|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5739th & 5740th Meetings (PM)
Security Council welcomes formation of new government in Timor-Leste,
Expresses readiness to help country tackle critical challenges
Newly Appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
Asks Council to Consider Extending United Nations Mission Mandate through 2012
Welcoming the formation of Timor-Leste’s new Government resulting from the 30 June 2007 legislative elections, the Security Council today expressed its readiness to work with the new Government in achieving its goals and tackling critical challenges, including in its development efforts, facing the country.
In a statement readout by its President for September, Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, the Council congratulated the appointment of the new cabinet of Timor-Leste led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, and called upon the Government, Parliament, political parties and the Timorese people to work together and engage in political dialogue and consolidate peace, democracy, rule of law, sustainable social and economic development and national reconciliation in the country.
Congratulating the people of Timor-Leste for demonstrating their strong commitment to peace and security, the Council emphasized the need for all parties to resolve any disputes through exclusively peaceful channels and within the framework of democratic institutions, and called upon the people of Timor-Leste to refrain from violence and work together in order to ensure security.
Expressing appreciation for the role played by the National Commission on Elections, the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) during the presidential and parliamentary election in the country, the Council commended the invaluable support provided for the preparations and holding of the elections by regional and international partners.
The Council also reaffirmed the need for justice and accountability, underlining also the importance of the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry report of 2006.
In an earlier meeting, Zacarias Da Costa, Timor-Leste’s newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, addressed the Council for the first time, briefing members on the outcome of the just-concluded three-round ballot -- the first national elections run by the Timorese people themselves and an important assertion of their ability of exercising independence. “With UNMIT’s extensive support, the presence of international observers and the International Stabilization Force, the elections were peaceful, free, fair and transparent, and a show of the popular display of hope, confidence and enthusiasm.”
He noted that the first round of presidential elections had been held on 9 April with a field of eight candidates. A run-off election was held a month later on 9 May. Former Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta had been sworn in as the new President on 30 June, succeeding Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. The legislative election held on 30 June had been a culmination of the long process, which had begun with the presidential elections. Its result was a true test of Timor-Leste’s Constitution and the Timorese political and democratic maturity.
In electing their representatives to the National Parliament, the citizens had clearly expressed their desire for political dialogue and plurality together with stability and national development, he continued. The new 65-seat Parliament had been inaugurated on 30 July with 7 of the 14 parties and coalitions gaining seats. The President of the Parliament had been elected on the same day, while the two Vice-Presidents, a Secretary and two Deputy Secretaries had been elected the following day. Eighteen seats had been occupied by women, which was the largest percentage in the legislature’s short history.
On 6 August, President Ramos-Horta had invited CNRT President Gusmão, nominated by the “ Alliance with a Parliamentary Majority”, a post-electoral coalition of four parties, to be the new Prime Minister and to form a Government. On 8 August, Prime Minister Gusmão had been sworn-in, together with 10 ministers, two of whom were women, and 14 Vice-Ministers and Secretaries of State. On 30 August a further 12 members of Government had been appointed, bringing the total number of women in cabinet to five.
“We profoundly regret the loss of two lives during the electoral period and the serious damages to private and public properties that occurred immediately after,” he said. Those tragic episodes were a reminder that the country’s emerging democracy needed sustained assistance to consolidate. While there had been a qualitative change between April 2006 and now, the road ahead was still long and challenging. For that reason, Timor-Leste’s Government fully accepted and supported the recommendations put forward in the Secretary-General’s report.
“Through their vote, the people of Timor-Leste sent a clear message to their leaders that peaceful dialogue and inclusive politics should prevail,” he said. Timor-Leste’s leaders would facilitate the process by strengthening the democratic institutional framework and ensuring that the fruits of the economic development equally benefited all citizens. All political parties -- those who now formed the Government and those who did not -- pledged to adhere to the fundamental principles of good governance and to support a meaningful role for the opposition after the election. Yet, to achieve those goals, numerous challenges needed to be overcome in the short, medium and long term. The United Nations support would be essential at each step of that tortuous road.
The fragile institutional structure was the major challenge, which, coupled with limited capacity and lack of skills and training, undermined the building of a culture of peaceful settlement of conflicts, he said. Justice was crucial also for building respect for the rule of law, which was undermined by a widespread perception of lack of accountability. In that context, it was essential to solving the Petitioners’ issue, as well as clearly defined roles and functions of the PNTL and the F-FDTL, while ensuring adequate civilian oversight mechanisms. The outstanding socio-economic problems included poverty, unemployment, violence against women and humanitarian issues, such as the return of internally displaced persons.
“I believe Timor-Leste is at a crucial moment and should seize the opportunity to build on its recent security and democratic gains,” he said. In his inauguration speech, Prime Minister Gusmão had set the short-term priorities of his Government, naming consolidating security as first. That will include solving the Petitioners’ issue, the case of Alfredo Reinado and promoting dialogue with the F-FDTL. Also a major pillar of UNMIT’s mandate, a stable security environment would serve as the foundation of all further development.
For that reason, interim law enforcement continued to be the priority for the United Nations police, he said. Maintaining the contingent at its current strength would be essential until the present mandate expires. Only a stabilized security situation would allow the subsequent transition from executive policing to the monitoring phase, depending on progress in the PNTL’s screening and certification process.
With that in mind, he asked the Council to consider the possibility of extending UNMIT’s mandate through 2012. He understood that the head of the Mission foresaw the need for international support, including through the United Nations, and a continuing presence for at least two and a half years after the end of UNMIT’s current mandate. He also agreed with UNMIT’s chief that a mission with a peacebuilding mandate should be created and should stay in place for five additional years. “I think however, that a peacekeeping mission would need to be in place longer than 2010,” he said, adding that Timor-Leste intended to put the investment and ongoing trust of the international community to good use.
He went on to say that this coming Wednesday, the new Government would present its programme to the National Parliament. Among other things, the Government had committed itself to: strengthen the institutional framework, including integrity and professionalism in the civil service, fight against corruption and investment on the education sector; fight against impunity by creating a functional, credible, independent and impartial justice system: reform the security sector; continue the good work done by the previous Governments in the health sectors, with a view to ensuring universal access; and support the professionalism and independence of the media.
“Timor-Leste is poised to participate meaningfully in the family of nations,” he said, pledging that the Government would put into practice the universal principles of human rights enshrined in international covenants. Timor-Leste also pledged to work closely with the United Nations, and was determined to reinforce the country’s friendship with the countries that were both geographically and historically close to it, like Australia, Indonesia and Portugal. In particular, Timor-Leste and Indonesia were seeking to deal with their past while deepening their friendship.
“Although I am aware that some in this room will not agree with me, the Government of Timor-Leste believes that the best mechanism available to deal with our shared past is the bilateral Commission on Truth and Friendship.” He understood the reservations of the United Nations, but encouraged the Organization to reflect on the fact that countries in transition to democracy, as both Indonesia and Timor-Leste were, “must be prudent and sensitive when looking at their own realities”.
This afternoon’s first meeting began at 3:15 and adjourned at 3:35. The second meeting was called to order at 5:40 and ended at 5:45.
Presidential statement S/PRST/2007/33 reads as follows:
“The Security Council welcomes the formation of the Government in Timor-Leste resulting from the 30 June 2007 legislative elections. It also congratulates the appointment of the new cabinet in Timor-Leste led by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão. The Council further congratulates the people of Timor-Leste for demonstrating their strong commitment to peace and democracy. It expresses its readiness to work with the new Government of Timor-Leste in achieving its goals and tackling critical challenges, including in its development efforts, facing the country.
“The Security Council expresses its appreciation for the role played by the National Commission on Elections, the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration and United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) during the presidential and parliamentary elections in Timor-Leste. The Council commends the invaluable support provided for the preparations and holding of the elections by regional and international partners. It also expresses its appreciation for the role played by domestic and international electoral observers.
“The Security Council emphasizes the need for all parties to resolve any disputes through exclusively peaceful channels and within the framework of democratic institutions and calls upon the people of Timor-Leste to refrain from violence and work together in order to ensure security.
“The Security Council calls up on the Government, Parliament, political parties and the people of Timor-Leste to work together and engage in political dialogue and consolidate peace, democracy, rule of law, sustainable social and economic development and national reconciliation in the country. The Security Council reaffirms the need for justice and accountability and underlines the importance of the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry report of 2006.
“The Security Council welcomes the report of the Secretary-General on the work of UNMIT. It also encourages UNMIT to continue to cooperate and coordinate with the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes as well as relevant partners to support the Government of Timor-Leste in implementing a national development plan and addressing challenges facing the country, in particular security sector reform, strengthening of the justice sector, the promotion of democratic governance, resolving the issue of internally displaced persons and the pursuit of sustainable development.
“The Security Council reaffirms its full support for UNMIT in its work, and appreciates the continued efforts by the Secretary-General and his Special Representative to ensure the full implementation of UNMIT.”
When the Council met, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (for the period from 27 January to 20 august 2007) (document S/2007/513) that covers major developments in the country and the implementation of the Mission’s mandate since the Secretary-General’s last report of 1 February (document S/2007/50).
According to the report, the three rounds of elections for which UNMIT provided support, concluded in June in a generally calm security environment, had demonstrated that there has been considerable progress in dialogue and reconciliation since the April-May 2006 crisis. However, with no party winning an absolute majority of seats, the process of forming a new Government was a major challenge. The 6 August announcement by the President on the formation of a mew Government was followed by serious disturbances, illustrating that, despite the increased effectiveness of the UNMIT police, comprised of 1,635 police officers, there are still considerable ongoing challenges to public security in Timor-Leste.
Despite the recent flare-up in tensions, the advances made by the country thus far are considerable, according to the Secretary-General, including continuing progress towards strengthening dialogue and reconciliation, an embracing of the electoral processes and increased respect for rule of law institutions. Those advances will undoubtedly reinforce efforts to strengthen the country’s democratic foundations and foster a peaceful future for the entire Timorese people.
The Secretary-General observes that continued efforts to strengthen the culture of truly inclusive and participatory democracy based on rule of law and respect for human rights will be essential for the creation of a stable and prosperous Timor-Leste. He states that there can be no enduring reconciliation without justice. It is critical that a culture of impunity not be allowed to establish itself in the country. All recommendations in the Commission of Inquiry report should be expeditiously implemented. The law on witness protection should be passed and the Prosecutor-General’s office should be provided with adequate personnel. As the needs of the sector are substantial, he encourages bilateral partners to provide additional funding for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), so that it can provide the needed support.
Addressing the security sector, the Secretary-General notes that the national police screening process and the reform, restructuring and rebuilding plan will provide a solid foundation for the reconstitution of the police service -- a fragile institution susceptible to politicization. The Ministry of the Interior, the police command and individual police officers must continue to commit themselves to working together, and in partnership with UNMIT, in order to ensure the long-term integrity of the national police force. As the Timorese Armed Forces face some of the same challenges, he strongly encourages the Timorese authorities to adopt a comprehensive and holistic approach to security sector reform.
For the remaining mandate period, until 26 February 2008, UNMIT’s focus will begin shifting from interim law enforcement to support for police reform, restructuring and rebuilding in the context of wider security reform, which is an UNMIT priority, the Secretary-General states. In the meantime, UNMIT police will continue to maintain public security, which requires retaining, for the time being, four formed police units. UNMIT’s military liaison officers, who have contributed to the stable border situation, will focus more on liaison with the international security forces and the Timorese Armed Forces. UNMIT will rely on a small number of electoral advisers to continue assistance to the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration and the National Electoral Commission. UNMIT leadership will also continue good offices efforts to support Timor-Leste’s leaders.
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