The Age [Melbourne]

Saturday, October 9, 1999

Refugees blame UN: aid worker

Source: NZPA

WELLINGTON, Oct 8 - Many refugees in West Timor camps are resentful of foreigners and blame the United Nations for the bloodshed in Timor, a World Vision spokesman says.

After returning from West Timor last week, World Vision press officer James Addis says it is not an enclave of pro-independence would-be heroes as painted by some press coverage.

He found refugees' antipathy towards foreigners made it difficult to visit the camps.

While militia intimidation played a part, some refugees were not heavily pro-independence and resented the UN for its part in the autonomy referendum whose result triggered the bloody rampage in East Timor.

"There is a sort of a soft pro-independence vote," he says. "They're moderates - and did not expect all the heartache that accompanied this vote.

"There is resentment ... at the sacrifices that were made, and the perception that after the referendum people were left in the lurch."

Addis, addressing the National Press Club in Wellington last night, said that amid the tragedy there were stories of human courage that needed to be reflected in the media, alongside the politics of the situation.

For example, Sister Veronica, a nun who ran a camp of 50 children separated from their families. And pro-independence supporter 'Jimmy', who fled to the hills and had to pose as a militia member to survive. Addis said these stories weren't getting out.

He said shock at the 'overwhelming' independence vote (78 per cent) had rocked Indonesia, and many had the perception it had been rigged.

As those appointed by the UN to run it were generally well-educated, they tended to be pro-independence, which added to the suspicion.

Addis is heading to East Timor this weekend to help with the resettlement of refugees.