|Subject: IPS: Indonesia Draws Criticism for Attack
Date: Fri, 02 Jul 1999 09:11:10 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
POLITICS-EAST TIMOR: Indonesia Draws Criticism for Attack on UN
By Farhan Haq UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 (IPS) - Indonesia faced sharp criticism for a Tuesday morning attack on a UN office in East Timor, in the strongest sign yet that plans for an August referendum on East Timor's self-determination may be in danger.
UN officials, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the 15- nation Security Council, quickly condemned the attack, reportedly by pro-Indonesia paramilitaries, on the regional office in Maliana of the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET).
Annan held the Indonesian government ''accountable for allowing such an attack to occur, and deems any assault on UNAMET personnel or property completely unacceptable,'' said UN spokesman Fred Eckhard on Tuesday.
Annan and the Security Council - which expressed its concern on East Timor's security situation in a Tuesday statement - both demanded a thorough investigation of the incident.
Eckhard said that approximately 100 people, believed to be ''pro-integration militia members,'' threw rocks at the UNAMET office in Maliana, seriously injuring about a dozen people, including a UN election officer from South Africa. The office itself was damaged, UN officials added.
''The indications are that this was not a spontaneous event,'' argued Ian Martin, the UN special envoy in East Timor, in a press conference in Dili.
''Indeed, the large size of rocks thrown at our office suggest it wasn't spontaneous,'' Martin said. ''There had also been indications that such action would be taken, which we reported to the police beforehand.''
He added that the attack was ''certainly a shock,'' although he noted that ''we have had a number of threats against UNAMET.''
For UN officials, the Maliana attack signalled an ominous rise in hostilities between UNAMET and East Timorese militia groups which favour a continuation of Indonesia's 23-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony.
In recent days, Martin noted, some groups have accused the United Nations of lacking neutrality in the East Timor conflict and favouring the side which supports the territory's independence. The United Nations has denied such accusations.
Still, as violence by the pro-Indonesia militias continues, some UN officials are worried that the vote on East Timor's status - which already has been delayed by two weeks from its initial scheduled date of Aug. 8 - could be in peril.
Martin called for Jakarta to provide additional security to all UN offices, and said UNAMET is ''reviewing whether any further restrictions on our activity may be necessary as a result of this.''
Annan, meanwhile, emphasised that ''such actions of provocation and vandalism will not deter UNAMET from fulfilling its obligations,'' Eckhard said.
Yet the violence directed against the UN staffers represents a worsening of the climate, in which dozens of pro-independence Timorese have been harassed and killed by the militias in recent months. (In one recent report, Amnesty International cited at least 34 cases of what it deemed to be executions of independence supporters by the militias.)
UN officials had hoped that the deployment of some 900 UN officers - including some 270 unarmed police - by next month would calm the situation enough for the vote to be held by late August. But despite an easing in the East Timorese capital, Dili, the Tuesday attack shows that tensions remain high.
Security Council President Baboucarr-Blaise Ismaila Jagne of Gambia voiced the body's concern that ''militias and other armed groups have carried out acts of violence against the local population and exercise an intimidating influence over them.''
The unity of the Council's 15 member states came after several days in which some nations sitting on the Council, including Malaysia and Bahrain, had pushed for softer language about the violence, sources told IPS. But the attack on Maliana stepped up pressure for the Council to weigh in against the pro-Indonesia groups, the sources added.
The UN preparations for voting began after a May 5 agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, East Timor's former colonial power, which would allow East Timorese above the age of 17 to opt for either autonomy under Indonesian rule or independence.
Yet the violence directed against the pro-independence movement has led some UN officials to worry that Jakarta is still unwilling to allow a ''free and fair'' vote in which it could lose the island state, which it invaded in 1975 and annexed the following year.
Meanwhile, logistical delays have stalled the arrival of UNAMET, which is now expected to complete its deployment by Jul. 10.
The Security Council urged UNAMET to proceed with its deployment and warned that all sides must allow ''complete freedom of movement for UNAMET within East Timor in order to carry out its tasks.'' (end/ips/fah/99)