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East Timor

Yearbook 1999

Timor. Since October, the province of East Timor has been under UN administration. The Indonesian government - pressured by the country's economic situation to keep up with the outside world - already hinted at the beginning of the year that there was an opportunity to allow East Timor to become independent. Indonesia's annexation of East Timor in 1976 has always been controversial and never recognized by the UN.

1999 East Timor

According to Countryaah official website, UN-led negotiations between Indonesia and the former colonial power Portugal resulted in a referendum agreement in May. Immediately after the negotiations began, however, pro-Indonesian groups in East Timor had taken up arms against those who advocated independence. A terror campaign, which was undoubtedly well-planned and supported by the Indonesian army, escalated in the spring. Several massacres were carried out and thousands of people fled. A UN force of 280 police officers and 600 election monitors, sent to East Timor in May-June, stood helpless in the face of the violence.

Despite the war-like state, the referendum was conducted on 31 August. 98.6% of registered voters participated, and 78.5% said yes to independence. The militia did not accept the result, and a mindless violence broke out. The Indonesian army and the militia laid 70% of East Timor's settlement in ruins and drove 75% of the population to flee into the mountains or to Indonesian West Timor. UN observers were among those evacuated following the referendum. The Security Council approved on 13 September that an international force under Australian command was sent to East Timor. The force quickly got the situation under reasonable control, but the country was already devastated.

The newly elected Indonesian parliament approved the referendum in October, and on 31 October the responsibility for East Timor was handed over to the UN. Brazilian UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello was appointed to lead the administration to pilot East Timor against independence. The UN operation, called the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), has until now been mandated until 31 January 2001. The administration will be supported by nearly 11,000 soldiers, police and military observers. It will probably be the most expensive effort in UN history.

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