Agence France Presse
March 13, 2000, Monday 3:13 AM, Eastern Time
SECTION: International news
HEADLINE: UN losing its way in East Timor: top official
BYLINE: Kate Webb
DATELINE: JAKARTA, March 13
A British UN official who resigned his post in East Timor out of
frustration, said Monday that setting a date for full independence could
now be the only way to salvage the UN mission there.
Professor Jarat Chopra also charged he was not alone in throwing in his job
because top men in the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor
(UNTAET) were using "Stalinist tactics" to prevent him doing his job as
director of district administration.
UNTAET, he said, was obsessed with bureaucratic empire building, had lost
contact with, and the trust of, the East Timorese people and had tried to
sabotage grass roots programs designed to give the people more control over
their own lives.
These men had smothered UNTAET's mission, which was to prepare the East
Timorese for full independence, and had not woken up to crucial problems
until too late, Chopra said.
The smiles that welcomed the peacekeepers had now turned into resentment,
he said, speaking in a telephone interview with AFP from the East Timorese
capital of Dili.
Chopra, a Briton, is considered one of the most experienced of the UNTAET
He designed East Timor's district administration policy on a strategy
developed for the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. A research
fellow at Brown University in the US, he has worked as a special assistant
in peacekeeping at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in
In his resignation letter March 6, he charged that without a date and
strategy for independence set, nothing meaningful could be done.
"Without a meaningful timetable and methodical stages for a transfer of
power, this mission will drift, hold an election as an exit strategy next
year and leave the Timorese with no genuine capacity built. We will have
replicated the overnight decolonisations of decades past."
Chopra told AFP the straw that broke the camel's back was that he could no
"I had made a commitment to come out here for two or three years."
But when he had finished fighting top UNTAET officials from stopping a
long-planned and World Bank-funded community empowerment project (CEP), he
found he had no telephone, no computer, no mailbox, no desk and no vehicle.
"Puniative Stalinist depersonalization," was how he characterized the fate
of anyone who spoke out.
The battle for the CEP was won, but only at an enormous price, he said --
the embitterment of the East Timorese, the Xanana Gusmao-led Council for
East Timorese resistance (CNRT), and of the World Bank.
"Timorese were left with the impression that UNTAET was reluctant to take
the next steps ... for some sort of methodical transfer of power.
"Now they are thinking they made a mistake in accepting the UN, and will
"They are going to have to declare independence or an early election," he
added, saying the UN could remain in as an assistance mission to the new
Under its current mandate the UNTAET is supposed to rule for two or three
years until East Timor is ready for full independence, but the way things
are going, the East Timorese had no chance to become involved.
Asked if he felt UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was aware of the tensions
in UNTAET, Chopra said he felt he must be, because of the resignations, and
because of pointed questions Annan asked on his first visit there last
Chopra said part of the cause of the dispute within UNTAET was an
interdepartmental "turf battle," when the UN program for East Timor was
derailed by the wave of violence that followed the August 30 vote for
independence from Indonesia.
In addition a ruling that planning be done in New York meant that there was
"no detailed UNTAET campaign plan that related to the reality on the
"I think this was fatal in dealing with CNRT -- they were not involved at
all, they didn't have the opportunity to understand what it (UNTAET) would
mean to them."
Asked if anything would make him withdraw his resignation, Chopra said --
yes, if I could do my assigned task."
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