Subject: DPA: NGO activists complain of slow pace of aid programme in East Timor

Deutsche Presse-Agentur February 10, 2000, Saturday, BC Cycle 11:34 Central European Time

NGO activists complain of slow pace of aid programme in East Timor

Dili, East Timor

Nearly six months after international agencies arrived in East Timor after last September's orgy of destruction, activists from some non-government aid agencies are bitterly complaining that the United Nations has so far failed to even get started in the job of rebuilding the nation.

Mario Bernadino, a member of a new Timorese group "Rebuilding Watch", set up to monitor the performance of the U.N.'s Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET), told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Dili on Thursday that her country's situation "is still terrible".

"There are no jobs, the foreigners are running every single U.N. department, expatriate businessmen are making fast bucks, quick profits and don't pay any taxes. We are going from one colonisation (under Indonesia) to another," she said.

According to the U.N.'s humanitarian coordination agency, the first U.N.-funded, quick-impact employment generation projects will finally be launched on Friday, or Monday of next week.

The programme is intended to be a fast-action programme that can immediately relieve the unemployment crisis. More than 80 per cent of the population currently lacks a stable source of income.

Another member of "Rebuilding Watch", protestant pastor Rev. Arlindo Marcal, said "the U.N. is always postponing the date for creating jobs, and rebuilding houses, but they never explain to us why and what is going on. UNTAET should be like a good airline that when the flight is delayed, the passengers are kept fully informed about the reason for the delay."

Maria Bernadino, a Timorese who has worked closely with the Timorse exile community in Australia, believes UNTAET has already violated several provisions of its mandate.

"The foreign business companies are just here to grab quick profits and exploit cheap labour. They are supposed to have Timorese partners but the U.N. is doing nothing to enforce this regulation. They are failing to protect Timorese people."

The U.N. administration has attempted to suspend one Australian-owned business venture accused of dubious practices, the Dili Lodge Hotel, but has permitted the operation to continue on the grounds that 100 jobs of local employees would be lost if the hotel was closed down.

Another source of bitter complaint is that foreign companies - mostly Australian, Chinese and Indonesian - are making huge profits and paying no taxes.

The two-year U.N. Interim Administration has established passport, immigration and customs controls, but they are still far from putting a taxation system in place.


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