Cablegate: Majority of Dili's Population Still Displaced

DE RUEHDT #0452/01 2501109
P 071109Z SEP 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (U) Summary: Dili has become a city characterized by a large
displaced population residing in over 50 separate camps.
Resolving this issue and convincing internally displaced persons
(IDPs) to return home is turning out to be a slow and
complicated process, partially due to the complexity of the
problems and partly due to slow planning and decision making.
Despite the current government's emphasis on the issue as a top
priority, clear policy decisions on a number of key issues
remain outstanding and some confusion has emerged over what is
official policy versus political statements. The Government
approved a policy framework for IDP return in late August, but
implementation coordination has so far fallen short, in part
because the policy presumed that it would be safe for the IDPs
to return to their neighborhoods. A number of government and
civil society agencies are nonetheless implementing IDP return
strategies consistent with the framework, but in an ad hoc
manner. Most international observers and many Timorese regard
these efforts as a positive development, particularly insofar as
they focus on a handful of camps that have become bases for
gangs that destabilize surrounding neighborhoods. This ad hoc
and uneven return strategy, however, will result in a slower and
less complete process than had been hoped for, and it also
presents a risk that some IDPs will be returned prematurely to
areas that are not yet safe. In the meantime, IDP dynamics on
the ground are constantly changing as an unknown number of IDPs
are either leaving the camps altogether or relocating to other
camps. End summary.

A city of the displaced

2. (U) IDP camps have become an entrenched part of Dili life
since early May. The city landscape is dotted with over 50
separate campsites, ranging from smaller ones sheltering 100 or
fewer to several large camps that have become home to thousands
of displaced persons. On any given night it is estimated that
between 50% and 70% of the city's people are sleeping somewhere
other than their homes. The camps have also become a central
issue in security developments. Camps were from the beginning
targets for intimidation by mobs and gangs. Over the last
month, this targeting has escalated. Moreover, at least two
camps have themselves evolved into staging areas for attacks by
groups that commit gang violence in surrounding areas and then
retreat to the protection afforded by them. Dili's IDP
population, while remaining displaced, is also integrated into
city life. Many reside in camps near their original
neighborhoods and frequently visit their homes and a large
number of camp residents continue in their regular employment.

3. (U) The issues involved in returning people to their homes
and reconstituting their communities are complicated and
interrelated. Among the issues involved are: layers of
conflicting and unresolved land and property claims; community
tensions that resulted from large numbers of people moving to
Dili in recent years to compete for shrinking resources; a young
generation lacking opportunities and feeling increasingly
marginalized; and a less than fully functional justice sector,
giving rise to a widespread perception that crimes go
unpunished. There is a broad consensus that the return of IDPs
needs to address this range of issues or risk a return to and/or
continuation of similar community conflict.

IDPs are a central political issue

4. (U) Upon his swearing in as Prime Minister, Prime Minister
Jose Ramos-Horta placed resolution of the IDP problem at the top
of his agenda, stating: "Our immediate task is to consolidate
the security in Dili and in all of Timor-Leste, facilitating the
return to their houses of the thousands of brothers and sisters
who during these weeks have taken refuge in several centers, and
giving them necessary support to rebuild their lives." He has
continued to highlight the issue, publicly stating that all IDPs
should return by the end of September and in several cases

DILI 00000452 002.2 OF 004

pushing for specific camps to be shut down immediately.

5. (U) The IDP issue has also drawn the high level involvement
of several key government ministers. Minister of Labor and
Community Reinsertion, Arsenio Bano, has taken a high profile in
addressing IDP issues since the beginning of the crisis and has
been widely praised for his effective coordination of relief
efforts. He is the primary government coordinator for planning
and coordinating their return. In addition, both Minister of
Interior Alcino Barris and Minister for State Administration Ana
Pessoa and their respective ministries have taken on high
profile roles regarding IDP return planning, particularly with
reference to security arrangements.

IDP return policy approved but missing key policy elements
--------------------------------------------- -------------

6. (U) Despite this high-level attention, progress has been slow
on developing clear and realistic policies for the return of
IDPs to their homes. Although a working group comprising
representatives from key government and international agencies
was formed in mid-July to draft an IDP return policy, it was
approved by the Council of Ministers only in late August. The
plan, called "Simu Malu" ("receive/accept one another") has four
components. First the IDPs' neighborhoods will have to be
prepared to accept their return. This component it addresses
security arrangements, including international and Timorese
police presence in the neighborhoods , as well as dialogue
within the receiving communities. The second phase is the
preparation of the IDPs themselves to return. This step
includes escorted visits of IDPs to their former neighborhoods,
as well as further dialogue aimed at reconciliation with other
elements in the community. The third step is the return itself
and the provision of food and other assistance to the returning
IDPs, and the final phase consists of monitoring and continued
assistance to the returnees and their communities.

7. (U) Some participants and observers complain that the "Simu
Malu" plan does not yet sufficiently address specific practical
problems. For example, there remains no clear policy on how to
address the land and property issues. Security policies are
addressed to some extent, but the plan assumes a far greater
international police presence than currently exists in the
receiving communities, as well as a speedier return of Timorese
police officers (PNTL) to active duty in Dili than appears
likely to happen in light of current disagreements about the
PNTL screening and reintegration process. Because of these and
other unresolved issues, official approval of the Simu Malu plan
has not resulted in any noticeable change in implementation on
the ground. The IDP return working group, which is now charged
with coordinating the implementation, has been changed from a
small representative group to a group of all stakeholders that
is arguably too large for effective decision making. The
meetings of 30 to 40 people during the last two weeks have
consisted primarily of presentations by government officials.
Many organizations therefore remain confused regarding how to
proceed. Some church and non-governmental organization (NGO)
representatives involved in operating and assisting the camps
note, however, that the government plan might for speedy return
of IDPs was probably too ambitious in light of ongoing security
problems, so that the ongoing delays are on balance not a bad

Political leadership sometimes contradictory

8. (SBU) The coordinator of UN humanitarian aid, Finn
Reske-Nielsen, expressed to us in early August his concern that
both Ramos-Horta and President Xanana Gusmao were giving
insufficient attention to the issue of IDP return. Ramos-Horta
has since become more engaged, but at times has been viewed as
working at cross purposes with the relief agencies on the
ground. In August he made a surprise appearance at the camp
near the port in the center of downtown Dili, which has been the

DILI 00000452 003.2 OF 004

most frequently cited instance of a camp from which resident
gangs commit criminal activities in the surrounding
neighborhood, to announce that it was to be shut down within 72
hours. This produced some panic in the camp and a flurry of
meetings and in the end the camp remained in place. More
recently, Ramos-Horta has made public statements that
humanitarian assistance would be suspended in camps identified
as ready to close, again producing some uproar among the
assistance agencies. Some NGO workers, however, have privately
shared with us their agreement with the messages Ramos-Horta is
relaying that it is time for IDPs to return home and that
justification for many of them to remain in the camps is

9. (SBU) A number of other political actors have also taken
initiatives apparently uncoordinated with the return planning
process, creating some confusion regarding what is official
policy versus a political statement. Of particular note is the
controversy surrounding the question of whether fixed police
posts should be established in neighborhoods throughout Dili to
address returnee and community security concerns. Many Timorese
have cited this as a necessary step for them to feel secure and
key government officials, and substantial police presence in the
neighborhoods appears to be a central assumption of the
government's "Simu Malu" return plan. However, the leadership
of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) have contended that such
an approach would absorb virtually all policing resources and is
simply "not good policing" from a law enforcement effectiveness
perspective. This position has generated widespread criticism
from Government of East Timor (GOET) officials, including
Ramos-Horta and President Xanana Gusmao, and from ordinary
Timorese who complain that the current AFP strategy of
responding to house burnings and other gang violence only after
they are in progress has neither prevented nor deterred such
criminal activities in their neighborhoods. On August 25
policing authority in Dili officially shifted from the
Australian-led international forces to the new United Nations
Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), and Special Representative of
the Secretary General (SRSG) Sukehiro Hasegawa has made several
public statements promising the establishment of fixed police
posts in troubled neighborhoods. AFP sources complained to
Emboffs that Hasegawa was attempting to pre-empt their
objections to this tactic and to create an unrealistic public
expectation. The latest development is that the acting UNMIT
Police Commissioner has announced the establishment of six
police posts in problem neighborhoods as a down payment on the
60 posts that were initially announced.

Meanwhile, reality is moving ahead of the policy process
--------------------------------------------- -----------

10. (U) Simultaneous with the above policy and planning
discussions, the reality on the ground is changing day by day.
During the last two weeks there were numerous reports from camp
administrators that IDPs had returned home or relocated of their
own volition, and various actors were moving forward with
facilitating the return of additional IDPs. During the last few
days, in response to resurgent violence in some neighborhoods
and to tension over the escape of dissident Major Alfredo
Reinado and reported sightings of members of the armed forces
(FDTL) conducting operations in Dili and elsewhere in what is
generally believed to be an effort to recapture Reinado, returns
have slowed and some IDPs have returned to their former camps.
Camp managers have been unable to accurately quantify the IDP
movement, and official counts still place the number of
Dili-based IDPs at around 70,000. But the fluidity of the IDP
situation means that it has been weeks since this number was
quoted with any certainty, and many displaced people are no
longer in camps but in homes of friends or relatives. Several
anecdotal examples illustrate the various dynamics at work. The
camp adjacent to Ramos-Horta's house completely shut down
earlier this week when all its residents decided to return home
in response to what was reportedly a forceful personal appeal
from Ramos-Horta. The camp adjacent to the UNOTIL compound

DILI 00000452 004.2 OF 004

lost about 50 percent of its inhabitants after a series of rock
throwing attacks a couple weeks ago; however, those who departed
are mostly believed to have relocated to other camps. A number
of camps have, in contrast, registered increased populations.

11. (U) A number of initiatives to facilitate IDP reintegration
into their neighborhoods began prior to the official approval of
the policy framework. Both the Ministry and Labor and the
Ministry of Interior have been organizing community dialogues in
accordance with the draft plan guidelines. In addition, a
number of the NGOs working with IDPs decided early on to move
ahead with implementing aspects of the plan and not to wait for
official approval. The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) country
director told us that they and others are "just going ahead and
starting". However, she emphasized that this will naturally
result in duplication of efforts in some areas and neglect of
others, slowing the overall return process.

12. (U) Comment: The IDP issue is viewed as the key indicator
that things have yet to return to normal. Therefore, it is one
of the main issues by which the Ramos-Horta government is likely
to be measured. If large numbers of IDPs remain in Dili beyond
another month or so, the negative implications for stability and
security will continue to increase. In addition, as
humanitarian assistance organizations have been pointing out,
the continued existence of a large IDP population when the rainy
season begins (usually in late fall) could have serious public
health consequences. On the other hand, premature return of
IDPs to neighborhoods that are not yet secure --- and
particularly any violence that should befall such returnees ---
could lead to increased instability and set the process back
even further. One important next step is for the "Simu Malu"
planning process to become more closely coordinated with efforts
by GOET, UNMIT, AFP, and others to increase security in the
neighborhoods to which IDPs will be returning. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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