Subject: Dili still needs international help, says Foreign Minister

also Timor ICG report 'unfair' says minister

Australian Network

Dili still needs international help, says Foreign Minister

<mpegmedia.abc.net.au/abcasiapacificnews/audio/200902/r338506_1537095.mp3>Linda Mottram reports on the International Crisis Group's latest study of security in East Timor.

Created: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 18:07:57 GMT-0500

<mpegmedia.abc.net.au/abcasiapacificnews/audio/200902/r338507_1537113.mp3>East Timor Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa speaks to Connect Asia.

Created: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 18:07:57 GMT-0500

Last Updated: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 13:58:00 +1100

East Timorese foreign minister Zacarias da Costa says a new paper by the International Crisis group, which identifies significant ongoing challenges for his country, is "unfair".

The ICG paper, entitled "Timor-Leste: No Time for Complacency", says while security has improved considerably, East Timor also face a series of simmering security issues.

It says that while armed rebels are no longer at large and that tensions have receded, necessary reforms have yet to be carried out in the security sector, and the justice system is weak.

Speaking to Radio Australia's <radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia>Connect Asia program, Zacarias da Costa acknowledged that there are significant challenges ahead, but says the report is focusing on the negative.

"We have done a great amount of effort to improve the situation in Timor and of course the report only mentioned the weaknesses that we are still facing," he said.

"It's a new country, it's a country that has come from a long conflict with a divided society and it's not in five years (or) six years that we can improve everything.

"The international community has to acknowledge the efforts that the government has made and what we have done so far to improve in such a short time - in less than a year - the situation in the country."

International help still needed

Mr da Costa has also emphasised that East Timor still relies heavily on international forces, and says it particularly needs ongoing technical help and assistance with reforms in problematic sectors.

"We still need to consolidate the justice sector, the finance sector and it has to be said that when Indonesians left the country, the country had to be built from scratch," he said.

"In terms of human resources, we are investing a lot in developing our human resources, with support of course mainly from Australia and other donors. I think (the) justice sector is an area where Australia can continue to support and can make a lot of difference for the country.

"We also have, for example, to look at the needs of youth, to look at the capacity development of our institutions, of our civil servants. These are areas where certainly it will merit the attention of the Australian government now that it is reviewing its development assistance to East Timor."

Asked about accusations made last month by the opposition Fretilin party that East Timor is in danger of becoming a police state, Mr da Costa said the government is "paying close attention to issues of accountability, transparency, political participation, separation of powers, checks and balances, human rights, the rule of law, and justice".

"These are issues that the government is paying close attention to and I think it's more important to look at the efforts that we are making, rather than pointing out constantly the weaknesses that we are still facing," he said.

Security talks

On Tuesday Mr da Costa met his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith, who emphasised Canberra's view of the ongoing need for United Nations and International Stabilisation Force personnel to remain in East Timor.

Their talks were held a year after the near-fatal shooting in Dili of President Jose Ramos Horta, and at a time when Australia is reviewing its assistance to East Timor.

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ABC Connect Asia

Timor ICG report 'unfair' says minister

Updated February 11, 2009 13:06:49

A new International Crisis Group Report says East Timor's security has vastly improved, but there are still threats that remain.

Presenter: Sen Lam Speaker: Zacarias da Costa, East Timor's Foreign minister * Listen: * <http://www.abc.net.au/ra/connectasia/stories/m1702871.asx>Windows Media

DA COSTA: Well I think the report is unfair to what we have done in Timor. We have done a great amount of effort to improve the situation in Timor and of course, the report only mentioned the weaknesses that we are still facing.

LAM: The report actually mentions that security has vastly improved, but it just states that there are still threats that remain?

DA COSTA: Yes, certainly, it's a new country, it's a country that has come from a long conflict with a divided society, and it's not in five years, six years that we can improve everything. And of course, international community has to acknowledge the efforts that the government has made and what we have done so far to improve in such a short time in less than a year, the situation in the country.

LAM: What about the international assistance force - how much longer do you think it should remain or maintain its presence in East Timor?

DA COSTA: Well you know that international assistance today focus more on technical assistance rather than budget support. We depend very much on our own today, but of course on the technical side, we will still need to consolidate our institutions, we still need to consolidate the justice sector, the finance sector. And it has to be said that when Indonesians left the country, the country had to be built from scratch. Of course, in terms of human resources, we are investing a lot in developing our human resources, with the support of course mainly from Australia and other donors. But again it's not in such a short time that we can do everything, as the international community and some of our critics are saying.

LAM: Indeed, Minister da Costa, Australia of course is reviewing its assistance to East Timor. Which areas of assistance do you think should be targetted?

DA COSTA: Well first of all I think justice sector is an area where Australia can continue to support and it can make a lot of difference for the country. Rural development is an area where we need to focus, but fortunately European Union is already committed to coordinate the effort of the development partners. But we also have, for example, to look at the needs of youth, look at the capacity development of our institutions, of our civil servants. These are areas where certainly it will merit the attention of the Australian Government now that it is reviewing its development assistance to East Timor.

LAM: And Minister, what about trying to develop a robust democracy in East Timor? The Opposition Fretilin last month warned that the country is moving towards becoming a police state, that the government is increasingly intolerant of dissent. What do you say to that?

DA COSTA: Well, we have seen that many times, but more important is that we are paying close attention to issues of accountability, transparency, political participations, separation of powers, checks and balances, human rights, the rule in law and justice. These are issues that the government is paying close attention to, and I think it's more important to look at the efforts that we are making, rather than pointing out constantly, the weaknesses that we are still facing.

LAM: And just very briefly, you think then that East Timor has moved forward quite a lot since the troubled days of 2006?

DA COSTA: Well, I think everybody that goes to Timor can see the difference, even the Australians that have been to Timor and recently the military that has came back from Timor has outlined those improvements and I am sure that the Portuguese foreign minister in his visit today and tomorrow to the country will certainly see the difference and highlight the great improvements that the country is living at the moment.


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