[Posted by APSC <email@example.com> to the easttimor list - BD]
A POPULAR CHALLENGE TO UNTAET’S ACHIEVEMENTS
Written by an as yet unnamed group of East Timorese linked to RENETIL which includes Dr Lucas da Costa and Jose Antonio Neves.
UNTAET has recently published in the September issue of its broadsheet Timor Tais 20 of the UN’s major achievements in East Timor. Many of these achievements are either misleading or things that UNTAET has been forced to do under pressure from Timorese people, civil society and leaders and international critics.
We wish to clarify UNTAET’s claims.
It is time for UNTAET to be held accountable, once and for all, for not fully achieving its mandate, and for now preparing to withdraw and redefining its mandate according to the few things it has done rather than what it was supposed to do.
The Transitional Administrator himself must be held accountable as the one exercising absolute power in East Timor. He should be removed for the final phase of the UN mission and true accounting of the successes and failures of UNTAET needs to be conducted by the international community.
It is time for a popular dialogue on the ineffectiveness of the governing authority and what must be done for East Timor’s future.
1. The Establishment of Peace and Security : First Interfet and then the PKF have helped secure the border with West Timor. External security has been a main focus of UNTAET. However, internal security is not a UN achievement. If there is peace inside East Timor, it is because the Timorese have behaved with discipline and cooperated fully with the UN on the understanding that the UN would deliver on the functions of government. The aim of the transitional administration was not only peace and security -a peacekeeping force alone could have been deployed for that. The aim of UNTAET was to do much more.
2. Addressing Humanitarian Needs : The humanitarian enterprise was orchestrated by the office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance before the creation of UNTAET. But UNTAET failed to adequately integrate the humanitarian pillar into its new structure. More seriously, UNTAET failed to make an adequate transition from the emergency phase to the phase of development. The emergency phase was certainly over by June 2000, but UNTAET continued to approach the political environment as if it was still in an emergency phase, so international agencies were not supported in the transition to development.
3. Creation of ETTA Cabinet: The appointment of Timorese cabinet ministers follows the refusal of UNTAET to share power with the Timorese or to include them in the transitional administration. Timorese cabinet appointments only followed bitter and damning criticism of UNTAET and the Transitional Administrator and his inner circle. The appointment of such a cabinet clearly did not include sharing of any executive power. The claim the creation of the ETTA Cabinet, or the creation of ETTA altogether, as a visionary step is contrary to the UNTAET story. Precisely because it was a response to criticism and not a methodical plan, it has amounted more to tokenism than to sharing of power.
4. Creation of National Council : The National Council followed the dissolution of the National Consultative Council. During the creation of the NCC , there were supposed to be representatives of all aspects of Timorese society, in addition to the existing political entities. However, the Transitional Administrator personally excluded these other representatives of women, youth groups, traditional leaders and others. In reaction, Timorese opposed such an unrepresentative body. Already it was an appointed body without any popular will behind it. It was a compromise to create the National Council, but it was also something that UNTAET was forced into establishing. Furthermore, there was no mechanism established through which NC members could consult with the grassroots and return with their opinions. It was taken for granted that NC members represented the grassroots, but this was not necessarily the case.
5. Constitutional Public Hearings
: Consultation is one thing, dialogue is another.
Consultation based on a short-term approach did not give Timorese time to formulate their views and to air them. Everything was being done at the same time, including civic education, political campaigning, civic registration, voter registration, and constitutional consultation. This represents a big rush, not an opportunity for the freedom of expression of Timorese regarding the future constitution.
6. Civic Education : Because of the non-involvement of East Timorese civil society, the Initial plans for civic education were rejected. This led to civic education beginning too late, and being too little too late. Had UNTAET had a culture of Timorese inclusion in the first place, civic education would have had the time to complement the political process undertaken by Timorese people themselves.
7. Civil Registration : The process of civil registration made many mistakes that have been widely noted by international observers of this year’s elections and by the Independent Electoral Commission. These mistakes made it difficult to establish a reliable voter list, but the hard work of the IEC helped correct this. Had it not been for the IEC, UNTAET would have left a deeply flawed list of the country’s population. Although, drawing up civil and voters’ lists reflected again the big rush approach of UNTAET.
8. Creation of a Defence and Police Forces : The vision for the defence forces was developed by an expert group of consultants from King’s College, London, and funded bilaterally. Why was this expertise not part of the highly paid staff of the transitional administration? The new Timorese police force is doing well and should be strengthened in the last phase. It has the difficult task of having to police outside a context of a functioning rule of law and order.
9. Establishment of a Civil Service : Because there was no possibility of including Timorese in the transitional administration as defined by the UN’s staffing table, a separate civil service had to be established. However, this began very late in 2000. There is still no skills audit that has been conducted of the country on which to base the recruitment of civil servants. There has not been adequate translation services to train Timorese to assume the role of international members of ETTA, with the result many positions will disappear. Capacity has not been built for a functioning bureaucracy.
10. Establishment of a Functioning Judicial and Legal System : In few areas is the gap between claim and reality greater than in terms of a functioning judiciary. This is key to the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Short-term training of judges cannot equal the kind of training and experience required for such positions. Cases are slow to be dealt with and detentions without trial are considered international violations of civil and political rights. The ineffectiveness of the judicial system gives East Timor the reputation of violating such rights. The Serious Crimes Unit of UNTAET has been severely criticized by the press and the fact that the charges against it have not been addressed by the Transitional Administrator diminishes the importance of the tragic events of 1999.
11. Physical Reconstruction : The country is still littered with the destruction from 1999. It is the most dramatic feature of the Timorese landscape, still. Slowly this is being addressed by Timorese themselves, in small ways in different places. Other buildings have been rebuilt through bilateral donations. UNTAET has done little on this front and claims that it is not part of its mandate. But the mandate refers to “rehabilitation” which includes reconstruction. The blueprint of the World Bank flows from the mandate of UNTAET and its work is based on reconstruction of the country. It is to claim the reconstruction is not part of UNTAET’s mandate.
12. Timor Sea Arrangement : The negotiations regarding the Timor Gap have not included transparent Timorese participation. Considering that the results of this agreement could dictate the economic future of this country, there has been no real and representative Timorese participation in the talks.
13. Creation of Radio UNTAET : In
an society, the radio is an important from of communication.
Radio UNTAET has been a useful instrument of information that has helped disseminate information. But only recently has it managed to reach the most remote places in East Timor. The radio should have been established much earlier.
14. Basic Public Services : The experience of East Timorese in terms of basic services does not match UNTAET’s description. Most people are dependent on well-water. The water of East Timor, due to lack of major industries, has jot been polluted. However, if the water is potable why do so many in UNTAET rely on bottled water? Power failures are the order of the day. An independent assessment is really needed for all aspects of infrastructure and health and education. To obscure the real problems in order to claim UN success will do a grave disservice to the Timorese people.
15. Road Rehabilitation : There
is road construction in a number of areas.
Yet, those responsible leave behind markers along the way. Some are from governments, some from NGOs and some from individual military contingents. Why is there not a national road programme? The result is that UNTAET mostly mends potholes.
16. Formation of a Central Fiscal Authority : It is not clear to Timorese what financial state the country will be in when UNTAET leaves. The budget of the government is US$65 million. Some 15% is collected from local revenues. UNTAET is currently avoiding spending anything outside this figure on the basis of “sustainability”. But UNTAET should be spending more than this figure on East Timor so that pressure is not put on the new Timorese government. It does not make sense for the transitional administration to do only what the future government will be able to afford. It needs to create a structure that is affordable to the future government, which is why UNTAET should be doing all the things that the future government will not be able to afford to do.
17. Collection of Taxes : How can the transitional administration legitimately collect taxes when it is not delivering basic services to the population? With such low wages set by UNTAET, on what grounds can the UN then tax the population? This kills private initiative. Furthermore, the executive is not elected. This means there is taxation without representation.
18. Establishment of a Central Payments Office : There is still not a functioning bank in East Timor. What little banking exists is done by outside banks, from Portugal or Australia. The Central Payments Office serves more to fulfil the dollarization campaign than much else.
19. Establishment of a Small Enterprises Project : How can this succeed given the tax system? What little of this project that exists has been done by the community empowerment and local governance project of the World Bank, which UNTAET fought hard to prevent from coming into existence.
20. Rehabilitation of Arable Land
: There is no evidence of this. Some was done by CNRT.
Asia Pacific Support Collective
Timor Lorosa’e (APSC-TL)
PO Box 115 Dili Timor Lorosa’e
Office tel/fax +670-390-321030,
0409-193242 (Jude Conway),
0417-886792 (Beba Sequeira)
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