|Subject: UN Wire- Ramos Horta, U.N. Envoys
Seek Support For New U.N. Mission
From UN Wire Tuesday 2nd October
UN WIRE An Independent News Briefing about the United Nations http://unfoundation.org/unwire
Ramos Horta, U.N. Envoys Seek Support For New U.N. Mission East Timor's transitional Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta called on the United States today to continue its strong support for a continued U.N. presence in East Timor, especially in light of recent successes, including a peaceful election on Aug. 30 and the installation of the new transitional government.
Ramos Horta is in Washington with U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor deputy head Dennis McNamara and U.N. Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina deputy head Julian Harston for meetings with U.S. officials to garner support for a new post-independence U.N. mission and the need for a continued security presence to ensure the U.N.-administered territory's peaceful transition to independence. The three envoys are scheduled to meet today and tomorrow with senior officials from the U.S. State and Defense Departments, as well as with numerous congressional figures, including Congressman Frank Wolf, Congressman Henry Hyde and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"Sometimes a success story is the worst enemy," Ramos Horta said, admitting that the success of the East Timor mission is increasing pressure on the United Nations to drastically reduce its presence there. According to Ramos Horta, however, such a move would be a mistake. "Any hasty withdrawal, even just thinking about it, can be destabilizing," he warned.
Ramos Horta said security forces are still needed in East Timor because of concerns of instability in Indonesia, where civil conflicts continue to rage in Aceh, the Moluccas and Irian Jaya. Pro-Indonesian militia groups in West Timor "do not pose a threat ... at the moment," Ramos Horta said, but since there are some figures within the Indonesian military that still harbor sympathies for these militia groups, concerns remain. Ramos Horta said, however, that West Timor's military commander, Willem da Costa, has been "very cooperative" and that many in the Indonesian military are concerned with the continued with instability in West Timor that results from the presence of the militia groups.
The focus of the U.N. mission that will take over from UNTAET "will be completely different" from its predecessor, said Harston, who added that unlike many U.N. missions in the past, the proposed follow-up mission has been well thought out and has been in the planning stage for some time. Harston, who has been involved in planning the proposed mission, said that the follow-up mission will focus on maintaining security in East Timor for a two-year period, with a security force numbering 5,000 -- about half of the present U.N. force. That force will gradually be reduced in accordance with the developing security situation in the country.
The proposed mission will use specialists to help transfer needed skills to the nascent Timorese government. U.N. civilian staff will also be cut by half in the run up to the new mission. East Timor needs the support of the United Nations because it lacks qualified personnel in some fields, Ramos Horta said, noting in particular weak expertise in the banking and finance sectors. A gradual pullout from East Timor will also help alleviate the negative effects of a smaller U.N. mission on the country's economy, since much of East Timor's economic recovery is due to the large U.N. presence.
Last year, the International Monetary Fund reported that the resulting economic boom helped push up the growth rate to 15 percent, Ramos Horta said. He added that in addition to expected large investments in the energy sector due to significant resources in the Timor Gap, East Timor is also seeking investment to build up its tourism and fisheries industries.
Presidential Election Expected In April Ramos Horta said the envisioned date for East Timor's first presidential election will be the end of April, to be followed by a formal declaration of independence "definitely not later than June." The consensus in the new Constituent Assembly, he said, is for East Timor's constitution to be based on a semi-presidential system like the Portuguese model, which will include the separation of powers, rather than a parliamentary system.
Ramos Horta, McNamara Address Justice, Human Rights Issues Regarding the prosecution of those who committed crimes against humanity in the time period around the 1999 independence referendum, McNamara said although the U.N. Serious Crimes unit charged with investigating such crimes got off to a "slow start," the unit has investigated over half of the all reported crimes, and just last week, issued the second of 10 expected major indictments.
According to McNamara, further indictments could include Indonesian military officers if enough evidence is collected and Indonesian authorities cooperate fully with U.N. officials. There is "no limit to indictments if we have the evidence," he added. Referring to those accused of carrying out the killings of three U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees staff members in September 2000 and a Financial Times reporter in September 1999, Ramos Horta called on the families of the victims to pursue cases against the accused within their own home countries.
Ramos Horta said that for militia members who were merely "foot soldiers" of the directors of the violence that swept East Timor in the wake of the referendum, an amnesty is in the works and could be put into law after the constitution is drafted, sometime next year. East Timor's Truth and Reconciliation committee will help such individuals atone for their past deeds and speed their reintegration into Timorese society, he added. For the senior militia leaders and the Indonesian military officers who aided and directed the activities of the militia groups, however, such an amnesty remains a subject of intense debate. "There is a strong demand for justice, but also there is a strong feeling, sentiment ... for reconciliation," Ramos Horta said. "How to reconcile the two is a test of leadership."
Despite praising Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri for her support of East Timor's independence, Ramos Horta had harsh words for the newly appointed Indonesian Attorney General M.A. Rachman, saying he is "extremely sceptical" of Rachman's commitment to carry out justice. According to Ramos Horta, "The man is unfit for the job of attorney general" and his appointment "casts serious doubts on Indonesia's commitment to justice. It is totally unacceptable."
Despite such problems, East Timor remains an "oasis of stability and security" in the region, Ramos Horta said. East Timor today has one of the lowest crime rates in the region and "not one Indonesian civilian was killed in East Timor" during the country's independence struggle, despite the presence of nearly 200,000 Indonesian migrants in the country, Ramos Horta said, adding that there is "no hatred, no resentment" toward those who have remained. Ramos Horta also said that even though 98 percent of East Timor's population is Catholic, Mari Alkatiri, the chief minister of the transitional government, is Muslim (Scott Hartmann, UN Wire, Oct. 2).
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