Subject: The humanitarian crisis in East Timor
Date: Fri, 12 Mar 1999 18:38:14 -0500
From: Andrew McNaughtan <>


What follows are comments on the situation from 5 people on the ground in Timor or recently returned plus summary of recent media reports (identities are not mentioned but can be confirmed if necessary to check authenticity). Observations consistently point to manipulation of events - the enforced withdrawal of personell and apparent obstruction of key supplies indicates a coordinated effort to destabilise East Timor and bring about an engineered 'crisis'. The only group that has the power to coordinate this is ABRI. The overall purpose of this is not clear.

9/3/99 : Person 1 : -The Indonesian Govt are pulling out the medical staff. - staff are ordered to leave from Jakarta. The Govt is actively telling teachers and doctors to leave. -The dept of Education is ordering 5,000 teachers to leave. - Many are not wanting to leave but their pay will cease if they stay in Timor. -Food is not arriving. -They are trying to represent East Timor as a country in chaos to show that things don’t work and to create an impression of civil strife etc. - as a result of this there could soon be breakdown of other services eg banks, airlines.- - told by soldiers “we are gong to destroy this country before we leave”

Person 2 : -The military is hoarding food -the situation has been rapidly deteriorating over weeks - the “whole system is collapsing” -the only foreign doctor there (who has extensive experience in 3rd World medicine says “ TB may be the highest incidence in the world in East Timor” (prevalence of diseases like TB is one indicator of overall health) - 50 to 100 are considered to be dying of preventable diseases per day -according to the doctor, about 44% of children he sees under the age of 5 years already suffer from malnutrition -the situation is deteriorating - there is an urgent need to provide aid, which means gaining access, opening the port and airport to outside access, and to be able to fly people in -aid needs to arrive before the current timing of the next political steps -ie before the likely presentation of the autonomy package . That is the process of supplying aid cannot wait for a more convenient time in the political process.

Person 3 : - it was reported in Dili that rice was being trucked from Kupang into ET but it was taken by the military - a French NGO has had some tonnes of medicines bound for East Timor obstructed on the Jakarta docks for weeks -the activities of the militias make transport difficult, by blocking roads such as on the road from Dili to Kupang, making drivers nervous to travel and interfereing with transport

Person 4 : -half the schools are now closed - most hospitals are not functioning - power supply is breaking down due to lack of maintenance - little food or petroleum coming in, leading to a certainty problems will increase, as it will also become increasingly difficult to transport anything

Person 5 : - due to the civil and military provocations occurring here there are many refugees coming into Dili starving , homeless and penniless - a private house with 120 to 300 refugees has almost no funding to feed them

Sydney Morning Herald, 10/3/99 By Lindsay Murdoch Page 1 Warnings by East Timor aid workers and political leaders of a pending food and health disaster have been reinforced by a grim diagnosis from the only foreign doctor working in the territory, who says between 50 and 100 Timorese are already dying every day from curable diseases. ... "The health system has collapsed. Schools are not functioning well. Supplies are limited," Dr Murphy said in Dili, where he treats between 100 and 200 people each day in a Catholic-run clinic". ... "I can't imagine a country with more tuberculosis than Timor," he said. "People are not dying here of old age. They are dying of preventable and curable diseases." Dr Murphy said it was clear Indonesia had a deliberate policy not to allow medical supplies into East Timor from outside Indonesia, including Australia, where aid groups say they are ready to help. Page 11 ... Dr Murphy said three tonnes of medical supplies from Europe had failed to clear customs in Jakarta where authorities were charging an aid organisation for storage.

Sydney Morning Herald, 8/3/99 By Lindsay Murdoch Page 13 "Anti-Indonesian resistance leaders claimed ... that shadowy Jakarta-backed groups have embarked on a campaign to starve East Timor's 850,000 people and destablise the former Portuguese colony". "They also warned of a drastic shortage of rice and other essentials and claimed Timorese would be starving by next month unless cut supply lines were restored almost immediately." "Father Domingos Soares said the military had seized 900 tonnes of rice remaining in East Timor. 'The stock is to be used for the soldiers and public [Indonesian] functionaries' he said. 'There is little rice remaining for the ordinary people, but at a cost of 5,500 rupiah [$1] per kilogram they cannot afford it anyway".

Sat, 6 Mar 1999 East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign We are told the ships that usually goes from Jakarta to Dili, Dobong Solo, Tata Mailau, Awu, are now only going as far as Kupang. There is also a serious shortfall in the rice levels available because ABRI, we are told have shipped large amounts of rice from Dili, in order to punish locals.

The Australian, March 5, 1999 By HUW WATKIN RESIDENTS in East Timor's capital are turning to the Catholic Church for relief as supplies of rice and other essential foodstuffs continue to dwindle amid fears of escalating civil unrest. ... East Timor imports most of its rice from other parts of Indonesia, but the past month has seen those imports dry up. ... One Timorese businessman, who requested anonymity, claimed the shortage was being engineered by authorities in what he maintained was "a political game".

4/3/99 The Australian Huw Watkin "Dan Murphy, an American volunteer working in Dili, said he estimated as many as 100 East Timorese already were dying from curable disease each day, while bureaucratic inertia continued to prevent the shipment from Jakarta of three tonnes of donated medical supplies. ... "Marianne Semel, a French national who has conducted a study of East Timor's health crisis for an international humanitarian organisation, said the shipment already had been held up for three weeks".

26 February 1999 Lusa News Agency A visiting delegation of East Timor tribal leaders ("Liurais") has informed Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio that urgent intervention is needed to "save lives" in East Timor. Health facilities in the half-island territory are gravely affected by the ongoing flight of Indonesian medical personnel. Many doctors and other professionals have abandoned East Timor since Jakarta announced in January that it was willing to consider withdrawing from the territory it has occupied since 1975. "The Dili hospital has stopped functioning as there are no doctors" to aid victims of violence provoked by civilian militias, Liurai spokesman Manuel Tilman said Friday in Lisbon.


Compiled by - East Timor International Support Centre, Sydney, Australia.

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