23 January 2006 The senior United Nations envoy to Timor-Leste, the world’s newest nation, today called on the Security Council to authorize continued international support for the country after the end of the UN’s mandate there on 20 May.
In his latest briefing to the Security Council on the work of the UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), Sukehiro Hasegawa said there had been “major progress in peacebuilding” but peace still remained “fragile” in a country that only gained independence in 2002.
“National capacities in highly technical areas such as justice and finance remained extremely weak. It had become evident that international advisory support, especially in those two areas, was required for some years to come,” said Mr. Hasegawa, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste.
He said the prosecution service needed “urgent attention,” and human rights was also an area the international community should keep an eye on after the end of UNOTIL’s mandate. At the same time, he noted that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights would send a mission to the country next month to identify more clearly the needs after the 20 May deadline.
Mr. Hasegawa said he was pleased to note that the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste had completed its report on human rights, which the country’s president, Xanana Gusmão, presented to the Secretary-General on Friday.
Speaking at a news conference in New York last week, President Gusmão said the report, which looks at the 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese territory by Indonesia, was “a way to heal the wounds in the people’s minds” but he stressed the need now was to focus on the future development of the tiny country.
In today’s briefing, Mr. Hasegawa said relations between Indonesia and Timor-Leste had continued to improve and said he was “confident” that a final border agreement between the two countries could soon be reached, adding that UNOTIL was stepping up training of the Border Patrol Unit to improve its professionalism.
Echoing the Secretary-General’s remarks in his latest report on Timor-Leste, which was also discussed by the Security Council today, Mr. Hasegawa said the country would face “a critical test” next year with the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections.
“An electoral needs assessment mission fielded in November 2005 had concluded that, for the elections to be free and fair, Timor-Leste needed international assistance and a strong political presence,” Mr. Hasegawa said.
He also said the Council should give due consideration to a letter sent by the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste asking for continued international assistance after 20 May. That letter requests the establishment of a special political office in Timor-Leste.
“I recommend that the Security Council carefully examine that request, taking into account the newly emerging political and security situation,” Mr. Hasegawa concluded at the end of his briefing.
Also addressing the Security Council today, President Gusmão said it was his duty to appeal to the international community to continue to assist his country in meeting some of its “most critical needs” after the end of UNOTIL’s mandate.
The President of Timor-Leste said these needs were electoral assistance, civilian advisers – namely in the justice and finance sectors, support in police training and the deployment of some “15 to 20 military liaison personnel” in view of next year’s elections and the need to avoid border tensions with Indonesia.
UNOTIL was set up in May 2005 to succeed the UN Mission of Support in Timor-Leste (UNMISET), which was established in 2002 to help with administrative structures, law enforcement and security after the country gained independence from Indonesia.