06 January 2011

East Timor Says UN Report Shows Cultural Ignorance



via Joyo News also: Transcript: East Timor says UN report shows cultural ignorance ABC News/Radio Australia Tuesday, January 4, 2011 The draft UNDP report acknowledges that progress has been made since the country gained independence in 2002, but it is also critical of the high level of unemployment among young people and rising rural poverty. [AFP] By Claudette Werden - The East Timorese Government has hit out at the United Nations Development Program over a report which criticises the government for failing to address rising poverty and joblessness.

The draft UNDP report acknowledges that progress has been made since the country gained independence in 2002.

But it is also critical of the high level of unemployment among young people and rising rural poverty, and questions the spending of profits from the Timor Sea oil and gas project.

East Timor's State Secretary for Security, Francisco de Costa Guterres, has told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific program the UNDP itself is not doing enough to help the government with the country's problems.

"The UN doesn't understand the condition of the country, they have been living here for quite some time but they don't know what the government is doing, because many of them haven't visited the villages yet, they haven't visited the remote areas, they are all concentrated in Dili," he said.

James Dunn, a former Australian consul to East Timor and a former advisor to the UN Mission in East Timor, says the government has a point.

"I think the UN should have focused on these long term issues, whereas its main focus particularly when it set out was really to try and set up a government to get to independence as quickly as possible and it really needed to be there longer and to plan for that, but you know the big problem was...the major donor nations really wanted this very expensive mission to end as quickly as possible, because it was costing a lot," he said.

"That was the first one, UNTAET, the other missions have been much smaller and their aims and their capacities much more modest."

War crimes

Mr Dunn says the government's biggest mistake was not to pursue the perpetrators of war crimes committed prior to independence and to return to Indonesia without charge a militia leader accused of being behind the 1999 massacre of more than 200 unarmed civilians seeking refuge in a church.

"The Timorese have stepped beyond their moral authority in saying it's finished let's not talk about it," he said.

"Maybe they feel that way, and I understand why Xanana feels that way, because it's about politics, it's about pragmatism, but as far as the UN is concerned and as far as those concerned with stamping out crimes against humanity, it is a serious matter that has to be taken further."

Mr Guterres sees it differently, saying the UN doesn't understand the relationship between East Timor and Indonesia.

"People from somewhere else, they don't understand the culture, the complexity of the issue," he said.

"I suggest that the UN people, they should be more kind of objective, they should understand more about the country's culture before they talk. If they understand the complexity of the issue they may not come up with some such report."

The controversial UNDP report is being reviewed and will be released later this year.

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ABC News/Radi Australia Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Transcript: East Timor says UN report shows cultural ignorance

The East Timorese government has hit out at the United Nations Development Program saying it's culturally insensitive about issues in the country.

The comments are in response to a UNDP draft report that is highly critical of the government for failing to address rising poverty and joblessness.

Presenter: Claudette Werden Speakers: Francisco da Costa Guterres, East Timor's State Secretary for Security; Jim Dunn, former adviser to UN Mission in East Timor

WERDEN: The draft UNDP report acknowledges that progress has been made since the country gained independence in 2002. But the report is critical of the high level of unemployment among young people and rising rural poverty. And it questions the East Timor government's spending of profits from the Timor Sea oil and gas project. But the country's State Secretary for Security, Francisco de Costa Guterres, says the UNDP itself is not doing enough to help the government with the country's problems.

GUTERRES: The UN doesn't understand the condition of the country, they have been living here for quite some time but they don't know what the government is doing, because many of them haven't visited the villages yet, they haven't visited the remote areas, they are all concentrated in Dili. I don't think this report is valid, the criticism is valid, the UN got a very robust authority, power by the Security Council especially on the security issues but they did nothing.

WERDEN: James Dunn is a former Australian consul to East Timor and a former advisor to the UN Mission in East Timor. He says he the government has a point.

DUNN: I think the UN should have focused on these long term issues, whereas its main focus particularly when it set out was really to try and set up a government to get to independence as quickly as possible and it really needed to be there longer and to plan for that but you know the big problem was, as I was one of those involved in this, was the major donor nations really wanted this very expensive mission to end as quickly as possible because it was costing a lot, that was the first one, UNTAET, the other missions have been much smaller and their aims and their capacities much more modest.

WERDEN: But Mr Dunn says the government's biggest mistake was not to pursue the perpetrators of war crimes committed prior to independence and to return to Indonesia without charge a militia leader accused of being behind the 1999 massacre of more than 200 unarmed civilians seeking refuge in a church.

DUNN: This is a serious international crime, so really the Timorese can't simply wipe it out, I mean really the Timorese have stepped beyond their moral authority in saying it's finished let's not talk about it. Maybe they feel that way and I understand why Xanana feels that way because it's about politics, it's about pragmatism but as far as the UN is concerned and as far as those concerned with stamping out crimes against humanity, it is a serious matter that has to be taken further.

WERDEN: Mr Guterres sees it differently

GUTERRES: I think the UN doesn't understand the relationship between Timor Leste and Indonesia, they don't understand the complexity of the issue. People from somewhere else they don't understand the culture, the complexity of the issue. I suggest that the UN people, they should be more kind of objective, they should understand more about the country's culture before they talk. If they understand the complexity of the issue they may not come up with some such report.

WERDEN: The controversial UNDP report is now being reviewed, following a backlash from both government and senior international advisers who question the authors' motives. It'll be released later this year, the United Nations presence in East Timor is expected to continue until national elections, scheduled for 2012.

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