Subject: KY: Japan's UNICEF envoy urges continued support for E. Timor

Japan's UNICEF envoy urges continued support for E. Timor

06/20/2000 Kyodo News

DILI, East Timor , June 20 --

Japan's goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday urged the Japanese people to keep donating to help children in East Timor even as the territory moves on from the humanitarian emergency phase.

Hong Kong-born popular singer Agnes Chan, ambassador for the Japan support committee for UNICEF, said she will appeal directly to the Japanese people when she returns to Japan on Wednesday from a week-long mission to both West and East Timor .

In an interview in Dili, East Timor's capital, Chan said she will stress "that East Timor is moving on to the next step, and we need to continue support for their development."

"We must not forget about East Timor because they're going on to the development stage and because they're starting, not from scratch, but before scratch, not from zero, but minus zero," she said.

Chan was alluding to the wave of violence and destruction unleashed by the Indonesian military and militias backed by the military after the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a U.N.-organized referendum in August last year.

UNICEF sources said they are concerned that while there is adequate funding now because of all the media attention East Timor has received, funding may dry up as East Timor no longer makes front-page news around the world.

Chan said she was particularly saddened by the plight of orphans in East Timor, recalling one motherless boy whose father was a militia member who fled to Indonesia's West Timor Province with the boy's siblings, leaving him behind.

"His relatives keep telling him, 'Your father was a bad man. He killed a lot of people. That's why he can't come back. You won't see him again."'

"He said he won't -- can't -- believe it, that he didn't know his father was a militiaman, that after church he would always buy him candy, that he was a nice man."

"It's very sad for the child because it has nothing to do with him that he's being victimized because of what his father did, or did not do."

Regarding an orphaned girl who witnessed her father being shot, Chan said, "She blocks it out and says she doesn't remember. Her mother died giving birth, so she had two traumas in a period of less than half a year."

"What really remained with me was when I asked her, 'How long have you been in the orphanage?' and she said, 'Oh, a very long time.' I asked, 'How long?' and she said, 'Three months.' It's been very difficult for her and so that's why it's a very long time for child."

Chan said donors must not forget about the plight of some 100,000 East Timorese refugees still in squalid camps in West Timor .

"What made a huge impression on me was that the situation is not as simple as we thought," she said.

She was referring to the fact that many refugees remain outside East Timor not only because of militia intimidation in the camps, but for fear of revenge by fellow East Timorese angered by the role they or their family members played in opposing independence.

"I felt there was a lot of mental pressure within the camps, especially for the women and children. There's still a lot of intimidation. The families can't decide whether they want to come back or not. It's not a free situation."

Chan said she felt Japan and other countries should not "look the other way" when people are in trouble on the grounds of noninterference in another country's internal affairs.

She questioned why the Japanese people were kept unaware of the situation in East Timor during the long years that its people suffered and struggled under Indonesian occupation.

"Most of the public, we were just blind to this problem. It's just like it was blocked out from us. We didn't get any kind of news. We didn't even know there was a resistance movement," she said.

"I can't say we had zero information, but it wasn't enough to raise anybody's attention."

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