Subject: E Timor destruction systematic and professional, EU envoy says

East Timor destruction systematic and professional, EU envoy says

JAKARTA, Dec 3 (AFP) - EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson said Friday he had been unprepared for the scale of the destruction he saw during a visit to East Timor.

"The destruction we saw all over the place in East Timor was more widespread, more systematic, more thorough and more professional, if you will, than I had anticipated," he told a press conference here.

"Not just some houses had been burned. They were thoroughly destroyed and looted. This was not just a riot that took place, it was something else."

But ending a five-day visit to East Timor and Indonesia, he refused to accuse any particular group of orchestrating the militia violence which broke out after the East Timorese voted on August 30 for independence from Indonesia.

Any retributions against those responsible were a political and legal decision, he said, adding what was needed now was to support the new leadership and help rebuild the territory.

He paid tribute to the resourcefulness of the East Timorese, who he said had already begun planting the next maize harvest in the ashes of their homes.

The EU has already committed some 33.5 million euros to assistance in East Timor and would continue to intensify its cooperation with the territory and Indonesia.

But Nielson warned it was important to avoid turning East Timor, now under UN adminstration ahead of full independence, into a donor dependant nation.

"I think capacity-building of the new administration is key. For them to take over as smoothly as possible, responsibility of decision-making is important for the politicial stability and the creation of confidence ... in order to avoid being more or less managed by outside donors."

Once the first few harvests had been gathered, a clearer picture would emerge within the next year of whether the territory was able to sustain itself, Nielson said.

A harder task would be to nuture business again with stocks, materials and tools having been destroyed, and some system of credit would have to be worked out.

But he paid tribute to the "energy and talent" of the East Timorese. "People when they are given tools in their hands they know what to do. That is a strong resource for a new nation in this situation. This is something they can build on."

Nielson said he had also witnessed at first hand the "reality of coercion" by the militias when he visited refugee camps in West Timor and said he had discussed the problem with Indonesian Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

He called on the Indonesian armed forces to do everything in their power to disarm the militias still terrorising people who fled to West Timor or were deported there in the week-long militia rampage in early September.

The East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with Indonesia which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975, unleashing an orgy of revengful killings and destruction by the pro-Jakarta militias.

About 260,000 people fled to West Timor and most are still stuck in the camps there.


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