INDONESIAN, DUTCH INVESTIGATORS COMPLETE THOENES VISIT
Indonesian and Dutch investigators completed today a second visit to East Timor to gather evidence and interview witnesses relating to the 1999 killing of Dutch journalist Sander Thoenes.
UNTAET’s Serious Crimes Unit and investigators from both countries held a press conference and released a joint statement that applauded increased cooperation between Indonesia and East Timor on the case.
The Indonesian team, led by Abdul Muis Gussing, interviewed nine witnesses, including one who travelled from overseas to assist the investigation. The team also visited the crime scene on three occasions and examined physical exhibits and video footage collected by the Serious Crimes Unit. All of the investigation work that has been carried out by the Serious Crimes Unit has been made available to the Indonesian team.
“All the results of this are still on paper, and I must now report back to my superiors,” Gussing said at a press conference, adding that it was up to the Indonesian Attorney General’s office to decide how to proceed with the case within the Indonesian justice system.
Thoenes, a Jakarta-based Financial Times correspondent, was killed on 21 September 1999 shortly after he arrived in Dili to cover INTERFET’s efforts to restore order after pro-Indonesia militia violently rejected the results of a UN-run ballot on the future of East Timor.
In response to questions from journalists, Dutch police investigator Gerrit Thiry said his own investigations over the course of two visits – the previous one in October 2001 – had identified a lead suspect in the case: 2nd Lt. Camilo dos Santos of Indonesia Armed Forces Battalion 745.
“We were able to identify a witness who was able to point out a suspect and identify him as the man who pointed his gun to the back of Sander Thoenes, and shots were heard,” Thiry said.
Stuart Alford, an UNTAET Serious Crimes prosecutor, said there were no more steps to be taken in East Timor related to the case, and that the “next step” in Serious Crimes’ investigation would require an invitation by Indonesia for a Serious Crimes team to interview witnesses and suspects in West Timor and other parts of Indonesia.
TIMORESE WOMEN LEGISLATORS SECOND HIGHEST IN REGION
East Timor, where women hold 24 per cent of Constituent Assembly seats, joined the world today in celebration of International Women’s Day during a ceremony held in Dili attended by UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello, NGO representatives and diplomats.
Speaking at the ceremony, Vieira de Mello addressed the important role East Timorese women played during the territory’s struggle for independence, as well as UNTAET’s efforts to encourage East Timorese women to take part in the process of national development.
“The results of your dedication speak for themselves: a 24 per cent representation in the Constituent Assembly, the second highest in the Asia-Pacific region, which has only a 12 per cent average of women in elected parliaments,” the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative said. “This has ensured a voice for women in shaping your country’s Constitution.”
Other changes over the last two years in the participation of women in decision-making and public life include the appointment of women as District Administrators, ministers (Justice and Finance) and Advisors to the Chief Minister (Human Rights and Promotion of Equality). While the Public Administration has not yet reached the minimum 30 per cent representation established target, the national police force and border control have exceeded it, and the East Timor Defence Force is now beginning to recruit its first women.
The ceremony was organised by the East Timor Women’s Network in conjunction with the Second Transitional Government’s Office for the Promotion of Equality.
Maria Domingas Fernandes, the Advisor to Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri for the Promotion of Equality, is observing the 46th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York.
UNTAET, UNDP OFFER ASSISTANCE TO PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
UNTAET and the UN Development Programme announced today an electoral assistance package that has been offered to East Timor’s two presidential candidates during the upcoming election campaign.
During the 15 March to 12 April campaign, independence leader Xanana Gusmão and Francisco Xavier do Amaral, a Deputy Speaker of the Constituent Assembly, will receive equitable assistance with campaign materials, photocopying, ground transport and air transport.
The two candidates will also be given: access to a resource centre; an equal amount of direct access programming on the national UN-run television and radio; equal space in a special edition of the Tais Timor newspaper, also produced by the UN Office of Public Information and Communication; and media monitoring reports.
JAPANESE PKF ENGINEERS BEGIN RECONNAISANCE FOR CAMPS
An advance party of Japanese peacekeeping engineers began work today surveying suitable sites to establish camps for the nearly 700 Japanese troops who will arrive in East Timor in the coming weeks.
The 24-member team from the Japanese Engineering Group (JEG) began by expecting sites in Suai and Maliana districts. The team will then travel to the Oecussi enclave before returning to Dili to finalise plans prior to the arrival of the main group of Japanese peacekeepers on 24 March.
The full Japanese contingent will arrive in stages. The first party, comprising 43 soldiers, will arrive on 21 March. This will be followed by the arrival of the largest group, comprising 303 soldiers, on 24 March.
A shipment of 122 vehicles and two personnel escort soldiers will arrive on 25 March in Suai. A Japanese Navy vessel loaded with 47 soldiers and 43 vehicles will arrive on 26 March at the Dili Harbour.
The final party of 230 soldiers will arrive at the Oecussi enclave on 11 April, and a final shipment of 104 vehicles and four personnel escort soldiers will arrive on 27 April.
The Japanese Ground Self Defence Force Engineering Group, comprising 690 soldiers, will replace Pakistan and Bangladesh engineers departing in May as part of the ongoing downsizing of the UN Peacekeeping Force.
A formal handover ceremony will take place on 15 April between the Japanese Engineers and the Pakistan engineers in Suai. A similar ceremony will be held on 30 April with the Bangladesh engineers in Dili.
The Japanese engineers will be serving East Timor until the mandate of the Peacekeeping Force ends.