Subject: SMH: Rebuild East Timor Now or Risk Chaos

Sydney Morning Herald Saturday, February 5, 2000

Rebuild now or risk chaos, UN told

By MARK RILEY, Herald Correspondent, in New York

East Timor risks regressing into social turmoil unless the World Bank releases funds for reconstruction projects, the United Nation's administrator in East Timor has warned.

In a disturbing report to the UN Security Council, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello said funds were needed to counteract rampant unemployment, which had already fed into a sharply rising crime rate and an increase in gang violence.

About $A45 million has been pledged to East Timor, but delays in issuing instalments had put great pressure on efforts to rebuild the country, he said.

"What I need is money now to provide the East Timorese people the visible, the tangible proof of international concern," Mr Vieira de Mello said. He asked for advance disbursements to allow the UN to begin major public works programs that could provide desperately needed jobs for the East Timorese.

The funds would also help to kick-start the territory's devastated local economy, staggering under the weight of skyrocketing prices and an estimated jobless rate of 80 per cent.

Speaking after addressing the Security Council, Mr Vieira de Mello said there was an urgent need to build a new political dynamic in East Timor that would bring together independence and autonomy groups and reduce the risk of continuing conflict.

"The fact that people campaigned for autonomy or integration is not a crime," he said. "It was one of the two options given to the people of East Timor.

"I think we need to re-engage them into active political dialogue and I will be discussing this further with [the independence leader] Xanana Gusmao when we are both back in Dili."

Allowing pro-autonomy groups a legitimate political presence would help isolate remaining hard-line militia leaders by depriving them of a political base, the UN believed.

Mr Vieira de Mello said an agreement had been reached with the Indonesian police to arrest a leading East Timorese militia leader, Mr Moko Soares, "and his thugs", accused of continuing violence in the enclave of Oecussi.

Indonesian police had agreed to a "joint interrogation" of Mr Soares, but no decision had been made on whether prosecution against him would be pursued through East Timorese or Indonesian courts.

Mr Vieira de Mello's speech prompted the Security Council's first discussion of a UN-sponsored international human rights tribunal, which revealed China's long-expected opposition.


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