22 August 2008

Minister of Foreign Affairs of RDTL Statement to the Security Council

Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Security Council,

Excellencies, Firstly, allow me to begin by congratulating Mr. Jan Grauls in assuming the Presidency of the Council and expressing my gratitude to you for convening this meeting. It is an honour to be once again to be addressing this eminent audience.

Mr President, Members of the Security Council, As SRSG Atul Khare has already mentioned, today is a poignant day for Timor-Leste, the UN and of course, this Council. On this day, we remember and pay tribute to the life and contribution of former UN Transitional Administrator of East Timor and SRSG, and a great friend of Timor-Leste, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and other UN employees who lost their lives on this very day five (5) years ago in Baghdad. Since my last intervention before this Council, a number of obstacles and difficulties, some grave and other of a different scale and nature, have arisen in Timor-Leste, but I speak to you today knowing that I have the resolute backing of the Timorese people when I say that we are whole-heartedly committed to the continued development of our young country as a democratic, peaceful and successful nation.

Mr President, Distinguished members of the Council, You have all received the Report of the Secretary-General. I now wish to address, in more detail, the way in which the Government plans to address the challenges that the report identifies. The assassination attempts made on our beloved President, His Excellency Jose Ramos Horta and H.E Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao presented a serious challenge to the institutions of state. However the State responded positively by appointing an interim President until President Horta was able to, on April 17, resume the full responsibilities of Office. The Government and state institutions enacted two measures following the attacks to maintain stability and public security and to allow for investigations to be undertaken.

One mechanism was the establishment of a Joint Command led by the PNTL and the F-FDTL for the conduct of security operations during a state of siege. The state of siege was a flexible and responsive mechanism which allowed for the easing of restrictions such as curfew hours during the period from 11 February to 22 May. As the Secretary General noted in his report “encouragingly, and in contrast to the events of 2006 the situation did not precipitate a crisis destabilizing the entire society”.

The efforts of the Joint Command – together with those of a range of political mediation initiatives - resulted in the eventual surrender of the President’s attackers and associates. It is important to note two things. Firstly, this operation was carried out without notable violence.

Secondly, it demonstrated a remarkable level of institutional cooperation between the political authorities, the defense force and the police services which illustrated the progress in the rebuilding of these latter two institutions and their interrelationship.

The Government is 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 is committed to determining responsibility and implementing corrective and disciplinary measures to avoid a repetition of such incidents in the future. As the Secretary General also notes in his report, the government is indeed committed to addressing these shortcomings. The Secretaries of State for Defense and Security will 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. It was established under exceptional circumstances, resulted in overall success and has now been discontinued.

Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council, Allow me to now draw the Council’s attention to our humanitarian situation. The process of recovery will necessarily be a complex and delicate one. In December 2007, the Government presented its National Recovery Strategy, ‘Hamutuk Hari’i Futuru’ (Together Building the Future). The Strategy offers a framework by which the Government, communities, civil society and the international community can harmonize their efforts to address the many and varied impacts of the 2006 crisis on Timorese society.

The Strategy is a whole of Government approach led by the Vice Prime Minister and operating through a process of inter-ministerial cooperation between the Ministries of Social Solidarity, Infrastructure, Justice, Economy and Development, and Defense and Security. Under the National Recovery Strategy, more than 14,450 IDP families have registered their desire for return or resettlement. I can report to the Council that with the assistance of UNMIT, the UN Agencies, and other international partners, the Government has facilitated the return of large numbers of IDPs in the past few months. Camps and shelters that existed for two (2) years are now empty. A total of twenty (20) IDP camps have now been closed and more than 3,650 IDP families have received recovery packages. This is evidence of the restoration of public faith in the improvement of the security situation and more stable political environment. Implementation of the National Recovery Strategy faces a number of challenges.

The Government recognizes that it is critical that the remaining elements of the land and property laws be passed, and that priority be given to the allocation of transitional shelter and social housing, for people who are unable to return to their homes. The Government is also alert to the need to address issues of food security among returning IDPs and Timorese society as a whole. It is also essential to deal with conflict between returning IDPs and receiving communities. Broader community vulnerabilities need to be addressed, as does the rehabilitation of community infrastructure. The Government is committed to working with UN agencies, NGOs and civil society to ensure that IDP returns are durable, and that recovery is meaningful for all Timorese people.

Mr. President and members of the Council, The Government also concluded dialogue process with the F-FDTL ‘petitioners’. It issued an invitation to the petitioners to gather for a dialogue in Aitarak Laran, Dili at the beginning of February. By the end of May, 709 petitioners had accepted the invitation to enter into dialogue. All of the ‘petitioners’ have now accepted the financial compensation package offered by the Government to return to civilian life. Aitarak Laran is now completely empty.

Mr. President and Distinguished members of the Council, The Government of Timor-Leste is committed to the notion that rebuilding the national police is a long-term undertaking requiring national ownership and continued international assistance for the foreseeable future. As the Secretary General’s Report noted “considerable progress has been made in the registration, screening and certification programme for the national police”. We continue to appreciate 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. As indicated by the Prime Minister in his report on the state of siege and state of exception of 29 May, and in line with the language of the Secretary General’s report, we envisage that PNTL resumption of policing responsibilities should be complete with the first half of 2009.

We are also happy to note that the Secretary General does not propose any reduction in strength of UNMIT police during the current mandate, as their continued presence at current levels is essential to the smooth implementation of PNTL resumption of responsibilities and the maintenance of stability. We hope that any discussion of a UN police drawdown would be de-linked from PNTL resumption of responsibilities and that a robust UN police presence is maintained through and beyond the current UNMIT mandate.

The Government of Timor-Leste realizes that the full reconstitution of PNTL will require our close engagement and we will make every effort to ensure that the conditions are met to allow the joint implementation of a transition process that we are developing together with UNMIT and UNMIT police. This includes ensuring that necessary logistics are in place; actions are taken to meet certification targets; and satisfactory institutional readiness can be verified to ensure that the PNTL can assume routine policing activities.

We want the PNTL to uphold the highest standards possible of professionalism, and therefore regard the certification process as an important step towards identifying those PNTL who have serious disciplinary and/or criminal issues that preclude them from the police service.

Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Council, As part of efforts to enhance democratic governance, the Government has made 2008 the year of ‘Administrative Reform’. Under the guardianship of the Prime Minister, A ‘Year of Administrative Reform’ conference was held in May 2008. The Government regards this as an important step forward in transparency, accountability and integrity of the democratic governance processes in Timor- Leste. The conference covered, among other areas, a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and an Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Prime Minister also established an Inspector-General Working Group to advise on necessary reforms required to expand the competence of the Office of the Inspector General and to assume the role of an Auditor General of State. The Government is also working at strengthening an independent and strong civil service.

Earlier this year, the Council of Ministers approved preliminary measures for the establishment of a civil service commission, which will be an independent statutory authority. Its aim will be to ensure an apolitical, merit-based civil service of the highest professional standards able to provide quality services to the Government and people of Timor-Leste. In this same area, I would like to draw your attention to an extremely positive development in Timor-Leste – the functioning our National Parliament.

The National Parliament has developed into a credible and dynamic forum for debate and dialogue. Discussion there is often head, as with parliaments the world over, but it is reasoned and productive too. It is a new experience for us Timorese to have our representatives debate public policies so openly and consider such a wide range of opinions.

Dear Mr. President, During the reporting period of the Secretary-General’s report, new challenges have arisen that require a pro-active and vigorous response from the Government.

The Prime Minister, when he introduced the law on the Rectifying Budget to the National Parliament on 18 July, described these challenges, many of which will be familiar to you as they are related to international conditions and are not specific to Timor-Leste.

These include the drastic worldwide increase in the price of basic commodities such as rice, which the Prime Minister called a “silent tsunami.”

Timor-Leste is a country that depends on importation of basic foodstuffs and, as the situation has changed, so must the Government response.

The rectifying budget contemplates measures needed to ensure that our people have the basic necessities of life.

All of the gains of the past years, including those areas in which international assistance has been provided, could be lost in instability if the Government is not pro-active in response to new circumstances. The Economic Stabilization Fund, with a capital of 240 million USD, is an important tool that the government is employing to tackle the effects of the rising cost of food and other commodities like fuel and construction material, throughout the world.

The packages we have offered to returning IDPs, pensioners and other vulnerable groups though cash transfers will be of little use if they find themselves in a scenario whereby previously estimated costs are no longer relevant in future months. Meeting the demands of our population in regards to food and shelter goes hand in hand with meeting our security obligations. The Fund will be governed in an open and transparent manner with all procurement following Government procurement laws and all expenditure subject to external auditing.

Mr. President, For the first time, the Timorese State will ensure social protection for those scarred by war and for the dependants of those who dedicated their lives to the struggle for national liberation. Categories for those entitled to a pension are: families of deceased combatants; veteran combatants, with more than 15 years service; those disable by the war who have been unable to work; and the elderly over 55 years of age, with a total of over 8 years of active service. The number of pensions granted was 12,538 with 631 pensions for living combatants and 11,907 to the widows and families of fallen combatants. Timor-Leste’ sovereignty today is a product of the sacrifice made by many thousands of our citizens whom we will never forget.

Mr. President,Distinguished Members of the Council, Timor-Leste is ever strengthening its bilateral relationships. The Governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia have decided to jointly discuss and agree on arrangements for the implementation of the recommendations of the Final Report from the Commission of Truth and Friendship. Some of the recommendations have already been subject to join efforts, such as the issue of border demarcation. In the spirit of mutual respect and to further promote friendship and reconciliation between the people of our two countries, we have committed ourselves to the faithful implementation of the Commission’s recommendations, which will be integrated into a plan of action within the framework of existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms.

The CTF Report represented an historic and important milestone in the search for truth and justice for the events of 1999. The recommendations of the report aim to address unresolved issues of state responsibility towards the victims of violence contained in the report. Above all, we have a duty, both to the victims and to future generations, to ensure that our society is spared similar violent conflict ever again.

In my closing remarks I would like to emphasize the unique partnership between Timor-Leste and the UN. We have made many strides forward in the last nine years. We cannot afford, at this stage of our country’s development, to lose focus. UNMIT is performing a very critical role and we are eager to see the UN stay. Keeping in mind that a substantive review of UNMIT’s mandate is due in early 2009, I would like to suggest to the Council that in order to cement the successes of our partnership, the UN should maintain a substantive peacekeeping presence in Timor-Leste until the next election cycle, that is to say until the year 2012. Thank you.


No comments: