SRSG ANNOUNCES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS TO BE HELD 14 APRIL
East Timor's first presidential elections will be held on 14 April 2002, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello announced today in Dili.
The upcoming elections follow the 30 August 2001 election in which the East Timorese elected a Constituent Assembly now in the process of debating the country's first Constitution. The independence of East Timor is scheduled for 20 May 2002.
"The transfer of power from the United Nations to the East Timorese has one precondition apart from the adoption of the Constitution of this country - and that is the election of a president," Vieira de Mello said today.
Late last night, the SRSG signed a new electoral law paving the way for this election. The people of East Timor will elect their first President for an independent and democratic East Timor, the law says. The President shall have the powers conferred on that office by the Constitution; he or she will be elected in a free and fair election with universal suffrage, in a secret ballot and on the basis of a single national constituency, the regulation adds.
Vieira de Mello also announced that the electoral campaign will start on 15 March and finish on 12 April; the final results will be announced on 17 April, and on 21 April they will be certified by the Electoral Commissioners.
There will be five Electoral Commissioners, three East Timorese and two internationals. They will arrive in East Timor in early February.
Twenty-six international electoral experts from 19 countries arrived in Dili earlier this week as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the electoral authority in East Timor, began preparing its operations to organize the April presidential election.
"This time, the Timorese will be taking a predominant role in preparing and holding these elections," Vieira de Mello said today.
District Electoral offices, run entirely by East Timorese staff, have been working since the Constituent Assembly elections in August 2001 to train local electoral officers for the next election.
(Please find attached the full transcript of SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello's press briefing today).
TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE HELD
BY SRSG SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO
17 JANUARY 2002
Well, good morning to all of you. Here we are, [Deputy SRSG] Dennis [McNamara] and myself, to brief you on a number of important developments. But let's first of all greet you because we haven't met with the media in this format since the beginning of this year and I wanted to wish you all every happiness and success in 2002, thank you for your support last year and to tell you we continue to very much count on you as we move towards independence.
Let me also welcome our friends from the diplomatic corps, but in particular the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly, Mr. Lu Olo, and the four other members of the Constituent Assembly who have honored us this morning.
Let me start with a few comments about the unfortunate developments of last week with the leakage of a letter from my Chief of Staff [Nagalingam Parameswaran, herein Param] to the Secretary-General to the media. Let me first make a few comments and put this matter to rest once and for all. Let me tell you that I found the whole episode unfortunate and blown out of proportion in many ways. The most unfortunate side of this is it has detracted [and] distracted attention from what we are here to achieve and indeed what we have in fact already achieved, which is a lot, and the milestones ahead of us.
Let me first address two issues in particular, one of which José Ramos-Horta has already commented upon in a press statement issued last week. The first is the geographical balance within this mission. First of all I'd like you to know that we have 107 nationalities represented in this mission. And that when I look at the statistics of all the international staff, we have 22 percent of Europeans - meaning west, central and eastern Europe - we have 21 percent of colleagues from the Americas, 21 percent from Asia, 19 percent from Africa, and 17 percent from other countries, in particular Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. And at the top of this mission, as you know, until my Chief of Staff left the mission, we had a Brazilian, a New Zealander, a Malaysian and a Thai (in the position of the Force Commander).
I find it difficult to be more balanced than that, and I can assure you that the staff is downsizing, and certainly in the successor mission we shall maintain that balance. And I think it is also important to remember that this mission is gradually becoming what it will be after independence, which is a traditional peace mission rather than a Government of East Timor, and that is very important to remember because we have transferred, as you all know, most of the executive, legislative and judicial authority to the East Timorese and I think that must also be put into the equation.
The second point regards the respective roles played by my deputy Dennis McNamara and my Chief of Staff, Param. And those of you who are citizens of East Timor or have been here for a long time are aware that those two roles are complementary. Param's role in developing contacts with the pro-autonomy leaders, with former militia commanders, in West Timor and in other parts of Indonesia was an extremely important and delicate task which he carried out under my close supervision and sharing all information with me and receiving my clearance for each and every move he made. Any suggestion that he was taking initiatives on his own without consulting with me is nonsense.
Not only was he consulting with me very closely but he was also, as you know, working hand-in-hand with the Timorese leadership, and in particular with [Independence leader] Xanana Gusmão. So one may not agree with the policy and the approach to this question, but to say that he was acting on his own and taking initiatives without consulting with me is, I repeat, untrue.
On this side of the border I had requested Dennis, since his arrival in the middle of last year, to assume two functions among many others as my deputy. And those two functions were to revamp our Serious Crimes Unit and to try and coordinate all the systems and support that returnees can legitimately expect from us, the United Nations, and from the Government of East Timor. And he has done so quite successfully and will continue to work along those lines in the coming months because the job is not done yet.
And I think it is easy for all to understand that dealing with pro-autonomy leaders, former militia commanders, on the other side, promoting reconciliation and promoting the return of those refugees who remain under the influence of these people on the other side, and working on this side on the justice facets of this complex equation and coordinating assistance and support for the returnees, especially those who are returning now, who belong to special categories, who go to difficult areas during the rainy season with limited humanitarian assistance, [are related issues] that cannot be separated but must be conducted in harmony. And that is what we've been trying to do and will continue.
The last piece of information that I want you to know is that, in consultation with Param, with Xanana Gusmão, with [Chief Minister] Mari Alkatiri and others, I have decided to request [UNTAET's Head of Political Affairs] Colin Stewart to take over Param's responsibilities in this particular area. So I would like to draw the line here and bring this matter to rest. We have more important things to deal with. And I count on you to help us focus our attention on substance, substance of achievements so far and substance that remains to be achieved in the coming months.
So let me now move to that substance. I have three points for you today. One is the preparations for the presidential elections; the second is the appointment of members of the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation; and the third, my and Jose Ramos-Horta's mission at the end of this month to attend the Security Council meeting on the 30th of January.
Elections first: I will not go back to the elections of 30 August last year. You all know perhaps better than any international observer how important those elections were. But you also know, and this is what I would like to talk to you about today, that for very obvious reasons, political and constitutional executive power of the future independent East Timor Government rests with a Government that will be headed by a popularly elected president of the Republic, which we will therefore have to elect prior to the 20th of May. Therefore the transfer of power from the United Nations to the East Timorese has one precondition apart from the adoption of a Constitution of this country, and that is the election of a President.
The Constituent Assembly approved on 28 November a motion calling for the holding of a presidential election, through direct and universal suffrage, no later than the second week of April. Our colleagues in the [Independent] Electoral Commission (IEC) have begun preparing for these elections, but of course they need a framework, a legal framework, to organize these elections. And the basis of this is another regulation, a regulation which we were requested to prepare a draft of by the Speaker of the Constituent Assembly, which we did and submitted to the Assembly a few weeks ago. It was debated in great detail by the Legislative Committee of the Assembly, and it was passed by the Plenary, if my memory serves me well, a couple of days ago. And this is a very important development and now we can proceed with the preparation of the presidential election. The regulation is 2002/1. It is available, obviously, to those who wish to consult it, and its title is "Election of the First President of an Independent and Democratic East Timor.''
The main points of the regulation are that the election is to be universal, adult suffrage and secret ballot. The President will be elected on the basis of a single, national constituency. The office and the powers of the President will be decided, obviously, by the Constituent Assembly and by the Constitution. All 16 parties that registered last year for the elections for the Constituent Assembly may nominate a candidate for the election, and the same candidate may be nominated by more than one political party. New parties can register, and as a result, can also nominate presidential candidates. Independent individual East Timorese may apply for registration if they meet the eligibility criteria and can gather the minimum 5,000 signatures supporting their aspiration. Any persons over 17 years of age on the day of the election and meeting the same criteria that we used for the election of the Constituent Assembly will be allowed to vote.
We have further simplified the procedures here, and those persons obviously must be in East Timor on election day and must have proof of registration with the Civil Registry Unit. In other words, we will not have electoral lists this time. Proof of registration with the Civil Registry Unit will be enough. The candidate with the simple majority of votes in this election will be the first President of East Timor, therefore we will not have two rounds. The person that comes out with the simple majority will be elected President. The Independent Electoral Commission, as was the case last year, remains the legal authority in charge of organizing and executing these elections.
Now the date: The regulation stipulates that the date of the election is to be determined by me. And following the motion approved by the Constituent Assembly last November, and on the recommendation of the Independent Electoral Commission, I now officially proclaim that the election of the first President of East Timor will take place on Sunday the 14th of April 2002.
The Commission believes that the results can be announced three days after that Sunday, that is the 17th of April, and the Independent Electoral Commissioners will certify those elections no later than the 21st of April.
Now, as you can imagine, these elections are by definition easier to organize than legislative elections or the elections we had last year for a Constituent Assembly. We are still operating within a very, very tight timeframe. Holding elections during the rainy season will pose, as you can imagine, [more] logistical constraints than was the case on the 30th of August last year. And [IEC Chief Electoral Officer] Carlos [Valenzuela] and the commission, with the support of the UNTAET administration, have been making all the necessary preparations in terms of training the necessary human resources through the UN volunteer program but also in acquiring the necessary material resources to ensure that the elections can indeed take place on the 14th of April.
And this time the East Timorese will be taking a predominant role in preparing and holding these elections. Capacity building has been a priority for the commission since the announcement of the results of the election to the Constituent Assembly, and district electoral offices, this time managed fully by East Timorese staff, have been working on training local electoral officers and making logistical preparations for the presidential elections. And on January 21st, 150 East Timorese district electoral officers will come to Dili from the 13 districts for training on how to carry out voter education activities in all sub-districts and how to manage the polling centers on election day. And the board of Electoral Commissioners, which will begin its work in February, will this time be composed of three East Timorese and two internationals, unlike last year when we had three internationals and two East Timorese.
Second item on the agenda today is the appointment of the Commissioners of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. You have been following since late 2000 the very hard work that has been done in drafting the regulation that was approved last year on the creation of this Commission, and then the extensive consultative work that was done in identifying the Commissioners for the National Commission which will play a very, very important role in taking this process forward.
You remember that the Commission's three main functions are: to seek the truth about human rights violations in the period 25th of April 1974 to 25th of October 1999. Secondly, to facilitate community reconciliation and thirdly, to report to the Government on its work.
The Commission, as you all know, is a unique initiative aimed at achieving dual goals of reconciliation and justice. It will complement the formal judicial system and will deal with lesser criminal cases. Cases that are less than serious in the definition of the Regulation on Serious Crime [will be determined and handled] through the community reconciliation process, thereby not burdening any further the already overwhelmed formal judicial system.
I should point out that the Commissioners will not have the power to grant any amnesty and will refer any evidence they may gather of serious crimes to the Office of the Prosecutor General. The Commission can, however, provide immunity from prosecution for perpetrators of lesser crimes after they have fulfilled the terms of the Community Reconciliation Agreement.
Now, the appointments that I would like to announce to you today. These names, seven names, have been recommended to me by a Selection Panel that I would like to congratulate because they have worked extremely hard and for several months, and proposed these seven names to me from among 95 nominations for National Commissioners and a shorter list of 15 candidates that were actually interviewed.
All the seven whose names I will announce today have been chosen for their high moral character, integrity and commitment to human rights, as well as to the process of reconciliation in East Timor.
And the names are: Reverend Agustinho de Vasconselos, Aniceto Guterres Lopes; Isabel Amaral Guterres; Jacinto das Neves Raimundo Alves; José Estevão Soares; Father Jovito Rego de Jesus Araújo and Maria Olandina Isabel Caeiro Alves.
The swearing-in ceremony [for the Commissioners] will take place this coming Monday, the 23rd of January, here in Dili. It will begin at 9.30 am and will be held in the auditorium that you all know in the former CNRT/UNAMET/UNTAET "markas" (headquarters) compound.
Now, the next steps are the following: the Commissioners will attend a one- week orientation and training program. The objective is to establish up to six regional offices in East Timor and to select between 25 and 30 Regional Commissioners to run those regional offices.
So I want to congratulate these seven National Commissioners. As you know they will be entrusted with a huge responsibility and they will be crucial in achieving durable and deep reconciliation in the hearts and minds of all Timorese. And if you have any questions on these two items that I have just talked about, I have here with me Carlos Valenzuela to provide you any clarification that you may require on the presidential election, and Patrick Burgess on the National Commissioners.
Third and last point, the Security Council meeting on the 30th of January in New York. I'll be leaving next week together with Senior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Ramos-Horta to attend a number of meetings in New York and in particular an Open Session of the Security Council on the 30th of this month.
The three main objectives that we wish to achieve in the Security Council on the 30th will be obviously to report to the Council on progress made over the past six months since our meeting in late July.
Secondly, to request an extension of the UNTAET mandate, which as you know expires on the 31st of January, until the independence of this country on the 20th of May.
And we will also, as you can imagine, update the Council on the transition to independence, as well as the priorities of the mission in this remaining period, as well as our planning and preparations for the successor mission after UNTAET comes to an end on the 20th of May.
So we will be briefing them in greater detail on the downsizing of our military, Civilian Police and civilian components, as well as on the proposed mandate for this successor mission and its structure. As you know we will have a new SRSG here from the 21st of May; his or her functions will be classical functions of a Special Representative in what will be a more traditional peace mission of the United Nations in support of the independent Government of East Timor.
Before I open the floor, let me tell you that perhaps the main goal that we wish to achieve together with José Ramos-Horta and other colleagues at our Headquarters in New York is to secure - from the Security Council but also from other bodies, subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly - sufficient financial support for those key positions that we are proposing [that] should exist in the successor mission in support of the independent Government of this country.
And I can report to you that yesterday evening I sent a code cable to our headquarters in New York with a list of the 100 posts that have now been very clearly identified and for which detailed job descriptions have been prepared, and these are the 100 posts that we recommend be funded from the Assessed Budget of the United Nations, i.e. the guarantee of a predictable, a dependable source of funding. That decision will have to be made by the General Assembly and one of its committees known as ACABQ but I won't go into those details now.
These are the posts, as some of you are aware, that we consider vital, vital for the independent Government of East Timor. In other words, if they were not provided it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to ensure the stability of the independent Government of East Timor, as well as its effectiveness and some of its branches-in particular those of finance, justice and common administrative services-could well collapse, with consequences that all of you can imagine.
Finally, in addition to these 100 posts, we are working on an additional 200 positions in these three areas, as well as other sectors of Government, which we hope will be funded not from the Assessed Budget of the United Nations, but through voluntary mechanisms, bilateral or multilateral. And we must as you can imagine launch a very aggressive fund-raising campaign to secure funding for these posts.
And before we leave [for New York], we intend to brief the diplomatic corps here in Dili and I have also requested Speaker Lu-Olo [of the Constituent Assembly] that I be given the opportunity of briefing the Constituent Assembly and seeking their views which we will then relate to the Security Council and other important actors in New York.
Thank you for your attention. Sorry for having been long but we haven't met for quite some time and I thought these were important developments on which I had to brief, and brief you in some detail.
And I now give the floor to journalists.
Q: (Inaudible) Relating to UNTAET's Serious Crimes Unit.
SVM: The answer is no, because the report of the Secretary-General is a report on UNTAET, on the Transitional Administration's needs. Of course we will refer to the linkages between what we have attempted to do, and to some degree managed to achieve, on the serious crimes front here in East Timor. With the help of the Serious Crimes Unit, both investigations and prosecution, as well as of the two Serious Crimes Panels in the Dili District Court and the interface between our work and the work of the Indonesian judicial system, we will brief them on contacts that my deputy Dennis [McNamara] has had with the Attorney General of Indonesia last year, as well as the meeting that is presently taking place in Denpasar [Indonesia] between our Prosecutor General [Longuinhos Monteiro] and his team of colleagues from the Prosecutor General's office and the Serious Crimes Unit on the one hand, and Attorney General Rahman and his team from Jakarta.
As far as prosecutions in Indonesia are concerned, you know that President Megawati a few days ago signed the appointment of 18 judges and prosecutors of the new ad-hoc human rights tribunal. I certainly welcome that as a positive step, and you know that our hope is that those judges and prosecutors, after training, will get down to work and address those cases of suspects that were identified by the previous Attorney General Marzuki Darusman on the 1st of September in the year 2000.
Q: Will it affect your briefing to the Security Council if the deadline for the Constituent Assembly to pass the Constitution is extended?
SVM: Not at all. The question is whether the possible extension of the mandate of the Constituent Assembly would affect in any way our deliberations in New York on the 30th of January - not at all. Not at all. And I have been very clear that, subject to a request from the Constituent Assembly and its Speaker, I am very flexible and would grant such an extension on the understanding that we should have a Constitution by the 20th of May.
Q: I have several questions. The joint appeal for funds for refugee repatriation and assistance for 2002 comes at a budget of about 43 million dollars for this year. [Is that not an unreasonable sum?]. My second question [calls for your comments] on the coverage by Malaysian media of Param's resignation which calls UNTAET "a white mission." And finally, my third question is on the nomination of judges for the ad-hoc tribunal in Jakarta. Intermediary reports have been critical of some of these appointments. They say that they are mostly junior judges. One of them was in fact an adviser to General Wiranto on the East Timor issue. And for donors my question is related to the contractual dispute with the East Timorese judges. There's also been the late appointment of two international judges.
SVM: First of all, on the Malaysian front, I was quite taken aback by some of the extreme comments and criticisms that I read in the [Kuala Lumpur] media. I think they were over the top, they were unfortunate, and certainly did not reflect Param's own thinking. I will leave it at that because I think you know the reality here because this, as José Ramos-Horta said, is not a white mission. And if by white the Malaysian media meant a racist mission, even less [so]. Certainly not with a Ghanaian Secretary-General and a Brazilian SRSG. Let's leave it at that, because as I said, I'd like to put that nonsense to a definitive rest.
The second question I will ask Dennis [McNamara] to address because I must confess to you I never heard about a budget of 43 million dollars for that purpose.
On the nomination of judges, you know, one can never please everybody, so rather than go into the individual profiles of the 18 individuals who were appointed by President Megawati, why don't we give them a chance? Let's judge them on their results. You know, let's see how fast this tribunal is established and how quickly these judges and prosecutors get down to work. As I said in my presentation, we have a yardstick here which is a list of suspects that former Attorney General Maruki [Darusman] identified during early September 2000 following a thorough investigation carried out here by a large team of investigators that came here to Dili, you will remember, in June and July 2000, led by the present [Indonesian] Attorney General Rahman. So let's see how quickly we get to concrete results on those cases rather than speculate on individual profiles.
[Deputy SRSG] Dennis McNamara: On the appeal for refugees, I think, if I'm correct - I don't have the figures in front of me - more than half of that amount, the joint UNHCR-Indonesian appeal, is dedicated to pension payment special funds. Twenty-five million from my memory. Twenty-three plus two million from Indonesia. So take that off, you've got 18 million left for support of repatriation of up to 60,000 or 70,000 refugees, transportation, logistics, aid, food, shelter, etc. So while it might seem high in total, as you say, it's been carefully worked out by UNHCR to try and provide the support and incentives to get the remaining refugees back. Because, as you know, clearly one of the factors, apart from misinformation and possible intimidation by militia leaders, are the economics. People are very reluctant to come back, it seems from all the reports we have, from NGOs and others on the other side, because of the economic uncertainty and concerns they have.
On the issue of East Timor's judges, it's true the East Timorese Judge's Association did raise with us the question of their re-appointment, which was done by the SRSG at the beginning of January - a number of judges and one prosecutor. We are satisfied that that re-appointment has been done in accordance with the relevant regulation, and I have been asked by the SRSG and will meet with them on Saturday on that issue. So I'd rather have that discussion with them and with the Vice-Minister of Justice, who has been very much involved in it, before we go further on that.
On the two remaining international judges, the appointments that you mentioned, that is an absolute priority for us. Obviously if the panels are going to function we'll have to continue to vigorously pursue the issue with the Ministry of Justice.
Q: [Follow up question on the issue of judges] What I've been told was based on [the judges'] assumption that after two years it would be decided whether they would be permanent appointees or whether they'd be removed from their positions. Is that the case?
DM: No…the regulation provides a period of two to three years. They were appointed for an initial two years, and then for another year. The idea is the independent Government of East Timor could make the future appointments, which in the regulation should be for life.
Q: What is your comment on João Carrascalão's [a member of the Constituent Assembly] interview with BBC radio yesterday in which he said that only 50 percent of UNTAET's staff are doing their work? And I would like to have your comment on the fact that some Timorese would like to have legislative elections before independence.
SVM: Well, first of all, what I heard on the BBC yesterday morning from João Carrascalão was that over 50 percent of the UNTAET staff were incompetent. And the example he found was a nuclear physicist who was in charge of [UNTAET's] Language and Training [Unit]. Now, my patience has limits. I find this not only insulting for the people that are here and who have been working hard attempting to help this country rebuild its institutions and infrastructure. I do not think that they deserve to be treated in this manner, but I am not surprised because I have heard similar outrageous stuff from that particular friend of ours in the past, so let me leave it at that because I don't want to descend to the same level.
Your second question is more interesting and complex. I have met twice with those who wrote to me and to the Secretary-General on this question of legislative elections, the group called For the Defense of Democracy and Stability and Peace in East Timor. And I have explained to them that neither the Secretary-General nor the Security Council, and least of all myself, have the authority to decide that legislative elections will be held in East Timor. That would be and is a prerogative and the competence of the democratically elected Constituent Assembly of East Timor. If they recommend legislative elections, that's one thing, if they do not, I have no means of substituting myself and deciding that we shall nevertheless organize such elections.
Secondly, and this too José Ramos-Horta, who attended the second meeting, mentioned to them: one should not forget that the idea of transforming the Constituent Assembly into the first legislature of East Timor emanated from the old CNRT; second, it was debated in the Political Affairs Committee of the National Council, which was composed of five members and chaired by Xanana Gusmão, [then] submitted to the National Council, approved by the National Council and submitted to me as a recommendation of the National Council to the Transitional Administration. Based on the recommendation by the National Council, we discussed in this room, the old Cabinet room, the draft regulation that I submitted to the National Council which was then presided over by Mr. Manuel Carrascalão, which contained an article that gave the Constituent Assembly the possibility of transforming itself into the first legislature of this country. And that draft regulation was approved by the National Council and formed the basis of the elections to the Constituent Assembly, which is why only the Constituent Assembly can now decide to transform itself, or not, into the first legislative assembly of this country.
Apart from that [IEC Chief Electoral Officer] Carlos Valenzuela, who also attended the same meetings, explained to our friends that even if we could decide and even if the Constituent Assembly recommended now that we organize legislative elections, it would be impossible to do so within the remaining transitional phase. Why? Because we would need to define the electoral system that the Electoral Commission would implement. This is a very complex issue, Carlos can brief you for hours on that, there are many different electoral systems that could be chosen. That would take weeks to be debated in the Constituent Assembly and once that regulation was approved it would take months for the Electoral Commission to prepare such elections. So, we asked [the Group For the Defense of Democracy and Stability and Peace in East Timor] to be realistic. We understood the logic, the rationale of their request, but they have also to understand that it was simply not possible or viable within the duration of this United Nations Transitional Administration.
José Ramos-Horta told them that the best [means for them] to pursue that objective would be to lobby public opinion, lobby political parties, lobby members of the Constituent Assembly, lobby the Government, after independence so as to achieve earlier legislative elections. But all that lobbying must be conducted on the basis of obvious democratic principles and without ever resorting to violence or to formulas that would be contrary to the Constitution of this country.
Thank you very much.