Subject: AFP: UN, Horta deny Timor mission is white-dominated, rejects implicit racism

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Also: Ramos-Horta denies UN mission is white-dominated, raps "mud slinging"

UN denies Timor mission is white-dominated, rejects implicit racism

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 (AFP) - Rejecting "implicit suggestions of racism," the United Nations on Friday denied an accusation made by one of its officials that the peacekeeping mission in East Timor was dominated by white Westerners.

The charge was made by N. Parameswaran, a Malaysian who resigned this week as chief of staff of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Parameswaran's resignation -- three days before the end of his contract -- was reported by the New Straits Times of Malaysia in an article published Thursday under the headline "The White Rajah".

Writing to the editor of the New Straits Times, Shashi Tharoor, interim head of the UN's department of public information, said the report was "as inaccurate as it is offensive".

It "makes the accusation that the UN mission lacks equitable geographical distribution among its staff," Tharoor wrote, adding that "there are implicit suggestions of racism."

In his letter, released here, Tharoor noted that 22 percent of the international staff of UNTAET were from Europe, 21 percent from the Americas, 21 percent from Asia, 19 percent from Africa and 17 percent from elsewhere.

"One may well wish the proportion of Asians to be higher, and in more senior positions," Tharoor wrote, but the mission was going through "a drastic downsizing" and it was difficult to maintain geographical balance.

UNTAET was set up in October 1999 after local militiamen laid waste to East Timor, which had voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from Indonesia in a referendum organised by the UN. The mission's military force is to be halved and its civilian staff cut by 75 percent before the territory achieves independence on May 20 this year.

Tharoor noted that until Parameswaran's resignation, the four most senior officials in UNTAET were a Brazilian, a New Zealander, a Malaysian and a Thai -- the military commander. "That hardly suggests Western dominance," he wrote.

On Thursday, East Timor's foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta criticised Parameswaran, saying: "I do not believe that it is proper for UN officials, or diplomats, to engage in mud slinging in public".

Romas-Horta, a Nobel peace prize winner, said many people had devoted months to making UNTAET "a considerable success" including Parameswaran and other non-whites.

"I do not think that it is fair to say that this is a white-dominated mission," he said in a statement.


Ramos-Horta denies UN mission is white-dominated, raps "mud slinging"

JAKARTA, Jan 11 (AFP) - East Timor's foreign minister Jose Ramos-Horta has denied that the United Nations mission in his future nation is white-dominated and has criticised "mud slinging" by the senior UN official who made the claim.

"I do not believe that it is proper for UN officials, or diplomats, to engage in mud slinging in public," said Ramos-Horta in a statement dated Thursday and obtained by AFP Friday.

He was responding to criticism of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) by N. Parameswaran, who has resigned as chief of staff.

Parameswaran, a Malaysian, complained in his resignation letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan of poor morale in some areas, interference in management and a lack of senior Asians in the UN mission.

He said UNTAET "has become very much a 'white' mission, an Eastern mission with a Western face."

Parameswaran also alleged that his efforts to promote refugee returns and reconciliation were hampered by deputy administrator Dennis McNamara and others.

McNamara has rejected the criticism as "completely unfounded."

Romas-Horta, a Nobel peace prize winner, said many people had devoted months to making UNTAET "a considerable success."

"Mr Parameswaran is one, but there are many others of many nationalities, Europeans, whites and non-whites, so I do not think that it is fair to say that this is a white-dominated mission."

Ramos-Horta said the two previous two military force commanders were Asian, Lieutenant-General Jamie de los Santos from the Philippines and Thai Lieutenant-General Boosrang Niumpadit. "He has been replaced by yet another three-star Thai general."

He said a Malaysian seconded by Kuala Lumpur is currently training staff in his foreign ministry.

The UN took over the running of the former Indonesian province in October 1999 to prepare it for independence this May 20.

Parameswaran, a career diplomat for 32 years, has received the backing of the Malaysian government, which called Wednesday for the UN to investigate the allegations.

"He has always been working in international affairs and would not have written such allegations in his letter unless there is some truth," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar reportedly said.


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