Subject: Rebuilding system of justice top priority for UN in East Timor

[Joyo note: 'Rebuilding system of justice' implies there was a justice system in place under Indonesian rule that is worthy of being rebuilt. There may have been a system, but it had scant little to do with justice. Wouldn't 'Building justice system from scratch' be a more appropriate?]

Rebuilding system of justice top priority for UN in East Timor

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 27 (AFP) - The newly appointed UN administrator for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said on Wednesday his top priority in preparing the territory for independence would be to rebuild the system of justice.

He endorsed a call from resistance leader Xanana Gusmao urging the people of East Timor not to seek revenge for the killings and widespread destruction of their property by militias opposed to independence.

"Reconciliation is the name of the game," Vieira de Mello said.

Revenge is "a basic, understandable instinct but it is not conducive to building democracy", he told a news conference here.

Vieira de Mello was appointed on Monday as special representative of Secretary General Kofi Annan to head the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET).

He said he would leave New York on November 7 or 8 and stop in Lisbon and Geneva before taking up his post in Dili, the capital of East Timor.

Emphasising the need to "establish relations of confidence" with Indonesia, he said he would visit Jakarta "as soon as possible after I take up my functions in Dili".

He said that Gusmao agreed that it was important to get on with Indonesia.

"Timor is there," Vieira de Mello said. "It cannot move elsewhere. It is in their interests to achieve good neighbourly relations with all countries in the region including Indonesia."

UNTAET will include a contingent of 8,950 peacekeeping troops and 1,640 civilian police. The troops will replace the Australian-led multinational force sent to East Timor to restore peace and security after the militias ran amok after the August 30 vote for independence.

He said he expected "the same commitments from the new government as from President B.J. Habibie" to keep the militias under control and prevent them from crossing into East Timor from West Timor.

Asked how long it would take to prepare East Timor for independence, he replied "all sectors of governance need to be created, staffed and consolidated before the United Nations can hand over."

It was "impossible to predict how long that will take", he added.

Vieira de Mello set up the UN's civilian administration in Kosovo in June and said there were similarities with East Timor but also "fundamental differences".

The most important was that in East Timor "the endgame is clear."

The job of UNTAET was to "assist the people in achieving their long-frustrated wish for independence" he said.

He would help "create a Timorese national capacity to run their affairs in a competent manner".

Credible institutions had to be set up "from scratch", he said. "Justice will be priority number one."

The restoration of civil government involved "issues which are pretty far-reaching in constitutional terms", he said, and the UN would consult East Timorese leaders closely.

"The responsibility of leaders is fundamental in achieving restraint and avoiding revenge, however strong the grief of the people may be," he said.

He added Gusmao had been "consistently repeating the same message: no revenge, no summary justice, no taking of the law into our own hands."

When asked how long he would remain at his new post, Vieira de Mello replied "ask my boss."

But, he said, "the Secretary General has indicated that I will keep my job" as under secretary general for the coordination of humanitarian affairs in New York and "that I will return to it".

He said he had no minimum period of appointment to UNTAET, describing his new post as "daunting, but perhaps the most rewarding task that can be entrusted to the UN and one of its career civil servants".

Asked to comment on reports that Indonesia would have preferred an Asian head of UNTAET to a westerner, Vieira de Mello, a 51-year-old Brazilian replied "I am not a westerner."


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