Canadian Press Monday, September 13, 1999

Pictures (Warning - very graphic) at:


Dili, Indonesia (CP) - A UN Security Council mission toured East Timor's bloodied and blackened and capital on Saturday, a city one of the UN envoys described as a "living hell."

"The place is a terrible mess," said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a British representative on the five-member of a special United Nations Security Council team. "It is no longer a living town." Indonesia has been is under heavy international pressure to halt massacres carried out by anti-independence militias angered by the territory's overwhelming vote last month in favour of ending Indonesian rule.

Witnesses have given horrific accounts of violence over the last week in which machete-wielding militias, aided by Indonesian troops, went on a rampage after the UN- organized referendum showed that four-fifths of East Timor's 800,000 people favoured breaking from Indonesia. Aid agencies estimate that anywhere between 600 and 7,000 people have been killed and 100,000 driven into West Timor or to other islands. Some 200,000 other have been chased from their homes.

Hopes for an end to the violence rose Saturday when Gen. Wiranto, commander of Indonesia's armed forces, told the Security Council mission in Dili that he would recommend to President B. J. Habibie that Indonesia allow a peacekeeping mission into East Timor soon. But just hours later, Wiranto appeared to backtrack, telling reporters he'd look at "security co-operation," omitting the crucial reference to peacekeepers.

At the United Nations in New York, speaker after speaker, including Canadian envoy Robert Fowler, told the UN Security Council on Saturday that Indonesia must immediately allow in an international intervention force. "The current situation is obscene in its dimensions," Fowler said. "The number of dead and displaced are growing steadily as is the wanton destruction of property."

But Indonesian Ambassador Makarim Wibisono ruled out any multinational force for the half-island territory for now, saying Indonesia's imposition of martial law on Tuesday was already helping improve the security situation in the territory. "While fully understanding the willingness of a number of countries to provide security assistance, Indonesia does not foresee the need for the introduction of a multinational or peacekeeping force at this stage," he told an open council meeting. "Such an operation may well exacerbate the situation and be counterproductive, however well-intentioned it may be."

Demands to allow in international peacekeepers were also being raised in Auckland where leaders of the Asia- Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien, were gathering for their summit. On Saturday, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia said seven countries, including Canada, had joined a "coalition of the willing" to help restore peace in East Timor. Without giving details on individual contributions, Howard identified the countries as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Britain, the Philippines and Portugal. But all insisted they would only sent peacekeepers with permission of the government in Jakarta. While Canada is willing to help, Chretien denied reports that it vowed to provide troops. He added that no decisions have yet been made about how Canada would contribute. "We have said that we will be helping in that situation but we're not ready to make any precise commitments because we don't know the nature, if any, of sending troops there," said Chretien this morning in Auckland. "We said to the Australians of course Canada - when there is need for helping in tragic circumstances like that - we will always want to be part of that."

U.S. President Bill Clinton offered Sunday to provide American personnel "in a limited way" for an international peacekeeping force in violence-torn East Timor after he accused the Indonesian government of abetting militia violence. Clinton said that his discussions with foreign leaders about East Timor have been based on the idea that Australia would provide the bulk of manpower, but that there could also be a limited U.S. presence in East Timor to support a peacekeeping mission. He said the United States was being asked about "providing some of the things that only we can provide, probably like extensive air lift support to bring troops from other countries, primarily in Asia, into the theatre." Clinton said the United States could also provide "other logistical support - intelligence, communications, some things which require our presence in a limited way" in East Timor.

Asked by the CNN interviewer what were the most disturbing sights he had seen in Dili, Greenstock replied: "Well, of course, what we haven't seen are the tens of thousands of people in the hills who have no food, no shelter. But we've seen the displaced persons in the (United Nations) compound, in the police headquarters, in the port, people living in rubbish, houses burned, no ordinary population on the street, a town totally destroyed, a community completely dispersed." "It's living hell here," he said.

There are 80 international staff, including five Canadians, still in the embattled UN compound. Meanwhile, harrowing reports of killing by drug-crazed militias and a mass tomb of slaughtered Timorese emerged Saturday from UN and aid workers who fled East Timor for Darwin, Australia. Isa Bradridge, an aid worker, told Australian media his wife Ina had seen thousands of bodies stacked on top of each other in the main police station in Dili. "It was chockablock full of dead bodies right up to the roof, a whole building, thousands (of bodies)," he told Channel 7 television. "All she could see through the bars were arms hanging out, heads, old and new, blood dribbling out under the door."

Pat Burgess, a UN official, said there were 100,000 to 200,000 people sheltering in the mountains outside Dili. Most were living off "crisis food," used in drought times when crops fail, such as ubi kayu, a root plant. "Unless there is urgent and widespread humanitarian aid there will be a disaster," he said. "This cannot happen unless the security situation is under control." Dili has been plundered and destroyed, with ruins of buildings blackened by fire. Whole streets have gone. The commercial area has been razed. C The Canadian Press, 1999

Posted on 09/13/1999 16:45:47 PDT by mit