Timorese Seethe At UN As Their Cities Remain a Wasteland
Also: Premature to say E. Timor independent in 2001 - UN
The Independent [UK] 29 January 2000
People of East Timor seethe at UN as their cities remain a wasteland
By Richard Lloyd Parry in Dili
The truth is that it had been brewing for weeks, but the trouble really began at the former school building in the ruined city of Dili. People had been arriving since the early hours, and soon thousands of men were patiently queuing in front of the old gymnasium.
They were queuing for work. But by mid-morning it became clear that, for almost all of them, there was no work to be had. The jobs on offer were with the United Nations and, although they were menial enough, the few dollars they would bring in every week amount to the difference between prosperity and destitution. But then word got round about the condition attached to the jobs: all the applicants drivers, security guards or cleaners had to speak English. And that was when the stones started to fly.
"I speak Indonesian and Portuguese and Tetum [the local language] but how many Timorese speak English?" said Joao da Silva, a 28-year-old driver, who had been queuing for three hours. "They only had to tell us it was so stupid."
As the crowd surged forward, the Australian soldiers drove in the opposite direction, and people at the back of the compound were pushed onto the encircling razor wire. Knives were brandished, and one 19-year old soldier was knocked unconscious.
The riot, the Saturday before last, was finally quietened only by the arrival of Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timor's former foreign minister in exile. "I did not go around the world for 24 years, raising the issues of the human rights of the people of East Timor, saying the people of East Timor have sense of honour and dignity, of tolerance, to come here and see the people using violence," he said.
But dignity is a luxury in short supply in Dili these days, and the tolerance is wearing thin, too. It is four months since the soldiers of Interfet, the International Force in East Timor, arrived after the two-week rampage of violence which followed the country's vote for independence. The Indonesian military who orchestrated the mayhem have been banished forever. The militias who acted for them are dwindling. In a couple of years, this will become the first new nation of the 21st century. But far from bathing in glory, East Timorese are in a deep depression which threatens to develop into self-destructive rage.
The reasons are visible in every Dili street. In a fortnight, the pro-Jakarta forces destroyed virtually all the little development East Timor had enjoyed under 24 years of Indonesian rule. Entire blocks of the town are burnt out. Apart from the ubiquitous mobile phones brought in by the UN and Interfet, the local phone system is scarcely functioning. "Town after town has been thoroughly destroyed," said Mr Ramos-Horta. "No food, no shelter, businesses destroyed. The only comparison is with Europe after World War Two."
For those who do not speak English, employment opportunities are almost nil, and almost every day since the riot at the school there have been new incidents of civil unrest. Once the streets were calm at night, but now gangs of young men on motorbikes cruise them threateningly. Petty wars have broken out between gangs. And on Tuesday, Kenyan peace-keepers fired warning shots as 80 men armed with clubs and machetes fought in Dili's main market in a continuing feud between rival vigilante groups.
But more and more, East Timorese agree on the object of their anger the same UN officials, Interfet soldiers and international aid workers whose task it is to help them. "We, at last, won in the referendum, but still remain unable to govern ourselves and our country," the new Tetum language paper, Mirror wrote last week in its debut editorial. "The simple reason? We are not given the opportunity to be leaders in our own country."
On paper, everything is in place for rebirth. Untaet, the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor, is here with its leader, the Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, who established the UN presence in Kosovo. Thousands of international organisations are bringing expertise and resources. Most important of all is the £325m promised by international donors.
So why has so little reconstruction actually begun? "We need offices, hospitals," said Carlos Belo, East Timor's Catholic bishop who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the country. "We still don't see any schools. People are disillusioned because they want to see their house rebuilt but there are no building materials."
The UN, along with Mr Ramos-Horta and the country's former guerrilla leader, Xanana Gusmao, maintains that the delays and social unrest are sadly inevitable. "Large-scale labour projects involve donors, international organisations like the World Bank, international tenders and millions of dollars," Mr de Mello said. "They can't happen overnight."
But the UN is suffering a colossal public relations failure which in four months has squandered its reserves of good will. "Untaet doesn't tell us what it is doing," said Fernando de Araujo, who runs an organisation of former Timorese political prisoners. "We don't know what their programme is, and they ignore ordinary Timorese. You cannot speak English and so you are unemployed! This is East Timor Untaet should learn Tetum."
The more sensitive UN officials acknowledge these complaints, and speak of time running out. Having been united for so long in its struggle against Indonesia, the independence movement already appears to be splintering along factional lines there are rumours of instigators stirring up social unrest for political reasons. "I'm greatly worried about it," Mr de Mello said. "And I fear that things will get worse before they get better."
Premature to say E. Timor independent in 2001 - UN
By Joanne Collins
DILI, East Timor, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The United Nations says it is too early to say whether East Timor will be ready for formal independence in a year from now, when its mandate in the territory will be reviewed.
``We have always said that the sooner East Timor is prepared for independence the better and evidently when that occurs, UNTAET (United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor) will no longer be needed here,'' U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told Reuters in Dili on Saturday.
UNTAET was established on October 25 last year to run the territory after its people voted overwhelmingly in August to break free from nearly two decades of often brutal Indonesian rule. Its mandate will expire on January 31 next year.
The U.N.'s tenure in the traumatised territory was raised by political activist Jose Ramos-Horta in Seoul on Friday when he said independence was possible by 2001.
Ramos-Horta, on a six-nation tour of Asia to shore up investment interest in the fledgling nation, said: ``If we work hard...who knows, East Timor could be independent by next year.''
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a sombre report on Friday to the Security Council, expressed alarm at the potential for social unrest in East Timor following a scorched earth policy by pro-Indonesian gangs after last August's vote.
``The devastating effects of the systematic destruction and violence last September and the consequent cessation of civil and public services will continue to be serious impediments for the foreseeable future,'' he wrote.
U.N. SEES A LOT OF WORK AHEAD
The U.N.'s chief administrator in the territory, Sergio Vieira de Mello, has said the transition to full independence would likely take two years.
Almeida e Silva said the U.N.'s mission in East Timor would end once essential institutions were set up and reconstruction in full swing.
``Full independence for East Timor would depend on how much has been accomplished, which means things like having a central payments office, a central fiscal authority, a new civil service, a minimum level of rehabilitation and reconstruction, you need to have an electricity grid that is in place, a water system, a health system, an education system so that a new country will not start from below zero but from a level which would give the country a promise of a good future.''
He added the length of the transition would also depend on when free elections were held and a new government established.
East Timor's leadership has been critical of the U.N.'s role in rebuilding the territory, particularly at the outset when it accused senior administrators of not listening to the people.
But the U.N. said there was now co-operation at all levels and that Ramos-Horta's comments did not point to frayed relations between the U.N. and East Timor's main political group, the National Council for Timorese Resistance, CNRT.
``The relations between the U.N. -- both here and at a New York and at a district level -- with the CNRT leadership is one of great co-operation,'' said Almeida e Silva.''
The relationship was recently tested with the adoption of the U.S. dollar as the official currency for East Timor which angered the upper echelons of the CNRT who lobbied hard for the Portuguese escudo. The escudo has great sentimental value for the Timorese who lived under Portuguese rule for centuries.
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