SRSG BRIEFS ASSEMBLY AHEAD OF SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING
SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello addressed East Timor’s Constituent Assembly today ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on the final months of UNTAET and the launch of a planned UN successor mission.
At the 30 January meeting in New York, which will also include Minister of Foreign Affairs José Ramos-Horta, the SRSG will present a report on the need to extend UNTAET’s mandate until East Timor’s 20 May independence, and on plans for a successor mission.
De Mello said he agreed with an extension of the Assembly’s mandate to give members more time to debate the country’s first Constitution, which is now scheduled to be promulgated on 9 March.
He also urged the Assembly to consider what powers and functions the legislature should have between promulgation of the Constitution and independence. Should the Assembly request it, the SRSG said he would be willing to activate some sections of the Constitution ahead of independence.
He also informed the Assembly that UNTAET will invite international observers to witness the presidential election scheduled for 14 April.
The SRSG stated that UNTAET will concentrate on three areas during its final four months: security, public administration and justice.
After independence, de Mello said the UN successor mission is expected to contain three components: military, civilian and civilian police.
The military component of the mission is expected to focus on defining and stabilizing East Timor’s borders, he said, adding that the East Timor Defence Force (ETDF) is expected to reach a target of 5,000 soldiers by mid-2003.
Before taking questions from individual Assembly members, the SRSG urged all of them to set aside their political differences and concentrate on the greater interests of the nation as they continue to work on East Timor’s first Constitution.
Members’ questions focused on security concerns, especially along the border of East and West Timor; the functioning and continued funding on the Special Panel for Serious Crimes, which is investigating and prosecuting crimes against humanity committed during the turmoil that surrounded East Timor’s 1999 referendum; Indonesia’s pledge to prosecute suspected human rights violators; the ongoing downsizing of UNTAET; and concerns about funding and development of the country’s education and health systems.
The SRSG told the Assembly that areas along the border were becoming more secure and that the number of UN peacekeepers in the country during downsizing and the successor mission would be adequate to maintain security until the ETDF is up to sufficient strength. He added that despite security concerns, pro-autonomy militiamen sheltering in West Timor be encouraged to return to East Timor to participate in the country’s reconciliation process. He also spoke of the need of the legislature to promulgate an immigration law to govern movement across the border.
The SRSG assured the Assembly that the United Nations would not abandon East Timor in its efforts to form a new government, rebuild its infrastructure, train civil servants and try those suspected of committing crimes against humanity.
CHIEF MINISTER, SRSG SPEAK OUT AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Chief Minister Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri and SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello led the launch today of a nationwide campaign against domestic violence with strong words of support for the women of East Timor.
While political and social violence have plummeted since 1999, domestic violence continues to fester, the SRSG said. In December, nearly 40 percent of all reported crime were cases of domestic violence or violence against women such as rape, attempted rape and sexual assault, according to UNTAET Civilian Police.
“This campaign is a concerted effort, with the support of all political and civil society leaders of East Timor, alongside law enforcement officials, to put an end to the one abhorrent practice that is still, unfortunately, prevalent in East Timor and many other countries of the world,’’ de Mello said.
“Domestic violence has become a cancer in this society, and we must, I repeat, we must put our heads together to eradicate it,’’ he added.
The campaign, organized by UNTAET’s Office of Communication and Public Information, aims to use television, radio and other media to disseminate information on domestic violence throughout each of East Timor’s 13 districts. The campaign works in concert with the Civilian Police’s Vulnerable Person’s Units in each district.
Deputy SRSG Dennis McNamara, Civilian Police Commissioner Peter Miller and Maria Fernandes, advisor to the Chief Minister on gender equality, also attended the campaign’s launch. Dili Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo lent his voice to one of two public service announcements that will be broadcast on national television.
MINISTERS DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT OF TETUM LANGUAGE
The Council of Ministers of East Timor’s Second Transitional Government met today to discuss issues relating to Tetum, one of two planned official languages.
The Council was briefed by Benjamim Corte-Real, rector of East Timor’s National University. Corte-Real, who is also director of the university’s National Institute of Linguistics, described the institute’s work to encourage the use of Tetum as the lingua franca of the nation in order to preserve the cultural identity of the country. The institute has collaborated with other foreign institutions—including the Camões Institute of Portugal and the University of Sydney—in developing its Tetum-related activities.
In addition, Secretary of State of the Council Ministers Gregório de Sousa introduced a measure to translate UNTAET’s Regulations and Directive—proto-laws used to help govern East Timor during the transitional period—from English into Tetum and Portuguese, the country’s planned official languages. The Council discussed the methodology and timetable for the translations, and the plan is expected to be finalized in the next meeting. The ministers expressed hope that the translations can be completed before the 20 May Independence Day.
THAI SENATE MILITARY DELEGATION ARRIVES IN DILI
The Chairman of Thailand’s Senate Committee on Military Affairs and 12 of his Senate colleagues arrived in East Timor today for two-day visit.
Soon after their arrival Retired General Aartith Kumlungek and the other Senators called on SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello and then met with Peacekeeping Force Commander Lieutenant General Winai Phattiyakul to discuss the security situation in East Timor and Thailand’s military contribution to the Peacekeeping Force.
The delegation later met with Constituent Assembly Speaker Fransisco “Lu-Olo’ Guterres to discuss the first draft of the country’s Constitution.
The delegation is scheduled to visit Baucau district tomorrow morning to meet with members of the Thai Battalion before returning to Bangkok tomorrow afternoon.
UNDP ANNOUNCES INITIATIVE TO REBUILD SUAI COURTHOUSE
Work is beginning this week to rebuild the courthouse in Suai that was badly damaged during the violence surrounding the 1999 Popular Consultation.
The US$99,000 UNDP initiative is part of a US$1 million project aimed at supporting the Ministry of Justice in reestablishing a national legal system in East Timor.
The UNDP assistance package, which consists of contributions from the Governments of Belgium and Denmark, was launched in December 2000 and includes capacity building for 25 judges, 13 prosecutors, 10 public defenders and 12 court registrars.
The UNDP also announced today that it had approved an agreement with the Second Transitional Government for a project worth US$5 million to ensure that poverty alleviation work continues in East Timor’s Ainaro and Manatuto districts.
During the five-year lifespan of this new initiative, food security and living standards of nearly 12,000 households is expected to improve. Local communities will be engaged to develop sustainable farming methods; rehabilitate irrigation systems; improve livestock; local seed multiplication; participate in basic preventative health care training; and improve women’s skills and knowledge enabling them to increase household incomes.
TIMORESE YOUTH LEADERS EMBARK ON VISIT TO JAPAN
A delegation of 15 East Timorese youth leaders left Dili today for a month-long working visit to Japan during which they are scheduled to study management methods for youth leadership.
During their stay in Japan, the delegation is expected to visit several cities including Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Okinawa as well as meet with Japanese dignitaries.
The visit, which is being sponsored by the Government of Japan under their “Japan-East Timor Youth Friendship Programme, will end 21 February.