Subject: PUB: UNAMET’s almost impossible mission
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 10:30:51 -0400
From: Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere <cdpm@esoterica.pt>

Source: Publico Date : 3 June 99 Dateline : Dili Byline: Luciano Alvarez ** Original Language: Portuguese Scope: ABRIDGED Headline : UNAMET’s almost impossible mission

** Luciano Alvarez is Publico’s special envoy to East Timor for the run-up to the 8 August ballot

"Never has the UN undertaken a mission of this kind in such little time. We are all highly determined to make it, but this is an almost impossible mission", said a leading member of UNAMET yesterday, dismissing the idea that the date for holding the referendum could be postponed. …. "Security … During its travels around the territory, UNAMET discovered a terrorized Timorese population, and believes that even for the census, getting people to register is going to be a problem. The UN team has heard the same warning time and time again: if soldiers and policemen are not sitting beside the UN officials at the 200 Registration Posts, most of the Timorese population will not go near them to register (their names for the voting lists).

Publico learned from a UN member that the organisation is not able to place UN personnel in all the locations (it had been thought that in most of the registration posts there would only be local people hired for the purpose), and the possibility of reducing the number of posts is being considered." …. "Setting up Registration Posts …"… but the problem is that most of them are buildings belonging to either the State or the Church, which therefore cannot be used. The absence of suitable independent premises is one of the biggest problems." …"Accommodation for UN personnel The three main hotels in Dili have been reserved for the UN for some time now. Every time a room becomes vacant it is immediately occupied by UNAMET, which is also looking for houses to rent. So far, there are only 50 members of the mission in Dili, and the accommodation problem is already serious."… "The entire "staff" will comprise a 241 member international UN team, 420 volunteers and 280 police. If the problem is serious in Dili, then outside the capital it is desperate. There are no hotels, no houses to rent, and the Church has already let it be known that it cannot provide any of its premises for more than 2 or 3 days, never mind long-term. … tents and pre-fabricated houses are one solution but the arrival of personnel would then depend on the erection of all that equipment, and that could take two or three weeks."…

"Roads and Communications.. The impassable roads and lack of access to mountainous areas where there are small towns and many refugees, are giving UNAMET personnel a real headache. "…

"Information campaign The public information programme will involve local newspapers, TV and local and international radio programmes that can be picked up in East Timor. The campaign is still being studied by UNAMET, that intends for it to be very carefully prepared and to reach the entire population. "A campaign of this kind requires at least 6 months’ preparation, and we only have 2 months", one of UNAMET’s information staff told Publico. "We have to get to know the people we are addressing and speak their language so as not to make any mistakes. In two months it is almost impossible to organise a proper campaign", he added. … Dates have still not been set for the commencement of the information campaign, a key instrument in which will be the "Voz de Timor" (Voice of Timor) daily newspaper with a circulation of 7,000, although it is not distributed to most of the territory."…

"Hiring local help The UN will be hiring about 4,000 Timorese to help prepare and implement the consultation. So far, not even 50 have been hired and complaints are already coming in, with those in favour of autonomy (within Indonesia) claiming that the UN is only hiring people in favour of independence."…

"Indonesian authorities’ obstruction Every day, the Indonesian authorities find some new way of sabotaging our work – the helicopter "cannot" fly, the police escort is "not available", the information "does not exist", the local police chief "is not in", the suitcases "must be opened and searched". The Police are being particularly difficult, and they are the ones who are supposed to be responsible for ensuring security throughout the process. Many voices within UNAMET are beginning to say that these obstacles are intentional and are aimed at taking away credibility from the process. So far, there is no actual proof, but the problems are occurring on a daily basis..." …

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