SECURITY COUNCIL, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, REAFFIRMS NEED FOR SUSTAINED INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE IN TIMOR-LESTE, AS SITUATION THERE STILL FRAGILE

19 August 2008
SC/9427

SECURITY COUNCIL, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, REAFFIRMS NEED FOR SUSTAINED INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE IN TIMOR-LESTE, AS SITUATION THERE STILL FRAGILE

19 August 2008
Security Council
SC/9427
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5958th & 5959th Meetings (AM & PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL, IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, REAFFIRMS NEED FOR SUSTAINED

INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE IN TIMOR-LESTE, AS SITUATION THERE STILL FRAGILE

Timorese Foreign Minister Urges Sustained Robust United Nations Police

Presence, Substantive Peacekeeping Operation until Election Cycle in 2012

While lauding the “rapid and responsible manner” in which Timor-Leste’s institutions and leaders had responded to violent attacks in February that almost claimed the life of the country’s President, the Security Council this afternoon stressed that the international community’s sustained support was needed to help the tiny island nation bolster its security and judicial sectors, and further develop and strengthen its administration.

After an earlier briefing from Atul Khare, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste and Head of the United Nations Integrated Mission there (UNMIT), the Security Council capped two formal meetings with the adoption of a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2008/29) reaffirming its full support for UNMIT’s work and encouraging the operation, in accordance with its mandate, and to continue cooperating with the United Nations system, as well as with all relevant partners, in support of the Timorese Government.

Reading out the statement, Council President Jan Grauls (Belgium) said that the 15-nation body also acknowledged that, while progress had been made in the overall security situation in Timor-Leste since the events of May and June 2006, when more than 100,000 people had been displaced by deadly violence that broke out after the dismissal of a third of the Armed Forces, “the political, security, social and humanitarian situation in the country remains fragile”.

He said that Council members welcomed the continued efforts to foster dialogue and national reconciliation in Timor-Leste through various mechanisms, in particular the expanded high-level coordination meetings, the Trilateral coordination forum, as well as the continued good offices of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.  The Council also welcomed recent progress in addressing the situation of the internally displaced people.

The Council reaffirmed the continued importance of the review and reform of the security sector, particularly the need to ensure clear separation of internal and external security roles and responsibilities between the Timor-Leste national police (PNTL) and the Timor-Leste National Defence Forces (F-FDTL); to strengthen legal frameworks; and to enhance civilian oversight and accountability mechanisms, he said.

Recognizing efforts made by the national authorities and UNMIT for the reconstitution of the national police, the Council underlined that building an independent, professional and impartial national police service in Timor-Leste was a long-term process, that national ownership was a central element in that regard, and that UNMIT had a key role in helping to ensure that PNTL was ready and able to resume its policing responsibilities.

The Council reaffirmed the importance of ongoing efforts to reach accountability and justice, and underlined the importance of implementing the recommendations of the 2006 United Nations Special Commission of Inquiry report by the Government of Timor-Leste.  It welcomed the conviction of the Timorese leadership on the need for justice and its determination to combat impunity.  It underscored the importance of the promotion and protection of human rights.

In his briefing, Mr. Khare said that the Timorese Government was making strides in addressing some of the priority challenges emanating from the 2006 crisis.  On 14 July, F-FDTL “petitioners” had started receiving their payments and returning to their homes.  As of 1 August, all petitioners had left the Aitarak Laran camp in Dili, with no major incidents reported so far related to their return.  No petitioners had opted to apply for re-recruitment.

Progress had also continued in the movement of internally displaced persons from the camps, he said.  As of today, some 5,400 families in those camps had received recovery packages from the Government’s National Recovery Strategy, and 20 camps had been closed.  “Although this is encouraging, actual implementation of all elements of the National Recovery Strategy is needed sooner rather than later, if the physical movement of [internally displaced persons] is not to be undermined in the longer term,” he stressed.

In response to the 11 February attacks on Timorese President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, the Government had chosen a military-police security model in which a Joint Command had temporarily taken on internal security responsibilities, particularly in specific areas of the country harbouring fugitives, he noted.  That strategy had contributed to the surrender of those fugitives, but there had been concerns of abuses by those forces, particularly the military.  While the Government had been responsive whenever those concerns had arisen, it was unclear how effectively the State authority’s concerns were being institutionalized and articulated further down the ranks.

Also addressing the Council today, Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa said that the assassination attempts had presented a serious challenge, but the State had responded positively by appointing an interim President until President Ramos-Horta had been able to resume his full responsibilities on 17 April.  As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, “encouragingly and in contrast to the events of 2006, the situation did not precipitate a crisis destabilizing the entire society”.

He said that the Government was committed to the notion that rebuilding the national police was a long-term undertaking, requiring ownership and continued international assistance for the foreseeable future.  It appreciated the efforts of the UNMIT police, not only in helping to guarantee public security, but in supporting efforts towards the reconstitution of the national police.  He envisaged that PNTL resumption of policing responsibilities would be completed within the first half of 2009.

Mr. da Costa was happy to note that the Secretary-General had not proposed any reduction in strength of UNMIT police during the current mandate, as its continued presence at current levels was essential to the smooth implementation of PNTL resumption of responsibilities and maintenance of stability.  He hoped that any discussion of a United Nations police drawdown would be de-linked from PNTL resumption of responsibilities and that a robust United Nations police presence would be maintained through and beyond the current UNMIT mandate.

During the reporting period, new challenges had arisen, he said.  Those included the drastic worldwide increase in the price of basic commodities, which the Prime Minister had called “a silent tsunami”.  All the gains of the past years, including those areas in which international assistance had been provided, could be lost in instability if the Government was not proactive in its response to new circumstances.  The Economic Stabilization Fund, with $240 million in capital, was an important tool being used by the Government to tackle the effects of rising prices of food and other commodities.

He emphasized the unique partnership between Timor-Leste and the United Nations.  “We have made many strides forward in the last nine years,” he said.  “We cannot afford, at this stage in our country’s development, to lose focus.”  UNMIT was performing a very critical role, and his Government was eager for the United Nations to remain.  Keeping in view that a substantive review of UNMIT’s mandate was due in early 2009, he suggested that, in order to cement the successes of the partnership, the United Nations should maintain a substantive peacekeeping presence in Timor-Leste until the next election cycle in 2012.

Also participating in the meeting were the representatives of Philippines, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Portugal.

The 5958th Meeting began at 11:13 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m., and the 5959th meeting began at 1:47 p.m. and ended at 1:55 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2008/29 reads as follows:

“The Security Council welcomes the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) (S/2008/501), as well as the briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, on 19 August 2008.

“The Security Council commends the political leadership and State institutions of Timor-Leste for the rapid, firm and responsible manner that respected constitutional procedures of the country, in which they responded to the deplorable events of 11 February 2008.  The Council acknowledges that while progress has been made in the overall security situation in Timor-Leste since the events of May-June 2006, the political, security, social and humanitarian situation in the country remains fragile.

“The Security Council welcomes the continued efforts to foster dialogue and national reconciliation in Timor-Leste through various mechanisms, in particular the expanded high-level coordination meetings, the Trilateral Coordination Forum, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General’s continued good offices.  The Council also welcomes recent progress in addressing the situation of the internally displaced people.

“The Security Council reaffirms the continued importance of the review and reform of the security sector in Timor-Leste, in particular the need to ensure clear separation of internal and external security roles and responsibilities between the national police (PNTL) and the military (F-FDTL); to strengthen legal frameworks; and to enhance civilian oversight and accountability mechanisms.  The Security Council recognizes efforts made by the national authorities and UNMIT for the reconstitution of the national police of Timor-Leste (PNTL), and welcomes the report of the expert mission on policing to Timor-Leste of 16 May 2008 (S/2008/329) and the necessary steps taken to implement the recommendations of the report.  The Council underlines that the building of an independent, professional and impartial national police service in Timor-Leste is a long-term process, that national ownership is a central element in this regard, and that UNMIT has a key role in helping to ensure that PNTL is ready and able to resume its policing responsibilities.

“The Security Council recalls the need for sustained support of the international community to Timor-Leste to develop and strengthen its institutions and further build capacities in the justice sector.

“The Security Council further reaffirms the importance of ongoing efforts to reach accountability and justice, and underlines the importance of the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Special Commission of Inquiry report of 2006 by the Government of Timor-Leste.  It welcomes the conviction of the leaders of Timor-Leste on the need for justice and their determination to act against impunity.  The Council underscores the importance of the promotion and protection of human rights.

“The Security Council recognizes the need to address socio-economic challenges in Timor-Leste.  In this regard, the Council welcomes the launching of the national priorities for 2008 by the Government of Timor-Leste, including public safety and security; social protection and solidarity; addressing the needs of youths; employment and income generation; improving social service delivery; and greater transparency and effective government.  It also welcomes the signing between Timor-Leste and the United Nations of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2009-2013, which can provide the country with important instrument on its path for 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 the mandate of UNMIT.  It encourages UNMIT, in accordance with its mandate, to continue to cooperate with the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, as well as all relevant partners, to support the Government of Timor-Leste.  The Council recalls its requests to the Secretary-General in consultation with the Government of Timor-Leste, to develop a medium-term strategy with appropriate benchmarks to measure and track progress, and to submit further reports as and when he considers appropriate.”

Background

When the Security Council met today, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) (document S/2008/501), which covers major developments in the country and the implementation of the Mission’s mandate since the 17 January report (document S/2008/26).

The report finds that the deplorable events of 11 February and the response thereto dominated the political and security environment over the reporting period.  On that day, the armed group led by the fugitive Alfredo Reinado, the former Military Police Commander of the Timor-Leste National Defence Forces (F-FDTL), carried out separate armed attacks against the President, José Ramos-Horta, and the Prime Minister, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, resulting in the nearly fatal injury of the President and the death of Reinado.  Rapid medical intervention in Dili and, subsequently, in Australia saved the President’s life.

The incidents presented an unexpected and serious challenge to State institutions, but encouragingly, and in contrast to the events of 2006, the situation did not precipitate a crisis destabilizing the entire society, the report notes.  The institutions of the State responded in an appropriate and responsible manner that respected constitutional procedures.  The Prime Minister demonstrated firm and reasoned leadership; the Parliament functioned effectively as a forum for debate in response to the events; and leaders of all political parties urged their supporters to remain calm, while the general population demonstrated faith in the ability of the State to deal with the situation.

Given the Government’s preoccupation with the events of 11 February and the subsequent state of siege, as well as with its own national planning processes, such as the midyear budget review and the national priorities for 2008, the Secretary-General says it has not yet been possible to have meaningful discussions on the medium-term strategy and appropriate benchmarks, as requested by the Security Council in its resolution 1802 (2008).  He therefore proposes to revert with an agreed strategy and benchmarks in his next report.

The report notes that it is currently envisaged that the medium-term strategy and benchmarks would cover four mandated priority areas of UNMIT, namely: review and reform of the security sector; strengthening of the rule of law; economic and social development; and promotion of a culture of democratic governance, together with efforts to enhance dialogue and reconciliation.  Benchmarks in those areas would be formulated to measure whether the necessary structures, institutions and processes are in place to provide a solid basis for achieving sustainable stability and prosperity in Timor-Leste.  Furthermore, the development of the medium-term strategy will be informed by the monitoring of the national priorities; with regard to the Timor-Leste national police (PNTL), a medium-term strategy is already well advanced, and the present report describes that in detail.

According to the Secretary-General, the events of 11 February were the first real test of the resiliency of State institutions since the events of 2006.  The leaders and people of Timor-Leste did not allow those events to jeopardize the country’s overall stability.  The security situation remained calm.  Efforts to foster dialogue and reconciliation continued, President Ramos-Horta having brought all the leaders together at an expanded meeting of the High-level Coordination Committee, a mechanism for fostering political dialogue and national reconciliation.  At the same time, the Special Representative’s continuing good offices efforts promoted a more conciliatory atmosphere.  The issue of the F-FDTL “petitioners” was addressed for the time being; internally displaced persons are slowly returning to their communities; and the national priorities for 2008, which constitute the international compact, were launched.

While these positive developments are welcome, the Secretary-General says it should also be noted that, in addressing the issues of the petitioners and internally displaced persons, the Government relied heavily on strategies that depend on financial settlements.  Complex issues such as these can only be fully resolved if financial incentives are complemented by appropriate social, security and political initiatives that ensure lasting reconciliation at both the national and the local level.  This, in turn, requires that State and Government institutions be strengthened so that they can effectively implement such initiatives.  Continuing international support will be needed in the medium and long term to assist in these efforts.

The events of 11 February also had some consequences that give rise to concern, the report continues.  Creating the Joint Command was an exceptional measure to deal with exceptional circumstances.  While it contributed to the peaceful surrender of Gastão Salsinha, an associate of Reinado, and his group, the Joint Command’s inability or unwillingness to deal adequately with alleged cases of abuse and its continuing activities beyond the end of the state of siege, when it no longer had a legal basis, were symptomatic of fundamental institutional challenges in the security sector.  These shortcomings threaten respect for the rule of law, which the State was so careful not to undermine during the early days of the state of siege; weaken efforts at security sector reform by blurring the functions and reporting lines of F-FDTL and the national police; and adversely affect the development of a culture of democratic governance by bypassing the appropriate structures and processes for policy development.

The Secretary-General says that the challenges confronting F-FDTL and the national police should be addressed through broad consultation to clarify and develop their respective roles.  Defining a meaningful role for F-FDTL in a peacetime setting, enhancing its training, clarifying its relationship with the national police, and establishing internal accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms will be one of the primary challenges for the Government, to be addressed with the assistance of bilateral partners, in the short and medium term.

Progress was made in the reconstitution of the national police, and the Secretary-General says the moment has come to provide it with an opportunity to strengthen its capabilities through a gradual resumption of policing responsibilities between now and the end of the present UNMIT mandate, while the UNMIT police component is still at its current strength, so that the national police can benefit from the support and advice of UNMIT police on the ground.  At the end of the current mandate, an assessment of what has been achieved during the consolidation phase can inform the judgment about the size and nature of the UNMIT police presence under any future mandate.  However, any possible drawdown must contemplate the need for a continuing robust UNMIT police presence across the country, including formed police units, which would assume a monitoring and reporting role, provide advice when requested and be able to offer operational support and, in extremis, assume interim law enforcement responsibilities if required and requested. The national police will need long-term training and years-long support, requiring continuing international and bilateral commitment.

In addition to the reconstitution of the national police, the Secretary-General finds that further efforts are needed in all four of the UNMIT-mandated priority areas if the underlying causes of the crisis of 2006 are to be addressed: review and reform of the security sector; strengthening of the rule of law, including full implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry; economic and social development, including poverty alleviation and the creation of employment opportunities for youth; and promoting a culture of democratic governance, including continued efforts to facilitate political dialogue and national reconciliation.  The Mission’s integrated “one United Nations system” approach was invaluable in providing coordinated, holistic support to the people of Timor-Leste.  Given the fragility of the security situation as well as the capacity constraints of the security institutions and nascent Government and State institutions, no adjustments in UNMIT’s mandate and strength are recommended at this stage.  While the primary responsibility for Timor-Leste’s future lies in the hands of its leaders and people, the continuing engagement of the international community is necessary as Timor-Leste progresses towards self-sufficiency.

Briefing

ATUL KHARE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste and Head of UNMIT, briefing the Council on that operation’s work from 8 January to 8 July, said that the Timorese Government was making strides in addressing some of the priority challenges emanating from the 2006 crisis.  On 14 July, petitioners had started receiving their payments and returning to their homes.  As of 1 August, all petitioners had left the Aitarak Laran camp in Dili, with no major incidents reported so far related to their return.  No petitioners had opted to apply for re-recruitment into F-FDTL, he added.

Progress had also continued in the movement of internally displaced persons from the camps, he said.  As of today, some 5,400 families in those camps had received recovery packages from the Government’s National Recovery Strategy, and 20 camps had been closed.  “Although this is encouraging, actual implementation of all elements of the National Recovery Strategy is needed sooner rather than later, if the physical movement of [internally displaced persons] is not to be undermined in the longer term,” he stressed.

He highlighted progress made in the ambit of the Timorese-led comprehensive review of the security sector, noting, among other things, that Timorese authorities had preliminarily identified the need to address management and leadership gaps in the civil service, police and army as key priorities.  He also agreed with their observation that national stakeholders, including the opposition, should be allowed to proceed at their own, though reasonable, pace, rather than sacrificing true national ownership to the alter of a speedy process.

In response to the 11 February attacks on Timorese President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmão, the Government had chosen a military-police security model in which a Joint Command had temporarily taken on internal security responsibilities, particularly in specific areas of the country harbouring fugitives, he said.  That strategy had contributed to the surrender of those fugitives, but there had been some concerns of abuses by those forces, particularly the military.  While the Government had been responsive whenever those concerns had been raised, it was unclear how effectively the State authority’s concerns were being institutionalized and articulated further down the ranks.

He said that the Government had expressed its desire that the resumption of policing duties by PNTL be completed by next year.  This desire needed to be accompanied by concomitant efforts to ensure that logistics were in place, necessary efforts were undertaken to facilitate the work of the evaluation panel and that there was a commitment to the criteria for the resumption of those responsibilities.  With that in mind, and in consultation with the Prime Minister, he had decided to delay the commencement of the process of resumption of responsibility for a few more months to provide adequate space to the Government to address the pressing logistical needs.  “I strongly believe that a flexible timeline for this process, coupled with comparatively inflexible application of mutually determined criteria, will ensure long-term success,” he said.

Public confidence in the national police was essential for long-term success, he continued, adding that as PNTL took on greater responsibilities, newer cases of corruption and abuse of authority needed to be strongly pursued.  “I have been distressed by reports that several senior PNTL officers might be involved in alleged misappropriation of funds provided for the activities of the Joint Command,” he said, welcoming, in efforts to counter that, the Prime Minister’s decision just yesterday to temporarily suspend eight officers and to allow criminal investigations to proceed, where appropriate.

He went on to say that long-term strategies to ensure that a culture of impunity was not established depended on an effective judiciary, which in turn was part of a larger system that guaranteed stability in a democratic country.  The challenge, then, was to guarantee stability when parts of the larger system, including the judiciary, were still weak.  Establishing the rule of law was a wide-ranging effort; the integrated mission model had proven to be a successful approach for such a complex undertaking, and UNMIT continued its efforts to support State institutions.  He was delighted to report that the third training course for 18 additional judicial officers had begun on 29 July.

UNMIT’s serious crimes investigation team was proceeding with its mandated task to complete all pending enquiries, he continued, telling the Council that, as of today, some 20 investigations had been wrapped up, 11 were under way, while the 118 cases that had been disallowed from entering the community reconciliation agreement by the Commission of Truth, Reception and Reconciliation were being thoroughly reviewed.

He also said that the protection of the human rights and the rights of women and children were other key features of a democratic society, and to that end, the Timorese Government, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), this month planned to initiate a programme to disseminate the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, following Timor-Leste’s first report on compliance with that Convention.  The Prime Minister’s signing earlier this month of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2009-2013 testified to the partnership between the United Nations and Timor-Leste, as well as to the real and effective “integration” of the Mission.

Statements

ZACARIAS ALBANO DA COSTA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Timor-Leste, said that the assassination attempts on the President and Prime Minister had presented a serious challenge, but the State had responded positively by appointing an interim President until President Ramos-Horta had been able to resume his full responsibilities on 17 April.  Measures had been enacted following the attacks to maintain stability and public security and allow for investigations to be undertaken.  Those had included the establishment of a Joint Command led by the national police and Defence Forces for the conduct of security operations during a state of siege.  The state of siege was a flexible and responsive mechanism that had allowed for the easing of restrictions, such as curfew hours, during the period from 11 February to 22 May.  As noted in the Secretary-General’s report, “encouragingly and in contrast to the events of 2006, the situation did not precipitate a crisis destabilizing the entire society”.

He said that the efforts of the Joint Command, together with those of a range of political mediation initiatives, had resulted in the eventual surrender of the President’s attackers and associates.  The operation had been carried out without notable violence and had demonstrated a remarkable level of institutional cooperation between the political authorities, the defence force and the police. The Government was aware of the 44 alleged cases of violations committed in areas of Joint Command Operations opened by the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice, and it was dedicated to determining responsibility and implementing corrective and disciplinary measures to avoid a repetition of such incidents in the future.  The Secretaries of State for Defence and Security would be specifying disciplinary actions for those found guilty of violations.  The Joint Command, while not without its critics, was viewed positively by the majority of the Timorese population.

On the humanitarian situation, he said that, in December 2007, the Government had presented its National Recovery Strategy, under which the Government, communities, civil society and the international community could harmonize efforts to address the impacts of the 2006 crisis.  The Strategy was led by the Vice Prime Minister and was operating through a process of inter-ministerial cooperation.  Under the Strategy, more than 14,450 internally displaced families had registered their desire for return or resettlement. With the assistance of UNMIT, United Nations agencies and other international partners, the Government had initiated the return of large numbers of internally displaced persons in the past few months.  Camps and shelters that had existed for two years were now empty.  A total of 20 such camps had been closed, and more than 3,650 internally displaced families had received recovery packages.  That was evidence of the restoration of public faith in the improvement of the security situation and more stable political environment.

Among the main challenges associated with the Strategy were the need to adopt the remaining elements of the land and property laws and to give priority attention to the allocation of transitional shelter and social housing for people unable to return to their homes, he noted.  The Government was also alert to the need to address issues of food security and deal with the conflict between returning internally displaced persons and receiving communities. The Government was committed to working with United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and civil society to ensure that the returns were durable and that recovery was meaningful for all Timorese people.  The Government had also concluded the dialogue process with the F-FDTL petitioners.  By the end of May, 709 petitioners had accepted the invitation to enter into dialogue, and all of them had now accepted the final compensation package to return to civilian life.

The Government was committed to the notion that rebuilding the national police was a long-term undertaking, requiring ownership and continued international assistance for the foreseeable future, he said.  It appreciated the efforts of the UNMIT police, not only in helping to guarantee public security, but in supporting efforts towards the reconstitution of the national police.  He envisaged that PNTL resumption of policing responsibilities would be completed within the first half of 2009.  He was happy to note that the Secretary-General had not proposed any reduction in strength of UNMIT police during the current mandate, as their continued presence at current levels was essential to the smooth implementation of PNTL resumption of responsibilities and maintenance of stability.  He hoped that any discussion of a United Nations police drawdown would be de-linked from PNTL resumption of responsibilities and that a robust United Nations police presence would be maintained through and beyond the current UNMIT mandate.

As part of the efforts to enhance democratic governance, the Government had made 2008 “the Year of Administrative Reform”, holding a conference on that issue in May, he said.  That had been an important step forward in transparency, accountability and integrity of the democratic processes in the country.  The conference had covered, among other things, a national anti-corruption strategy and an anti-corruption commission.  A special working group had been established to advice on necessary reforms required to expand the competence of the Office of the Inspector-General and assume the role of an Auditor General of State.  The Government was also working to render independent and strong the civil service.  The Council of Ministers had recently approved preliminary measures for the establishment of a civil service commission, whose aim would be to ensure an apolitical, merit-based civil service of the highest professional standards.  He also drew the Council’s attention to the functioning of the national Parliament, which had developed into a credible and dynamic forum for debate and dialogue.

During the reporting period, new challenges had arisen, he added.  Those included the drastic worldwide increase in the price of basic commodities, which the Prime Minister had called “a silent tsunami”.  All the gains of the past years, including those areas in which international assistance had been provided, could be lost in instability if the Government was not proactive in its response to new circumstances.  The Economic Stabilization Fund, with $240 million in capital, was an important tool being used by the Government to tackle the effects of rising prices of food and other commodities.  The packages offered to returning internally displaced persons, pensioners and other vulnerable groups through cash transfers would be of little use, however, if previously estimated costs were no longer relevant.

For the first time, the Timorese State would ensure social protection for those scarred by war and for the dependants of those who had dedicated their lives to the struggle for national liberation, he said.  The number of pensions granted stood at 12,538, with 631 pensions for living combatants and 11,907 to the widows and families of fallen combatants.

Timor-Leste was strengthening its bilateral relationships, he added.  The Governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia had recently decided to jointly discuss and agree on arrangements for the implementation of the findings of the Truth and Friendship Commission.  The Commission’s final report presented a historic and important milestone in the search for truth and justice for the events of 1999.  Its recommendations aimed to address unresolved issues of State responsibility for the victims of violence.

He also emphasized the unique partnership between Timor-Leste and the United Nations.  “We have made many strides forward in the last nine years,” he said.  “We cannot afford, at this stage in our country’s development, to lose focus.”  UNMIT was performing a very critical role, and his Government was eager for the United Nations to remain.  Keeping in view that a substantive review of UNMIT’s mandate was due in early 2009, he suggested that, in order to cement the successes of the partnership, the United Nations should maintain a substantive peacekeeping presence in Timor-Leste until the next election cycle in 2012.

HILARIO G. DAVIDE ( Philippines) said his delegation viewed with great satisfaction positive developments in Timor-Leste, and believed that the leaders of the country should be commended for demonstrating their capacity to overcome “crises of grave proportions”, especially during recent months.  Their endurance and resiliency following the 11 February attacks on the President and Prime Minister might just serve as a model for others in similar situations.  Indeed, those attacks had been the first real test of Timor-Leste’s nascent Government and institutions, and the country had passed that test “ably and credibly”.

Nevertheless, he said, there was still a great deal to be done in many areas, and as Timor-Leste worked “courageously and persistently” to stay on course along the difficult road to build a nation, it was imperative for the United Nations and the wider international community to continue to invest time, effort and resources to help ensure that, in the end, the country would be able to stand proudly on its own.  The Philippines believed that the international community’s efforts should concentrate on specific areas, including security, where there should be no easing of support for ongoing efforts to reconstitute PNTL, and its eventual resumption of policing responsibilities.  Towards that goal, UNMIT should continue its role, while stressing national ownership of the process and facilitating a gradual transition.

The international community must also help Timor-Leste boost socio-economic development, he said.  Indeed, the creation of job opportunities, especially for the youth, and the alleviation of widespread poverty should remain major priorities.  Timor-Leste had made no significant progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals since its independence, but several steps, including addressing the needs of youth and employment generation, were beginning to point the way forward.  Judicial reform also deserved priority attention, as, in a democracy, the judiciary was the guardian of the rule of law and the protector of people’s rights.  With that in mind he was heartened to hear today about ongoing efforts to strengthen Timor-Leste’s judiciary, and he looked forward to more initiatives, including improving institutional integrity, access to justice by the poor and the delivery of fair, equal and impartial justice.

YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that, since the regrettable incident last February, Timor-Leste’s political leaders had demonstrated their capability to better handle security disturbances.  That marked improvement in the overall security situation was most welcome.  The Joint Command of armed forces and national police in a state of emergency had effectively maintained public order.  The Government had succeeded in persuading the rebellious petitioners to surrender without violence, followed by the resolution of that longstanding issue.  Thus, one of the main factors affecting the security situation in Timor-Leste had been successfully addressed.

For ensuring stability, he said, it was essential to create the national capacity of to police itself.  UNMIT and the Government of Timor-Leste had jointly developed a strategy to transfer policing responsibilities to PNTL.  He was pleased with the steady progress in the screening and certification of police officers.  At the same time, that process must proceed prudently in tandem with actual progress towards reforming and building the capacity of the national police.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the existing strength of the UNMIT police force be maintained through the current mandate and that PNTL receive due support during the transition period.  He also acknowledged the positive developments in the security sector, but expressed concern over reported misconduct by some of the military and police officers.  Members of security institutions must abide by the law under all circumstances.  After the end of the state of emergency, all PNTL officers now reported to the UNMIT police commissioner.  The Government should draw a clear distinction between the roles of the armed forces and law enforcement institutions, and the armed forces must be accountable to the democratically elected Government.

He also stressed the importance of developing economic and social infrastructures and creating opportunities for all, particularly the youth.  Focused attention should be given to socio-economic and humanitarian issues during the current mandate period.  It was encouraging that a significant number of internally displaced persons had returned to their communities in recent months and that many camps had been closed.  The vital support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNICEF and other United Nations organizations were highly appreciated.  It was important to intensify the efforts to solve the longstanding problem of internally displaced persons without losing momentum.

Timor-Leste was fortunate to possess great resources generated by oil revenues, he said, adding that effective and well-planned use of those funds must be given consideration.  In that context, good investment on education, training and capacity-building of Timorese personnel was critically important.  The economic activities of the private sector, local and international, should be promoted.  The major focus for Timor-Leste now was shifting from maintaining security to peacebuilding and durable peace and stability.   Japan was ready, together with other partners, to support the efforts of the Government and people of Timor-Leste, which were the prime actors in the country’s transformation.

PAULO ROBERTO CAMPOS TARRISSE DA FONTOURA ( Brazil) said his country squarely backed all efforts to ensure that Timor-Leste achieved broad stability and development.  Brazil’s bilateral cooperation with the country spanned an array of diverse sectors, from judiciary training and legal development to military cooperation and agriculture development.  The sum of all Brazil’s efforts aimed to promote two key objectives: Timor-Leste’s long term sustainability and ensuring that long-term international engagement encompassed not only military and police aspects, but also development.   Brazil was confident that Timorese leaders would soon be able to use Timor-Leste’s oil revenues to promote the population’s general welfare and long-term prosperity.

Turning to security matters, he said that the “heinous” attacks earlier this year on senior Timorese officials had demonstrated the ability of the country’s institutions to respond to crisis, and simultaneously had exposed some fragility in the security sector.  He supported recommendations to maintain UNMIT’s police component, and reiterated Brazil’s position that the United Nations “must stay in Timor-Leste as long as it is required, lest a new precipitous withdrawal cost the international community all the investment made in the country”.  Indeed, the assistance provided by the United Nations was unparalleled by that of any other organization or individual country, and its multilateral framework must direct the international presence in Timor-Leste and maximize cooperation.

KIRSTY GRAHAM ( New Zealand) said her country was a regional partner and friend of Timor-Leste, committed to assisting the country through multilateral and bilateral mechanisms.  She strongly supported UNMIT’s mandate, as well as the need for a sustained United Nations presence to help Timor-Leste overcome its wide-ranging security, governance, institution-building, humanitarian and socio-economic challenges.  The United Nations was uniquely placed to assist the country to stand on its own and to ensure that precious gains were not lost.  Work remained to be done, but she was encouraged by the progress achieved following last year’s elections.  She congratulated the Government and people of Timor-Leste on their effective response to the crisis in February.

She said that the Secretary-General’s report had not touched on the areas of immediate concern to New Zealand.  In the area of policing, her delegation acknowledged the importance of progressively handing over responsibilities from United Nations police to the PNTL.  The criteria used to assess the PNTL’s state of readiness should help ensure that it was ready and help to identify areas where further support from UNMIT and others might be needed.  Given the critical importance of that process, it should not be rushed.  Very careful attention should also be given to setting criteria that were appropriate and measurable, and progress would have to be monitored closely.  Similar attention was needed for police training, and a single police model should be agreed.  Those issues warranted special attention by the new Police Commissioner, once appointed.

Another area of concern related to the national army’s involvement in maintaining public security, she said.  There were risks associated with that, including that potentially positive contributions by the army could be seriously undermined by allegations of human rights violations and a perceived lack of accountability.  She emphasized to the military and police leadership and the Government of Timor-Leste the importance of promoting and protecting human rights and ensuring that violations were dealt with appropriately.  Every effort should be made to counter perceptions of impunity.  She also hoped to see progress with the security sector review.  Security sector reform was essential for ensuring long-term stability in Timor-Leste, and she encouraged the Government and UNMIT to intensify their efforts in that regard.

She voiced New Zealand’s strong support for the development of a medium-term strategy, to be provided by the Secretary-General in his next report and to be agreed with the Government of Timor-Leste, containing benchmarks and indicators for UNMIT’s mandate.  Such a strategy would inform decisions about future changes in the Mission’s mandate.  Her Government continued to offer its support and encouragement to the leaders and people of Timor-Leste and UNMIT.  She looked forward to the visit to New Zealand later this month by Prime Minister Gusmão, Foreign Minister da Costa and other ministers.

ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI ( Australia) joined other speakers in welcoming progress made in Timor-Leste during the past six months, especially regarding the Timorese Government’s efforts to take greater responsibility for the country’s future, as well as to address a number of long-term challenges, including the issues of internally displaced persons and petitioners.  The Government had responded “quickly, positively and effectively” to the shocking attacks on President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmão in February, and he commended the Timorese people for their unity in the wake of those attacks.

At the same time, he stressed that much remained to be done before Timor-Leste’s longer-term stability and economic development could be assured.  The fledgling country required continued strong support from its bilateral partners and the United Nations.  Nowhere was that need more apparent than in the security sector.  The United Nations was working with the Government to ensure a smooth handover of policing responsibilities, and he welcomed the jointly developed criteria to gauge the readiness of the national police to assume responsibility.

Australia strongly encouraged UNMIT and the Timorese authorities to ensure that that handover was undertaken with a view towards achieving the identified criteria, rather than to meeting a fixed timetable.  “The challenges facing the PNTL should not be underestimated and will take years to address,” he said, stressing that, until the police force had been strengthened significantly, retaining an ongoing strong United Nations police presence to underpin security was vital.  “Without that, other gains will be jeopardized,” he said.

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said that the events of 11 February had rattled not only the people of Timor-Leste, but also the international community at large.  The quick reaction by the Government of Timor-Leste, in close cooperation with UNMIT, averting the incident from veering into the path of further violence and uncertainty, was commendable and proved that the people of Timor-Leste desired peace and stability.  The international community must respect and support that desire and continue to work together towards peace, stability and development in Timor-Leste.

He said significant progress had been achieved in Timor-Leste, but much remained to be done.  He was encouraged by the steps taken by UNMIT, the United Nations system and international partners in implementing long-term solutions to the challenges.  UNMIT had been effective in discharging its mandate, and he commended the Special Representative for his hard work.  He shared the Secretary-General’s recommendation to avoid a precipitate adjustment of the mandate and strength of the Mission, presently.  He also concurred with the Secretary-General’s view and the findings of the expert mission on policing that long-term efforts were needed to give proper traction to the reform of the security sector, especially regarding the reconstitution of the national police, in order to properly integrate the rule of law, implement economic and social developments and build effective and sustainable democratic institutions and governance.

UNMIT mentorship of the national institutions should be geared towards national ownership of all reforms and programmes, he suggested.  That would give the reforms and projects a better chance of enduring beyond the conclusion of the Mission’s mandate.  Successful transformation of Timor-Leste towards peace and stability required the international community’s continuing commitment, and in that connection he reiterated Malaysia’s ongoing support and cooperation.  Malaysian police had been one of the first contingents deployed to Timor-Leste under UNMIT following the disturbances in 2006 and it remained the second largest police contingent.   Malaysia also continued to provide assistance in human resource development for Timorese officials, through its technical cooperation programme.

JORGE LOBO DE MESQUITA ( Portugal) said he agreed with the Secretary-General’s balanced, pragmatic and thorough analysis of the situation.  While Portugal was pleased with the achievements in Timor-Leste, it reiterated the paramount importance of the international community’s continued presence and commitment, particularly that of UNMIT.  The common efforts of the international community, however, could succeed only if they were consistent with the sovereign will of the Timorese people.   Portugal commended the role played by the State institutions, the Government, the political parties and the whole society in the aftermath of the terrible events of February.  The fact that the country had not been drawn back into a major crisis was an encouraging sign of growing institutional maturity and people’s trust in the functioning of the State mechanisms.  Particularly noteworthy had been the Government’s firm action in tackling the issues of the F-FDTL petitioners and internally displaced persons.

He encouraged the Government to integrate measures, such as financial compensation packages for internally displaced persons and petitioners, into a sustainable, long-term economic strategy aimed at reducing poverty, creating employment and generating income, especially among the youth, as well as developing social protection mechanisms.  Financial settlements should be complemented by initiatives to ensure lasting reconciliation.

UNMIT was playing a paramount role in supporting the Timorese authorities, he said.  In the context of a holistic reform of the security sector, the articulation between F-FDTL and PNTL was a core element of peace and stability, and should be duly promoted.   Portugal supported a gradual transfer of policing responsibilities from UNMIT to PNTL, based on the latter’s operational capabilities, rather than artificial deadlines.  It was important, therefore, to ensure the necessary means and training of PNTL, notably through UNMIT and bilateral assistance.  Since 1999, Portugal had committed €442 million in official development assistance to Timor-Leste.  Its cooperation extended to many areas in response to requests from Timor-Leste’s national authorities.  His country also contributed police officers, civilian staff and a formed police unit to UNMIT.   Portugal was proud to assist Timor-Leste and was its largest bilateral donor and police contributor to UNMIT.  It also extended important support and solidarity through the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries.

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