Subject: East Timorese premier criticizes legacy of UN mission

East Timorese premier criticizes legacy of UN mission

Source: Diario de Noticias web site, Lisbon, in Portuguese 17 Jul 05

July 17, 2005 3:27pm

Excerpt from a report by Katia Katulo, "Alkatiri criticizes UN work in Timor", published by Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias web site on 17 July

The fragmentation of public services and the lack of an adequate structure in the army, police force and justice sector was the picture Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri painted of his country on the last day of a conference entitled "Timor, five years on", held in Arrabida [south of Lisbon]. For Alkatiri, the blame lies exclusively with the United Nations.

According to the prime minister, the first UN mission, in 1999, led by the late Sergio Vieira de Mello [killed when terrorists blew up the UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003] began under the worst possible auspices: by disarming the Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL), "it [the UN] killed off the symbolic remnants of the resistance and one of the axis of national cohesion". Even though the UN's priority became the creation of a new army, the recruitment process, he defended, lacked adequate selection criteria and plunged thousands of veterans into social exclusion.

Equally, the new police force assembled by the United Nations did not escape the criticism of the government leader: "the first officers to be recruited were former Indonesian policemen, and today we still have problems because of that". The level of UN interference, Alkatiri explained, was such that "they got to the point of graduating several policemen and nominating one superintendent", a task which, since it did not feature in the list of responsibilities of Vieira de Mello's mission, should have been the prerogative of the government. [Passage omitted]

The United Nations, in the opinion of the East Timorese government, also carries the blame for the lack of appropriate technical qualifications in the majority of the 12,000 public sector workers. "Probably, when we get to the point of conducting a second recruitment phase, some 6,000 will fail in the tests", the prime minister admonished.

However, he described the judicial system as the "worst inherited sector" from the first UN mission, as it consisted of recent graduates without any sort of training. "The judicial system was where the government had to take the most drastic steps, not only because of the lack of technical expertise but also because we had to provide ethical and moral training", he said. [Passage omitted]

The most important question is what will be of East Timor once the UN staff leave the island for good. Despite all the faults highlighted, Mari Alkatiri said he was not too worried about this particular issue: "the departure of the UN means the government will have to redouble its efforts, but the population of Timor has already proved that it does not back away from a challenge", he stressed. Not least, he added, because the training activities and the development of expertise carried out over the past few years means that, for instance, 95 per cent of all ministerial jobs are now occupied by East Timorese nationals.

BBC Monitoring

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