RECENT VIOLENCE, RISE IN ARMED GROUPS THREATEN SUCCESS IN TIMOR-LESTE, PEACEKEEPING UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

10 March 2003
SC/7683

RECENT VIOLENCE, RISE IN ARMED GROUPS THREATEN SUCCESS IN TIMOR-LESTE, PEACEKEEPING UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

10/03/2003
Press ReleaseSC/7683

Security Council

4715th Meeting (AM)

RECENT VIOLENCE, RISE IN ARMED GROUPS THREATEN SUCCESS IN TIMOR-LESTE,

PEACEKEEPING UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

Secretary-General Recommends UN Mission Enhance Capacity

To Train Timorese Police, Delay Downsizing Military Component

Despite extraordinary successes achieved over the last three and a half years in Timor-Leste, several violent incidents, such as the destructive riot in Dili on 4 December and evidence of a rise in armed groups in rural areas, sounded a warning bell for the international community, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, told the Security Council this morning.

Briefing the Council on a special report by the Secretary-General on the situation, he said there were obstacles to increased reliance upon Timorese capacity to address such threats.  The downsizing plans prepared nine months ago for the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) would make it increasingly difficult to give the Timorese agencies the time they needed to develop.

He said the Secretary-General, therefore, proposed enhancement of the Mission’s ability to support development of the Timorese police and, as a short-term measure, to strengthen the Mission’s operational capacity to deal with the threat posed by armed groups, as well as a delay in the downsizing of the military component. A premature downsizing of the Mission could imperil the overall strategy of establishing sustainable Timorese structures that could maintain security after UNMISET left.  He stressed, however, that deferring the operation’s withdrawal date was not being proposed.

During the ensuing debate, many speakers, concerned about the increasing occurrence of violent incidents over the past three months, endorsed the Secretary-General’s proposals, with the representative of China saying that security and stability were preconditions for nation-building and development.  The international community had made commitments to the young country, he said, and those commitments should be honoured.

The representative of Timor-Leste said the enemies of independence, democracy and freedom, whether in Indonesia or in Timor-Leste, had not given up.  Their recent terrorist attacks in the border area in January and February reflected a coordinated plan to destabilize Timor-Leste and to destroy a nation that was created with the help of the Security Council and the international community.

His Government was working towards a secure and stable environment for the future development and stability of the country.  The contribution of UNMISET towards that process was significant and must continue at the required levels, while the Timorese security forces developed to their full capacity.  There was a clear need to ensure that the drawdown and the lack of capacities in the police did not lead to a premature testing of those capacities by armed groups.

Indonesia’s representative, stressing that bilateral relations and cooperation between his country and Timor-Leste had improved significantly over the last year, regretted that the Secretary-General’s report still referred to the involvement of “supported militias” in the incidents that had occurred.  “Indeed, the blame should go to UNMISET for its deliberate ignorance in the way that it seeks to protect the people from criminal elements”, he said.

Other speakers questioned the necessity of changing downsizing plans for UNMISET’s military component, as well, although they supported the Secretary-General’s suggestions for rescheduling the downsizing of the United Nations police operation.

The representative of the United States, however, did not see a compelling case for a pause in implementation of the downsizing plan.  The events were troubling, he said, but they were relatively small in scale.  UNMISET’s mandate gave police, not peacekeepers, the primary responsibility to handle those incidents.  Backing up of the police by peacekeepers should be the last resort. Peacekeeping units could focus more on tracking down the culprits and redeployment to high-risk areas.

Greater focus should be given to strengthening the capacity of the police, he said, and requested the Secretariat to submit new proposals in that regard.  Any changes in UNMISET must be guided by the Mission’s fundamental purpose -- not to ensure that Timor-Leste was problem-free, but to ensure that the country had the capacity to handle its own problems.

The need of addressing economic and refugee problems was also underlined. The representative of the Russian Federation said the high level of unemployment, especially among the young, and the continued problem of refugees were destabilizing factors affecting the security situation.  Uninterrupted assistance by the donor community in that regard was important.

All speakers offered condolences to the Government of the Republic of Korea and the family members of five Korean UNMISET peacekeepers who had drowned last week.

The representatives of Chile, Syria, Bulgaria, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, Cameroon, France, Angola, Spain, Guinea, Portugal, Australia and Japan also spoke.

The meeting was called to order at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 12:45 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Timor-Leste, for which it had before it the special report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) (document S/2003/243).  In paragraph 7 of resolution 1410 (2002), which established UNMISET for an initial period of 12 months from 20 May 2002, the Council decided that the “downsizing of UNMISET should proceed as quickly as possible, after careful assessment of the situation on the ground”. 

For most of the past three years, the developments in Timor-Leste have suggested that the country was unequivocally headed towards becoming a success story, states the report.  But recent developments suggest that the international community will need to provide additional evidence of its commitment to successfully completing the task that it has advanced thus far.  The report offers a reassessment of the situation on the ground and suggests that the planning that envisaged a steady downsizing of the international presence should be reviewed.

It is in this context that the following proposals are presented for the Council’s approval:  the reconfiguration of the military component and the adoption of a revised phased approach to its mandate (including retention of its current ceiling until December 2003) to better reflect the current threats; and the enhancement of the operational ability of the international police component as a short-term measure to promote security, with a simultaneous increase in its ability to effectively train the Timor-Leste police to take over responsibility for key tasks from international personnel.

These adjustments respond to factors that are external to the operation. They do not represent a change in the broad concept of operations of UNMISET, in its planned date of withdrawal or in its ultimate goal, which is the creation of a viable Timor-Leste State having an adequate and appropriate security capability. The additional resources that they would require are modest compared with the investment made over the past three years, but they could significantly enhance the international community’s ability to attain its goals.

It has always been clear that plans for the Mission were premised upon the prevailing security situation, and the development of adequate capability on the part of Timor-Leste to assume responsibility for security tasks, the report states.  The revised plans presented here in response to changed conditions would be kept under constant assessment, and any significant improvement or deterioration in the security environment would be reported to the Security Council with the appropriate recommendations for action.

The impact of these adjustments will depend on the full commitment of the Timor-Leste leadership, which shares the view that the measures suggested here can play a critical role in promoting their country’s stability and security.  Lasting stability will depend upon their strong political support for the rule of law and their continuing efforts to strengthen their country’s governance and democratic institutions, including a non-political and professional police.

Ongoing collaboration with Indonesia is also crucial to address, among other issues, the continuing challenge posed by refugees, to find suitable solutions regarding border crossings that can favour social and economic progress, and to adhere to the agreements that have been made regarding the delineation of the border by June 2003.

Bilateral support will also be crucial to supplement the efforts of UNMISET, including in the crucial areas of defence, police, justice and corrections, as well as social and economic development, says the report.  In addition, after UNMISET concludes its mandate, it is likely that further assistance will be required.  A number of options could be explored by Member States, including the deployment of qualified international police to key advisory positions within the Timor-Leste police through multilateral, regional or bilateral working arrangements with the Government of Timor-Leste.

The initial, successful progress that was achieved in Timor-Leste may have favoured the development of unrealistic expectations.  It is preferable that the international community be reminded, before downsizing has progressed beyond a point of no return, of the fragility of what has been achieved early in the mandate of UNMISET.

In relation to the time required for any country to evolve towards statehood, Timor-Leste’s development remains extraordinarily rapid.  Despite the extraordinary historical, political and economic challenges that the Timorese people have faced, the Secretary-General is confident that with an additional effort by the international community, the success story that seemed so close to becoming a reality will materialize, albeit somewhat less smoothly than had been hoped.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, expressed deep regret at the tragic loss, last week, of five UNMISET peacekeepers from the Republic of Korea who drowned when they were swept away in a swollen river in Oecussi.  The tragic accident was a reminder of the perils peacekeeping faced and the enormous debt they were owed.

Turning to the report before the Council, he said that in much of the reporting over the last three and a half years, extraordinary successes had been cited.  Unfortunately, the present report had a different focus:  it sounded a warning bell to indicate a number of worrisome developments and to recommend realistic and prudent adjustments of UNMISET’s downsizing plan.

He said Timor-Leste seemed to be threatened by two types of development in the security environment:  threats of civil disturbance, such as the destructive riot in Dili on 4 December; and a rise in armed groups in rural areas, particularly in the west of the country.  Those groups appeared to be driven by a blend of political and criminal motivation.  The report identifies obstacles to increased reliance upon the Timorese capacity to address such threats.  The downsizing plans prepared nine months ago would make it increasingly difficult for UNMISET to give the Timorese agencies the time they needed to develop.

The planned reduction of approximately a third, in the very capability needed if UNMISET was to respond effectively to armed groups, would make it difficult to maintain regular and frequent presence in rural areas.  The international police currently had no remaining crowd-control capability and lacked the specialized training required to ensure the most effective, rapid and thorough development of the Timorese counterparts.

He said, for those reasons, the report included two kinds of recommendations.  It proposed enhancement of the Mission’s ability to support development of the Timorese police, suggesting, among other things, retaining a higher number of police advisers in districts where Timorese police had assumed responsibility for patrolling.  UNMISET police would also be working with the Government to develop its strategy to follow up recommendations of the report of the joint assessment mission.

At the same time, as a short-term measure to strengthen the Mission’s operational capacity to deal with the threat posed by armed groups, the report proposed a delay in the downsizing of the military component, and its reconfiguration in key areas, including increasing mobility.  The report also underlined the importance of reducing restrictions on military components by troop-contributing countries.  The report further suggested deployment of a formed police company, which would help the Mission to deal with civil disturbances.  He stressed that the report did not propose deferring the operation’s withdrawal date.  A premature downsizing of the Mission could imperil the overall strategy of establishing sustainable Timorese structures that could maintain security after UNMISET left.

There was also a major positive development, he said, namely, the conclusion of agreements and legislative processes in Timor-Leste and Australia that should pave the way for exploitation of mineral resources in the Timor Sea.  The development of those resources was of cardinal importance for Timor-Leste economic future.  That progress, however, could be undermined unless security issues were resolved.

He said the decision before the Council was a difficult one.  Much about the new threat groups in Timor-Leste remained ambiguous, but it was already apparent that they exceeded the capability of regular police –- either international or Timorese.  Furthermore, information received had increased the concern. Peacekeepers had come across a campsite with considerable military equipment.

He urged the Council to consider whether, in a fragile but unclear situation, the international community should continue to seek a more “minimalist” approach, or whether it should lean towards prudence.  The current recommendations were presented on the premise that it is easier and less expensive to pre-empt a problem than to try to fix a problem after it had occurred.  The costs would be modest compared to the $1 billion to $2 billion the international community had spent in Timor-Leste.  He believed that the additional effort could help secure the much larger investment that had been made to date.

Statements

JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said that the situation in Timor-Leste started to change radically on 4 December 2002, with civil unrest and subsequent violent incidents.  That had shed a very different light on the situation in Timor-Leste.  Events in January were definitely a concern.  He was also concerned about the probable resurgence of militia activity and the existence of armed groups, which had established a base within Timor-Leste with the intention of undermining stability.  He also understood the importance of demarcating the border, and he urged the Joint Border Commission of the Governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia to accelerate their working plan.

He said he shared the view that an effective national police that was well trained and highly regarded by the population was indispensable.  In that regard, he appreciated the work of UNMISET.  Nevertheless, in that ongoing process, the national police was in no position to contend with the more serious security threats now occurring.  Thus, the adjustment proposed in the Secretary-General’s report was “very valid”.  That included adding an international police unit for one year, with intensive training emphasizing human rights and the rule of law, as well as enhancing the monitoring and advisory presence in districts where responsibilities had been handed over.

The proposed adjustments to the strategy and configuration of the military sector were also relevant, he said.  It was very important to discuss those topics in depth, in particular, in light of the experience of troop contributors in the area, so as to agree on consensus-based mechanisms to deal with the current situation.  Plans should be under constant review, and the Council should be advised about any improvement or worsening of the security situation, so that it might adopt the most appropriate measures.  Despite his concern about the lack of security, he recognized the positive developments.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that the international community had played an important role in ensuring peace and stability in Timor-Leste.  It was incumbent now upon everyone to preserve those achievements.  The path on which that country had embarked had led to successes and independence, and the beginning of a development process.  Regarding the military and security context, the Secretary-General’s report referred to concern over the safety situation in that country.  The conclusions and recommendations for rearranging the plan for the Mission were important.  In that connection, he supported the request made by the Secretary-General regarding a rearrangement of the Mission and a delay in the downsizing of its staff.

He said he supported the revised military strategy, aimed at changing the military component and evolving a simplified two-stage process for staff.  He also endorsed the revised strategy for the police component.  Another year was needed to ensure further progress, before the Timor-Leste police would be able to operate independently.  That was a wise and well-rounded idea.  He was grateful for the cooperation shown by Indonesia.  Above all, the necessary resources must be provided, in order to ensure economic development.  He urged donors to continue to provide constant assistance to enable the country to move beyond the current reconstruction phase, leading to the implementation of a national economic plan. 

STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said the situation in Timor-Leste showed cause for concern.  In the past, Timor-Leste had been discussed in optimistic tones, but developments over the past few months no longer fed that optimism.  The Council must take note of, and take appropriate measures to deal with, the worsening security situation and act in a prudent manner.  The incident in Dili in December and the January incidents in Atsabe and Bobonaro placed the attempt by UNMISET and Timor-Leste to normalize the situation in jeopardy.  It was important that the incidents be investigated and that perpetrators be brought before the courts.

He said appropriate measures must be taken.  The Mission was a valuable instrument in managing the situation. The Secretary-General’s report considered an adjustment of the situation, in light of recent events.  The report’s conclusions were logical and he, therefore, supported them. His country tried to contribute to the development of Timor-Leste by equipping the nascent armed forces and police. Any withdrawal of donors would have a negative impact on the achieved stability, at the cost of the considerable effort of the international community.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said his country was proud of its contributions towards the success in Timor-Leste.  Pakistan was also proud to have been one of the largest troop contributors to Timor-Leste and was still present there as part of UNMISET.  He was also proud of Pakistan’s role over the years as an advocate of the right of peoples to self-determination.  He appealed in that regard to the Council to show consistency and to resolve the question of Kashmir.  He said a “freedom-fighter” had said that the people of Kashmir had been working for

50 years to get a plebiscite, as recommended by the United Nations.  It was now time for all parties to endorse the will of the Kashmiri people.  He urged everyone to join in supporting a free fair and binding plebiscite for the people of Kashmir.  Those had been the words of José Ramos-Horta, Nobel laureate and Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste.

He said Pakistan had always advocated that no peacekeeping operation should be terminated without completing its mandate.  The scheduled downsizing at this stage would not be desirable.  He, therefore, fully supported the recommendations of the Secretary-General.  He also supported adjustment in the military and police components.  The international community, the donor community and the country’s neighbours must help Timor-Leste to improve its economical situation.  He welcomed the growing of institutional cooperation between Timor-Leste and Indonesia.  He urged both countries to continue to strengthen their bilateral relations.

ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) said it was right for the Secretariat to “sound a warning bell”, when it judged that to be necessary.  Like previous speakers, he fully recognized the importance of ensuring that the investments of the international community and the accomplishments in Timor-Leste were not undermined.  He agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that recent security problems had led to the argument for adjustments to UNMISET.  He broadly supported the measures outlined in the report.  He remained unconvinced, however, that the security problems in Timor-Leste, as they now stood, warranted maintaining troop levels of the peacekeeping force at the present level until December 2003.

Under current downsizing plans, he said there would still be sizeable numbers of troops to deal with the acts of those small armed gangs.  Nevertheless, he was willing to explore the feasibility of a less radical rescheduling of the downsizing than the one proposed in the report.  On the proposals for a revised policing strategy, he agreed that improving the capability of the Timorese police as a priority.  He was willing to consider favourably the Secretary-General’s recommendation for rescheduling the downsizing of the United Nations police operation, subject to some clarifications of some of the recommendations.  He also sought further information on the budgetary implications of the Secretary-General’s proposals.

CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) said that the report noted the importance of the Security Council remaining watchful over developments in the field and alert to the danger of creating unrealistic expectations that could bring about failure, in what had so far been a success story for the United Nations.  In recent months, incidents of violence had affected progress towards consolidation of the country’s independent status.  But, he was convinced that the authorities would be able to cope and overcome the obstacles, with the support of the international community.  He was grateful to UNMISET for its work and offered his full support to its leader, Kamalesh Sharma, so that he might fully discharge his mandate.

He said he supported the goals of shoring up security throughout Timor-Leste.  Improving coordination between national police and other security bodies and strengthening the national police’ response to civil unrest were critical.  In the post-conflict reconstruction phase, it was important to strengthen security, in order to create the right atmosphere for development.  Unemployment, lack of education, and other factors made it easier to recruit young people into armed groups.  Strengthened security required the setting up of an effective local police force, an independent judiciary, promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Cooperation between Timor-Leste and its neighbours was also crucial.

He said that finalizing the demarcation of the borders, rehabilitating

ex-combatants, and resettling the refugees were also priorities.  Taking care of those questions would improve the situation along the border, where the violent incidents had occurred.  Also, it was necessary to establish whether the recent violence had been motivated by some growing political campaign, or whether those were the desperate acts of individuals seeking to reclaim power.  The thinking was that those were not part of any official policy, but might have been the work of Timorese individuals acting on their own.  In that light, he would analyse proposals to strengthen the response capacity of the security organs in the country, bearing in mind the final objective of handing over authority to the Timorese.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) congratulated the Government of Timor-Leste and Australia on achieving agreement on mineral exploitation in the Timor Sea.  His country was committed to help Timor-Leste on its journey to become a viable State and had contributed $82 million in bilateral assistance over the past three years and $400 million to UNMISET and its predecessor.  Notwithstanding the isolated incidences of violence, there had been great progress in Timor-Leste.  In particular, the growing cooperation between Indonesia and Timor-Leste was encouraging.

He shared the concern over the violent incidences that had occurred over the last three months.  The events were troubling, but they were relatively small in scale, he said.  UNMISET’s mandate gave police, not peacekeepers, the primary responsibility to handle those incidents. Backing up of the police by peacekeepers should be the last resort.  He did not see a compelling case for pause in downsizing.  The incidents had occurred with the current number of troops in place.  There was no reason to believe that keeping the current level would prevent other incidents.  Peacekeeping units could focus more on tracking down the culprits and redeploy to high-risk areas.

Greater focus should be given to strengthening the capacity of the police, he said.  Relying on peacekeepers did nothing to directly strengthen Timor-Leste’s own capabilities.  Freezing the drawdown of the United Nations civilian police component might be a good idea.  He requested the Secretariat to come back with new proposals on how to strengthen the police.  He said any changes in UNMISET must be guided by the Mission’s fundamental purpose -- not to ensure Timor-Leste was problem-free, but to ensure that the country had the capacity to handle its own problems.

GUNTHER PLEUGER (Germany) welcomed the efforts of both the Government and the United Nations to consolidate the still fragile political institutions and to ensure and uphold the democratic institutions and the rule of law.  Despite recent achievements, the completion of major tasks remained.  Among the most challenging was the building of capabilities in the field of military and police.  The urgency of that task had been underlined by events in Dili on 4 December 2002.  Indeed, the security situation in Timor-Leste remained a major concern of the Government and the international community.  That situation had deteriorated, to some degree, in the last three months, but the incidents were of a rather small scale involving only a limited number of perpetrators.  Former militia and armed groups might be seeking to undermine the new administration, but so far there was little evidence to support those rumors.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s proposal to retain the current strength of the peacekeeping contingent in reaction to security sector problems, he recalled that UNMISET’s mandate gave the police, and not the peacekeeping Mission, the task of handling internal security incidents.  He would rather “stick to the plan”, as provided for in resolution 1410 (2002).  Also under UNMISET’s mandate, peacekeeping should only function as a back-up to police work when the police were insufficient. He favoured the possibility of focusing all efforts on strengthening the capabilities of the police force, by adjusting the training programme to the newly emerging challenges.  He was prepared to consider a proposal for a pause in the drawdown of the police component, but he sought further information about the training programme and the possible additional costs.

Also, would it be possible to reorient the police force to better meet the challenges, instead of maintaining the number of peacekeeping troops at a higher level than originally planned? he asked.  The mobility of the police could be increased and their movements could be adjusted from low-risk to high-risk areas. 

ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said he was concerned about the worsening security situation in the country.  The increase in violence was a warning signal.  Reports that former armed groups were preparing to undermine stability should be investigated.  If they turned out to be true, the military and police components of the Mission would have to take urgent steps to neutralize those threats in cooperation with Timor-Leste authorities.

He agreed that the high level of unemployment, especially among the young, and the continued problem of refugees were destabilizing factors affecting the security situation.  He called on the civilian component of UNMISET to assist the country in development.  Uninterrupted assistance by the donor community was also important.  He hoped increased cooperation between Indonesia and Timor-Leste would contribute to solve the problem of refugees.  Regarding the report’s proposals, he suggested enhancing all components’ activities in assisting Timorese law enforcement structures.

MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said that security and stability in that young democracy were a prerequisite for its economic and social development.  There were many challenges confronting the new Timorese authorities, in the fields of education, reconstruction and economic recovery, among others.  Those challenges could only be faced if internal and external security was ensured and if the democratic institutions overcame any attempts at destabilization directed at them.  Former militia still had a great capacity for harm, and had recently begun to rebuild clandestine networks with the clear objective of jeopardizing the Timorese democracy.  The measures advocated by the Sectetary-General, especially those to suspend the drawdown of the military component of the Mission until December 2003, in order to facilitate the massive redeployment of those forces to the border with Indonesia, were welcome.

Similarly, he said, the establishment of an anti-riot international police unit was also extremely wise.  Clearly, the police force still urgently needed high-level technical assistance.  He supported the proposal to raise the number of high-level experts from 100 to 200.  Strengthening security cooperation between Indonesia and Timor-Leste was another important aspect of UNMISET’s strategy.  He encouraged both countries to quickly finalize the demarcation of the border, and he supported the plan of the Indonesian authorities to move the Timorese refugees to areas far from the border.  He appealed to bilateral and multilateral donors to support, without delay, that initiative.  The refugee camps were a breeding ground for militias.  The story of Timor-Leste was one of the greatest success stories of the Security Council.  “Let us see to it that the success lasts and that the people of Timor-Leste live within secure borders”, he urged.

MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said the situation in Timor-Leste was precarious, but the nature of the threat had to be identified clearly.  Regarding the external borders, the State was not under threat.  Relations with Indonesia had been normalized and groups in West Timor had demobilized.  The best response to the situation was to strengthen Timorese peacekeeping capacities, and he supported the suggestions by the Secretary-General in that regard.  A priority was to train the police, and he asked for more details in that regard.

The matter of adapting the UNMISET military component was another matter, however, he said, and questioned suggestions in changing the downsizing plans.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said since its independence, general developments in Timor-Leste were encouraging.  Nation-building was continuing, based on democratic principles.  The country had developed friendly relationships with all countries of the world, especially in the region.

He expressed concern about the reported violent incidents.  Security and stability were preconditions for nation-building and development, he said. Establishing a situation of security and stability depended primarily on the people of Timor-Leste.  However, the United Nations needed to provide the necessary assistance to achieve that.  The UNMISET had played a positive role in helping the authorities in capacity-building.  If the situation required, he agreed to reconsider the downsizing plans in order to create conditions for UNMISET to complete its mandate.  The international community had made commitments to the young country, he said, and those commitments should be honoured.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that, after much struggle, an independent Timor-Leste was born.  That was a demonstration of the power of the international community when it decided to uphold the right of reason against brutal force and inequity.  Everyone was still immensely confident in its future, despite the recent worrying news.  In fact, nobody expected things to proceed without any problems and for peace and stability to prevail undisturbed.  The international community should continue to assist Timor-Leste with equal commitment, in order to allow the Timorese people to further consolidate their hard-won freedom and independence. 

He said that the Secretary-General’s report was a cause of great concern, in particular, the deteriorating security situation and the relative fragility of the security forces and their ability to restore order.  The activities of the former militia and the credible evidence revealed in the report were disturbing.  The neighbouring countries carried a special responsibility in controlling and curbing such activities, as those might become a source of some most undesirable developments.  He urged the Governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia to promote good-neighbourly relations.  The prevailing situation might force the Council to adjust the downsizing plans scheduled for the near future.  That must be done with caution and prudence.  The Secretary-General’s proposals had his full support.

In fact, he added, recent developments fully justified that choice.  The proposed adjustment plan contained sensible steps to promote stability and to provide the necessary time for the national security agencies to become “operationally ready” to assume their task.  The report proposed a revised policy strategy, with the development of a professional police force as an essential factor for consolidating democracy.  There was a need for further training and the promotion of the force’s ability to contain civil disorder and address threats from criminal groups.  The United Nations should do its utmost to help resettle the refugees, which posed a dangerous menace to peace and stability.  The Indonesian authorities should do their utmost to curb anti-Timorese activities along the borders and inside West Timor.

ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) regretted that the number and quality of violent incidents were increasing.  They pointed towards the importance of building a police force in Timor-Leste able to protect the civil population and ensure the rule of law.  She hoped that delineation of external borders could shortly take place.  There was also a need to bring before the court all those guilty of serious crimes and solving the problem of refugees.

The downsizing plan had been prepared to assist the institutions of Timor-Leste for taking over their responsibilities in an orderly way.  She supported, therefore, the Secretary-General’s suggestions.  She also supported the revised strategies of the police component.

MAMADY TRAORÉ (Guinea) said that the birth of the Republic on 20 May 2002 had provided a glimmer of hope for a better future for the Timorese, who had long been victims of a historical struggle.  The many armed incidents and public unrest since last November had been on the front pages in that country and had tempered hopes.  The seriousness of those events prompted the Council to consider steps to be taken to avoid jeopardizing the valuable achievements over three arduous years.  Particularly disturbing was that security concerns had overtaken the people at a time when the country was in the midst of a critical stage in its political and economic development.  An investigation should determine the causes of instability and seek to find the proper solution.  The first step was to quickly beef up the capacity for maintaining security.

He said that resolution 1410 (2002) had assigned a specific mandate to UNMISET to ensure, on an interim basis, implementation of laws and public security, and help in the development of the national police force.  It was also tasked with helping to maintain internal and external security.  That mandate should now be vigorously supported.  That was why he fully agreed with the Secretary-General’s recommendations, especially regarding the simplified deployment plan in two phases for the military component until May 2004, and strengthening the capacity of the police.  Nevertheless, that step should not preclude a revision of plans, depending on an improvement or significant deterioration of the overall security climate.  He emphasized the need for the leaders and the peoples to adhere fully to those measures.  He also encouraged the Indonesian and Timorese parties to continue to negotiate a final border agreement.  He also reiterated the appeal for increased donor support.

JOSE LUIS GUTERRES (Timor-Leste) said that it was not surprising that various pro-militia, anti-Timor-Leste groups from across the border continued to agitate and provoke strife and violence.  The enemies of independence, democracy and freedom, whether in Indonesia or in Timor-Leste, had not given up.  Their recent terrorist attacks in the border area in January and February reflected a coordinated plan to destabilize Timor-Leste and to destroy a nation that was created with the help of the Security Council and the international community.  Nevertheless, his country remained absolutely confident that such terrorism and outside criminal interference would not prevail.  His Council of Ministers was currently considering the counter-terrorism conventions, which would help Timor-Leste comply with resolution 1373 (2001).

The Secretary-General’s report, he said, had taken note of the significant progress being made in bilateral relations between Timor-Leste and Indonesia, he said.  He expected to remain on track in the border negotiations and in addressing refugee and other problems.  Reconciliation and healing would positively impact relations between the two nations.  Timor-Leste continued to develop good relations with its neighbours and all other nations.  Last month, it became a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Internally, he said, Timor-Leste was working hard to develop and establish the legislation and democratic institutions necessary to ensure justice and security.  The country was only a few months old.  It needed more trained judges, lawyers, correction personnel and facilities, as well as professional police and military.  He appreciated the wisdom which Council members showed in having resolution 1410 provide for constant reassessment of security needs and the scheduling of downsizing.  The adjustments in downsizing would maximize the effectiveness of UNMISET in helping Timor-Leste face the serious ongoing threats.  He wholeheartedly supported the reassessment, recommendations and proposals contained in the Secretary-General’s report.

His Government was working, within its own resource constraints, towards the objective of providing a secure and stable environment for the future development and stability of the country.  The contribution of UNMISET towards that process was significant and must continue at the required levels, while the Timorese security forces develop to their full capacity.  There was a clear need to ensure that the drawdown and the lack of capacities in the police did not lead to a premature testing of those capacities by armed groups.  At the same time, it was necessary for Timor-Leste to be adequately prepared for the strong possibility that it would be tested by such forces after the departure of UNMISET.  The Secretary-General’s proposals, along with the actions to be taken by his Government, provided for both those needs in a balanced manner.

GONÇALO SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said that, however successful the story, Timor-Leste was still fragile and, unfortunately, there had been a sharp increase in the frequency and magnitude of security-related incidents.  Such incidents had not been foreseen or taken into account in the proposed downsizing planned for UNMISET.  Keeping to the envisioned handover date of May 2004, the Secretary-General had proposed a reconfiguration of the military component and the adoption of a revised phased approach to prepare the new country to better face existing threats.  He had also proposed the enhancement of the operational capability of the international police component.  Those were short-term measures to promote security, and to increase the effectiveness and the speed of training the Timorese police.

He expressed support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations, saying they were entirely reasonable in light of the changed situation, and would help prevent any backsliding of the progress made.  The additional financial resources required were quite modest, he noted, compared to the large-scale investment that had been made in the past.  His country would remain committed to the consolidation and development of Timor-Leste and to the efforts of the United Nations to that end.

JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said that the recently concluded negotiations between his country and Timor-Leste opened the way for the development of the valuable petroleum resources in the Timor Sea.  Under the provisions of the Timor Sea Treaty, Timor-Leste would receive 90 per cent of government revenues from the Joint Petroleum Development Area.  That would be a crucial element in promoting the long-term stability and prosperity of Timor-Leste, to which Australia was committed.

Turning to the issue at hand, he felt that recent internal security developments in Timor-Leste did not warrant a freeze in the number of peacekeepers at this time.  A freeze would not address, and might deflect attention from, the urgent issue of developing Timor Leste’s law enforcement capacity.  It was imperative that UNMISET address the shortfall in Timor Leste’s policing capabilities and United Nations police weaknesses.

He supported a temporary freeze in United Nations police numbers and an amended schedule for the handover of policing authority from the United Nations to Timor-Leste.  That would allow a major reorientation of United Nations police approach and a redirection of resources to focus seriously and systematically on capacity-building within the Timor-Leste Police Service.  Also, the final report of the joint assessment mission on policing, released publicly last week, provided the framework for a renewed United Nations-led effort in police development.

While he did not support a freeze in the drawdown of the peacekeeping force, he accepted that security was an ongoing challenge.  Therefore, he supported a slower drawdown of the force that sought to ensure that the commitment of the international community to Timor-Leste’s security was well understood.  He would welcome a further United Nations proposal on a less sharp adjustment to the phasing and numbers of the drawdown.  That approach would only work, however, if accompanied by a vigorous and sustained effort to address the shortfalls in the country’s policing capacity.

Sc10mar.Indonesia

DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said bilateral relations between his country and Timor-Leste had improved significantly.  The opening of the Timor-Leste Embassy in Jakarta was a concrete step towards further facilitating cooperation between the two countries.  Indonesia would reciprocate that positive development in the very near future.  He underlined that the relationship between Indonesia and Timor-Leste had been flourishing at all levels, something that deserved the strong support of the Council and the international community.

He expressed concern about the security incidents that had occurred over the past few months.  They should be dealt with in a meticulous and vigilant manner. It was also of critical importance to avoid any terminologies or references that did not fully reflect the situation on the ground and did not build a conclusion upon those sketchy foundations.  Such an approach would only aggravate the situation and could play into the hands of certain groups or parties that wanted to take advantage of it.

He said the reconciliation process that had been propelling the positive bilateral relations over the past year was an ongoing one.  He was, therefore, disappointed to note that the report of the Secretary-General still referred to the involvement of “supported militias” in the incidents that had occurred. “Indeed, the blame should go to UNMISET for its deliberate ignorance in the way that it seeks to protect the people from criminal elements”, he said.  Those unfortunate incidents should not be allowed to disrupt the growing relationships between Timor-Leste and its neighbouring countries.  His country continued to support the building of a strong, united and democratic Timor-Leste.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said a lot of effort had been expended in the international involvement in Timor-Leste and much had been achieved in keeping the peace and building the nation.  It was important to continue to make steady efforts towards the successful completion of UNMISET’s mandate by June of next year.  Concerned about the change in the internal security situation since December, he recognized the need to adjust the configuration of the peacekeeping mission to changes in the security environment, both for the successful achievement of its mandate and for the safety and security of the peacekeepers. The Timorese police force was still lacking the capacity to cope effectively with civil disturbances or incidents by armed groups.  He, therefore, supported proposals to enhance the international civilian police presence and to increase assistance to the Timorese police force.

He said there were different views among governments on the proposed measures relating to the military component of UNMISET, arising from disparate assessments of the recent incidents.  If the downsizing plan was to be modified, troop-contributing countries would have to adjust their deployment schedule.  That would not be an easy task.  Should the international involvement in the field be prolonged longer than necessary, it would not only be undesirable for the international community, but could also impede the self-reliance of Timor-Leste. He hoped an early decision, taking those factors into consideration, would be made in a manner acceptable to all concerned.

He supported the recommendation that UNMISET promote better relations with the people of Timor-Leste and greater public information capabilities in order to enhance understanding of the military component’s role and to counter potential misinformation campaigns.  He stressed that lasting stability depended on the strong political commitment of the Timor-Leste leadership to the rule of law and on its continuing efforts to strengthen governance.  So long as the leaders of Timor-Leste made such earnest efforts on their own, it was incumbent upon the international community to continue to assist them.

Mr. GUÉHENNO, replying to comments and questions, said that the national development plan was the road map for Timor-Leste and its development partners. Monthly meetings took place regularly with the development partners to monitor progress in implementation.  The most recent meeting had focused on a number of programmes aimed at supporting stability in the short and long term, including rehabilitation of ex-combatants and unemployed youth.  National capacity-building programmes would focus on justice, the police and public administration.  The next meeting of development partners would take place in June.

He said that, over the past three years, $580 million had been provided by the development partners for the nation’s development.  Timor-Leste still remained one of the least developed countries, with less than $500 per capita income per year.  Hopefully, the development of its mineral resources would open a new era.  Meanwhile, he urged continued support by Member States for the country’s stability and development.

Turning to the question of terrorism, he said that UNMISET was working with the Government and with the relevant specalized United Nations agencies to assist the Government in strengthening its ability to address terrorism.  Again, further assistance from Member States was essential, including for training and information-sharing.  Intelligence-gathering was of critical importance, and Timor-Leste needed the international community’s support.  He had seen no evidence of specific international terrorist threats with respect to Timor-Leste, although a heightened alert was being maintained.

He had not ignored the good news, namely, the conclusion of agreements between Timor-Leste and Australia, and improved relations with Indonesia, he said to comments by other speakers.  Nobody liked to revise their plans, but if the

Secretary-General decided to put that report before the Council, it was because it was necessary to provide it with all the facts.  It was imperative to “close a window of vulnerability”, while the Mission drew down and Timor-Leste built up.  That was not an open-ended freeze; that window would close with the changed security circumstances.

To the point made that that issue was more a police issue than a military issue, he said there were two distinct threats, and one should be dealt with by police means.  No one challenged the need to build the capacity of the Timorese police.  In following up the latest incidents, troops had found a thousand rounds of munition in an abandoned campsite.  He saw that as a military operation, not a police one.

Presently, he added, what was being done with regard to UNMISET was less ambitious than what had been done in other missions, including in the Balkans.  Presently, the Timorese police got three months in the police academy, three months of in-service training, and then six months of thematic training, including for crowd control.  There was some bilateral support for those activities, including from the United States, but he was not sure at this stage that the capacity of the police had been built in a way that allowed the Timorese themselves to deal with a range of potential confrontations.

Moreover, he continued, the figures being discussed should be compared to what was being done in other theatres of operations.  The present military force in Timor-Leste was approximately one sixth of the force the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had deemed prudent to keep in Kosovo.  The adjustments being suggested today reflected a prudent approach to a situation where some elements remained murky, such as the size and nature of the threat, which required continued review.  It was his duty to always plan for the worst case.  Recent developments in Timor-Leste warranted the adjustments put before the Council, he concluded.

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For information media. Not an official record.