Subject: IPS: UN says ET will need substantial aid at independence

Inter Press Service January 17, 2001, Wednesday EAST TIMOR WILL NEED SUBSTANTIAL AID AT INDEPENDENCE

By Thalif Deen


The United Nations has offered its assistance to ensure the creation of a new nation state in East Timor despite several roadblocks on the path to independence.

"The goal of reaching independence before the end of this year is, no doubt, ambitious and leaves little room for technical or political delays," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

Annan said he believes that setting a target for independence assists the process of transition. "The United Nations will certainly do all it can to help achieve it."

In a new report to the U.N. Security Council today, Annan also struck a note of caution warning that an independent East Timor "will still require substantial international support that goes well beyond the kind of assistance normally provided to a developing country."

A meeting of international donors in Tokyo last year pledged about $ 522 million, of which $ 149 million was for humanitarian assistance and $ 373 million for development activities.

This was still about $ 356 million short of the estimated $ 878 million needed for humanitarian, reconstruction and development activities for East Timor over a three-year period.

In his report, Annan has expressed concern over the security situation in East Timor. Although infiltration by militia groups from West Timor has decreased in recent months, the threat will remain as long as the government of Indonesia does not disband these groups, he said.

As a result of these threats, East Timor is in urgent need of a robust military force. But the proposed East Timor Defence Force will not be fully established by the end of the year and it may therefore be necessary to continue with the military component of the existing U.N. peacekeeping force, namely the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Annan said.

Similarly, building up the Timorese police force will take well beyond 2002, so that an international police presence will continue to be needed in East Timor.

Since last November, the United Nations has been helping East Timor create a new military force in order to strength its domestic security.

"The establishment of a defence force is part of our broader effort in East Timor to build enduring institutions that will prepare the Timorese for self-government," Under-Secretary- General Sergio Vieira de Mello said at a U.N.-sponsored conference in the Timorese capital of Dili last November.

The U.N.'s Special Representative in East Timor said the hope is that the international community will provide logistical and material support for a new force. He also said he expects the first batch of recruits to begin training early this year.

Portugal and Australia have made firm commitments to help East Timor set up a new defense force providing weapons, military training and logistics. The proposed force will include about 1,500 regulars and an equal number of reserves.

Portugal, which has offered two patrol boats, has agreed to help set up a marine element in the defence force. The Portuguese offer also includes military training for naval crews, and spares, maintenance and other support for the patrol boats.

Thailand, which also took part in the conference, offered to provide expertise in civil-military affairs, especially in the area of linking national development and security.

The other nine countries participating in the conference, namely Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States, also agreed to help build the new defence force.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Martin Andjaba of Namibia, who led a seven-member Security Council delegation to East Timor last year, said that U.N. relief agencies will not return to West Timor until their safety and security were guaranteed. All relief agencies were pulled out of West Timor after three U.N. workers were killed by militias last year.

Andjaba said it was necessary for U.N. security experts to go to the region, assess the situation with the cooperation of the Indonesian authorities and determine the appropriate time for U.N. humanitarian agencies to return.

He said the Indonesian government has claimed that the militias had been disbanded, and were no longer operating under their formal structures.

An outbreak of violence in August 1999, in the aftermath of the Popular Consultation to decide the future of East Timor, resulted in widespread destruction throughout the territory and the internal and external displacement of 75 percent of the population of East Timor.

The violence also caused a critical disruption in economic activity and agricultural production. Food stocks and livestock were looted or seriously damaged, leading to major shortages throughout the territory.

In November last year Oxfam International, a London-based relief organization, urged the United Nations to reach out to the nearly 120,000 East Timorese refugees living in "appalling conditions" in West Timor.

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