|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5628th Meeting (AM)
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL TIMOR-LESTE NEEDS SUPPORT
AS ELECTIONS APPROACH; TWELVE MONTH EXTENSION OF UN MISSION RECOMMENDED
Prime Minister Says Building State from Almost Zero “Herculean Task”,
World Community Needed Long-Term Commitment in Post-Conflict Situations
The Secretary-General’s special representative for Timor-Leste told the Security Council today that it was an important time for the young nation as it prepared for its first national elections since gaining independence five years ago, and the Secretary-General had recommended that the United Nations Mission be extended for 12 additional months.
“The people of Timor-Leste, who are desirous of peace and stability in a climate of democratic, responsive and accountable governance, need the support of the international community in the months to come,” said Atul Khare, who is also the Head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).
He noted that, in the wake of the outbreak of violence in April and May of 2006, Timor-Leste was grappling with security concerns, significant numbers of internally displaced people, development issues and the need to reform the judicial system and promote national reconciliation.
In light of the country’s ongoing precarious security situation, he added that the deployment of an additional formed police unit, as recommended by the Secretary-General, for the pre- and immediate post-electoral period, was also essential.
José Ramos-Horta, Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, said: “Building a State from almost zero is a Herculean task.” He noted that success stories like Singapore, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and others had not happened overnight, but were the result of decades of dedicated and disciplined institution-building. He said that there had perhaps been excessive optimism in the past regarding his country, with it one day being called a “success”, and the next a failing State.
“We are not a failing State; we are a State of only five years existence, and what we have achieved so far… has been impressive,” he said. In post-conflict situations, the international community needed to be committed for the medium and long term; there were no quick fixes. For that reason, he, too, requested an extension of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months.
Subsequently, numerous representatives took the floor to offer their support for that request. The representative of Singapore said that the international community now had a second chance to get it right in Timor-Leste, which was at a critical juncture of its development as a young nation. UNMIT was a good start, and extending its mandate was a reasonable recommendation. The Mission should stay for as long as it was needed to complete the tasks. To roll it back prematurely would be to repeat history.
The representative of South Africa said that last year’s outbreak of violence had demonstrated how fragile the situation remained in Timor-Leste. The holding of elections would provide Timor-Leste with yet another positive milestone in its efforts to consolidate democracy, but it faced many other daunting challenges, such as continued poverty and underdevelopment, high unemployment and thousands of internally displaced persons still living in camps.
The representative of Indonesia said that the process of nation-building and reconciliation was a highly complex and sensitive matter, in which the United Nations and the international community should continue to play a constructive and nurturing role. Assisting and ensuring the credibility of the forthcoming elections should be one of the priorities of UNMIT, and adequate resources should be devoted to the process. The successful achievement of the elections should provide momentum for the return of the new nation to the path of stability and development.
The representative of Germany, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that it was important that the forthcoming elections unite the Timorese people and not create additional divisions. All Timorese should be aware of their own responsibility to promote national reconciliation, not only in the abstract, but also in concrete terms. The Timorese themselves needed to campaign for national reconciliation. The international community could only encourage and support the process.
The long-term commitment of the international community to Timor-Leste remained critical in returning that new nation to the path of stability and development in a climate of democratic, accountable and responsive governance, said the representative of Australia, who strongly supported the renewal of UNMIT’s mandate for a further 12 months. The conduct of free, fair and transparent elections would be a critical test of the robustness of Timor-Leste’s new democracy. He also stressed the need to build a sustainable Timorese police force that would have the confidence and culture to be able to deal with any future crisis of law and order in a fair and just way, as well as a comprehensive and timely security sector review of the defence force.
Other speakers included the representatives of Italy, United States, Ghana, Qatar, Panama, Russian Federation, France, Congo, Belgium, Peru, United Kingdom, China, Slovakia, Japan, Portugal, Philippines, New Zealand and Brazil.
The meeting convened at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 1:25 p.m.
Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) (document S/2007/50) dated 1 February and covering the period 9 August 2006 to 26 January 2007, in which he says that a 12-month extension of the Mission’s mandate would signal the Security Council’s willingness to sustain its commitment to Timor-Leste.
The report states that no major changes in the mandate are envisaged until after the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, adding, however, that, in order to strengthen security for the critical electoral process, the Government’s request for the deployment of an additional formed police unit should be supported. That unit would be based in Dili to support the existing formed units and to respond specifically to possible incidents arising from in the potentially volatile western districts adjacent to the capital, particularly during and after the elections.
The Secretary-General says he intends to report to the Security Council following the elections and submit recommendations for any possible adjustments in UNMIT’s mandate and strength. As indicated in the report of 8 August (document S/2006/628), approximately 600 police officers could be gradually phased out after the elections, and the capacity of formed police units downsized to one unit of 140 personnel.
ATUL KHARE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste and Head of UNMIT, said the Government of Timor-Leste and UNMIT were working well together to fulfil the mandate given by the Council in its resolution 1704 (2006). The Committee on High-Level Coordination had held its first two fortnightly meetings. Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta and the Special Representative met weekly, and regular dialogue was being maintained with other high-level personalities.
He said it was an important time for the young nation, as it prepared for its first national elections since the restoration of its independence. The first round of the presidential election was scheduled for 9 April and the date for parliamentary elections would be announced thereafter. The authorities and the people were working towards ensuring elections that were credible, free and fair, organized in a transparent manner under the supervision of the independent National Electoral Commission, without violence or even intimidation. Codes of conduct and a political declaration were being considered.
He said the authorities of Timor-Leste were grappling with several challenges as they were organizing the elections, including the onset of the rainy season, transportation difficulties, infrastructure, dissemination of information and voter and civic education. Security was clearly a critical element for the success of the electoral processes. The situation, although somewhat improved, remained fragile. The efforts of leaders to search for containment of the criminal elements in martial arts groups deserved praise and the progress of UNMIT police deployment into communities throughout all districts had also proved useful. However, spikes in violence still occurred.
Screening of the National Police Force -- PNTL -- was progressing steadily. 409 of the 1098 registered PNTL officers in Deli had successfully undergone the screening process and refresher or reintegration courses, and another 64 were currently under training. It was clear, however, that the process of screening, evaluation and retraining needed to be considerably expedited. The deployment of an additional formed police unit, as recommended by the Secretary-General, for the pre- and immediate post-electoral period was essential.
He said the conclusion of the Trilateral Memorandum of Understanding between the Governments of Timor-Leste and Australia, and the United Nations on 27 January was an important development. The technical arrangement between Australia and the United Nations had provided a formal basis for the provision of two dedicated armed companies. He expressed appreciation to the international security forces, which had always responded positively to requests from UNMIT, even prior to the conclusion of the technical arrangement. The Government had taken steps to initiate the comprehensive review of the security sector. UNMIT would continue to play a strong supporting role in that review, which provided a vital opportunity to address the shortcomings observed during the recent crisis.
Justice was a precondition for national reconciliation, he stressed, and all leaders of Timor-Leste had repeatedly assured that impunity would not be permitted to prevail. All organs of sovereignty had taken positive steps towards the implementation of the recommendations of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry. The ad hoc parliamentary commission established to study the report had accepted all its recommendations and had recommended additional measures of accountability. All recommendations had been approved by the National Parliament on 9 January. However, Major Alfredo Reinado, who had escaped Becora prison on 30 August 2006, remained at large, and was a serious threat to security. It was also absolutely essential that international assistance be provided to the justice sector. The justice sector support programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the proposed comprehensive review of the justice sector needs deserved special attention.
The Government had made significant progress in the establishment of an international compact, in consultation with UNMIT, the United Nations family, donors and the diplomatic community, he said. The first meeting of the compact partners had taken place on 6 February, where the Government had announced that it had identified public safety and security, elections, public sector strengthening, youth employment, strengthening of the justice system and social reinsertion as the key areas to be addressed over the next two years.
He said the Government was working hard to restore and enhance efforts to promote development of the country. Road repairs in Dili, improved street lightning and beautification of parks were visible signs of progress. The Minister of Labour and Community Reinsertion was preparing a national employment plan and a youth employment plan. The Government had made tremendous efforts in initiating concerted actions towards enabling dialogue and national reconciliation, thus facilitating the return and relocation of internally displaced persons. However, internal displacement, food insecurity and disruption of basic social services were likely to persist beyond the elections. An inter-agency consolidated appeal in the amount of $16.6 million had been prepared and launched in January.
Timor-Leste continued to strengthen its cooperation with other countries and the regional organizations. Prime Minister Ramos-Horta had signed the Treaty on Amity and Cooperation with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a first step towards membership of the organization. A conference on regional economic cooperation would be held in Dili on 19 to 21 February. The emergency of the crisis in April and May 2006 had been a reminder of the need for long-term commitment of the international community. Development and strengthening of democratic institutions was a long-drawn process and required continued support.
“The people of Timor-Leste, who are desirous of peace and stability in a climate of democratic, responsive and accountable governance, need the support of the international community in the months to come,” he said. The Secretary-General had, therefore, recommended that the mandate of UNMIT be extended by an additional 12 months.
JOSÉ RAMOS-HORTA, Prime Minister and Minister for Defence of Timor-Leste, said that Dili had returned to a relative state of calm and order since May 2006. Security arrangements established on the ground had been working and were an essential contribution to preserving the country’s integrity, reconciliation and development. Timor-Leste’s National Police (PNTL) screening process was well under way, despite some coordination problems in the start-up phase. His Government would prefer to see a far greater number of PNTL officers vetted and fully deployed, as the presence of Timorese officers in the streets would help restore confidence and trust of the general population in the National Police.
He said that United Nations police operations were starting to have an impact on returning law and order to the streets of Dili. Yet, in view of the still fragile and precarious conditions in the country, it was prudent to request the Council to consider deploying an additional formed police unit, to be provided by Portugal. External support could not be the solution in the long run, however. For that reason, his Government had made an urgent priority of reviewing and reforming the entire security sector.
Regarding the country’s Armed Forces, the F-FDTL, a number of joint efforts were under way to heal the wounds between FDTL and PNTL. The Armed Forces had demonstrated remarkable discipline after the tragic events of 25 May 2006. Some progress had also been made on the issue of the so-called petitioners. He commended all political, community and church leaders on the issue of national reconciliation more generally. He particularly highlighted the events of 10 December, led by President Xanana Gusmão, which had brought together the national leadership in a traditional peace ceremony, during which Timorese leaders had publicly acknowledged collective responsibility for the crisis. In addition, a stronger sense of identity needed to be built among youth through stronger participation in nation-building efforts and community relations. Combined efforts were starting to bring criminal gangs and martial arts groups, primarily recruited from among the jobless youth, under control.
Through the Government’s SIMU MALU policy initiative, which meant “to receive each other” in his native tongue of Tetum, internally displaced persons were being received back into their home communities. The program had been successful to an extent, but 25,000 to 29,000 internally displaced persons continued to live in camps in and around Dili, and an even larger number in the districts. Efforts were also being made to develop an emergency reconstruction plan, which would encompass a field survey that would allow planning for the relocation of families. The Government had also made land available for the building of new housing. He thanked agencies and the donor community for helping build temporary houses in several areas of Dili.
He said that the violence of today was part of a collective trauma deriving from the violence of the country’s past. Overcoming it constituted one of the greatest challenges for the present generation. Timor-Leste remained committed to an accessible justice system capable of delivering equal and efficient justice. While steady progress had been made, the events of April and May 2006 had had an enormous impact on the nascent judicial system. Due to the additional burden and complexity of the resulting caseload, the system was clearly overstretched. The assistance that the United Nations was providing to the sector must be enhanced. It was a two-fold battle: delivery of quick, efficient and impartial justice; and the long-term endeavour of forming a judicial system from scratch. Evidence indicated that processes of judicial reform in any country needed 10 to 15 years to bear fruit. High and unrealistic expectations without adequate support could lead to failure in both battles.
Notwithstanding the national reconciliation policy, he said that impunity could not be accepted. In the case of Major Reinado and others implicated in the violence of May 2006, his Government had opted for dialogue. He was “cautiously optimistic” that Mr. Reinado could be persuaded to present himself to justice voluntarily.
He said that another critical element of Timor-Leste’s path to restoring stability would be the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007. With the extensive support from UNMIT, he was confident that peaceful, free, fair and transparent elections could be organized.
Another cornerstone of Timor-Leste’s development was its economic stability, in particular the further exploitation of its petroleum reserves, he continued. Poverty eradication, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and establishing the conditions for good governance would, thus, continue to be the guiding principles of his Government. “Building a State from almost zero is a Herculean task,” he said. For that reason, Timor-Leste needed the United Nations continued support and sustained commitment to successfully master the long and arduous task. The success stories of Singapore, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and others had not come overnight, but were the result of decades of dedicated and disciplined institution-building.
He said he realized that Timor-Leste was not the centre of the universe. There were many conflict zones around the world. Regarding his country, there had perhaps been excessive optimism in the past, with it one day being called a “success”, and the next a failing State. “We are not a failing State; we are a State of only five years existence, and what we have achieved so far… has been impressive,” he said. The events of 2006 represented the type of crisis that many developing countries faced at the beginning of their existence. In post-conflict situations, the international community needed to be committed for the medium- and long-term; there were no quick fixes.
He said that even a Manhattan take-out restaurant needed at least a year or two to establish itself; it was reasonable to think that it would take much longer to build a nation. During its current six-month mandate, UNMIT had not even completed recruiting personnel. Such a short mandate also created instability for those recruited and sent to work in the missions, who needed to start looking for other jobs only three months after arriving, rather than focusing on the job on the ground. For all of the above reasons, he requested an extension of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months.
MARCERLLO SPATAFORA (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said the Council’s record on Timor-Leste was positive but not flawless, as demonstrated by the tragic events of last spring, which had shown that the international presence might have been downsized prematurely. The picture remained mixed, at best. The security situation was still fragile. The provision of protection and assistance to the tens of thousands of internally displaced persons would remain an issue for some time. The electoral process was particularly complex. The role of UNMIT was vital, as was cooperation with the international security forces. The Council needed to respond promptly to recommendations to prolong and strengthen the mandate of the Mission. The political and economic investments made by the international community since 1999 could be gradually lost, if they were not sustained now and in the future.
He said only free, fair and undisputed elections could truly re-establish mutual respect and genuine dialogue among the various political constituencies. He hoped that the European Union would be able to overcome any logistical difficulties and send an observation mission. The United Nations would have to support the authorities until the end of the process, and even further. It could take up to five years to rebuild the Timorese National Police. Long-term challenges must be addressed to ensure the sustainability of the stabilization process, such as issues of accountability for past and recent human rights violations, and of justice sector and corrections reforms.
The fundamental importance of boosting social and economic development could not be overlooked, he said. Long-term stability could only be achieved in an environment that was economically sound and investment friendly. Development must benefit the entire population. He praised the steps taken through the compact mechanism too reinvigorate international efforts and coordinate them with the policies and aspirations of the Timorese authorities. The role that could be played by regional partners and organizations should not be underestimated. Their contribution had increasingly proved to be positive and constructive.
WILLIAM BRENCICK ( United States) said that he took positive note of Prime Minister Ramos-Horta’s comments, including the need for sustained support for his country. The United States strongly supported efforts to reach a political accommodation. He called on Timor-Leste to build on the recent efforts and act on the findings of the United Nations certification team, in order to hold free and transparent elections. He further called on all the participants to avoid violence and to respect all processes. He reaffirmed the continuing need for accountability and justice, adding that he supported the timely implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry. There was also a need to complete the investigation of crimes committed in the country in 1999. Justice too long delayed could be justice denied.
He said that the presence of F-FDTL forces had heightened insecurity in the country. He encouraged the Government to keep its forces in check, noting that the United Nations police had a mandate to provide law and security. In addition to reconstituting the police force, the United States supported strengthening the judiciary. The rule of law was the cornerstone of a secure nation.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG ( Ghana) said that, in the course of 50 years of national independence, his country had learned that there was no surer path to national unity and stability than through good governance, the rule of law and a vibrant economy. Therefore, he was pleased to see the determined efforts of the Government and the people of Timor-Leste to reconcile their nation and redirect their energies towards the vital tasks of consolidating democracy and rule of law, as well as building a sound economy. Challenges ahead included security issues, reintegration of internally displaced persons, holding elections and implementing the recommendations contained in the report of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, especially those aspects relating to political accountability and justice.
He expressed concern about the fate of the 594 dismissed soldiers who were still living on a stipend paid by the Government, and hoped that the Commission of Notables would conclude its work in due course. Impunity must not be condoned and the fugitives who had escaped from Becora prison should be accorded due process. The overriding consideration must be equal treatment of all citizens before the law. The various mechanisms set up to handle those delicate matters must be given the necessary support. UNMIT had distinguished itself as a reliable partner and its activities had reflected the interconnected nature of the problems of security, human rights, displaced persons, gender mainstreaming and poverty alleviation. They were as vital as the need to ensure that the elections would meet international standards, not least through the active involvement of women in the political process.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said that 2006 had been the scene of turmoil and conflicts in various parts of the world. While the situation in Timor-Leste was currently under control, the crisis there could not be resolved overnight. That required long-term efforts by the country’s people and Government, as well as the support of the international community. Solving the crisis and creating stability could only be attained if the Timorese pursued the path of national dialogue and political reconciliation. Resolving the crisis also required accommodating demands for political accountability and justice for the events of 2006. The work of the Independent Commission of Inquiry was of extreme importance, as was strengthening the Timorese judiciary.
He said that the crisis of the internally displaced persons remained a major problem. The security situation in Timor-Leste, and Dili in particular, called for an effective security sector. PNTL needed to be fully reconstituted and developed. In the meantime, UNMIT continued to play an indispensable role; it was, therefore, essential to maintain sufficient numbers of UNMIT police. The presidential and parliamentary elections must remain one of the current year’s priorities. The United Nations could undoubtedly provide indispensable assistance in supporting that process. He exhorted the people and Government of Timor-Leste to show the necessary discretion in dealing with the crisis, and to give precedence to their national interests.
DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said he was honoured to be the lead country in the Council on the issue of Timor-Leste. The people of Timor-Leste deserved and expected the international community’s support. Resolution 1704 (2006) remained an important framework, with which the international community had expressed its commitment to Timor-Leste. The regrettable incidents of April and May 2006, however, had demonstrated how fragile the situation remained. While the Government and people had taken significant strides in the political and economic spheres since then, it was now up to the international community to demonstrate long-term commitment to assist Timor-Leste in strengthening its institutions and deepening its young democracy. The United Nations must continue to consult with the Timorese Government about its role and involvement. UNMIT needed to be strengthened and its mandate extended, allowing it a reasonable period to develop a framework for long-term stability and development.
Noting the agreement to hold the first ever elections by the Timorese people themselves with the international community’s support, he said the elections would provide Timor-Leste with yet another positive milestone in its efforts to consolidate democracy. The holding of elections, however, was not in itself a complete answer to all of the country’s problems. He urged all political parties to adhere to the principles of non-violence and utilize the democratic and legal process in preparation for the upcoming elections, so as to ensure they were free and fair. On its part, UNMIT would be expected to provide full support and assistance to the Timorese authorities as they conducted their first election. The Government and people needed firm assurance that the international community was committed to staying with them beyond the last election held. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to extend UNMIT for 12 months.
While the overall situation in Timor-Leste had improved, security conditions remained volatile, he said. Efforts to consolidate and promote stability needed to be redoubled. The dialogue commission had helped to introduce a spirit of reconciliation. The challenges facing the country extended beyond political and security factors, however. Timor-Leste continued to be mired in poverty and underdevelopment. One in five people in Timor-Leste lived on less than $1 a day, and the majority of the population, especially the youth, faced unemployment and general lack of opportunities. Thousands of people remained internally displaced and lived in camps following the past year’s political crisis. While the Government had instituted a number of programmes to address the challenges, those projects had not been enough to address the country’s deeper needs.
He said Indonesia’s decision to support Timor-Leste’s joining ASEAN and Timor-Leste’s signing of the initial access memorandum was critical for the strengthening of relations. He hoped the international donor community would continue to contribute generously to development programmes. Welcoming the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Timor-Leste’s Government, the United Nations and Australia on 26 January 2007, he said the Trilateral Coordination Forum would add value to the international community’s role in assisting the country to achieve long-term peace and stability, including much needed security sector reform and a strengthened justice system. The international community’s long-term commitment to Timor-Leste remained essential. As far as South Africa was concerned, Timor-Leste was, indeed, the centre of the world.
REZLAN I. JENIE ( Indonesia) said that, as Timor-Leste’s closest neighbour, his country continued to enjoy an excellent level of bilateral relations with the country. There had been regular consultations with Timorese counterparts at various levels. He commended the efforts of the leaders of Timor-Leste in promoting political and communal reconciliation, and welcomed the significant improvement of the security situation. Indonesia continued to expand its bilateral cooperation and had, together with Australian and Timor-Leste, established a regular trilateral ministerial meeting. ASEAN had decided to include Timor-Leste in its functional cooperation.
He said the process of nation-building and reconciliation was a highly complex and sensitive matter, in which the United Nations and the international community should continue to play a constructive and nurturing role. Assisting in and ensuring the credibility of the forthcoming elections should be one of the priorities of UNMIT, and adequate resources should be devoted to the process. The successful achievement of the elections should return the new nation to the path of stability and development. Durable peace and stability in Timor-Leste would be achieved only when the country’s development challenges were addressed comprehensively. It was the responsibility of the international community to help ensure that that opportunity did not slip by.
He noted with interest the compact process between Timor-Leste and the international community, which entailed the reorientation of the existing national development plan and external financing, and supported the integrated approach embarked upon by UNMIT. The Council should, as much as possible, promote the self-reliance and ownership of the Government and people of the country, and encourage broad-based partnerships with various actors for sustainable development. He supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate, as well as the Government’s request that an additional formed police unit be deployed for the critical electoral process.
RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said that transparent and credible elections were important, but they were only one step in the complex process of consolidating a stable, just and representative democracy. That process could give the people of Timor-Leste the confidence that their Government could ensure social peace and sustainable development within a State of just and inclusive law. None of that could be achieved without the genuine commitment of national actors. UNMIT still had an essential role to play in the consolidation of peace and in the electoral process. Many difficulties still needed to be overcome before elections could be held under the best of conditions. He urged Timor-Leste to consolidate the necessary institutions and mechanisms to make sure that the elections could be held in an atmosphere of transparency and peace.
He said that he supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to extend UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months, to signal the Security Council’s commitment to the people and Government of Timor-Leste. Given the priority that should be given to placing police and electoral personnel outside of Dili, he also supported the deployment of an additional unit.
KONSTATIN K. DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said his country commended efforts of the leadership in promoting national dialogue and reconciliation, combating impunity and ensuring the return of internally displaced persons, among other things. Although the security situation had become more stable, it continued to be fragile. The flare-up of violence in Dili in January showed the need for continued integrated international support. He hoped that, with UNMIT and regional partners, the Government of Timor-Leste would be able to successfully address the challenges.
He said that, on the eve of elections, security was of particular importance. Comprehensive assistance was, therefore, necessary in the preparation of the elections. He had taken note of the request to dispatch an additional police unit during the election and post-election periods. In future assistance to the country, its preferences should be taken into account.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX ( France) said that, while security in Timor-Leste had improved, the situation on the ground remained fragile. The presence of UNMIT and international security forces was indispensable in the medium term, until Timor-Leste’s institutions were ready to take over. For that reason, he favoured a 12-month extension of UNMIT’s mandate.
He said that the main challenge ahead was organizing elections under satisfactory conditions. The elections presented a genuine opportunity for reconciliation. Timorese authorities needed to implement the recommendations of the Special Independent Commission of Inquiry. He also supported adding a police unit during the elections. The international community must continue to support the construction of Timorese institutions.
He said that reconciliation within Timorese society, as well as with the country’s neighbours, could only rest on transparency and justice. Combating impunity was, therefore, a decisive aspect. He supported having the Commission of Inquiry wind up its study of the commission of serious crimes, including by studying the facts of 1999. He hoped that the Truth and Friendship Committee could shed light on the past, in order to build on the future.
PASCAL GAYAMA ( Congo) said the presence of Prime Minister Ramos-Horta showed what the people of Timor-Leste expected from the Council. His country had always underlined the necessity for long-term support. He welcomed the preparation of the final elements of the legal framework for the elections, and hoped that the National Electoral Commission would be set up with the support of all stakeholders. He also supported the participation of all actors at all levels in the national dialogue and reconciliation, and called upon the Commission of Notables to find, before the elections, a satisfactory response to the programme of subsidy to former soldiers and dialogue with policemen on the run.
He said the implementation of the strategic plan for the reform of the judicial sector should allow that sector to restore its good name by showing its readiness to counteract impunity. No obstacle should prevent implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. He supported extension of the mandate of UNMIT for 12 months. As the upcoming elections could represent a real challenge to national unity, he also favoured strengthening the police, as recommended by the Secretary-General. Unemployment and poverty should be combated through, among other things, the implementation of the compact, which had all the necessary elements for the country’s development.
JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said that the upcoming year would be critical for Timor-Leste’s future. The presidential and parliamentary elections were important to ensure the maintenance of order, while upholding respect for the law. He was confident that the candidates could overcome the splits of the past year. It was important to prevent old wounds from being reopened and old hatreds from being revived. The most recent certification mission had made many recommendations that still needed to be implemented. For that reason, a transparent and legitimate electoral process was needed.
He said that 2007 was also critical for healing the wounds that had both caused and resulted from last April’s crisis. The 21 recommendations of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry needed to be implemented. An effective and visible justice system needed to be achieved. Any sense of impunity must be avoided at all costs, as it could lead to further instability.
He congratulated UNMIT for the work it had accomplished so far. More and more, the Mission could work hand in hand with the Timorese police force, but much remained to be done. For that reason, he supported a rollover of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months and an additional integrative police unit for the elections. The Timorese aspired towards peace and stability; the international community’s responsibility was to provide a context for meeting those aspirations.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVES ( Peru) said he welcomed measures of the Government of Timor-Leste to establish national dialogue and reconciliation, as well as measures to tackle the issues of social fragmentation and integration of internally displaced persons. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations of extending the UNMIT mandate for 12 months, as that decision would send an important signal of the Council’s support for the country, necessary in light of the upcoming elections. The establishment of the compact was important for the long-term social and economic development of the country. Urgent priorities for the country were elections, justice, security, youth employment and basic services for the most needy.
He said UNMIT must continue to provide assistance to sectors such as security and justice. The recommendations of the Commission on Inquiry should be implemented and would have an impact on impunity. He welcomed the fact that the relations between Timor-Leste and Indonesia continued to be strengthened. The issue of security must be tackled on two fronts: there was a shortfall in units; and reconciliation between the units must be established. He supported the request of the Government to strengthen UNMIT with an additional police unit during and after the elections. A decision on drawing down police after the elections should be examined very carefully, keeping in mind the fragility of the National Police.
PAUL JOHNSTON ( United Kingdom) said that building sustainable stability in Timor-Leste was a shared goal and, as such, the upcoming elections should be a top priority. Free and fair elections would sustain the progress made towards a pluralistic system and good governance. Logistical and technical assistance were needed, but political leaders themselves must also create the atmosphere to give the elections a unifying character.
He said that UNMIT had a key role to play in facilitating dialogue. Transparency must be the key criterion, and the Mission should make clear when the letter or spirit of the election provisions had been violated. Given the tense security situation in Dili, it was essential to make progress in security reform. Judicial reform was also critical. Work also needed to be done in reforming the police, the army and relevant ministries, in order to ensure that security forces did not act politically, especially during the election and post-election periods. Progress was also needed in judicial capacity and human rights. His country was committed to helping the people of Timor-Leste during the critical year ahead and beyond.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said his delegation was satisfied with the work done by UNMIT, and Timor-Leste had registered good progress in reconstruction and conduction of national dialogue and reconciliation. He hoped that Timor-Leste, with the assistance of the United Nations, would consolidate the results of reconciliation and rekindle the people’s hope in the future of the country. The elections would be a major milestone, as well as a test to see whether Timor-Leste would move towards unity and harmony, or the other way around.
He said UNMIT should make its best efforts to provide assistance to Timor-Leste and the Council should consider and meet the legitimate request of the Government. The elections were not the end of the political process. Efforts must be intensified to build the capacity of the police, judiciary and education. The majority of the people were still suffering from poverty. Helping the country attract investments and integrate in regional processes would help sustain development in Timor-Leste. The country was a new member of the ASEAN and United Nations families. The international community, therefore, had a responsibility to help Timor-Leste in overcoming its difficulties and make the success story a lasting one.
Council President PETER BURIAN (Slovakia), speaking in his national capacity, said he was pleased that the situation in Timor-Leste had stabilized in the past six months; at the same time, it was obvious that there were many challenges and problems that, if not addressed properly, might cause a relapse back to conflict and violence. The international community must sustain its commitment to peacebuilding in Timor-Leste and he, therefore, supported the recommendation that UNMIT be extended for a further period. UNMIT must have an adequate long-term perspective and proper technical and human resources, in order to cope with the complex challenges on the ground. He expressed the hope that a 12-month extension of the mandate might improve the recruitment process.
He said it was crucial to prepare proper conditions for the upcoming elections. The country’s overall security and stability were basic preconditions for a free and fair electoral process. It was of great concern that there were still many illegal weapons in the hands of civilians. Efforts must be strengthened to collect them before the elections. Timor-Leste’s National Police must work very closely with United Nations police to that end.
He said it was of utmost importance to define efficient ways for securing sustainable social and economic development. Despite the Government’s programmes aimed at poverty reduction and job creation, the challenges still exceeded the Government’s capacity. It was, therefore, essential that the United Nations and the international community remain actively involved in supporting social and economic development in Timor-Leste.
He strongly supported UNMIT’s continued role in assisting the Timorese authorities in the critical areas of police and military reform, including effective institutional capacity-building of the local security sector. He expressed great concern about the situation of internally displaced persons. He also reiterated support for the process of national reconciliation and building a system of unity and trust. That should not, however, mean in any way impunity for perpetrators of serious crimes and violations of human rights. To that end, he welcomed and supported all relevant efforts for promoting justice and reconciliation in the country, as well as between Timor-Leste and Indonesia.
ROBERT HILL ( Australia) said the long-term commitment of the international community to Timor-Leste remained critical in returning that new nation to the path of stability and development in a climate of democratic, accountable and responsive governance. He strongly supported the renewal of UNMIT’s mandate for a further 12 months. Australia was prepared to remain at the forefront of the efforts by the international community. It provided 810 Australians to the international security forces. Fifty Australian police officers were deployed to UNMIT police and Australia had increased contributions for humanitarian aspects of the crisis to 10 million Australian dollars.
He said the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections would be the first national elections to be managed by the Timorese themselves. The conduct of free, fair and transparent elections would be a critical test of the robustness of Timor-Leste’s new democracy, and would require the support of the international community. He welcomed the United Nations provision of technical and logistical assistance and the three-person independent electoral certification team to monitor the process. His country had provided 1.3 million Australian dollars to support a UNDP project aimed at strengthening electoral institutions and processes.
The recent signing of the technical arrangement, covering the parameters of the international security forces deployment, and the Memorandum of Understanding establishing the Trilateral Coordination Forum, had demonstrated to the Timorese people the shared commitment of the United Nations, Australia and their Government to ensuring stability and security. He stressed the need to build a sustainable Timorese police force that would have the confidence and culture to be able to deal with any future crisis of law and order in a fair and just way, as well as a comprehensive and timely security sector review of the defence force.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said it was clear, at such a critical juncture, that Timor-Leste needed the international community’s strong continued support. Japan, therefore, expected the Council to take a decision to extend the Mission’s mandate for one year. The Government and people of Timor-Leste had taken a significant step forward with the adoption of the election law. He hoped that the presidential election in April would be followed by national elections, with the date to be decided by consensus among the parties concerned. For the successful conduct of the upcoming elections, maintaining security and public order in the capital and throughout the country was of utmost importance, and the UNMIT police component, as well as the international security forces, must ensure such an environment in the country.
Welcoming the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by Timor-Leste, the United Nations and Australia, and the technical arrangement between the United Nations and the international security forces, he said those two agreements completed the security arrangements called for in resolution 1704. He also supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to reinforce UNMIT with a formed police unit to ensure the elections’ success. He regarded the first meeting of the high-level coordination mechanism provided for in resolution 1704 as a welcome positive step.
Reiterating Japan’s commitment to supporting all efforts for sustainable peace and development beyond the peacekeeping stage, he said the successful conduct of the upcoming elections would be an important milestone in Timor-Leste’s endeavours in peacebuilding. In that regard, he announced that his Government would be organizing a peacebuilding seminar on Timor-Leste in Tokyo this March, as a case study in the context of the Peacebuilding Commission’s future work.
VANU GOPALA MENON ( Singapore) said that, among the many challenges that Timor-Leste still had to grapple with, priority must go towards maintaining law and order. Youth gangs had quickly sprouted after the breakdown of law and order last year. Fuelled by the easy availability of illegal weapons and unemployed youths, those gangs had been responsible for much of the violence that rocked Dili. If unchecked, they could seriously undermine the electoral process and set back all the important work that had been accomplished thus far. To ensure a smooth election and expeditious reconstruction post-election, no effort must be spared in reining in and disarming those gangs, while at the same time tackling the youth unemployment problem.
He said that there must be no let-up in security sector reforms to integrate and strengthen the Timorese police, military and the ministries of interior and defence. Every effort must be made to resolve the mistrust and rivalry between those institutions. Resources must be made available for reconstituting and normalizing the PNTL and FDTL forces, as well as to building up their capacity to maintain law and order. Work also needed to be done on upholding the rule of law. Strengthening the country’s fledgling judicial system, both in capacity and capability, was vital.
The international community now had a second chance to get it right in Timor-Leste, he continued. UNMIT was a good start, and it needed strong support to fulfil its mandate. Timor-Leste was at a critical juncture of its development as a young nation. Much work still needed to be done, and extending UNMIT’s mandate was a reasonable recommendation. The mission should stay for as long as it was needed to complete the tasks. To roll it back prematurely would be to repeat history.
He also supported the request for an additional formed police unit and cautioned against pulling it out too soon after the election, as there was much that it could contribute in the post-election environment. He also urged the United Nations to expedite staffing of UNMIT personnel supporting security and judicial sector reforms. Present shortfalls in staffing and expertise in some of those areas was a concern, as it meant more transgressors getting away unpunished.
THOMAS MATUSSEK (Germany), on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that, while the overall situation in Timor-Leste had improved over the six months since UNMIT’s establishment, the security situation remained volatile, gang activity continued and there was increasing discontent among internally displaced Timorese. One of the key elements in the peace process was the necessity of rebuilding confidence among the various actors. It was important that the forthcoming elections unite the Timorese people and not create additional divisions. All Timorese should be aware of their own responsibility to promote national reconciliation, not only in the abstract, but also in concrete terms. The forthcoming presidential and legislative elections should contribute to national unity and democratic stability. The Union endorsed the recommendations of the independent electoral certification team to the Timorese authorities to implement key measures to ensure the full credibility of the electoral process.
Reconciliation and viable peace could only be achieved in a secure environment, he said. In that context, the Union welcomed the signing of a security agreement on 26 January by the United Nations, Timor-Leste and Australia. He also welcomed the initiative to support the electoral process with the deployment of an additional United Nations police unit in support of Timor-Leste’s National Police. Capacity-building and reform of the Timorese National Police remained essential to creating an effective police force capable of addressing the security challenges. UNMIT would have an important role to play in the process. Nonetheless, screening for readmission of PNTL officers would need to accelerate, in order to meet security needs during the elections.
Justice and accountability remained key factors for lasting peace, he said. The Union remained concerned about the lack of progress in the judicial system and the fight against impunity. The judicial system’s overall capacity to deal with the number of arrests was still inadequate. Reports of intimidation of witnesses damaged confidence in the rule of law among the Timorese people. He hoped the Commission of Truth and Friendship would prove to be an effective mechanism for dealing with the past and for building bridges into the future.
He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for an extension of UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months, with a particular focus on maintaining public security before, during and after the elections. Much had been achieved, but much remained to be done. Most importantly, the Timorese themselves needed to campaign for national reconciliation. The international community could only encourage and support the process. Expressing appreciation for the Government’s efforts and the people’s determination, he said the Union was committed to remaining a reliable partner in assisting their efforts to achieve long-term stability and sustainable economic development, in close coordination with other bilateral and multilateral donors.
JOÃO SALGUEIRO ( Portugal), aligning himself with the statement of the European Union, said the overall situation in Timor-Leste had improved, although the security situation remained volatile and the political climate fluid. The commitment of the international community and the Council remained critical to securing lasting peace and democratic stability. Over the past months, the Timorese leadership had undertaken commendable efforts towards national dialogue and political reconciliation, but many challenges remained as the country prepared itself for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, including security and justice. He supported strengthening UNMIT with an additional police unit during the electoral period.
He said healing the wounds from the past was another challenge. It was, therefore, important to help the Government restore people’s confidence in the judicial system and the national defence and security institutions; and promote human rights. Outstanding grievances, in particular within PNTL and F-FDTL could be overcome by the Timorese authorities with UNMIT’s help and in close collaboration with international partners. The situation of the internally displaced persons and their security in the areas of return was also of particular concern. The Timorese should be in control of choices regarding their future. Whereas there was a clear need for support, the international community must be careful to provide it in a manner consistent with the sovereign options and cultural identity of Timor-Leste.
LAURO L. BAJA Jr. ( Philippines) welcomed the improvement in the overall situation in Timor-Leste since the crisis in May. Institutionalization of the political process was necessary to achieve national reconciliation and political stability. He, therefore, supported efforts to ensure that the first post-independence general election in April would be peaceful and orderly. There should also be efforts to establish a sustainable socio-economic development framework. His country was assisting Timor-Leste, particularly in the area of human resources development, among other things through the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The Philippines was also facilitating admission of Timorese students to its universities and was the fourth largest contributor to UNMIT police.
He said that, in order to ensure that the momentum in bringing Timor-Leste back was maintained, continued engagement by the international community and the United Nations was required. UNMIT had, thus far, made substantial progress in the implementation of its mandate, particularly on transitional law enforcement, police reform, elections and good offices. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a mandate extension of 12 months, as well as the Government’s request for the deployment of an additional formed police unit. Timor-Leste was an example of a successful international enterprise in nation-building, engineered through the combined cooperative efforts of the United Nations, regional players and partners, and could very well be a model for best practices for countries in conflict.
ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) acknowledged the many efforts made over the past year by the Timorese people, their leaders and the international community to return Timor-Leste to a more secure and stable path. New Zealand had participated actively in those efforts through various contributions, including the international security forces. Despite improvements in the overall situation, the security situation remained volatile and the functions being provided by the international security forces remained essential.
She strongly supported extending UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months, to signal the United Nations commitment to Timor-Leste over the long term. UNMIT also needed to be able to make progress on those elements of its mandate that had a longer time frame. It was also of concern that more than two thirds of UNMIT’s civilian staff positions had not been filled; she believed that the initial six-month mandate was a contributing factor.
She said that all parties in Timor-Leste should ensure that the electoral processes and framework met international standards of credibility, and urged UNMIT and the Government of Timor-Leste to place a high priority on the comprehensive review of the security sector. The process needed to be inclusive and involve all actors, especially civil society. It must encompass all aspects of the security sector. Basic roles and functions of all security bodies must be questioned and evaluated to ensure that the country’s security needs could be met now and in the future. Addressing the significant challenges in the justice sector was another high priority. She supported the Secretary-General’s proposed comprehensive judicial review. Every effort needed to be made to counter perceptions of impunity. That applied to the events of the past year and the follow-up to the Commission of Inquiry report.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG ( Brazil) said that his country’s commitment to its sister Portuguese-speaking nation had been unwavering, as illustrated by cooperation projects in key sectors such as defence, education and justice, as well as through its contribution to UNMIT. Brazil would like to do more, were it not for budgetary constraints. While welcoming recent reconciliation initiatives, he warned that national reconciliation was an arduous and slow process that required the strong and continuous support from the international community. In that process, the restructuring of the security and defence sectors and the strengthening of the justice system remained both urgent and indispensable. His country would continue its support for the UNDP programme for the consolidation of the justice system.
He said the task of rebuilding the National Police deserved careful attention. A recurrence should be avoided of the disintegration of the police force in the wake of the April-May incidents. The screening process of police personnel must be closely monitored and training must be rigorous and professional. He endorsed the Secretary-General’s request for the deployment of an additional formed police unit. He was concerned with the limited number of Military Liaison Officers, however, as there were only 33 Officers to liaise on security issues with the international security forces and the UNMIT police -- including during the electoral period. While welcoming the conclusion of the trilateral agreement and the agreement between the United Nations and Australia, he said the original option for a small military contingent under United Nations command and control would be the most suitable solution.
He said all parties concerned must strive for free, fair and transparent elections. Precautions must be taken in order to ensure the safety and security of the Timorese voters and the personnel involved. Structural poverty and associated deprivations, including urban unemployment, must be tackled with long-term investments in infrastructure and capacity-building. Investments could come to fruition by assuring good use of revenues stemming from oil and gas resources. The presence of the United Nations in Timor-Leste was essential to address the central challenges of the present crisis in its political, institutional and security dimensions. He, therefore, strongly supported extending UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months.
Mr. KHARE said that he was grateful for the suggestions for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of UNMIT’s interventions in Timor-Leste, including by placing a continued focus on the upcoming elections and implementing the recommendations of the independent election certification team and the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, as well as improving security, reconstituting the national police and making progress on the review of the security and justice sectors.
Regarding questions on the compact, it was seen as a tool for resource coordination, rather than resource mobilization. Now that the priorities of the next two years had been identified by the Government, an operational framework would be developed, one that built on existing tools and that avoided duplication. As for the high vacancy rates among civilian posts, there were many factors, including specialized job profiles for many of the posts. Some areas had been delegated from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in order to expedite recruitment. Extending UNMIT’s mandate by 12 months would be critical in addressing the challenge of high civilian vacancy rates.
He said that he was returning to Timor-Leste confident of the support of the Security Council. He also wanted to show that Timor-Leste could be a shining example of long-term success. It was important not to be overly optimistic, as had been the case a few years ago, when considering the downsizing of previous operations. Cautious optimism and confidence were needed, as was the continued engagement of the Council and the international community.
* *** *For information media • not an official record
Complete transcript of meeting
La'o Hamutuk page on the UNMIT Mission in Timor-Leste