Timor-Leste: UN envoy outlines tasks of new UN mission in troubled country

10 July 2006 – Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on all parties in Timor-Leste to seek unity after the appointment of a new prime minister, as his special envoy outlined the tasks of a new United Nations peacekeeping mission following violence in the small nation that the world body shepherded to independence from Indonesia just four years ago.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan said he looked forward to receiving the report of Special Envoy Ian Martin on how the UN can best help the Timorese build a democratic and peaceful future after unrest attributed to differences between eastern and western regions ripped through the South-East Asian country.

At the end of a two-week visit, after attending the swearing-in of Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, Mr. Martin told a news conference the assistance of the UN and the international community is going to be needed for many years, citing the police, judicial and electoral sectors as targets for such aid.

“But that doesn’t mean the UN peacekeeping mission necessarily has to be here all that time. Arrangements were already being made for many responsibilities to be transferred to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies whose work is long-term work,” he added.

He said that the next UN mission would need to stay until well beyond presidential and parliamentary elections set for next year, and one of its key roles will be not just carrying out policing in the short-term, but helping re-build the country’s police force “and that certainly will be a task that will continue beyond elections.”

The crisis erupted in late April with the firing of 600 striking soldiers, a third of the armed forces. Ensuing violence killed at least 37 people and drove 155,000 more, 15 per cent of the population, from their homes to seek shelter in camps or with host families.

Mr. Annan sent Mr. Martin, his Special Representative when the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) was set up after the country voted to break from Indonesia in 1999, to assess the needs for a strengthened UN presence.

After the former Portuguese colony attained independence in 2002, 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), which has a mandate through 20 August. Mr. Martin is to report to Mr. Annan, who will then make recommendations to the Security Council.

Last month, Mr. Annan said it was “obvious that the UN will have to go back to Timor-Leste in a much larger form than we are at the moment,” noting that perhaps its effort there had been drawn down too quickly.

At present a joint Task Force made up of Australian, New Zealand, Portuguese and Malaysian forces invited in by the Government is helping to restore calm.

Mr. Annan’s Special Representative Sukehiro Hasegawa also attended Mr. Ramos-Horta’s swearing in, which followed the resignation two weeks ago of ex-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. “I am looking forward to cooperating with the new Government in its restoration of law and order and peace and stability,” Mr. Hasegawa said.

In his inaugural address Mr. Ramos Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, declared: “I cannot forget the tireless work and dedication of our friends Sukehiro Hasegawa and (Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General) Anis Bajwa, who were always at their posts during the crisis. To all the personnel of UNOTIL, our eternal gratitude.”

Related Stories