Subject: UN Official In E Timor Says World Community Miscalculated

Associated Press November 18, 1999

UN Official In E Timor Says World Community Miscalculated

DILI, East Timor (AP)--The outgoing head of the U.N. mission to East Timor said Thursday the international community was wrong in counting on Indonesia's concern about its reputation to head off bloodshed after the East Timorese voted for independence.

The nature of Indonesia's agreement to hold the Aug. 30 referendum on independence from Indonesia made it impossible to provide proper security, Ian Martin said on the eve of his departure.

Indonesia probably wouldn't have agreed to hold the U.N.-sponsored referendum with an international security presence, and the Security Council wouldn't have forced Jakarta to do so, he said.

Still, the international community did miscalculate, he said.

The mission knew that certain military and militia elements favored a "scorched-earth policy," but everyone counted on Indonesia's desire to protect its reputation.

So they relied on commitments from the government and military to keep the peace.

"I think that the calculation we made was that, yes, there would be trouble, but there was sufficient concern by the government and the (army) in Jakarta that the consequences for Indonesia's international reputation, that there would be an interest in checking that," he said. "That was wrong."

The campaign was marked by violence and intimidation by militiamen backed by elements in the military. After the vote, militias rampaged, burning and looting and forcing hundreds of thousands of people into hiding or forced refuge in Indonesian West Timor.

Martin was to leave East Timor on Friday, with the U.N. mission in the hands of another veteran diplomat, Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The 52-year-old veteran of U.N. missions in Haiti and the former Yugoslavia described his work in East Timor as "probably the most worthwhile thing I've done so far."

He suggested that the self-determination process was in the end more important than the violence that wracked the territory.

"Despite the terrible nature of what followed, I think if you go out there and ask the people who have the best right to judge - which is the people of East Timor - whether they would rather it had happened even in these circumstances, or not at all, they'd still tell you that despite one further cycle of suffering, they've achieved what they've been struggling to achieve," he said.

----- The man who organized the Timor vote looks back with few regrets

DILI, East Timor, Nov 19 (AFP) - The violence which destroyed East Timor and turned it people into refugees was not expected by the United Nations mission which organized the referendum on the territory's future, the UN's outgoing mission chief says.

"No, we didn't anticipate the degree of violence in general that would break out after the ballot, after the announcement of the result," Ian Martin said in an intervierw with AFP.

"We expected there to be violence but we thought it would be more limited, more localized and that there would be greater efforts to check it," said Martin who leaves East Timor Friday.

As head of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), Martin was in charge of implementing the May 5 international agreement that would give East Timorese a historic vote on their future.

The vote, twice delayed for security and logistic reasons, was finally held on August 30, when 98.5 percent of the electorate cast ballots.

Almost 80 percent voted to move towards independence and reject an offer of autonomy under Indonesia which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

Martin's annnouncement of the result on September 4 sparked a militia rampage that left hundreds of East Timreose dead, forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and nearly drove UNAMET itself from the territory.

"I think that there were two things that we were wrong about, in retrospect," Martin said.

The first misconception was, as voting day neared, the Indonesians had come to accept their autonomy proposal would likely be rejected.

"I think we've learned since that there was a lot of genuine shock, that there was a significant section of Indonesians - including people in the TNI (Indonesian military) - who still thought that they were going to achieve a pro-autonomy vote."

Martin said UNAMET also over-estimated the degree to which officials in Jakarta would control any post-vote violence out of concern their country's international image would suffer.

"In that sense we under-estimated the determinationm of some people, in the TNI to carry out the scorched earth policy."

Even before September's orgy of destruction, violence and intimidation by Indonesian-back armed miltias marred the months leading to the ballot.

The violence led to increasing internaional condemnation and forced Martin to make repeated calls for Indonesian police to take action, as a May 5th agreement required them to do.

At the same time, in talks with Martin, Indonesian officials denied links between their military and the militias.

"It was the fundamental untruth that the militia were a self-organized East Timroese phenomenon, rather than an extension of the TNI. The real nature of that relationship was never acknowledged. It was occasionally, privately, acknowledged by the police."

As fires burned and gunshots rang out across the territory in the days after Martin announced the ballot results, UNAMET's Dili headquarters came under seige, which led to a major departure of local staff on September 10.

"That was the moment when we were close to having to leave completely." At the time it was unclear whether a peacekeeping force would be sent, Martin said.

He and other staff eventually left Dili temporarily, but 10 UNAMET staffers remained at the more secure Australian consulate.

Martin said he hoped future investigations would reveal who was behind the planning for the destruction of East Timor.

He said he knew from the start of his missiomn the security situation would be the essential issue.

"It was clear that the agreement was going to be an extremely difficult one to implement," said Martin, who often wore a smile and a safari suit.

Despite the violence, which claimed the lives of at least five UNAMET staffers from East Timor, Martin said he is comnforatable with the decisions he made to procede with the ballot.

Had it not gone ahead: "Perhaps the one opportunity the people of East Timor had to express themselves would disappear," he said.

"I feel that something extremely important has been accomplished and the East Timorese people have exercised their right to self-determination and nothing can take that away from them.

"Despite all the suffering they've been through, it is a suffering that has had an outcome," he said.


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