SRSG ATTENDS PKF CHANGE OF COMMAND IN OECUSSI DISTRICT
SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello and a host of Government and military officials today attended a change of command and farewell ceremony in East Timor’s enclave Oecussi district.
The ceremony marked the official hand over of operations from the Jordanian Battalion to a Battalion from the Republic of Korea (RoKbatt).
“Today marks another small, but nonetheless significant, step in the process of bringing normality back to East Timor, a process that will culminate in just over four months time when the people of this country will at long last be able to celebrate their independence,” the SRSG said at the ceremony.
The SRSG stressed that while UNTAET is making significant moves to reduce the size of the international military presence in East Timor, “the assumption by RoKbatt of their duties in this enclave is a sure sign that UNTAET and the international community will not forget its responsibilities towards the people of East Timor.”
Peacekeeping Force Commander Winai Phattiyakul praised the Jordanians for the progress they achieved in Oecussi, and said that very good groundwork had been laid for RoKbatt to maintain a peacekeeping presence in the area.
The Jordanian Contingent is scheduled to have fully withdrawn from Oecussi by the end of this month. Their departure follows that of the Philippine and Kenyan contingents from other districts late last year. UNTAET’s ongoing downsizing moves will reduce the current authorized level of 8,000 international troops to around 5,000 by East Timor’s independence on 20 May 2002.
The bulk of UNTAET’s military downsizing will occur in the east of the country as the first battalion of the newly formed East Timor Defense Force (ETDF) becomes fully operational by the middle of this year.
PORTUGUESE DEFENSE MINISTER ARRIVES IN DILI
Portugal’s Minister of Defense arrived in Dili today for a three-day official visit during which he is meeting with senior UNTAET, Government and military officials and will formally hand over two modified Albatross patrol boats to the East Timor Defense Force (ETDF).
Soon after his arrival, Defense Minister Rui Pena – accompanied by Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Manuel Alvarenga and Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Vieira Matias – met Taur Matan Ruak, Commander of the East Timor Defense Force (ETDF), to discuss Portugal’s ongoing commitment to train the ETDF and its future participation in the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor.
The delegation then met with members of the Portuguese peacekeeping contingent based in Dili and visited the ETDF training facility in nearby Metinaro to meet with members of the ETDF’s first battalion.
The minister is tomorrow scheduled to formally hand over two specially modified 22-meter naval boats that will soon be manned by 50 specially trained ETDF Marine Officers who have been undergoing training with Portuguese specialists since last February.
The patrol boats are part of a US$2.2 million Portuguese aid package to the East Timor Defense Force Navy.
In a related development, SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello this afternoon attended a ceremony in Dili at which representatives of the Republic of Korea Battalion presented the ETDF naval component with a donation consisting of two buses, two jeeps, two generators, eight computers and two photocopiers.
“The equipment that the Republic of Korea is handing over today to the Defense Force and the two patrol launches, a gift from Portugal, that will form the nucleus of the East Timor Navy…are the start of a process which will require additional resources over the coming years,” the SRSG said, calling on other states to also contribute to East Timor’s safety and security at sea.
CHAIRMAN OF UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TO PAY VISIT
Ambassador Leandro Despouy, Chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission, is scheduled to arrive in East Timor on Monday for a five-day official visit.
During his visit, Ambassador Despouy plans to get a first-hand view of the final stages of East Timor’s transition towards independence and meet with members of UNTAET’s Human Rights and Serious Crimes Units, as well as with a wide range of UNTAET, Government, and Constituent Assembly officials.
AUSTRALIAN STATE DELEGATION CONCLUDES FACT-FINDING VISIT
A delegation representing the Australian state of New South Wales’s Ministry of Environment left Dili today after a five-day visit during which they explored means of creating a National Park in East Timor.
During their stay the delegation visited Tutuala beach and Jaco inland in Lospalos district and the Clere riverlet in Manufahi district. Terry Korn, Director of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, told journalists today that the delegation had been impressed by many of the beautiful areas in East Timor and had spoken to many people who showed a strong desire to preserve lands for present and future generations.
In a related development, Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri and Minister for Agriculture Estanislau Aleixo da Silva are scheduled to mark East Timor’s second anniversary of the National Tree Planting Day by planting trees in Dili’s Ailoklaran neighborhood tomorrow.