Gareth Evans, ex-Australian foreign minister and current head of world think tank, the International Crisis Group, is under pressure to resign from his position because of a scandal brewing from his political past.
The Australian media have accused Evans of using a tax-payer funded trip to London to wine and dine a female Australian politician of which he had an extra-marital affair with.
An ICG source has confirmed that Evans might have to go because of the negative publicity he has thrown on the non-government organisation (NGO). “Gareth isn’t a popular man in the Balkans, in particular Macedonia,” the source said.
“It stems from the time he was Australia’s foreign minister in the early 1990s; he was seen to take the Greek side over a long running dispute between Macedonia and Greece over Macedonia’s name.”
In 1991, The Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Greece objected to the name Macedonia being used. The United Nations recognised Macedonia under the temporary name of ‘The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)’. The ICG has volunteered to act as a mediator in the name dispute.
Nicholas Whyte, ICG’s Balkan Program Director, was grilled during a recent press conference in Skopje, Macedonia over the Evans allegations. He said that there was no negative impact felt by the ICG.
Responding to claims that Evans would have a conflict of interest in the name dispute: “Once the burdens of (political) office have been removed from them, people often change their views,” Mr Whyte said.
During his tenure as Australia’s foreign minister, Evans was accused by international human rights groups of being too close to Indonesia’s then dictator, Suharto, and for turning a blind eye to abuses in East Timor. In 1975, Indonesia invaded the then Portuguese colony and thousands were killed during the occupation. The United Nations refused to recognise Indonesia’s annexation.
In September 1999, an Australian led international force entered East Timor to restore order after pro-Indonesian militia gangs went on a rampage after the majority had voted for independence during a UN sponsored ballot.
“My impression is that Gareth has changed his mind about East Timor, and will admit that he got it wrong,” Mr Whyte said.
The ICG is a non-governmental Brussels based think tank dedicated to conflict resolution throughout the world. It has many ex-foreign heads of state sitting on its board.
Sasha Uzunov Macedonia