TIMOR-LESTE REMAINED PEACEFUL, RESILIENT IN WAKE OF VIOLENT ATTACK ON PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

21 February 2008
SC/9259

TIMOR-LESTE REMAINED PEACEFUL, RESILIENT IN WAKE OF VIOLENT ATTACK ON PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

21 February 2008
Security Council
SC/9259
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5843rd Meeting (AM)

TIMOR-LESTE REMAINED PEACEFUL, RESILIENT IN WAKE OF VIOLENT

ATTACK ON PRESIDENT, PRIME MINISTER, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

 

Peacekeeping Under-Secretary-General Briefs on Recent Events;

Speakers Strongly Support 12-Month Extension of United Nations Mission

In the wake of the violent 11 February attacks on Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Kay Rala Zanana Gusmao, the country’s leaders from all parties had come together to urge calm, and the country had remained peaceful, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said this morning.

Briefing the Security Council on recent events in the country, as well as on the Secretary-General’s proposal to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) for a further 12 months, the United Nations top peacekeeping official, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, said that, while those attacks had shocked the entire international community, the security situation had remained calm throughout the country, including through the funeral ceremonies of the fugitive Alfredo Reinado and one of his accomplices, who had died during the attack on the President’s residence.

“What some feared might have deteriorated into a destabilizing crisis did not transpire, with the institutions of State and the citizens showing strong resilience,” he said, adding that, while the events raised some serious concerns about security-related issues that needed to be addressed, the course of events over the past 10 days reinforced the importance for UNMIT, in partnership with the Timorese, to continue focusing on four priority areas:  review and reform of the security sector, strengthening the rule of law, economic and social development, and promoting a culture of democratic governance.

He went on to say that Timor-Leste faced two interlinked humanitarian challenges:  resolution of the situation of some 100,000 internally displaced persons; and addressing longer-term chronic vulnerabilities such as its susceptibility to natural disasters such as floods, landslides and locust infestations.  Solving the immediate issues would allow the country to give its full attention to the core underlying socio-economic challenges, in particular, widespread poverty and massive youth unemployment, which, if not addressed, would continue to threaten the political stability of Timor-Leste.

The representative of Timor-Leste said the attempted assassination of the President and the Prime Minister had been “an attack against the democratically elected leaders of my country”.  A continued United Nations presence remained crucial for consolidating peace and security and solving the causes of the crisis.  At the same time, the perception of becoming too dependent on the international community to solve internal problems must be thwarted.

He said Timorese leaders must put aside their political differences and focus on resolving the manifold challenges, including those of the internally displaced persons and the petitioners.  The current Government had taken office six months ago, with an agenda to reform and develop the country.  It had made significant advances in rebuilding institutions, in particular the police and the judiciary.  Although there were different political views in his country, all were united in the recognition of the invaluable contribution of the United Nations and the need for its continued and sustained presence. 

Condemning the 11 February attacks as attacks on the institutions of democracy, speakers expressed their hope for a speedy recovery of President Ramos-Horta, who was under medical care in Australia.  There was unanimous support among speakers that a continued presence of the United Nations Mission was necessary for another 12 months, a period during which the Government, political parties and the people of Timor-Leste could utilize UNMIT’s presence to strengthen its self-sufficiency.  “Complacency and a false sense of security must not be allowed to diminish the need for UNMIT,” the representative of the Philippines said, reminding the Council that the earlier gains achieved under United Nations auspices could have been maintained if the previous Mission had not been drawn down prematurely a few years ago.

Echoing other speakers’ sentiments, Indonesia’s representative stressed the importance of expediting security sector reform.  He supported the Secretary-General’s plan to gradually transfer responsibility for the police operation from the United Nations to the national police of Timor-Leste and emphasized training and mentoring.  UNMIT must also support the national capacity-building efforts, including the need to strengthen the full range of political, judicial and economic institutions and infrastructure, he said, placing great importance on the ownership of the Government and people of Timor-Leste in the planning and implementation of United Nations assistance.

Many speakers noted that the 11 February attacks were a tragic illustration of the need for ending impunity for crimes committed during 1999 and April and May of 2006.  Impunity was not a solution and everything must be done to bring about the arrest and trial of those responsible for the crimes of the past, the representative of Belgium said.  Others urged implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste, set up to examine the violence that had erupted in April and May 2006.

Costa Rica’s representative said that no violence should be allowed to stand in the way of the progress being made by the Timorese people.  UNMIT should now take advantage of recent moves in the country towards reconciliation and broader democratic participation.  Further, it was necessary to ensure that human rights were protected and promoted and that declarations on fundamental rights did not become “mere words”.  Recalling that his country did not have a standing army, he questioned the decision to pin the security of Timor-Leste on weaponry.

The representatives of the United States, Croatia, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Italy, China, Libya, Burkina Faso, France, South Africa, Panama, Australia, Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), New Zealand, Japan, Portugal and Brazil also took the floor.

Under-Secretary-General Guéhenno made concluding remarks. 

The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and was adjourned at 1 p.m.

Background

Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) for the period from 21 August 2007 to 7 January 2008, in which the Secretary-General recommends extending UNMIT’s mandate for 12 months. 

According to the report, the functioning of Timor-Leste’s Parliament, Government and other State institutions showed progress in building on the gains of the peaceful electoral process and a commitment to restoring normalcy after the 2006 crisis.  However, the first year of the new Government and Parliament was a delicate time for the country.  People had high expectations for tangible improvements in their daily lives, which were still marked by widespread poverty and unemployment.  Approval of the Government programme and budgets was an important first step towards fulfilling campaign promises.  It was critical to now implement them.  State institutions must strengthen their capacities, systems and procedures to effectively carry out planned strategies and activities.  That would require international assistance.

Despite improvements in the overall security situation, Timor-Leste still faces enormous challenges, as noted by the Security Council mission to the country in late November, the report states.  The estimated 100,000 internally displaced persons and the nearly 600 “petitioners” of the Timorese armed forces are of major concern.  Addressing those issues are priorities reflected in the July to December 2007 and the 2008 State budgets.  Differences between Timorese political leaders and parties still prevent them from reaching consensus and can result in renewed violence and bloodshed.  The political situation remains fragile.  The Frente Revolucionario de Timor-Leste (Fretilin), the party with the largest number of seats in Parliament, continues to consider the Government led by the Alliance for a Parliamentary Majority (AMP) to be unconstitutional, referring to it as a “de facto Government”.  Fretilin leaders have called for the Government to step down and for early elections in 2009.  It is necessary to better promote dialogue to diffuse existing tensions and foster greater political consensus and to strengthen democratic processes to achieve stability and prosperity.

The Council’s mission, according to the report, also highlights that economic development, rebuilding public confidence in State institutions, reforming the security sector, restoring stability, resolving the issue of internally displaced persons, strengthening democratic institutions, and improving governance and the rule of law are critical challenges.  During the post-electoral period, UNMIT has focused mainly on four priority areas:  security sector review and reform, strengthening the rule of law, economic and social development, and promoting democratic governance. 

In light of Timor-Leste’s fragile security environment, the national police service needs sustained assistance, including more training, institutional development and stronger capabilities in order to be fully equipped to address potentially volatile security concerns, the report states.  UNMIT police officers have contributed in large part, with the help of international security forces, to the country’s relatively stable security situation and the drop in serious criminal offences such as murder, abduction and rape.  Such gains are also the result of improved information gathering, targeted patrolling of problem areas and community policing in particularly volatile areas.  However, UNMIT forces are still required to respond to group fighting and public disturbances and to perform interim law enforcement until the national force is fully reconstituted.

Following the 2007 elections, UNMIT police stepped up efforts to reform and rebuild the country’s national police and discussed with the Government the national force’s phased takeover of policing responsibilities, scheduled to begin in April.  In the first quarter of 2008, the Secretary-General will send an expert mission to UNMIT to assess the national police’s mentoring and training requirements and to facilitate the takeover.  He encourages contributing countries to offer officers with suitable training expertise. 

Timor-Leste also needs help to strengthen its justice sector and follow up the recommendations of the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, which called for holding those who committed serious crimes during the 2006 crisis accountable for their actions, the report says.  In that regard, progress is notable.  In November, four soldiers were found guilty of involvement in the shooting death in May of eight national police officers.  UNMIT has played an important coordination and facilitation role with the Government, United Nations Development Programme and other key partners to strengthen judicial institutions and address gender and juvenile justice issues.  The Government, with technical support from various United Nations partners, is preparing key legislation on domestic violence and witness protection. 

Still, national and judicial and corrections institutions have insufficient capacity to meet the country’s needs, as evidenced by a backlog of cases, and continued UNMIT support is needed to consolidate and build on such gains, the report says.  Gender-based violence continues to be an issue of serious concern.  Considering the many short-term and long-term challenges, it is critical for the United Nations to remain in the country and provide the necessary assistance.  UNMIT’s “one United Nations system” approach has helped Timorese leaders and institutions meet priority needs and should be continued.  The General Assembly has appropriated $160.6 million for UNMIT for the 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008 period.  UNMIT’s costs for the one-year extension proposed by the Secretary-General would be limited to resources approved by the Assembly.

On 11 February, the Council issued presidential statement S/PRST/2008/5, in which it condemns in the strongest possible terms the attempt on the life of the President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, during an attack on his residence on 11 February, as well as the attack on the convoy of the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão (see press release SC/9244).

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Atul Khare, had travelled to New York to brief the Council, but had returned to Timor-Leste in the wake of the violent 11 February attacks on Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao.  The continuation of his good offices during this sensitive period in Timor-Leste was considered essential.  He said that, while those attacks had shocked the entire international community, he was pleased to report that, in the aftermath, the security situation had remained calm throughout the country.  In fact, there had been no further significant security incidents since the 11 February attacks, he added.

“I am relieved that President Ramos-Horta, while still hospitalized, is in stable condition and that doctors are hopeful that he will make a full recovery,” he said, adding that, to ensure public order and facilitate ongoing security operations to apprehend the perpetrators of the attacks, the Parliament had endorsed the Acting President’s decision to extend the 48-hour “state of siege” declared on 11 February, for an additional 10 days, through 23 February.  The state of siege imposed restrictions on night time movement and a ban on public demonstrations.  In taking those measures, the Government and Parliament had acted with restraint and due respect for the Constitution and human rights, he said.

Since the attacks, the Government, in close cooperation with UNMIT, had shown leadership in guiding and coordinating security operations.  He said that, in addition to the efforts by UNMIT police and the international security forces, the Government had established a “joint command” of the Timorese armed forces (F-FDTL) and police (PNTL) to undertake security operations during the siege.  As of 19 February, a daily meeting between the commanders of the four police contingents was being held.  He went on to say that, immediately following the attacks, Timorese leaders from all parties had come together to urge calm, and the country had remained peaceful, including through the funeral ceremonies of the fugitive Alfredo Reinado and one of his accomplices, who died during the attack on the President’s residence.

At the same time, UNMIT police/PNTL, in coordination with the international security forces and F-FDTL, had remained on high alert, and had launched an investigation into the attacks against the President and Prime Minister.  He said that, while the full effect of the attacks was not yet known, the stability of a State could not be measured only in terms of the occurrence of the absence of outbreaks of violence or emergencies, but also by how those challenges were addressed.  It was reassuring that, following the 11 February events, the Timorese Government, Parliament and all political parties -– including the opposition -– security institutions and the population at large had remained calm and had respected the Constitution and the rule of law.

“What some feared might have deteriorated into a destabilizing crisis did not transpire, with the institutions of State and the citizens showing strong resilience,” he said, adding that he hoped all would continue to refrain from politicizing the events.  While the events raised some serious concerns about security-related issues that needed to be addressed, the course of events over the past 10 days reinforced the importance for UNMIT, in partnership with the Timorese, to continue focusing on the four priority areas outlined in the Secretary-General’s report:  review and reform of the security sector; strengthening the rule of law; economic and social development; and promoting a culture of democratic governance.

He went on to say that the Security Council’s visit to the country last November and the Secretary-General’s visit in mid-December had reflected the strong support of the international community for the Timorese people, with both visits being firsts since the country’s independence more than five years ago.  It had been promising that, since those high-level visits, serious efforts had been undertaken to foster inclusiveness and participation as basic principles of good governance, as well as moves to ensure meaningful and constructive roles for the opposition in Parliament and the participation of civil society in the political, economic and social development processes of the country.

To that end, he said that on 7 February the President had convened a meeting with all four parties comprising the Government coalition and Fretilin to further discuss mechanisms for collaboration on problems such as petitioners, internally displaced persons and critical longer-term issues, such as security sector reform and the strengthening of the justice sector and public administration.  Turning to some of the key issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report, he said security sector reform must be approached in a holistic manner.

Broad civil society input into that reform process would contribute to the sense of public ownership needed to support the further development of security forces that acted in an impartial manner, with due respect for human rights, he said.  The Government-led, United Nations-backed country-wide survey to ascertain the views of the wider Timorese citizenry was vital to ensure the involvement of a broad range of stakeholders, he added, also reiterating the need for police contributing countries to provide officers with the requisite expertise and training, including women officers, which was important in view of the high incidence of gender-based violence in the country.  While reform and rebuilding of PNTL was a long-term process, progress in the coming year would be critical to determining the direction and strategies to be followed in the future.

He went on to say that Timor-Leste faced two interlinked humanitarian challenges:  resolution of the situation of some 100,000 internally displaced persons, including 30,000 in camps in Dili; and addressing longer-term chronic vulnerabilities that might have a direct humanitarian impact on the overall population.  “The IDP [internally displaced persons] situation is a political and security concern, as well as humanitarian one, and largely considered as neither ‘short-term’ nor ‘easily fixed’,” he said, stressing that a durable solution through voluntary return or relocation required a number of things, including an improved security environment, a strengthened legal framework for resolving land and property disputes, and economic regeneration and livelihood activities.

He was pleased that, as a first step forward in the transition from blanket food assistance towards targeted assistance to the vulnerable, the food rations distributed to internally displaced persons had been reduced, as of this month, by 50 per cent, without any major security incidents, although just over half the beneficiaries had refused the reduced rations.  The chronic and longer-term vulnerabilities in the country included its susceptibility to natural disasters, he continued.  Just this past month, parts of the country had been hit by severe storms.  According to the Disaster Operations Centre, more than 700 houses had been damaged or destroyed by winds, floods and landslides.  Those events, and a locust infestation, had also caused significant crop damage and might have implications on food security.

Concluding, he said that, even though the Government, Parliament and people of Timor-Leste had responded in an exemplary manner following the 11 February attacks, the fact that the country had come so close to a real breakdown showed how important and urgent it was to address a number of issues, including the remaining supporters of Reinado, who were under arrest warrants; the petitioners; and the internally displaced persons.  Those pressing issues had remained unresolved since the crisis of 2006.  Each, in and of itself, should be solvable with a concerted effort across the political spectrum.  Recent efforts led by President Ramos-Horta to bring together Fretilin and the Government coalition had been promising and needed to continue.  Solving the immediate issues would allow the country to give its full attention to the core underlying socio-economic challenges, in particular, widespread poverty and massive youth unemployment, which, if not addressed, would continue to threaten the political stability of Timor-Leste.

Statements

NELSON SANTOS (Timor-Leste), thanking the Council for convening an “emergency meeting”, said the attempted assassination of the President and the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste had been a tragic event, “an attack against the democratically elected leaders of my country”.  The Government had taken measures to capture the perpetrators.  President Ramos-Horta, under medial care in Australia, was on the road to recovery.

He said a continued United Nations presence remained crucial for consolidating peace and security and solving the causes of the crisis.  At the same time, the perception of becoming too dependent on the international community to solve internal problems must be thwarted.  His Government fully supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations, as a one year mandate extension of UNMIT at the current strength met the needs of the Government and people of Timor-Leste.

He said the root causes of the 2006 crisis still needed to be addressed.  Timorese leaders must put aside their political differences and focus on resolving the manifold challenges, including those of the internally displaced persons and the petitioners.  The current Government had taken office six months ago, with an agenda to reform and develop the country.  It had made significant advances in rebuilding institutions, in particular the police and the judiciary. 

In conclusion he said that, although there were different political views in his country, all were united in the recognition of the invaluable contribution of the United Nations and the need for its continued and sustained presence.  Resolving the problems would take time.  Time was critical for consolidating the peace and stability achieved thus far, so that development could replace the air of uncertainty felt by many today.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States) said the recent attacks on the President and the Prime Minister were an unacceptable assault on the Timorese Government.  Welcoming Australia’s decision to send 200 additional troops to strengthen the international security forces, he said the recent attacks also underscored the necessity of achieving accountability for the 2006 crisis.  To that end, he encouraged implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry, including bringing those responsible for crimes to justice under domestic law.  He concurred with the recommendation for a one-year extension of UNMIT, as presently composed.

He said the recent past underscored the importance of developing professional and effective police and military forces under civilian control in order to provide the security necessary for political stability and economic development.  Welcoming UNMIT’s efforts to promote security sector reform, he expressed appreciation for UNMIT’s efforts to develop the effectiveness of the Timorese justice system in order to support long-term stability and growth.  Despite recent challenges, it would be important for UNMIT, also, to retain its focus on the prevention of gender-based violence and attention to the needs of victims.  He called for reconciliation among Timorese political leaders and parties and coordination in addressing the challenges facing the country.

NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) said Croatia was concerned about the situation in Timor-Leste, especially in light of last weeks troubling events.  He condemned the attacks and called on all parties to cooperate in the investigation so that perpetrators could be brought to justice.  The United Nations and the wider international community must continue their efforts to help Timor-Leste maintain stability, and promote democratic governance and rule of law.

He also recalled that it was necessary to start a system of accountability for the crimes committed in 1999.   Croatia encouraged the international community to assist the Timorese Government in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.   Croatia supported the continuation of UNMIT and firmly and strongly supported the extension of its mandate.

LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) agreed that Timor-Leste continued to face numerous challenges, as noted by the Security Council mission last November.  The attacks targeting the President and Prime Minister only indicated that, while there had been an overall improvement, the security and political situation remained fragile.  That, together with the weakness of institutions and the lack of cooperation among political leaders and parties, made it more difficult to tackle such problems as widespread poverty, unemployment, the great number of internally displaced persons and crime.  He called upon all parties concerned to exercise restraint and actively engage in peaceful dialogue to address the differences, promoting the process of national reconciliation and development in the national interest of Timor-Leste, as well as peace and stability in the region.

In the context of the present situation, the continued assistance of the international community was needed, he continued.  The visits of the Secretary-General and Security Council mission had reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to Timor-Leste.  He commended UNMIT’s efforts in support of the peace and development in Timor-Leste over the past year.  At the request of the Government and the recommendation of the Secretary-General, Viet Nam supported the extension of UNMIT’s mandate in order to allow it to accomplish its tasks.  He welcomed the Mission’s plan for a phased handover of policing responsibility to the national police of Timor-Leste to enhance the capacity of the Timorese authorities in maintaining security.

MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia), condemning the recent armed attacks, said the latest deplorable events underscored the need for the continued support and engagement of the international community.  By far the most critical issue in the country appeared to be the restoration of peace and security and building sounder foundations for long-term stability.  It was, therefore, extremely important for UNMIT to continue to support Timor-Leste in fully addressing the unresolved root causes of the 2006 crisis, including weak institution, poverty and unemployment.  It was also important for UNMIT to support the Government in resolving such issues as the fragile security situation and the internally displaced persons, petitioners and fugitives.  Progress in the country’s state-building could be consolidated and economic development reinvigorated only when those challenges had been overcome.

He said it was important for UNMIT to focus on supporting the Government’s short-term priorities.  He also placed importance on UNMIT’s continued role in cooperation and coordination with the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.  The issue of expediting the security sector reform was also important.  He supported the Secretary-General’s plan to gradually transfer responsibility for the police operation from the United Nations to the national police of Timor-Leste and emphasize training and mentoring.  UNMIT must also support the national capacity-building efforts, including the need to strengthen the full range of political, judicial and economic institutions and infrastructure.  Placing great importance on the ownership of the Government and people of Timor-Leste in the planning and implementation of United Nations assistance, he expressed support for UNMIT’s proposed mandate extension.

JORGE URBINA ORTEGA ( Costa Rica) said that his delegation welcomed the improvements in President Ramos-Horta’s health in the wake of the 11 February attacks and hoped that he would soon be able to return to his work on behalf of the Timorese people.   Costa Rica believed that no violence should be allowed to stand in the way of the progress being made by the Timorese people and that the international community should redouble its efforts to make that a reality.  With that in mind, he said that UNMIT should now take advantage of recent moves in the country towards reconciliation and broader democratic participation.  Further, it was necessary to ensure that human rights were protected and promoted and that declarations on fundamental rights did not become “mere words”.  The international community must ensure that the poverty stricken people were able to improve their livelihoods.

He cautioned that the absence of Alfredo Reinado could be a benefit or a threat to efforts to ensure the stability of the country.  To that end, the Council should consider the request of the Timorese Government regarding the continuation of UNMIT.  The Secretary-General should provide an exhaustive report, including a comprehensive exit strategy.  On the situation in the country, he said that monitoring security sector reform should continue to be a priority for the Council, especially strengthening the police force.

The stability that followed the attacks had been a testament to the progress that had been made thus far, as well as to the capabilities of the United Nations and international forces on the ground.  At the same time, the Timorese police should be strengthened, with a view to an eventual full handover of duties.  Recalling that his country did not have a standing army, he questioned the decision to pin the security of the country on weaponry.   Costa Rica had chosen to follow the course of democracy, dialogue and human rights.  He wondered if the same path might not be considered for Timor-Leste.

KONSTANTIN DOLGOV ( Russian Federation) said that the attacks of 11 February had been a challenge to the peace process.  He condemned the attacks, saying that the perpetrators must be brought to trial.  Despite the unprecedented crimes, the leadership of the country had demonstrated political responsibility and restraint.  The events had been an outcome of the April 2006 crisis.  Addressing the root causes of the crisis would make it possible for Timor-Leste to address the problems. 

He said UNMIT’s mandate should be extended for one year.  The Mission should focus its efforts on training a robust and professional police force.  International support should also be provided for strengthening institutions and economic and social development, among other things.  It was also important to advance the process of national reconciliation.  His Government would continue to support Timor-Leste’s people in their efforts to build a stable democratic society. 

PAUL JOHNSTON ( United Kingdom) joined other Council members in condemning the 11 February attacks.  He had been encouraged by the fact that the Timorese Government and institutions, as well as the opposition, maintained calm and ensured the protection and promotion of human rights.  The attacks underscored the fact that the security situation remained volatile, fragile and vulnerable to setbacks.  It was, therefore, up to the people of the country to continue their efforts to build on the momentum that had been achieved thus far.

Among other things, that would entail building a shared vision between the Government, civil society and opposition of just what type of country Timor-Leste might eventually be, and a commitment to rebuild State institutions and to full implementation of the 2008 budget that had been recently approved by Parliament.  The Council and the international community were committed to helping.  The United Kingdom supported the extension of the mandate of UNMIT by 12 months.  At the same time, it remained mindful that the goal of the international community should be to help the Timorese people stand on their own feet.  With that in mind, there was a need to look beyond mere stabilization and on to national-led peacebuilding and sustainable development as soon as possible.  The United Kingdom looked forward to the issuance of a report to that end.

ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), aligning himself with the statement of the European Union, said the attacks of 11 February must serve as a warning and a lesson:  A warning not to take for granted that the achieved democratic progress had reached a point of no return; and a lesson to carefully consider requests of Timor-Leste for continued assistance.  There was a need to address the root causes of the 2006 crisis and for a thorough review of the security sector, among other things.

He said that, in the aftermath of the 11 February events, the reactions of the Government and the opposition had been exemplary.  However, national ownership and participation in regional processes remained the only options for sustainability.  There was also a need for sustained international assistance in the near future.  Italy had constantly supported the young democracy.  During a recent visit to Rome of President Ramos-Horta, additional support and cooperation had been considered.  Supporting UNMIT’s mandate extension, he said the Mission was a shining example of gender mainstreaming.

In conclusion, he said that the failure to address impunity was the worst enemy of peace and stability.  Accountability for the events of April 2006 was, therefore, of the utmost importance.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that, over the past few months, the United Nations had followed the situation in Timor-Leste closely, including high-level visits by the Security Council and the Secretary-General.  After the 11 February attacks, the Council issued a statement immediately.  All that had demonstrated the international community’s commitment to the country.  The recent attacks had shown that the security situation remained fragile.  The problems of the internally displaced persons and petitioners also posed a threat to the stability of the country.   China believed that all parties, including Fretelin, should set aside their past differences and put national stability and the well-being of the people first.  All parties, including the opposition, should seek to solve all outstanding issues in a peaceful manner.

He went on to say that China supported an extension of UNMIT’s mandate.  During the coming phase, the various security forces and UNMIT police should remain highly vigilant.  They should keep a line of communication open, as well.  He also said that attention should be paid to improving various social sectors in the country, including education and training of the youth population, which might be a key way to address the root causes of lingering tensions and mistrust.  In the coming phase, it was also necessary to consider the gradual handover of police duties to the national force, while ensuring the security of the people and leaders of the country.  That should be accompanied by United Nations efforts to strengthen that police force.   China hoped that, with the continued assistance of the international community, Timor-Leste would be able to continue on the path towards peace and full development.

GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya) said that, although the Secretary-General’s report had referred to progress in the security area, the situation continued to be tenuous, as illustrated by recent events, which his country firmly condemned.  The national police force needed further support in training and capacity development, so that it could shoulder its responsibilities in restoring order, whenever that order was disturbed.  In cooperation with UNMIT, the Government must develop a comprehensive approach to security sector reform. 

He said the Parliament and Government of Timor-Leste had played a positive role during last year’s elections and in establishing democratic institutions.  He was, however, still concerned at existing differences and the lack of cooperation between the different parties in addressing existing problems, including those of internally displaced persons and petitioners, and called upon all to find common ground to bring about reconciliation.  Problems of poverty, unemployment and economic and social underdevelopment needed to be addressed.  The legal framework needed to be strengthened, as well.  In conclusion, he expressed support for a mandate extension of one year for UNMIT. 

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said that the noble history of the Timorese people and their struggle to build a future in a context of democracy deserved the unflagging support of the international community.  That was why the 11 February attacks had received, and deserved, broad international condemnation.   Burkina Faso hoped that the calm and stability that had followed the attacks would continue, and the efforts to improve conditions in the country could continue apace.

To that end, his delegation welcomed the recent passage by the Timorese Parliament of a 2008 budget and he hoped funds would be allocated to programmes that would, among others, help internally displaced persons.  The Government should also urgently address the situation of youth unemployment, towards building a better future for the entire country.  As for the work of the United Nations in the country, he said that his delegation supported extension of the mandate of UNMIT, as well as adjustments to its operations that would allow it to play a larger role in assisting the country with improvements to its administrative and justice systems.   Burkina Faso also welcomed recent efforts to strengthen the Timorese police force, with a view to an eventual handover of duties.

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX (France), aligning himself with the European Union statement, said his country was very concerned at the attacks against the President and the Prime Minister, which had sought to destabilize the country.  He commended the constructive response by the Timorese parties, both majority and opposition, noting that, since last year’s elections, the institutions continued to function in legality.  He also welcomed the positive role of neighbouring countries, including Indonesia and Australia, which had helped to maintain stability.

The developments of 11 February underlined the importance of fighting impunity for crimes in the past.  Under current circumstances, it was more than ever necessary to maintain an international presence.  He, therefore, supported the mandate extension of UNMIT for one year, which should be part of a strategy to bring ownership of tasks currently undertaken by UNMIT to the Government of Timor-Leste.

DUMISANI KUMAL ( South Africa) condemned once more the 11 February attacks and applauded the constructive reaction and support by the neighbouring countries.  He expressed confidence that the Government of Timor-Leste would bring the perpetrators to justice.  Timor-Leste had made considerable progress in the areas of election, formation of a democratic Government and the general improvement in the security situation.  Key political, security and socio-economic challenges included the internally displaced persons and lack of capacity in Government institutions.  He noted with satisfaction the notable progress in establishing accountability for serious criminal offences committed during the 2006 crisis.

Despite persisting differences among political leaders, he was confident that they would overcome their differences in order to address the country’s priority needs, to consolidate democratic governance and to move their country towards stability and prosperity.  Although he welcomed the improvement of the overall security situation, he said the reform of the security sector remained “urgent and indispensable”.  The task of rebuilding the national police remained crucial for the long-term stability in the country.  He welcomed the progress achieved in the screening and mentoring process for the national police and encouraged all stakeholders to avoid the recurrence of the previous mistakes that had led to the disintegration of the police force.

Addressing the issue of some 100,000 internally displaced persons has been recognized as a priority issue.  The continued and active involvement of all Timorese stakeholders and support from the international community was critical.  A continued presence of the United Nations in Timor-Leste was essential to address the multifaceted challenges facing the country, including political, institutional and security aspects.  Other areas where UNMIT could play a supportive role included strengthening capacities in the judicial system; strengthening security institutions; and support for dialogue and reconciliation.  He, therefore, supported the proposed mandate extension of UNMIT and encouraged the Government, political parties and people of Timor-Leste to utilize the support and presence of UNMIT to strengthen its self-sufficiency.

JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium), aligning himself with the European Union statement, expressed full support to Timor-Leste in restoring stability.  He welcomed the fact that, during and after the attacks on the “symbols” of the democratically-elected institutions, those institutions had continued to operate.  Underscoring the importance of parties presenting a united front, he welcomed the joint statement by all heads of political parties on 14 February condemning the attacks and agreeing that the perpetrators must be arrested and brought to trial.  The attacks were a tragic illustration of how the recommendations of the Inquiry Commission needed to be implemented.  Impunity was not a solution.  Everything must be done to bring about the arrest and trial of those responsible for the crimes of the past. 

The outcomes of the 2006 crisis persisted and called for resolute action by the Government and the international community, he continued.  The question of petitioners should be solved through negotiations and the matter of internally displaced persons, currently 10 per cent of the population, should be addressed.  The causes of the crisis should also be addressed.  One of those causes was the weakness of the security sector.  UNMIT must, therefore, continue its training of the national police.  As the challenges facing the country called for a new commitment from the United Nations, he supported the proposed mandate extension.

Council President RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS (Panama), speaking in his national capacity, said that, while the Council recognized the progress made by Timor-Leste and UNMIT during the past year, and despite the calm that followed the 11 February attacks on two of the country’s leaders, those attacks had highlighted that Timor-Leste had a “long road ahead” to address the root causes on lingering tensions there.  He said that the Charter should guide the Council, the Timorese officials and the wider international community in their interventions.

Indeed, the Charter should be interpreted as a whole, in that it included the protection of human rights and development.  With that in mind, “security” in Timor-Leste should be seen as something more than the absence of war and armed conflict.  Efforts to improve the security sector should give due attention to political matters, human rights promotion and sustainability.  Without those, security would remain elusive.

He echoed the sentiment of other Council members that the overall goal should be to build capacity, not dependence.  He also recalled that Costa Rica’s representative had urged the international community to very carefully consider building up the Timorese armed forces in the name of ensuring future stability and security.  The experiences of both Costa Rica and Panama ran counter to that notion.  Finally, he said that the Council’s future objective for UNMIT should be flexible and robust, and contain clear goals and guidelines that would allow the Secretariat to draft clear goals for an orderly and successful withdrawal.

ROBERT HILL ( Australia), deploring the shocking attacks on 11 February, congratulated the Government for its careful and measured approach to the events, which had helped to ensure the situation had remained calm.  Australia was a steadfast friend and neighbour of Timor-Leste and would continue to be at the forefront of international efforts to assist it to become a stable and more prosperous nation.  At the request of the Timor-Leste Government, Australia was providing additional Australian military and police assistance to support Timor-Leste, in response to the 11 February events.

He said the Government and people of Timor-Leste needed to take primary responsibility for the development of a stable and more prosperous nation, including through political and economic reform, development of the private sector and provision of health, education and housing.  Political reconciliation and support for democratic processes by all political leaders and others would be fundamental.  In that regard, he recognized the important contribution made by UNMIT in supporting democratic reform and political consolidation in the country.  The need to strengthen its justice system, as a basis for long-term stability, had been underlined by the 11 February events.  Any perceptions of impunity would undermine the Timorese people’s confidence in their justice system. 

Tackling the challenges of underdevelopment would be central to stabilizing Timor-Leste’s political and security environment, he said.  Australia, as a key donor, looked forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Government and closely with other donors to ensure a carefully coordinated approach.  A 12-months mandate extension for UNMIT would provide valuable continuity, certainty and security for Timor-Leste. 

HILARIO G. DAVIDE ( Philippines) said that the unfortunate 11 February attacks underscored the need for the international community’s continued engagement in the country, especially the United Nations, in promoting peace, order and stability.  UNMIT had been executing its mandate very well and should continue carrying out its work.  He pointed out that all the interlocutors inside Timor-Leste had made it clear to the Council and Secretary-General during their respective visits to the country last year that they wished UNMIT to remain there.  “Complacency and a false sense of security must not be allowed to diminish the need for UNMIT,” he said, reminding the Council that the earlier gains achieved under United Nations auspices could have been maintained if the previous Mission had not been drawn down prematurely a few years ago.

He said that the continuation of UNMIT was necessary to preserve those gains and to support the Timorese in addressing the challenges ahead.  The Philippines, therefore, supported the proposed 12-month extension of UNMIT’s mandate as a way to ensure continuity of effort and to remove the anxieties of the people of the country, which were heightened each time the Mission’s mandate came up for review, or when it was renewed for shorter periods.  Such an extension would also give troop contributors time to plan ahead.

He went on to say that the Philippines fully recognized the crucial nature of security sector reform and its importance to Timor-Leste’s long-term stability.  The events of April and May 2006, as well as the 11 February attacks, attested to the need to urgently address problems in that area.  To that end, his delegation supported continuing efforts to comprehensively review the future role and needs of the security sector within the framework of the three-tiered coordination structure established last year, and which was being led jointly by the Timorese President, Prime Minister and Parliament.

SANJA STIGLIC ( Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the Union firmly condemned the assassination attempt on Timor-Leste’s President and Prime Minister.  Those actions only strengthened the Union’s firm determination to support Timor-Leste’s democratically elected leaders, institutions and sustainable development.  There could be no doubt that the perpetrators of the 11 February attacks aimed at the core of the legitimate institutions of Timor-Leste and sought to create a highly volatile situation, which would endanger the achievements made since Timor-Leste’s independence.  It was encouraging, however, that the Government, the Parliament and major political parties, including the opposition leadership, had responded appropriately to the crisis and fulfilled their constitutional obligations.  It was vital that the Government and opposition stayed in close dialogue and that all Timorese worked together to address the challenges.

The current situation further underlined the importance of continued support by the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste, in particular the United Nations police contingent, she continued.  The Union commended the efforts of the International Stabilization Force, including its swift action to provide emergency treatment to President Ramos-Horta.  The Secretary-General’s report had positively mentioned the role of the international community in supporting Timor-Leste.  For its part, the Union was determined to continue its active support, notably through the European community assistance of over 200 million euros of ongoing commitments.  The imminent upgrade of its presence in Dili through a fully-fledged European community delegation was another sign of the Union’s determination.  In particular, the Union supported continued work on a review of the future role and needs in the security sector.  She also stressed the importance of ongoing efforts to reach accountability and justice for the events of 1999 and April-May 2006, calling upon the Government of Timor-Leste to implement the recommendations of the Special Commission of Inquiry report.

The Union fully supported the extension of UNMIT for a further 12 months, she said.  Such an extension would help ensure continuity in stabilizing the country further.  While the country’s transition continued on the right path, the situation would remain fragile if specific challenges were left unaddressed.  Immediate challenges included the need to bring the perpetrators of the 11 February attacks to justice; resolving the “petitioners” issue; ensuring reconciliation, accountability and justice for the victims of past violence; and alleviating the situation faced by internally displaced persons.  The longer-term challenges included the need for the Timorese leadership to agree on a shared vision of the way ahead; building the capacity of institutions, including budget performance; poverty alleviation; and job creation.  Ultimately, success in Timor-Leste was for the country’s people to achieve.  The Union, along with the United Nations and other partners, stood ready to assist the Timorese Government and people.

ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) commended the people, Government and Parliament of Timor-Leste, as well as UNMIT and the international security forces, for their initial responses to the 11 February attacks.  The attacks underscored how fragile Timor-Leste continued to be, and how easily recent progress could have been undone.  Strongly supporting a mandate extension for UNMIT, she said there were a number of serious issues that remained unresolved, including the internally displaced persons situation, Reinado’s supporters and the petitioners.  Poverty, unemployment and fragile institutions were likely to contribute to ongoing instability.  The presence of United Nations police was an important deterrent to a return of violence.  UNMIT needed the capability to fulfil its two primary roles:  providing security; and supporting reform and rebuilding of the national police force. 

She said security sector reform was essential for ensuring long-term stability in Timor-Leste, and UNMIT had a critical role to play in that regard.  Other areas where Timor-Leste needed the assistance of UNMIT and the international community included strengthening of the justice sector, as every effort must be made to counter perceptions of impunity.  In that regard, it was important to implement all recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the events of April-May 2006.  Addressing the multifaceted challenges of underdevelopment and poverty must also be pursued in parallel with all other efforts.

YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that, since last year’s mandate extension, Timor-Leste had successfully conducted two elections and the Parliament had completed its first budget process.  It was recovering from the 2006 crisis and moving steadily towards democratic governance.  The attacks on the democratically-elected leaders of the Government were, therefore, all the more regrettable.  Timor-Leste required continued support on the part of the international community, which was the reason why he supported the proposed mandate extension of UNMIT.  Rebuilding the professional national police force was an essential step towards restoring confidence in the Government.  The transfer of responsibilities from UNMIT to PNTL had to be carried out after careful evaluation of PNTL’s level of capability and trust of the people. 

He said his country attached great importance to advancing international efforts in support of peacebuilding activities in post-conflict countries.  As a “peace fostering nation”, Japan was extending support for peacebuilding efforts around the world and had launched a pilot programme to train peacebuilding experts in Japan and Asia.  The consolidation of peace entailed steady economic recovery and peacebuilding challenges should be tackled in a holistic manner.  In order for Timor-Leste’s recovery to be more successful, the donor base must be broadened.  Creating employment opportunities, especially for the youth, and promoting economic activities of the private sector should have high priorities.

JOAO SALGUEIRO ( Portugal), aligning himself with the European Union statement, said recent events had illustrated the vulnerability of Timor-Leste in a dramatic way.  Effective action should be taken to capture the perpetrators of the 11 February attacks.  He encouraged the Government, political parties and the people to redouble their efforts to consolidate democratic governance and the rule of law.  Political consensus was essential for resolving a number of key issues, including that of the internally displaced persons and the situation of nearly 600 petitioners of the Timor-Leste Defence Force.  As justice was a key element for long-lasting national reconciliation, he strongly supported ongoing efforts to reach accountability for the events of 1999 and April 2006, along the lines recommended in the Special Commission of Inquiry report.

He said his country had had a consistent long-standing bilateral commitment towards Timor-Leste and was a leading donor in a large number of areas.  It was also strongly committed to UNMIT, contributing with a Formed Police Unit.  Rebuilding the national police of Timor-Leste, in particular concluding the screening and mentoring processes, was an important factor that could contribute to the long awaited normalization of the country.  In the meantime, a continued UNMIT police presence was needed to ensure law enforcement until the national police was fully reconstituted.  As the continued presence of the United Nations in Timor-Leste was essential in helping to address the challenges facing that country, he strongly supported the proposed mandate extension.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said the attacks on the Heads of State and Government of Timor-Leste had been an assault on the international community’s efforts to promote broad democracy for all.  She went on to say that the United Nations had been playing an important role in the country and her delegation agreed that the mandate of UNMIT should be extended for another year.  She commended the advances made to improve the police and judiciary.  UNMIT had also been able to increase the training and capacity of the national police.  At the same time, many pressing issues remained.  The plight of more than 100,000 internally displaced persons that needed to be reintegrated into society posed a serious humanitarian, political and security challenge.

She went on to highlight Timorese President Ramos-Horta’s recent visit to Brazil.  During that visit, Brazilian President Lula had announced, among other joint initiatives, a new phase of the training course for the military police in Timor-Leste, as well as a vocational training programme to help inmates develop trade skills that might smooth their reintegration into Timorese society.  Finally, she said that Brazil believed that ultimate success for Timor-Leste required the implementation of a sound and comprehensive development programme that addressed a broad range of challenges.

In response to speakers’ comments and questions, Under-Secretary-General GUEHENNO expressed gratitude for the expressed strong commitment of the international community to Timor-Leste.  He greatly appreciated the Council’s support, as well as that of the neighbouring countries and all other nations that were critical in the provision of security and development aid to Timor-Leste.

The importance of political dialogue had been stressed by many, he said, noting that such dialogue had been spearheaded by President Ramos-Horta.  That political dialogue was the foundation for the solution both of short-term issues, such as internally displaced persons, petitioners and fugitives, and longer-term challenges, such as security sector reform, strengthening the judiciary system and addressing socio-economic weaknesses. 

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.