SRSG CONFIDENT OF HIGH ELECTION TURNOUT, CALM PROCESS
Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello marked today’s start of the presidential election campaign with a prediction that the process will be as peaceful, and as well participated in, as last year’s Constituent Assembly elections.
“I am certain, once more, that the Timorese people will prove that they are more than mature, that they will continue to display as much tolerance and responsibility during the electoral campaign, as well as on election day, and that they will turn out in large numbers on the 14th of April to elect their first president,” the SRSG said at a press conference.
“I have absolutely no reason to believe that there will be any form of violence in the weeks ahead of us. There were many doubts, there were many sceptics in 2001, there were people predicting blood in the streets of Dili and other urban centres. Nothing of the sort happened. We were right and those prophets of doom were wrong,” he added.
Late last night, the Independent Electoral Commission issued an official notification indicating that the ballots will not include political party symbols, an issue that had been at the center of a “mini-crisis” as described by the SRSG. “I welcome that decision, as I have been telling both presidential candidates that they did not need political party symbols. Their names, their past, their records, were more than enough in the eyes of the Timorese population.”
“After considering all the circumstances of this case and the fact that the election date could be maintained, the [Independent Electoral Commission, IEC] Board instructed the Chief Electoral Officer to reprint the ballot papers without nominating party logos appearing on them,” a statement issued by the IEC, released late yesterday, said.
“In dealing with this matter, the Board was very careful to ensure that it continued to act impartially, fairly and reasonably given the competing demands of the two candidates and their nominating parties as well as the political framework within which it needed to exercise its role and functions in East Timor.”
SRSG STRESSES UN WILL REMAIN ENGAGED AFTER INDEPENDENCE
SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello today held a press conference at which he stressed that the United Nations will remain engaged in East Timor after the territory becomes fully independent on 20 May, 2002.
“The United Nations will maintain a significant presence in East Timor and carry on with its unfinished business in a number of areas,” the SRSG said.
Please find attached the full transcript of his press conference.
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE HELD
BY SRSG SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO
15 MARCH 2002
I'll try to be brief, because this must be over by a quarter to twelve. The problem with being brief is, as you know, everything I say needs to be translated into Tetum, so bear with me on the following two points: One is the changeover of the United Nations after East Timor becomes independent. And the second is the beginning of the electoral campaign today the 15th of March.
On the first one, 66 days before the country becomes independent [and] fully sovereign, I felt that I should prepare the East Timorese public - and particularly those East Timorese journalists that are here today - [so that they can] help pass this message to the public as often as possible in the coming weeks.
I wanted to get the following message across to the Timorese population: The United Nations Transitional Administration will obviously be over on the 20th of May. But this does not mean, as some believe, that the UN will pull out, that the UN will withdraw, from East Timor. This is not so. And I again ask that you explain this to the Timorese public in the coming weeks as often as possible.
On the contrary, the United Nations will maintain a significant presence in East Timor, and carry on with its unfinished business in a number of areas alongside, obviously, with the independent institutions of the Government of East Timor, which we have helped put in place. And it is anticipated, although this is obviously a decision for the Security Council to make, that the successor mission will last anything between one and two years. Obviously it will not be called UNTAET. I cannot tell you what it will be called. But it will be more of a conventional peace mission of the United Nations without all the attributes that UNTAET had under Resolution 1272.
And obviously once that successor mission is over, the UN will still maintain a presence here, as it does in most developing countries, in a more traditional way, through the office of the UN Resident Coordinator, and the presence of a number of specialized agencies, programs and funds.
Now I've already talked to you about the successor mission, but let me say a bit more today. And let me first of all preface this by reminding you this has not yet been approved by the Security Council and the General Assembly. So whatever I'm saying here is a projection into the future but I feel confident that when it next meets, the Security Council will approve the general configuration of the successor mission, and the General Assembly will approve the budgetary requirements for that mission.
The mission will have, as it does at present, three main components: a military, a police and a civilian component.
The military component will comprise the bulk of the mission's resources and staff. The international military strength will be reduced, as you know, from what it used to be - a force of about 8,900, at least that was our authorized strength - down to 5,000 after independence.
The police component will come down to about 1,000 at independence - we're down to just 1,300 at present - from an authorized strength of 1,640, if my memory serves me well. What is interesting here is that for the first year of the successor mission, the national and the international police, the ETPS [East Timor Police Service] and Civpol [UN Civilian Police], will be reporting through one single line of command and control to the United Nations Civilian Police Commissioner. This is quite unique, and was decided in January together with Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri. And beginning at the time of independence, there will be a gradual handover of operational responsibility and authority from CivPol to the East Timor Police Force, district by district, unit by unit, in accordance with a very detailed plan that can made available in case you are interested.
Now, the civilian component will be the smallest of the three, and apart from the office of the future Special Representative, which will be, as you can imagine, much smaller than my own, we will have a civilian support contingent here which will be composed of experts of different nationalities that will be assisting the independent Government of East Timor on a sectoral basis. That contingent will be composed, on the one hand, of about 100 experts who will provide technical assistance in vital core areas to the Government, and that will be funded from the Assessed Budget of the Untied Nations, that is the budget approved by the Security Council, and another contingent of 200 or more experts who will also be providing technical assistance to a number of ministries, but [these 200 positions] will have to funded through donor sources, through voluntary contributions, either through the provision of the expertise itself, or through financial contributions that will enable us to hire those experts in the international market.
Now we turn to the next point under this item, which is the reason I briefed the Council of Ministers last Tuesday in this very room. As you are aware I met with them and briefed them on the work of what we call the Transition Core Group, which is chaired by [Deputy SRSG] Dennis [McNamara], my deputy, but which I also attend from time to time, and which includes, on the Timorese side, Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, Minister of Finances Fernanda Borges, and Vice Minister of Education Roque Rodrigues. And this group has been attempting for many months to identify the challenges of the downsizing as well as of the successor mission, including those services and support that the United Nations will no longer be able to provide to the government of East Timor, and to find adequate responses to these challenges.
Let me give you two or three examples of what this core group has been trying to address. One is the continuation of public services such as radio and television after independence. Right now, as you know, Radio UNTAET and [UNTAET television unit] TVTL are [financed] by the Assessed Budget of the United Nations. Security Council money is funding radio and television here. Now obviously that cannot continue after independence. First, the Security Council won't agree. Second, it is not desirable for an independent East Timor that its main radio and television should be funded by the United Nations. So we have to find a solution to that, we have been working on that for quite some time. We know that there is a draft regulation on [a future] Broadcasting Authority which is before the Council of Ministers. My hope is that it will be approved by the Council next week, latest the following week. On the basis of that Broadcasting Authority regulation, we'll be approaching donors and seeking additional funds, I underline additional funds, so that we don't divert that money from other necessities in order to continue funding the two vital services that are radio and television after independence. This has great political, psychological importance, and is one of the areas in which we have to find imaginative solutions because obviously the United Nations will not be able to continue to provide these services after the 20th of May.
The second is the one I mentioned a while ago, which is the provision of technical assistance to the independent Government of East Timor. I spoke of 100 posts to be funded from the Assessed Budget. We need to find the people to fill these posts. It's not sufficient to have an authorization for the posts, we've got to find the right people, and we've been working closely with the government of East Timor on a system to advertise, the positions [and] to select candidates. We've received 2,500 applications for 100 posts. The process of selection is well underway, and it is the Ministers of the independent Government of East Timor that will be supervising these people. Therefore we are asking the ministers of the Transitional Government to select those whom they wish to see serve under their authority after independence.
Now, if the selection for the 100 is going well, I cannot say the same for the remaining 200 or more. Why? Because we are still in the process of agreeing on a priority list for those positions [and] secondly in preparing job descriptions for them. Those posts have not yet been distributed to the donor community therefore it will take some time before those people actually arrive in East Timor, and I am not at all sure at this stage that all of those the East Timorese Government will require will actually be provided by the donor community one way or another. So this is a big question mark, and I'll be grateful to you, particularly the international media, if you would help us press upon world opinion the need to continue to assist the Government of East Timor through technical assistance after independence. The means of providing such assistance are the posts that will be advertised on the web very very soon.
Another example is the reduction of the services and the presence of the United Nations in this country. On the civilian side, we will be opening five regional centers and closing offices in the remaining districts. Services such as television and the internet will no longer be provided by the United Nations to the structures of the independent Government of East Timor, with the exception of some telephone lines in each of the districts. We are currently discussing with the Ministry of Transport and Communications a plan for the Government to be able to put in place its own telecommunications structure and internet facilities so as to link up the districts and services of the independent Government to the central ministries here in Dili.
So the basic message here, and I'll conclude on this item, is that the United Nations is not pulling out, is not abandoning East Timor. The United Nations is maintaining a strong presence here but obviously will not be able to continue to provide a number of services and types of assistance to the independent Government of East Timor, because the United Nations will no longer be the Transitional Administration of this territory. It is the Timorese who will administer it. We'll be here in a supportive capacity, and between now and the 20th of May we'll try to identify solutions to the many problems together with the Second Transitional Government.
Now the second item, which is the beginning of the electoral campaign today, 15 March. As you know, this campaign will run through Friday the 12th of April. There will be a day for quiet reflection on the 13 of April before the actual election happens on [April] 14th. Again this year the campaigns, the two presidential candidates, were offered a package of support including the design and production of campaign materials. They have been offered transportation and communications assistance, and free airtime on [UNTAET] radio and television.
We have been in touch, as you can imagine, with both candidates and their campaign staff, here and at the district level, reminding them, if that was at all necessary, that the Pact of National Unity that was signed in July of last year - the 9th of July, if my memory serves me well - is still in effect, remains fully in force, and the commitments made by political parties for the elections of the Constituent Assembly in 2001 remain the commitments of political parties and the two presidential candidates that participate in the electoral campaign for President in the next few weeks.
Secondly, you know that last night the Independent Electoral Commission, to whose members I wish to pay a warm tribute here today, has issued an official notification indicating that the ballots will not include political party symbols. And I welcome that decision as I have been telling both presidential candidates that they did not need political party symbols. Their names, their past, their records, were more than enough in the eyes of the Timorese population, particularly for the Presidential election. So I welcome that decision and I certainly welcome the position taken by all Timorese political parties on this question because it is they who resolved this mini crisis, which I certainly did not consider serious at all in recent days, and therefore I welcome that the ballots will not include political party symbols.
Now, lastly, on the question of electoral offences and security: As was the case last year, there is a regulation on electoral offences that prohibits actions such as bribery, intimidation, the carrying of weapons into, or creating disturbances at, the polling or counting centers, tampering with electoral results, etc, etc. There is also now a prohibition on the sale or consumption of alcohol near a polling center on election day until the end of the vote.
And finally, as was the case last year, I have absolutely no reason to believe that there will be any form of violence in the weeks ahead of us. There were many doubts, there were many skeptics in 2001, there were people predicting blood in the streets of Dili and other urban centers. Nothing of the sort happened. We were right and those prophets of doom were wrong. This time I must tell you that no one is predicting violence. I am reassured by that. We are nevertheless taking a number of precautionary measures, as you can imagine, but I am certain, once more, that the Timorese people will prove that they are more than mature, that they will continue to display as much tolerance and responsibility during the electoral campaign, as well as on election day, and that they will turn out in large numbers on the 14th of April to elect their first president.
All right, that's it. Thank you for your attention. [Deputy SRSG] Dennis [McNamara] and I are available to answer your questions.
Q: Antonio Sampaio, Lusa: I've got two questions; How much do you expect the successor mission is going to cost and how are you going to sort out the transition of its services? What is the cut-off date of these services, and are there bridging arrangements in place?
Sergio Vieira de Mello: Dennis, why don't you handle that?
[Deputy SRSG] Dennis [McNamara]: The successor mission budget has to go to the UN General Assembly Committee on the budgetary questions - that will happen probably in early May after the Security Council has authorized the successor mission. We don't know the budget until it's approved by that committee. It's in the region of 340 million, but it's not approved yet. That is an annual figure. The budget for the Peacekeeping Mission was more than 500 million at its peak. It's come down considerably. But the final figure we will only know in May once it is approved.
SVM: [On cut-off date and bridging arrangements] I think the answer to that, Antonio, is that depending on the services that we are talking about, the cut-off date will either be the 20th of May or several weeks later. I can't be too specific, but when it comes to telecommunications, we will have an arrangement with the Government, as I said, whereby we will provide lines for telephone telecommunication with the districts and they will be paying us a nominal rent. This is out of East Timor budget. But it will be a very modest one, so this is will be a permanent service. Other services will be a bridging arrangement until they are capable of providing those facilities and services to their own ministries.
Q: Joanna Jolly, Associated Press: You say that you are having trouble getting funding for the 200 posts. How many of these have you yet to fill?
SVM: I wasn't saying we are having problems yet. But having worked, as did Dennis, for many years in agencies that rely on voluntary contributions, I'm not too optimistic that we will receive all we need to recruit these 200 or more experts in time for these people to be here by the end of May. That was what I meant. In other words, we will be submitting - in fact this is already released on the web - but we just need to bring it down to a more reasonable figure and prioritize among the 290 posts that were actually listed under that category in recent weeks, and my hope is that the donor community will soon indicate how many they are prepared to provide, either as bodies, and some governments have already indicated they are interested in some sectors, or as money through UNDP to enable us to recruit these experts on the international market. Now my hope, Jo, is that they will come forward generously and understand that we simply cannot allow a gap to exist, because a gap could well mean the collapse of one or another essential service in the immediate post-independence period of this country.
Thank you very much.