Timor-Leste: Annan appeals for calm after new violence threatens displaced people

28 June 2006 – Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the people of Timor-Leste to show calm and unity after renewed violence erupted even as his special envoy conferred with key leaders over an increased United Nations presence in the small South-East Asian nation that the UN shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.

“The United Nations will continue to stand with the Timorese people during this difficult period.” Mr. Annan said in a statement issued by his spokesman, urging all political leaders to ensure that demonstrations by their supporters are peaceful and conducted in full compliance with the laws and in cooperation with international forces.

Despite the presence of the Joint Task Force, made up of Australian, New Zealand, Portuguese and Malaysian forces invited in by the Government to restore calm, renewed violence broke out overnight and continued into Wednesday, threatening to hamper food distribution to tens of thousands of already hard-pressed people sheltered in displaced persons camps, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Finn Reske-Nielsen said.

The crisis, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, erupted in late April with the dismissal of 600 soldiers, a third of the armed forces. Ensuing violence cost at least 37 lives and drove over 155,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes into makeshift camps or to host families.

On the political front, Mr. Annan’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste Ian Martin continued his meetings with the country’s leadership to assess a future enhanced UN role and lend his good offices in the political crisis. Together with Mr. Annan’s Special Representative Sukehiro Hasegawa, he met for over an hour with President Xanana Gusmão.

He also met with former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who resigned on Monday, Foreign and Defence Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, and Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, the army commander, while Mr. Hasegawa conferred with Interior Minister Alcino Barris.

Mr. Martin is assessing the needs for beefing up the UN presence again in view of the current unrest. The world body first set up the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in 1999 after the country voted for independence from Indonesia, which had taken it over at the end of Portugal’s colonial rule in 1974. Mr. Martin was Mr. Annan's Special Representative in the territory there at that time.

This robust structure was kept until independence in 2002, when UNTAET was replaced with a downsized operation, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET). This in turn was succeeded by the current, even smaller UN office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL).

In the latest violence today, at least 20 houses were burned in Dili, the capital, and threats were made to displaced people in the camps. Mr. Reske-Nielsen said conditions in camps in Dili, already grim, could rapidly worsen if the violence continues. One camp near Dili airport, housing several thousand people in white UN Refugee agency tents, was cut off from all supplies for several hours today, he said.Timor-Leste: Annan appeals for calm after new violence threatens displaced people.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the people of Timor-Leste to show calm and unity after renewed violence erupted even as his special envoy conferred with key leaders over an increased United Nations presence in the small South-East Asian nation that the UN shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.

“The United Nations will continue to stand with the Timorese people during this difficult period.” Mr. Annan said in a statement issued by his spokesman, urging all political leaders to ensure that demonstrations by their supporters are peaceful and conducted in full compliance with the laws and in cooperation with international forces.

Despite the presence of the Joint Task Force, made up of Australian, New Zealand, Portuguese and Malaysian forces invited in by the Government to restore calm, renewed violence broke out overnight and continued into Wednesday, threatening to hamper food distribution to tens of thousands of already hard-pressed people sheltered in displaced persons camps, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Finn Reske-Nielsen said.

The crisis, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, erupted in late April with the dismissal of 600 soldiers, a third of the armed forces. Ensuing violence cost at least 37 lives and drove over 155,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes into makeshift camps or to host families.

On the political front, Mr. Annan’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste Ian Martin continued his meetings with the country’s leadership to assess a future enhanced UN role and lend his good offices in the political crisis. Together with Mr. Annan’s Special Representative Sukehiro Hasegawa, he met for over an hour with President Xanana Gusmão.

He also met with former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, who resigned on Monday, Foreign and Defence Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, and Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, the army commander, while Mr. Hasegawa conferred with Interior Minister Alcino Barris.

Mr. Martin is assessing the needs for beefing up the UN presence again in view of the current unrest. The world body first set up the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in 1999 after the country voted for independence from Indonesia, which had taken it over at the end of Portugal’s colonial rule in 1974. Mr. Martin was Mr. Annan's Special Representative in the territory there at that time.

This robust structure was kept until independence in 2002, when UNTAET was replaced with a downsized operation, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET). This in turn was succeeded by the current, even smaller UN office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL).

In the latest violence today, at least 20 houses were burned in Dili, the capital, and threats were made to displaced people in the camps. Mr. Reske-Nielsen said conditions in camps in Dili, already grim, could rapidly worsen if the violence continues. One camp near Dili airport, housing several thousand people in white UN Refugee agency tents, was cut off from all supplies for several hours today, he said.

“The displaced population is very vulnerable and the vast majority of people are living under difficult conditions,” he added. “The deteriorated security situation has the potential to have a large negative impact on the humanitarian effort as it affects camp access and disrupts distribution of aid. There must be a safe and secure environment in place to be able to deliver essential supplies.”

“The displaced population is very vulnerable and the vast majority of people are living under difficult conditions,” he added. “The deteriorated security situation has the potential to have a large negative impact on the humanitarian effort as it affects camp access and disrupts distribution of aid. There must be a safe and secure environment in place to be able to deliver essential supplies.”

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