8 to 12 September 1999: Report of the Security Council Mission to Indonesia
On 12 September, president Habibie agreed to accept an international security force. The UN Security Council mission’s report makes clear the sequence of events. In their first meeting with Habibie on September 9, he rejected an international force. He reversed that policy immediately before meeting them on September 12. UN staff reported that their ability to show that Indonesian claims were false contributed to the outcome. IN the UN’s diplomatic language: “It became increasingly clear to the Mission during its visit that the accounts given by the GoI of events in East Timor and of action taken by Indonesia to carry out its responsibilities under the 5 May Agreement did not tally with the briefings provided by UN staff and senior diplomatic representatives in Jakarta and Dili, nor with events observed on the ground. Confronting the Gol with their lack of credibility in this regard contributed to the development of policy in a positive direction.”
This report is accompanied by a searing report on the Indonesian army’s “scorched earth policy” by the UNAMET political affairs staff summarizing events from September 4-11. Together, the two documents paint a clear picture of who was responsible for militia violence, of Indonesian official dishonesty, and how UN diplomacy operated.
The UN mandated an Australian-led international security force (Interfet) by Security Council Resolution 1264 (15 September 1999). Interfet, which included Canadian forces under the name Operation Toucan, took over formal control in East Timor on 27 September. A new UN interim government took over in October and governed until the restoration of Timorese independence in May 2002. The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor), despite poverty and multiple other challenges, has made significant strides and now ranks as Southeast Asia’s most democratic country. Although it pledged to support long-term reconstruction, Canada’s government is no longer a major aid contributor, and Canada has made no response to the Timor-Leste truth commission’s call for Western governments to take responsibility for their role in the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste.