6 December 2007
Security Council

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5791st Meeting (AM)



Fate of Military Deserters, 100,000 Internally Displaced Persons Cited

While all 15 political parties in Timor-Leste, including the main opposition party, were working together in Parliament and elsewhere, the unresolved issue of soldiers who had deserted the military and the fate of 100,000 internally displaced persons currently settled in about 53 camps must be addressed as soon as possible, Dumisani Kumalo (South Africa), head of the recent Security Council mission to that country, said this morning.

During a briefing on the Council mission to Timor-Leste from 24 November to 1 December, Mr. Kumalo said it was crucial that the country’s Government, with the support of the United Nations and the international community, work together in the short term to improve the living conditions of internally displaced persons.  The Timorese must own their fate and differences between the ruling Alliance for Parliamentary Majority (AMP) and Fretelin, the main opposition party, must be resolved through political dialogue, reconciliation and political engagement.  The conflict between the two sides was mainly over the constitutionality and legitimacy of the current Government as well as its ability to govern.

He said the legacy of the 2006 violence and its aftermath continued to haunt Timor-Leste’s political leadership, as did weak institutions, the lack of capacity and governance difficulties.  However, the general political and security situation remained calm and stable, but fragile.  While the Timorese people had high expectations, the new Government, installed 100 days ago, was grappling to establish policies and institutions, including the national budget.  The collective view was that the question of internally displaced persons, military deserters –- the so-called “petitioners” -- and the unresolved case of Major Alfredo Reinado caused uncertainty and divisions among the people and the leadership.

Mr. Kumalo said members of the mission had met with Timor-Leste’s President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, as well as members of the judiciary, the National Parliament and political parties, including the leader of the main opposition party.  They had also met with non-governmental organizations and representatives of the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), and conducted field visits in the districts of Liquica and Baucau, outside the capital, Dili.

Despite the challenges facing the country, the mission had been encouraged by its well-functioning democracy, he said, pointing out, however, that the security and justice sector needed strengthening.  The national police (PNTL) and the national defence force (F-FDTL) urgently needed reform, and it was to be hoped that the role of the United Nations Political Office in Timor-Leste (UNPOL) would be reviewed to ensure maximum results.  A team of experts from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations must be sent to assess the situation and seek ways to improve it.  Everyone the mission had met had called for UNMIT’s continued presence in the country.

He said that, in spite of the challenges associated with the results of the parliamentary elections earlier this year, a new Government was in place, political parties were represented in Parliament and civil society seemed to be flourishing.  On the other hand, the country faced enormous challenges associated with the political differences among leaders in resolving critical issues and socio-economic differences relating to widespread unemployment and poverty.  The plight of the internally displaced persons remained a big task.  Still, the country was on the right path towards regaining peace, stability, unity and prosperity.

Following the briefing, Nelson Santos, Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the United Nations, said that, although considerable progress had been made since April 2006, there was no reason for complacency.  The people and Government of Timor-Leste were doing their best to achieve stability, free the people from poverty and free the United Nations of its obligations.  The international community faced a number of critical situations that were more serious.  Timor-Leste did not wish to create a culture of dependency, having always struggled to be independent and self-sufficient.  However, the continued support of the United Nations was important for the country’s further stabilization and for strengthening peace and democracy.

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For information media • not an official record

Transcript of this meeting

The Security Council met again a week later to discuss the report.

Report of Security Council mission to Timor-Leste

La'o Hamutuk page on the UNMIT Mission in Timor-Leste