SECURITY COUNCIL IS TOLD OF POSITIVE PROSPECTS FOR TIMOR-LESTE, DESPITE CHALLENGES; CONTINUATION OF AID IS URGED

14 November 2002
SC/7569

SECURITY COUNCIL IS TOLD OF POSITIVE PROSPECTS FOR TIMOR-LESTE, DESPITE CHALLENGES; CONTINUATION OF AID IS URGED

14/11/2002
Press ReleaseSC/7569

Security Council

4646th Meeting (AM & PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL IS TOLD OF POSITIVE PROSPECTS FOR TIMOR-LESTE,

DESPITE CHALLENGES; CONTINUATION OF AID IS URGED

UN Representative Cites Need for Strong Judiciary, Rule of Law;

Indonesia Speaks of ‘Warm, Special Relationship’ with New Nation

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste presented the prospects of that new State with positive expectation and optimism, as he briefed the Security Council today on the situation there and the work of the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET).

Kamalesh Sharma said the cohesive population of Timor-Leste was endowed with significant resources to safeguard its economic future, including the presence of gas and oil and metallic ores.  The coastline was exploitable for fisheries, and there were prospects for eco- and adventure-tourism.  Although it was a “least developed” country, Timor-Leste was part of a prosperous neighbourhood.  Another significant asset was the leadership of the country, and a key ingredient in the country’s political and economic environment was its evolving relationship with Indonesia.  The successful repatriation of refugees was an accomplishment which had not received as much public attention as it merited.

The principal challenges confronting the country, which gained independence on 20 May and became a Member of the United Nations on 27 September, included rule of law; job creation; orientation of youth; development; democratic culture in depth; institution-building; and aid absorption.  The goal of UNMISET, he said, was to enable Timor-Leste to emerge as a State in full possession of all attributes of sovereignty, stable and increasingly prosperous, and making steady advances in continuing partnership with external institutions, friendly governments and civil society.  He expected to complete the process of transferring external security responsibility to the defence forces of Timor-Leste by mid-2004.

Addressing the Council for the first time, the representative of Timor-Leste expressed his appreciation for United Nations efforts on behalf of his country.  The National Development Plan for Timor-Leste had identified as key challenges the reduction of poverty, education, health care, infrastructure and economic development and institutional capacity-building.  Among positive developments in his country, he highlighted the growth of democratic culture and political participation, progress in reconciliation and the return of refugees.  Relations with Indonesia, another priority area, were also being strengthened through diplomatic contacts.

Internationally, the country had established diplomatic relations with several countries.  It had ratified the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court and had accelerated the ratification process for several human rights instruments.  It was fully committed to the global fight against terrorism, but needed the continued presence of international police and peacekeeping forces.  He urged adherence to the targets established by the Council in May 2002.

The representative of Indonesia said his country had developed a warm and special relationship with Timor-Leste since its independence, and applauded the progress it had made.  He expected a comprehensive solution of the refugee issue by the end of the year.  Towards that end, his Government would, he said, provide additional incentives for those who opted to return to Timor-Leste by that date.  The relationship between the two countries had been flourishing at all levels, he said, and he urged continued support from the international community in bringing the promise of progress achieved thus far to its full realization.

Members of the Security Council expressed satisfaction with progress achieved by the Government of Timor-Leste.  The UNMISET was said to be largely on track to fulfilling its mandate.  Echoing the sentiments of other delegates, the representative of Singapore said the “text book” success of the United Nations in Timor-Leste could provide an example that could be used in other cases.  He warned, however, that transfer of responsibilities to Timorese authorities had to be done carefully, as hasty downsizing would unravel all the progress made.

Several speakers noted weaknesses in the judicial and prison systems, and stressed the importance of refugee returns, national reconciliation and respect for human rights for the stability of the country.

The representative of Australia said the United Nations, through its Counter-Terrorism Committee, needed to consider how best to coordinate and support donor efforts to develop Timor-Leste’s indigenous counter-terrorism capabilities.  He said Australia appreciated the cooperation it had received recently from UNMISET, the East Timor Police Service and the Government of Timor-Leste in responding to possible terrorist threats.

The Council also heard statements from the representatives of Bulgaria, Cameroon, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States, Syria, Mauritius, France, Guinea, Mexico, Norway, Ireland, Colombia, China, Fiji (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group), Chile, New Zealand, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Japan, Portugal, Thailand and India.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Sharma answered questions and comments made during the debate.

The meeting, which began at 10:20 a.m., was suspended at 1:05 p.m.  It reconvened at 3:40 p.m. and was adjourned at 5 p.m.

Background

As it met this morning, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) (document S/2002/1223).  The report reviews the activities of UNMISET since its establishment on 20 May 2002, in the context of political developments in the newly independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

The report states that during the first five months of its independence, the people and leaders of Timor-Leste have continued to consolidate the foundations of their country, with UNMISET and bilateral assistance.  However, the report continues, the country’s emerging institutions remain fragile and will require further such assistance.

Steady progress has been made within each of the areas of UNMISET’s mandate, according to the report, which describes such progress in the areas of stability, democracy and justice, and associated UNMISET activity in supporting public administration and assistance in investigations of serious crimes committed in 1999.  In that latter effort, there have been 41 indictments to date, of which

19 are for crimes against humanity.  So far, 25 persons have been convicted and one has been acquitted due to lack of jurisdiction.

In the area of internal security and law enforcement, the report says that reported crime in Timor-Leste remains comparatively low, although there has been an increase in traffic accidents and reported domestic violence.  Despite several cases of violence involving "issue-based security groups", such groups do not appear to pose a significant threat to internal security, though the issues that galvanize them, such as high unemployment, still need to be addressed.

The transfer of policing responsibility is progressing on schedule, with full responsibility for all districts expected in January 2000.  For that purpose, basic training continues, with 492 additional officers trained since independence.

The report states that the overall external security and border control situation has also continued to improve.  Such progress, along with commitments made between the Governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste will, if realized, allow UNMISET to keep to its schedule for reduction and ultimate withdrawal.  For a smooth transition in that context, sufficient bilateral assistance is needed in a number of key areas.  Those include justice, corrections, police, border control and defence.  The bomb attack in Bali, in addition, offered a troubling indication of the risk of terrorism faced by the region.

According to the report, donor support is needed, in particular, for 228 posts in development and poverty alleviation, of which 90 have received funding commitments.  Continued donor support for those posts and other needs was essential for the long-term stability of Timor-Leste.  The UNMISET is working closely with the wider United Nations system, as well as with bilateral actors and civil society, to assist the Government in its implementation of the National Development Plan and to facilitate a smooth transition of the United Nations role towards traditional development assistance. 

The progress in Timor-Leste up to date offers great promise, the Secretary-General concludes.  While recognizing competing claims on the international community’s attention and resources, he urges the Security Council and donor community to remain engaged, in order to build upon its outstanding contributions to date and to bring this promise to its full realization.

Briefing by Special Representative

KAMALESH SHARMA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, introducing the report, said the prospects for the new State could be looked at with positive expectation and optimism.  Timor-Leste’s cohesive population was endowed with significant resources to safeguard its economic future, including two gas and oil fields, onshore hydrocarbon potential and presence of metallic ores.  The coastline was exploitable for fisheries and there were prospects for eco- and adventure tourism.  Although a least developed country, Timor-Leste was part of a prosperous neighbourhood.

He said another significant asset was the leadership of the country, which enjoyed international goodwill and recognition to an exceptional degree.  A key ingredient in the country’s political and economic environment was its evolving relationship with Indonesia.  The first meeting of the bilateral Joint Ministerial Commission had provided the impulse for the growth of the relationship along a wide front of cooperation between the two countries on the question of the return of refugees from West Timor.  The success of the repatriation of what constituted nearly a quarter of the population was an accomplishment that had not received as much public attention as it merited.  The country also enjoyed exceptional engagement and participation by the world community.

The balance of accomplishment and challenge was reflected in the Secretary-General’s report, he said.  The principal challenges included:  rule of law; job creation; orientation of youth; development; democratic culture in depth; institution-building; and aid absorption.

The UNMISET played the role of both enabler and facilitator of meeting larger political, social and economic goals, as well as implementing the precise mandate in external and internal security and support to various branches of public administration.  The goal of UNMISET was to enable Timor-Leste to emerge as a State in full possession of all attributes of sovereignty; stable and increasingly prosperous, making steady advances in continuing partnership with external institutions, friendly governments and civil society.  As capacity in public administration had to be built from ground level, the situation would remain challenging for a long time to come.

He said that on handing over external security responsibility to the defence forces of Timor-Leste, he expected to maintain the drawdown schedule and complete the transfer by mid-2004.  A new challenge to the security of the region was that of terrorism, which constituted more than a passing threat.  Protective and institutional measures must be established to reduce vulnerability, without causing public alarm or insecurity.  In that regard, the assistance of external expertise should be made available, if requested.

Statements

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) calling the Secretary-General’s report thorough, associated his statement with the statement to be made by Demark on behalf of the European Union.  The first five months of Timor-Leste’s independence showed many encouraging signs.  Such success would not have been possible without the efforts of the new Government and the international community.  He noted remarkable progress in transferring functions from the United Nations to that new Government; timetables were being kept, it seemed. 

Good neighbourly relations were essential in the future, he said, and he welcomed the efforts of Timor-Leste and Indonesia to work on the remaining problems.  Border delimitation should be completed as soon as possible.  The country had shown a willingness to shoulder its responsibilities by taking on human rights instruments.  Pointing to problems in reintegration of ex-combatants and the judiciary, he praised efforts to overcome the remaining problems.

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon), expressing his appreciation for the amount of work accomplished in Timor-Leste in so brief a time, said that the new Government had shown extraordinary dynamism.  There had been, in particular, much progress in strengthening capacity.  He shared the concerns expressed in the report over the establishment of an effective judiciary, as well as the recommendations in that regard.

He hoped that the maintenance of law and order would be transferred to Timorese hands, while expressing admiration for UNMISET’s work towards that goal, as well as its progress in border security matters.  Describing advances in the international sphere made by Timor-Leste, he said his country was prepared to establish diplomatic relations with the country.  He reiterated the pressing appeal to the international community to not only maintain, but increase their support, so that the country could eventually fly safely, but surely on its own wings.

ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said the Organization had acquired unique experience in preparing the young State for independence.  That experience, a shining example of United Nations activity, must be further developed.  In order to strengthen new institutions in the country, the international community must continue to provide support.  He was pleased to see UNMISET’s efforts to help in that regard, and emphasized the need to build up support in the donor community for that process.

He said the key problems of the Mission included matters relating to help in securing internal and external security.  The Mission personnel must ensure that conditions were established to avoid destabilization of the country.  The police and security personnel being trained now would help in the timely drawdown of the Mission.  Support for social and economic development was of crucial importance to the country’s long-term stability.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said he was encouraged by the progress achieved since independence.  The report and briefing had set out an approach he fully supported.  It was clear that a lot of challenges were ahead and urgent actions were needed to alleviate poverty, improve employment, and strengthen institutions.  Only a quarter of the development posts had been filled, he noted, and he asked for a time scale for filling them.  He hoped that the international experts present would train personnel, rather than do the job themselves.

He said the enormous budget shortfall expected in the future was clearly going to affect the social safety net, and asked for an assessment of the current budget situation.  Respect for human rights and the rule of law was crucial, and he was concerned that the judicial magistrates statutes did not provide sufficient independence for judges and lawyers.  A review of all pre-trial detentions was needed.  He asked the Special Representative for suggestions to address serious crimes that fell outside the mandate rehabilitation plan.  He also asked whether the United Nations had plans to revise its security status for West Timor.

RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States), expressing appreciation for the progress made in the past five months, encouraged the continuation of cooperation between Indonesia and Timor-Leste.  He was concerned, he said, about the shortcomings of the judiciary described the in the report.  He was pleased, on the other hand, that the downsizing of the peacekeeping force was on track.  Security concerns showed the need for continuous reassessment of plans, in that regard.  Such assessment, in Timor-Leste, had become a model for related activity in the United Nations system.

Because progress had been remarkable, he said there were many lessons to be learned from the United Nations experience in Timor-Leste.  The efforts of the people of Timor-Leste, as well as that of their leaders, should be acknowledged.  Another factor in its success was unity among the international community in the effort.  In addition, there were also clear mandates for both UNMISET and its predecessor mission.  At an early stage of those missions, armed groups had been neutralized and advantageous rules of engagement established.  Of course, the size of Timor-Leste made the situation more manageable, and it was not racked by the kinds of divisiveness in many other situations.  While certain factors were unique, many lessons could still be applied to future peace-building situations.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) expressed satisfaction at progress in Timor-Leste and in its international and regional relations.  He appealed to all donors to sustain their support to the country to overcome the remaining problems, leading to the long-term stability of the country.  The solution of the refugee problem was essential for that purpose, as well.

Border problems were being overcome, he said, by the intensive presence of UNMISET on those borders, as well as the cooperation of Indonesia.  He looked forward to completion of the demarcation process, which would allow UNMISET to downsize and withdraw.

BIJAYEDUTH GOKOOL (Mauritius) was pleased to note the progress made in promoting a broad-based democracy.  An effective democracy must have safeguards for protection of human rights and promotion of the rule of law, and nation-building was never complete without a united and peace-loving society.  More effort was needed towards establishing lasting reconciliation.  The strong commitment of the Council and the international community had been instrumental  in the success achieved, and it was important that the Council and the donor community remained engaged.

He welcomed the progress made in police and defence forces.  He noted that the first of the four phases of downsizing was on track.  Resolution of the refugee problem was of a high priority, he said, and recent low return rates were a matter of concern, as the reconciliation process would be consolidated by the return of refugees from West Timor.  Indonesia’s constructive approach regarding the relationship with the country was welcomed, as was the maintenance of the Joint Border Committee. The resilience and dedication of the people of Timor-Leste would make the small island State a prosperous and peaceful place to live.

MICHEL DUCLOS (France), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, expressed his satisfaction with the work done by UNMISET.  The development of a national police force was proceeding according to plan, as was establishment of the national defence force.  He noted that refugees in West Timor no longer seemed to threaten stability in the region.  Prospects regarding consolidation of the administration were less clear.  The functioning of institutions and relations between President and Parliament seemed satisfactory, but he noted shortcomings in the judiciary and prison administrations.  Further efforts to recruit East Timorese in that regard must be strengthened, and political pluralism must be encouraged.

The future of Timor-Leste seemed to depend on three factors, he said. Economic development must continue, and international assistance must, therefore, continue.  Regarding the judiciary, it was important to have consistency between decisions taken in Timor-Leste and Indonesia.  Justice in both countries had a big role to play in establishing lasting reconciliation.  Establishment of good relations between the country and its neighbours, particularly with Indonesia, constituted the third factor.  The Joint Ministerial Commission had begun work last month.  He asked the Special Representative to explain what was happening with rights to assets and compensation, and if the Joint Ministerial Commission would deal with those matters.  He also asked for more information about delineation of sea and land borders between the two countries.

MAMADY TRAORE (Guinea) was pleased at the progress in Timor-Leste over the past months.  There was much more to be done, and he welcomed the efforts being made to build institutions, regulatory frameworks and other necessary entities.  He supported the efforts of UNMISET in security and the transfer of law enforcement.  He stressed resolution of border and refugee problems and said there was an urgent need to strengthen the foundations of sustainable development in the country.

MARIA ANGELICA ARCE DE JEANNET (Mexico) welcomed the progress made by UNMISET; the international community’s efforts in Timor-Leste were a model for future work.  Much progress had also been made by the Government of the country, especially in the areas of relations with Indonesia and border demarcation.  She appealed to both States to speed up the process of border delimitation.  The resolution of border problems was also important; it was urgent to promote repatriation programmes, as well as to protect human rights.

She welcomed the announcement of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to work together towards a deadline for repatriation.  She expressed support for work being done in many other areas in Timor-Leste.  Future progress would depend on maintenance of stability and security, and the continued support of the international community would be needed.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the Government of Timor-Leste worked hard to promote its goal of a broad-based democracy.  He welcomed its willingness to have a dialogue with interest groups that took political views other than the Government’s.  He also welcomed progress made in the relationship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia.  A durable solution to the refugee problem remained a prerequisite for long-term stability in the country.  More than 35,000 refugees in West Timor would loose their refugee status by the end of the year, when the UNHCR would close down its operations in the area.  He hoped the President’s recent appeals to the refugees would encourage increased return to Timor-Leste.

Insufficient technical and substantive capacity posed significant challenges within the public administration, as well as in the justice system, he said.  He supported and encouraged the Government’s continued efforts towards the establishment of a well-functioning court system, based fully on the principle of the rule of law.  He fully endorsed the Secretary-General’s highlighting the need for complementing UNMISET’s implementation plan with sufficient bilateral assistance in a number of key areas crucial for ongoing nation-building.

KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said the United Nations “text book” success in Timor-Leste could provide an example that could be used in other cases.  As had been said, Timor-Leste enjoyed several strengths that should be built upon.  The newly independent State could, moreover, learn from the mistakes other newly independent States had made in years past.  In order to continue the success story, a clear understanding of achievements made and challenges remaining was needed.  Even after Timor-Leste could stand on its own, United Nations assistance would still be needed.  Transfer of responsibilities to Timorese authorities had to be done carefully, as hasty downsizing would unravel all the progress made. 

He said, while Timor-Leste was consolidating its foundations, its emerging institutions still remained fragile.  Although Timor-Leste and Indonesia had taken concrete steps to enhance bilateral cooperation, he noted that earlier assumptions about progress in border delineation had proved to be optimistic. It was important to ensure that international experts would prepare the people of the country to do their job.  He also noted weaknesses in the development of the judicial system.  UNMISET’s progress must be constantly assessed.  He, therefore, suggested that UNMISET produce a document breaking down progress into concrete benchmarks, based on the example of the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK).

GERARD CORR (Ireland) said he associated himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union.  While the benchmarks were being met, considerable challenges still faced the new State, requiring the continued engagement of the international community.  The country’s National Development Plan reflected a balanced course to the country’s medium- and short-term economic and social needs, but the country was unquestionably a very poor one.  The fact that only 23 per cent of its modest budgeted revenue was locally generated put into stark focus the challenge it faced in creating a sustainable economic environment.  Clearly, the donor community had an essential role to play well after the current phase of immediate post-independence engagement.  Unsurprisingly, the justice sector was also struggling. 

The significant progress in developing the police service was encouraging, he said, as was the news that an UNMISET-led mission would assess the longer-term policing needs.  That was the sort of work the Council should promote.  At the same time, meeting the benchmarks set by the Secretary-General when he outlined his plans for UNMISET should not be an end in itself, but a clear sign of adequate progress.  Experience had shown that bilateral aid was crucial to the future development of Timor-Leste, which had already been identified by Ireland's development aid programme as a priority for reconstruction and rehabilitation.  The United Nations’ mission there had evolved from peacekeeping to peace-building.  Only a few years ago, it was very difficult to convince the United Nations membership that the Council should be engaging in peace-building work.  Now, that debate appeared to have been put to rest -- for the benefit of Timor-Leste and the United Nations.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said that success in Timor-Leste was extremely promising.  In connection with UNMISET’s work, he said that government capacity-building was important, and the judicial sector needed to be strengthened over the long term.  That work was essential for the stability of the State. He appreciated the work of the Serious Crimes Unit, but was concerned about the new cases of serious crimes that had arisen.  He also underscored the relationship between reconciliation and justice.

He said that concern over terrorism was rightly raised in the report.  It was important, moreover, that the joint evaluation mission be conducted.  Future progress would depend on the maintenance of security, and empowering the local population in all areas.  He was pleased that the situation was evolving according to plans, including those for the reduction of UNMISET.

ZHANG YISHAN (China), President of the Security Council, speaking in his national capacity, said that the people and leadership of Timor-Leste had been carrying out nation-building on many fronts.  The UNMISET was carrying out its mandate in a comprehensive manner, along with them.  He enumerated many of the achievements of the Mission and said China would continue to support its work.

There were still many difficulties to be overcome, however, as pointed out in the Secretary-General’s report, and the continued engagement of the international community was crucial, he said.  A proper solution to the refugee problem was also necessary for long-term stability.  His country, he said, would continue to support the people of Timor-Leste, according to its abilities.

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES (Timor-Leste), expressing his appreciation for United Nations efforts on behalf of his country, said it was an honour and a privilege for him to be addressing the Council for the first time, as Timor-Leste’s first representative to the Organization.  He agreed with the conclusion of the Secretary-General’s report:  much still remained to be done to complete the transition from decades of violence and deprivation to a fully functioning member of the community of free States.

He said that, in his country’s National Development Plan, key challenges of the years to come were identified as poverty reduction, education, health care, infrastructure and economic development and institutional capacity-building at all levels of Government.  In that light, funding for the 91 posts called for in the report was critical, as was an impartial and effective judicial system and training of civil servants and lawyers.  Among the positive developments in his country, he highlighted the growth of democratic culture and political participation, progress in reconciliation and the return of refugees.  Relations with Indonesia, another priority area, were also being strengthened through diplomatic contacts and work on issues of mutual concern, such as negotiations with Australia on the exploitation of petroleum in the Timor Sea.

Regionally, he said, Timor-Leste had supported the establishment of the South-West Pacific Forum and had been invited to be an observer to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Pacific Forum meetings.  Internationally, the country had established diplomatic relations with several countries and started to open missions.  It had ratified the Rome Treaty for the International Criminal Court and had accelerated the ratification process for several human rights instruments.  It was fully committed to the global fight against terrorism, but needed the continued presence of international police and peacekeeping forces.  He urged adherence to the targets established by the Council in May 2002.  He said that the findings and requirements spelled out in the report must be met, if the success story of Timor-Leste’s transition was to come full circle.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the future sustainability and stability of Timor-Leste had a significant bearing on the subregion and wider regional relations, security and stability.  He welcomed positive developments since the independence of Timor-Leste.  The fragility of the country’s nascent institutions in areas of justice, internal security and law enforcement, external security and border control, and development were uphill challenges.  Timor-Leste’s first Human Development Report showed poor indicators on poverty, literacy and life expectancy, and confirmed the country as the poorest nation in Asia in financial and human development terms.

The development of laws and building of national institutions and international networks were significant achievements of the Government, he said. He urged the United Nations system, Bretton Woods institutions and civil society organizations to build on the Government’s efforts in promoting sustainable development.  He welcomed the recruitment of stability and development advisers to act as mentors in the transfer of skills to the Government and encouraged UNMISET to maintain its focus on the development of a self-reliant civil service.

He noted the progress in the work of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, and in the parallel, innovative, concept of the community reconciliation process.  Despite some progress in meeting agreed targets, however, much remained to be achieved in the justice and police systems, he said.

JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said, despite the fact that during the first five months of independence the authorities and people of Timor-Leste had continued to work to consolidate the foundations of the country, their institutions remained fragile.  Addressing the problems in the judiciary and the prison system should be a priority.  Establishment of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation had been a significant contribution to promoting human rights in the country.

He noted with interest the work done in external security and border control, and shared the concerns of the risk of terrorism in the region.  It was important that the necessary measures be taken to ensure the safety of the people of Timor-Leste and the personnel of United Nations, he said.  Refugee return was a prerequisite for stability.  He valued the efforts on cooperation between the Government of Timor-Leste and Indonesia.  Noting that enormous challenges remained to be met, he said it was vital that sufficient bilateral assistance continue to be provided.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that the present assessment of the situation was timely, particularly given the withdrawal this week of the New Zealand battalion and aviation detachment, in line with the Council's schedule for downsizing the United Nations presence in Timor-Leste.  The New Zealand Defence Force had been part of the peacekeeping force since 1999, and its experience had been overwhelmingly positive and enriching for its military personnel.  His country's involvement in Timor-Leste would certainly continue, despite the great reduction this month of its military presence.  Up to 26 New Zealand Defence Force personnel would remain in the country and would lend bilateral training support to the national defence force.

He said his country would also continue to provide targeted development assistance, focused on community and natural resource development, basic education and governance/institution capacity-building.  Timor-Leste's prosperity would depend much on the strength of its bilateral and regional relations and particularly welcome in that regard was the creation of the Joint Ministerial Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between Timor-Leste and Indonesia.  He stressed the importance of a demarcation agreement between Timor-Leste and West Timor, given that New Zealand had troops deployed in a border area.

The weaknesses of the justice sector, which lacked both physical and human resources, were of concern, he said.  Reportedly, people were being held for long periods in prison on remand and, in some cases, without adequate warrant.  As such, he endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendation that international donors should focus on that sector.  He had supported the establishment of the prison service since 2000 and would continue to work with the Government, the United Nations and other donors to further develop capacity in corrections management, consistent with international best practices.  Equally important were the ad hoc tribunals in Jakarta.  The first verdicts were extremely disappointing, however.  In order to be credible, that process must be robust, he said. 

ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, welcomed and supported the efforts of the new Government to consolidate the fragile political institutions in Timor-Leste and to meanwhile ensure and uphold democratic institutions and the rule of law.  The European Union also welcomed the positive development in neighbourly relations between Timor-Leste and Indonesia, she said.  In particular, cooperation was highly called for on bringing those responsible for serious crimes committed in 1999 to justice, as well as on refugee issues.

The United Nations continued to have an important role to play in the nation building of Timor-Leste, she continued, and UNMISET should stay in Timor-Leste as long as it was deemed necessary to fulfil its mandate.  A strategy had already been set out, including deadlines for downsizing personnel.  That strategy must be kept under review, in order to make sure it accurately took into account developments in relation to both the internal and external security situations.

The Union was concerned over the recent events in Bali, which constituted a worrying indicator of increased international terrorist risks in the region, she continued.  She commended the ongoing efforts by the Timorese authorities to

ensure external security, in parallel with efforts to maintain internal security, the rule of law and its enforcement.  But, the potential vulnerability of a country still in the process of building security institutions was cause for concern.  In that regard, she underlined the importance of continued international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

MOCHAMAD SLAMET HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said that his country had developed a warm and special relationship with Timor-Leste since its independence, and applauded the progress it had made.  Indonesia would also continue to support UNMISET in the execution of its mandate.  He described some developments in bilateral relationships between the two countries, particularly regarding border issues, of which he was proud and which, he said, required the wholehearted support of the international community.  He said that Timor-Leste’s participation in regional activities, particularly its attendance in meetings of ASEAN, boded well for further integration of the country into its region.

He expected a comprehensive solution of the refugee issue by the end of the year.  Towards that end, his Government would, he said, provide additional incentives for those who opted to return to Timor-Leste by that date.  Describing other initiatives towards that goal, he said that one of the reasons for the low rate of returns in the last two months had been a lack of financial support.  He reiterated the need for commitments to the Joint Appeal to be fulfilled.

He agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that the overall condition of external security and border control had continued to improve.  Indonesia was determined to ensure that the progress did not stop.  In that regard, efforts must be made to avoid terminologies and references in further reports that did not reflect the situation in the field.  Criminal elements in the border area, for instance, should be characterized as such, and as such required common efforts.  The relationship between the two countries had been flourishing extremely well at all levels, he reiterated.  He urged continued support from the international community in that area and in bringing the promise of progress achieved thus far to its full realization.

As the Council meeting resumed this afternoon, SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea) said that his Government attached great importance to the role of UNMISET, in pursuing a well-devised milestone-based approach towards the Mission’s gradual withdrawal over a two-year period.  As one of the major troop-contributing countries to the military component of UNMISET, the Republic of Korea would continue to fulfil its share of the responsibilities until the mandate of the Mission was completed.  Noteworthy, too, was Timor-Leste’s smooth integration within the community of nations.  The Republic of Korea had ambassadorial representation in Timor-Leste and was committed to promoting stronger relations with this new nation on every front.

Even with the steady progress that had materialized so far, he continued, there remained many challenges.  He spoke of unfilled vacancies in the government sector, insufficient staffing of qualified officials, the weak judicial system and acute resources constraints in many parts of the administration.  The Republic of Korea would continue to extend, wherever possible, humanitarian and development assistance; it believed the continued commitment of the international community was an indispensable factor in enabling Timor-Leste to develop as a democratic and prosperous nation.

VALERIY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said UNMISET and United Nations relief agencies had helped Timor-Leste to achieve steady progress for the past six months, in restoring essential services and reaching its development targets.  Significant progress had been made in the rehabilitation of physical and social infrastructure and in the provision of social services.  Continued international support was needed for the strengthening of the capacity of national institutions.  Building Timorese public services remained one of the most difficult aspects of UNMISET’s mandate.  There was still a grave shortage of qualified and experienced Timorese across all areas of government activity, particularly in the justice sector.

He said a solution to the refugee problem remained a crucial issue and was a prerequisite to ensuring stability in the country.  The complete return from West Timor should remain a firm priority to guarantee security on both sides of the border.  Refugee status for the Timorese who might stay in West Timor after December must be preserved.  The issue of accountability of those responsible for serious crimes committed in 1999 continued to represent a serious concern for the international community.  He urged Timor-Leste and Indonesia to cooperate closely in bringing to justice violators of human rights.

YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said Timor-Leste still faced a number of challenges, including the building of a self-sustainable nation, resolution of refugee issues, national reconciliation and strengthening of relations with neighbouring States.  In the nation-building process, the endeavours of the people in Timor-Leste themselves were of primary importance.  It was necessary that they work towards reconstruction and development, and promote national reconciliation, so that united efforts for the construction of a self-reliant nation were possible.  It was incumbent upon the international community to continue to help them.

He said Japan had been the largest donor to Timor-Leste and intended to continue assistance to the fullest extent possible for self-sustainable nation- building.  It had pledged $60 million for the coming three years.  Japan intended to focus in its assistance on human resources development, agriculture, infrastructure and peace-building.  His Government appreciated the activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in fostering reconciliation between former pro-independence groups and former pro-integration groups. National reconciliation was of crucial importance for the future of the country, and Japan would continue to provide assistance in that area.  He requested the Secretary-General to proceed with the implementation of UNMISET’s downsizing plan, while evaluating the evolving situation in the field carefully and, in doing so, to continue to consult closely with troop-contributing countries.

RUI MACIEIRA (Portugal) voiced his support for United Nations efforts in assisting the authorities of Timor-Leste to develop their new country.  He acknowledged problems there, such as a lack of financial and human resources, and the resulting negative effects on the country’s judicial system.  He commended Timor-Leste’s establishment of good-neighbourly relations with Indonesia and its participation in international organizations, such as the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries.

He called on the international community to stay involved in the affairs of Timor-Leste, especially in the maintenance of democracy, stability, and justice, and in the areas of security, law enforcement, and border controls.  In that context, he said the downsizing of UNMISET had to proceed with caution, so as not to reverse positive results that had already been achieved.  For its part, the Portuguese Government would continue to contribute financially to the development of Timor-Leste.  In addition to monetary aid, thousands of Portuguese citizens had already participated as peacekeepers and civilian police observers in UNMISET and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

JOHN DAUTH LVO (Australia) said the participation of Timor-Leste in the meeting symbolized the fact that progress in the country was now its own concern.  The Council’s task was to assess the assistance of UNMISET in the country's institution-strengthening and in its transition to self-reliant statehood and a more traditional relationship with the donor community.  In that regard, UNMISET was largely on track to fulfil its mandate, assisted by cooperation between Timor-Leste and Indonesia.  Good-neighbourly relations were a bedrock of security in the region, he said.

The United Nations, through the Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee, needed to consider how best to coordinate and support donor efforts to develop Timor-Leste’s indigenous counter-terrorism capabilities.  Australia appreciated the cooperation it had received recently from UNMISET, the East Timor Police Service and the Government of Timor-Leste in responding to possible terrorist threats.  Strengthening the police and the development of effective border controls were important in that effort and other transborder security challenges.

Building capacity in the justice sector, as well as in administration and governance, was not simply the responsibility of UNMISET, he said.  Bilateral and multilateral support remained vital; donors should meet their pledges in a timely way.  Australia remained committed to assisting the country as best as it could.

CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand) said he was encouraged by developments in Timor-Leste and commended its leadership for consolidating the country’s foundations within a short time-span, despite resource constraints.  He said he also commended UNMISET for its support in that effort and its close cooperation with the donor community.  The continued engagement of the international community was vital, and he urged donors to support Timor-Leste’s public administration, justice and finance sectors, as well as police and military training.

He reiterated the importance of capacity-building and said the downsizing of UNMISET must be commensurate with progress in the development sector, including the generation of employment.  He cited some of Thailand’s assistance to Timor- Leste and said his country would continue to support the work of UNMISET, so that the people of Timor-Leste could eventually participate in the regional and global economy on an equal footing.

VIJAY K. NAMBIAR (India) congratulated Timor-Leste upon its entry into the United Nations and welcomed the country’s accession to other international bodies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as its establishment of diplomatic relations with a number of countries.  The growing relations between Timor-Leste and Indonesia had been underscored by the exchange of State visits and the creation of the Joint Border Committee.  The role of UNMISET as enabler and facilitator of the larger political, social and economic goals of the country required the support of the international community.  However, unpaid assessments to the Mission amounted to $214 million.  Continued and timely support for UNMISET’s budget would greatly enhance its ability to assist Timor-Leste towards self-sufficiency as a nation.

He said that during the first three months of the fiscal year, the Government had successfully collected 23 per cent of its budgeted revenue. However, lack of sustainable assets resulting in unemployment at the range of    90 per cent and dependence on international aid continued to beset the nation.  It was a situation that needed to be addressed.

Turning to the country’s judicial system, he said the concurrent development of the judiciary and legislature, along with the executive, was important for the balanced development of a nation.  Constraints faced by the lack of adequate development of the judicial system would also hinder efforts to bring to justice those responsible for serious crimes committed in 1999.  Noting that the shadow of terrorism had fallen over the region, he said enhanced vigilance and improved capacities needed to be put in place in Timor-Leste.

Concluding Remarks by Special Representative

Reacting to questions and comments from speakers, KAMALESH SHARMA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, said the advice of delegations was a valuable input in the Mission’s work.  The words of support   for its efforts were a great encouragement to the Mission.  He thanked the many delegations which had advocated strengthened donor support to Timor-Leste, which would be essential for many years to come.

The said the most important theme emphasized by most delegations was that of justice and the rule of law; the rule of law was the foundations for all other societal and government activities, a view which was shared by the Government.  Difficulties arising from the lack of experience of judges were, and would remain, a challenge.  There would be a long-term need for assistance for the Ministry of Justice and the court and prison system, beyond the mandate of UNMISET.  An outline of a plan developed by the Ministry of Justice had recently been presented to donors.  The Mission was deploying need-assessment missions coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Another important theme was the role of human rights and the office of the “Providor”.  The UNMISET had mainstreamed promotion and protection of human rights in all its activities.  He emphasized that the Government’s commitment to human rights was exemplary.  The ratification of a number of human rights treaties had been approved by the Council of Ministers and submitted to Parliament with a view to acceding to them on the coming Human Rights Day.  Among those treaties was the Convention on Migrant Workers.  Acceding to that Convention would bring it into force.  The human rights unit of UNMISET continued to provide training to authorities, particularly to the police.

There had been a small increase in the number of incidents against returnees, prompted sometimes by efforts to reclaim their land or by allegations of having cooperated with militias.  The human rights unit was monitoring the situation.  Those cases underlined the need for continued support for the Commission for Reconciliation.  The Commission’s work would contribute strongly to the process of national healing.

In answer to questions about the development posts, he said the

228 development posts fell within areas of financial services, essential services, governance and centralized services, and the legal and justice system.  Of the 228, only 49 had been recruited so far and another 33 were in the process of being recruited.  If everything went according to plan, there would still be a major shortfall of funding for 98 positions.  He encouraged all those in a position to do so to contribute to the critical process of filling posts.

He said UNMISET was playing the role of ensuring that all administrative and infrastructure facilities required by the justice system were made available to it.  At the same time, the Mission was conscious of the fact that it should not interfere with the legal and judicial processes.  He recognized the need for a forensic pathologist.  The Mission was concentrating on engaging partners who could make experts available so that there was no backlog in the morgue, while, at the same time, looking for a long-term solution.

Regarding veterans, Mr. Sharma he said the lack of programmes for that sector of the population might give them a feeling of denial, which must be recognized.  He had discussed the issue with the Government, which had established two Commissions to identify such veterans and find employment for them.  The UNDP was looking at proposals for assisting them.

In reference to border demarcation, he said there had been expectations that the process would be completed by July 2003.  Timor-Leste, Indonesia and UNMISET had been working towards that guideline, taking into account relevant legal instruments.  The UNMISET was fully prepared to continue working with both countries in meeting the deadline.  The process of physical demarcation might take a fairly long time.

On the subject of refugee returns, he said, while the year began on a slow note, the rate had picked up considerably in March and April, following encouragement by the then-President elect.  In May, June and July, that high rate had been maintained, but since then returns had slowed to a trickle.  It must be noted, however, that overall refugee repatriation had been a success, representing almost 25 per cent of the population of Timor-Leste.

The relationship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia was developing in a very positive way, he said.  He expressed deep gratitude to his reception by the leadership of Indonesia in recent visits.  He hoped for innovative solutions to remaining issues between the two countries, such as compensation for assets in question.

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For information media. Not an official record.