19 February 2009 One year after the attacks on the leaders of Timor-Leste, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today told the Security Council that the small nation can now embark on paving the way towards long-term stability.
Last February, President José Ramos-Horta sustained serious injuries, while Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão escaped unscathed in two separate attacks, which Mr. Ban characterized as a “small but serious challenge” to Timor-Leste, which the United Nations shepherded to independence in 2002.
Mr. Ramos-Horta participated in today’s Council meeting, which also heard from over 30 other Member States.
By the end of last year, said Mr. Ban, “remarkable progress had been made in addressing the residual problems of the 2006 crisis,” referring to the violence that erupted, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, which claimed dozens of lives and drove 155,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes.
The Secretary-General pointed to the settlement between petitioners and the Government and the return home of most internally displaced persons (IDPs) as successes.
“I have the rare pleasure of being able to say to the Council that more progress has been achieved than had been anticipated in my last report.”
In 2009, Timor-Leste can “finally devote its undivided attention to the essential task of building the strong and durable foundations that are crucial for long-term stability and prosperity,” Mr. Ban, who visited the nation over one year ago, told the 15-member body.
One of the key priorities this year must be developing the security sector, he said, noting that one crucial step will be the gradual resumption of policing responsibilities to the National Police.
In his latest report to the Council on the UN mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), the Secretary-General wrote that he is encouraged by post-2006 progress, but warned that the root causes of that crisis, including poverty and unemployment, still linger.
Mr. Ramos-Horta declared that after the 2006 crisis, Timor-Leste is at peace today.
Incidents, including assaults and homicides, have dropped significantly since 2007, he said, adding that in spite of the international financial crisis, the country’s economy will continue to register two-digit growth this year.
Since the attacks on Timor-Leste’s leaders last year, “we have turned the corner,” the President stated, noting strides made such as the closure of most IDP camps.
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