment took place last week... have UNAMET MLOs checked weapons at Aitarak headquarters?
IM: We have checked it. We said from the time that the cantonment of militia weapons occurred, it only had any meaning if anybody moving around with weapons outside those cantonments was arrested and immediately had the weapons seized from them. Yet, not only in Dili, but in other districts as well, Maliana for example, the cantonment of weapons was immediately followed by the visible operation of militia still with weapons. No cantonment exercise can ensure that all weapons are in fact handed in, but it could create the basis on which anyone found outside the cantonments with weapons is acted against, but that clearly hasn't happened.
Q. Will yesterday's violence have any effect on the proposed increase of CivPol and MLOs?
IM: No, I don't believe it will. We were already trying to get additional Civilian Police and Military Liaison Officers here as quickly as possible. I don't think there is any realistic way that can be accelerated because already every effort was being made to accelerate it as much as possible and certainly we are not going to slow it down.
Q. (Inaudible) IM: We have seen increasing signs that Jakarta has been conveying strong messages to Dili. I believe that today a further high-level TNI team is coming to Dili. I think there are a number of ways in which the signals of Jakarta's concern and wish to see a peaceful outcome are being conveyed.
IM: I am not able to confirm that there was any scheduled meeting, let alone what might happen at it.
Q: You said there are serious consequences for Indonesia if they do not comply, what are these serious consequences?
IM: That is not a matter for me to say. That is a matter for the governments, the Member States of the United Nations that are strongly supportive of this process, to say. They have made a number of statements at different times. It is not for me to relay those.
Q. The Police Chief said that the solution is disarmament... does this show that they are not trained enough to handle the situation?
IM: If you have large groups of people with modern weapons, that is a very serious policing problem. Disarmament is highly desirable, but the situation has already come into existence in which both Falintil and the militias stated that their weapons were only in cantonments. That should have created a basis on which any other weapons were seized.
Q. Eurico Guterres (head of Aitarak) said that all the exits out of East Timor would be blocked... how serious do you see this threat and what measures have UNAMET taken?
IM: That statement is a direct challenge to the Indonesian security authorities, and I trust that the Indonesian security authorities will ensure that nobody is in a position to carry out such a threat.
Q. Could you give us some details on the meeting yesterday between Mohammed Muis (TNI Commander in East Timor) and Taun Matan Ruak (Falintil leader)?
IM: No, we were merely facilitating direct discussions. I think it is useful that any such direct discussions can take place. I am not going to make any statement about them.
IM: That is hard to say. Obviously, it may further increase the division between them. It is also possible that it may lead some people to want to draw back from the brink and see the urgent necessity to come to further accommodations before the ballot. We will be talking to people on both sides, and, as you know, we have been working towards the establishment of an East Timorese consultative commission the first meeting of which we expect to take place on Tuesday, the day after the ballot. We will be doing everything we can to keep those efforts moving forward.