A report to be officially unveiled in Parliament later on Thursday said that progress under the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was slow towards preparing the former Portuguese colony for full independence.
“UNTAET was exemplary in accomplishing its mission to maintain security and socio-economic stabilisation in the territory,” Lusa quoted the report as saying.
“But its administration is costly and not very efficient and has not brought about the prompt preparation of Timorese bodies for future administration,” added the report, compiled after a visit by a Portuguese parliamentary commission.
U.N. peacekeepers intervened in East Timor to halt a violent rampage by pro-Indonesian militias after the territory voted overwhelmingly to end more than 20 years of often brutal rule from Jakarta in a referendum in August 1999.
The U.N. has estimated that more than 1,000 people were killed by the militias.
Indonesia annexed East Timor as Portugal was shedding its former colonies in 1975 in a move never recognised by the U.N. An estimated 200,000 of the territory’s 800,000 population died of war, starvation and disease under Indonesian rule.
The Portuguese legislators also noted that the East Timorese were still mainly living in poverty.
“The majority of the population is still unemployed, without future aims or prospects and wandering the streets of (capital city) Dili,” Lusa quoted from the report.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian head of UNTAET, said he had yet to read the Portuguese report, but vigourously rejected the criticism and challenged the Portuguese legislators to take on the job themselves.
“The transitional administration has shown that it is taking all due measures to move this process along. I am fed up with criticism,” Vieira de Mello told TSF radio.
“I want constructive criticism. If these gentlemen should wish to take control of the situation here, I’ll hand over my post to them tomorrow,” he added.