|Subject: MNEC: JRH before Security Council
May 5, 2006
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to the United Nations 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 441, New York, N.Y. 10017 Tel:(1) 212 759 3675 / Fax: (1) 212 759 4196 E-Mail email@example.com
Speech by H.E. J. Ramos-Horta
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
at the Security Council
New York, Friday, 5th May 2006
I am here again before you to argue for a modest yet robust UN presence in Timor-Leste from May 2006 to May 2007. And I am doing so against the background of the most recent developments in my country.
I will be candid in offering a sober analysis of the problems we are facing, the risks ahead as well as the possibilities of continuing progress in consolidating our still fragile democracy.
Allow me first to share with Your Excellencies my grief over the tragic death of an outstanding UN civil servant Jose da Silva Campino. He was a very dear friend of almost 30 years. Jose Campino was one of the finest human beings I have met in my life, a devoted UN civil servant, serious and competent.
His humanity and constant quest for knowledge about countries, peoples and cultures compelled Jose Campino to travel the world and he visited some 180 countries.
In September 1999 those serving in this Council, acting swiftly on the advice of our esteemed Secretary-General ended the violence in Timor-Leste that followed the UN-sponsored referendum of 30th August 1999. This was one of UN finest moments.
Your Excellencies and others in the UN family responded to the calls of our people and of millions around the word and took swift action. Within days of your historic decision to authorize the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) Australian Hercules planes began to roar over the mountains of the rugged island and hundreds of brave men and women in uniform disembarked.
You were not able to prevent a thorough destruction of the country but you prevented a greater human tragedy. Your decisive action saved many thousands of lives. The UN humanitarian agencies coordinated by the late Sergio Vieira de Mello also acted in a swift manner and a much feared humanitarian disaster did not materialize.
Timor-Leste remains one of UN finest success stories. With Timor-Leste in 1999 the UN entered the new and unexplored experiment in nation-building. The Brahimi Report and the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel have elaborated eloquently on the complexities of post-conflict and nation-building and have made convincing arguments that for peace to be durable the international community must stay resolutely engaged.
While we must all be cognizant of the political and financial constraints that militate against ideal solutions, nevertheless I believe that a long-term plan and commitment is most effective in securing the peace and is much less costly. Our experience shows that the short term missions are inefficient and costly.
We are grateful that following the deployment of UNTAET and the restoration of Timor-Leste’s independence in 2002, Your Excellencies authorized successive missions, the UNMISET and UNOTIL. These consolidation missions were crucial in ensuring the functioning of vital State institutions and the enhancement of peace.
My President, the Prime Minister and myself have on separate occasions early this year requested the Secretary-General the establishment of a Special Political Office comprising four main components, namely electoral assistance, UN police advisers, military liaison officers, and civilian advisers.
The Secretary-General responded positively to our request and recommends the establishment of a small Integrated United Nations Office for a period of twelve months starting on 21 May this year. I very much hope that the distinguished members of this august body will give due consideration to the request we have placed before you.
I will be candid with Your Excellencies. The incidents in Dili last week were a wake-call to us the East Timorese leadership as well as to the international community that we must not take for granted the apparent tranquility in the country and that urgent preventive measures must be taken in a resolute manner to prevent a relapse into the past of violence and instability.
I now would like to share with you my perception of the recent political and security developments in Timor-Leste, and the remaining requirements for a continued UN presence and support for one year leading to the first presidential and parliamentary elections since the restoration of independence five years ago.
As UNOTIL’s mandate draws to a close, Timor-Leste is preparing for the holding of the first post-independence national elections. The Government of Timor-Leste and its people are determined, at this crucial juncture of our country’s history, to ensure that the presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in a free, fair and credible manner.
However, most recent developments indicate that threats remain to our fragile peace and stability in Timor-Leste. Let me provide you with a more detailed background of recent political and security developments.
On 8 February, around 300 members of the armed forces demonstrated in front of the Office of the President, demanding a response to their petition of 15 January concerning alleged discrimination in promotions and ill-treatment, in particular of members from non-eastern areas of the country.
On 9 February, the disenchanted soldiers agreed to return to their military base. However, although a commission of inquiry had been established, little progress was made towards resolving the issue.
In mid-March, the situation culminated in the mass dismissal of 591 soldiers, representing almost 40 percent of the armed forces. Since then, the number increased to 594.
On 12 April, President Gusmão held separate meetings with Prime Minister Alkatiri and Brig. Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, where it was agreed to end the impasse, by (a) reinstating the salaries of the 594 soldiers until their final status is decided; (b) conducting a formal legal process on a case-by-case basis, (c) not discriminating against those who are formally discharged to compete for jobs, e.g. the PNTL; and (d) providing Government assistance in terms of seeking gainful employment.
On 24 April, members of the ‘594 Group’, along with several of their family members and sympathizers, began their planned five-day march and demonstration from Tasi Tolu (West Dili) to the cultural center Uma Fukun, near the Government Palace. About 1000 to 2000 persons participated in the demonstration that first day.
On 25 April, the ‘594 Group’ continued to hold demonstrations from around 8:00 hrs onwards, in which an estimated 1000 demonstrators participated. Unlike the first day, the tone of the protesters became more critical towards the Government, requesting a political solution to the demand of the 594 dismissed soldiers.
On 26 April, speeches continued with a more anti-government content, including a ‘594 Group’ member in full F-FDTL uniform who provocatively warned that if the problem was not resolved there would be ‘bloodshed’, and that the elected leaders should be removed if they cannot resolve such issues. The main speaker was a self-proclaimed ‘594 Group’ family member, who is incidentally the Secretary-General of the newly-registered political PDRT party, which had resorted to anti-government rhetoric.
On the same day, the ‘594 Group’ leader Lt. Salsinha accepted the Government proposal that I had conveyed to him, but also reiterated that the position of the ‘594 Group’ remained that there should be a resolution of their demands, otherwise they would call for a general strike.
On 27 April, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, with President Xanana Gusmão at his side, announced the establishment of an Investigation Commission to look into the allegations contained in the petition of the former F-FDTL members. The Investigation Commission was due to commence its work on Tuesday, 2nd May and we assured the protesters that it would complete its mandate within 90 days. Prime Minister Alkatiri has pledged that the Commission would complete the investigation and present its conclusions and recommendations much earlier, within one month.
The Government has appointed Senior Minister and Minister of State Administration Dr. Ana Pessoa, and Vice-Minister for the Interior Alcino Barris as its representatives to serve in the Investigation Commission. The Presidency of the Republic, the National Parliament and the Judiciary have all nominated their respective representatives. The Bishops of Dili and Baucau as well as the NGO Forum have nominated advisers to the Commission. I was informed late last night NY time by PM Alkatiri that the Commission of Investigation would began its work at once.
In the course of several days prior to 28 April I held conversations with the leader of the ex-FDTL members, Mr. Gastão Salsinha, who had stated that his group would accept the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission. Subsequently, the senior leadership of F-FDTL that they too would abide by the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations.
Following the announcement of the establishment of the Commission, the ‘594 Group’ demonstration continued, yet, with no more than 800 protestors present and no more than 200 of the Ex-FDTL present. The main speaker, Osorio Lequi, not a ‘594’ member but a sympathetic relative, who is also the Secretary-General of the PDRT party, told the demonstrators that the objective of the demonstration was not to establish a Commission but to find an immediate solution to the issues, and rejected the proposal, arguing that 90 days were too long to wait for a resolution.
On 28 April, a mob of non-‘594’ youth and some political elements, including PDRT, broke off from the peacefully camping protesters near the Palácio do Governo and forced the national police (PNTL) to flee. With the PNTL gone, the group became more violent, throwing stones and at least one Molotov cocktail at the Government offices. No major damage was done. Subsequently, the mob broke out in smaller groups and went in different directions, triggering violent rioting, fighting and arson in the outskirts of the city but it was the poor neighborhood of Tasi-tolu and the Taibessi market that bore the brunt of the acts of vandalism.
Most elements of the group of the 594 ex-F-FDTL did not join in the violence and dispersed to various destinations. By Friday evening, five persons were reported killed and more than 30 injured, including four policemen, one of which critically. 45 shacks were destroyed and 116 were partially destroyed all belonging to the poorest living in the suburbs. No foreign nationals, Embassy, UN property, major business, were attacked.
On the first day of the intervention by the FDTL 100 people were detained and handed over to the police. In the absence of any evidence of their involvement in the riots all 100 detainees were ordered to be released by the Dili District Court which reviewed the cases on 30th April (Sun). All 100 were released and this included several ex-FDTL elements who were also in detention.
There have been unsubstantiated allegations and rumors that many more people had been killed by the F-FDTL. Figures have varied from 20 to 60. However, I have personally made every effort to find out if there were any basis to these allegations. I spoke at length with the F-FDTL Commander Brig.-Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato and Police Commissioner Paulo Martins. All three have denied these allegations.
Upon hearing the allegations of the killings in the late evening of 30th April I spoke with Brig. Taur Matan Ruak who emphatically and credibly denied that more than five death had occurred. I urged him to immediately visit President Xanana Gusmao at his private residence. This was about 1AM on 30th April. The general promptly went to see the President as I had asked him to do and the two met for two hours during which the general was able to explain to the President the absurdity and the malicious nature of these rumors.
In response to the allegations that many more than five individuals had been killed during the 28 April incidents, the Government established a Commission for Verification of Data on the Dead and Wounded; in addition the UNOTIL Human Rights Unit, the Ombudsman and the National Red Cross have all been able to carry out immediate investigations into the allegations and have not found any evidence.
However, I can state here that if all the assurances given by my Government and the initiatives it has taken such as the establishment of a Commission to look into the allegations, as well as other separate investigations referred to above are not sufficient, I can state here that as Minister for Foreign Affairs I am issuing an invitation to appropriate UN Rapporteurs to visit the country and carry out thorough investigation into these allegations and others.
The situation has since calmed down. However, rumors and panic have caused an exodus from Dili to the districts. An estimated 10 to 15,000 of Dili residents have left Dili for the rural areas. Dili has at least 180,000 people. At least 5,000 more are sheltered in Churches, UNOTIL compound, schools, etc in Dili. The central government in Dili and the District authorities have been doing their best to deliver basic services to the people.
A positive development in the course of yesterday 4th May is that President Xanana Gusmao spoke on the phone with Lt. Salsinha who reiterated that his group would abide by the Commission’s findings and recommendations. Lt. Salsinha has also told the President that he is seeking assurances about his safety and is ready do return to Dili.
According to Prime Minister Alkatiri Lt. Salsinha’s safety is assured. Prime Minister Alkatiri has also told me last night that many ex-FDTL soldiers have made contact with the authorities in their respective districts.
The Government has established another Commission to look into the losses incurred by individuals and propose ways to assist them.
As I speak today, Dili is on the edge. Fear is palpable among a people traumatized by past violence. There are concerns about the ability of the PNTL to maintain law and order. There is concern about cohesion within the remaining F-FDTL forces. However, I wish to assure Your Excellencies that the same leadership that guided our people through these last 30 years are united and are determined to overcome this new challenge.
President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Alkatiri have held regular consultations and there have been frequent consultations between the two leaders with the leadership of the F-FDTL and PNTL.
The Government is in full control of the situation and Public Administration continues to function though at a much slower pace as many civil servants have left town. The F-FDTL has now completely returned to the barracks. The PNTL is charge of law and order.
I have been in regular touch with the Church hierarchy and I can inform Your Excellencies that next week upon my return a meeting will be held involving the two Bishops, President Xanana Gusmao, the Prime Minister Alkatiri and other Government Ministers. The meeting will serve to take stock of the situation in the country and look at ways how the State and the Church may enhance relations and cooperate to ensure peace and stability.
Notwithstanding the recent security developments, the Government is moving swiftly to prepare for the upcoming elections. The draft electoral laws (on presidential and parliamentary elections) were submitted to the Council of Ministers, which approved them on 26 April. The draft laws will now be sent to the National Parliament for a broad public debate, and we expect the law to be approved by the National Parliament after its recess in September. Having consulted internally and having taken due consideration of concerns raised by civil society, the Church and other stakeholders, we have called upon the international community to assist us in this endeavor.
I wish to now outline four most pertinent reasons for establishing an Integrated Office following the completion of the current UNOTIL mandate.
First, on the political environment, I wish to reiterate that the country is still in a consolidation phase, and that democracy and peace remain fragile. As mentioned earlier, representatives from civil society organizations, the Church and opposition political parties, whom I have consulted with, have indicated their concerns that law enforcement agency, the PNTL, has not reached the level of maturity and attained professionalism to fully resist political party influences. The transparency of the electoral process will directly affect the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections, and the prospects for the development of a healthy multiparty democratic system in Timor-Leste.
As concerns the timing of the elections and with the aim of precluding any unnecessary delays, the President and the Government have agreed to holding both the parliamentary and presidential elections before or by May 2007 in order to swear in the new Parliament and President by 20 May 2007.
While the Technical Secretariat for Administration of Elections (STAE) will take the lead in organizing and administering the elections, including logistics and operational activities, the National Electoral Commission (CNE) will supervise electoral preparatory activities, voter education and electoral campaigns.
The United Nations electoral Needs Assessment Mission that visited Timor-Leste in November last year has provided valuable guidance to the Government in its discussions on the electoral laws and procedures. We greatly acknowledge the important role that the CNE will play in monitoring the electoral process and providing voter education throughout the 13 districts. To this end, the CNE will have to be provided with sufficient financial and human resources, which naturally calls for an independent source such as the United Nations in order to ensure impartiality, transparency and fairness.
Secondly, I wish to briefly elaborate on the challenge of upholding the internal stability, the rule of law and respect for human rights before, during and after the elections. While the national police force has been trained by UN Police and bilateral partners and has the basic know-how to do routine policing, the most recent events demonstrated the inability of PNTL to act decisively and swiftly in crisis situations.
Its impartiality in a tense political environment may not always be guaranteed, particularly as PNTL deals with the first nation-wide elections. The presence of UN police will be vital to advise and support the national police in planning and carrying out their electoral-related security responsibilities, including through training and assistance in the development and implementation of a comprehensive election security plan, thereby forestalling the development of volatile and possibly violent situations.
The main focus of the Integrated Office will be electoral assistance. However, other support elements will be of equal importance in ensuring a free and fair electoral process, hence our request for continued civilian advisory and human rights support. While UN agencies and bilateral partners have agreed to take over most of the civilian advisory posts, we feel the need to strengthen the institutional foundations of the Ministry of Defense and the F-FDTL through the drafting and implementation of the organic law and other instruments for effective management. As the President stated in his letter of 2 April, Timor-Leste requires advisers who can lay the legal and institutional foundations of the security agencies.
Thirdly, the creation of a secure environment prior to, during and after the elections is of equal importance in the border region. It would require the engagement of impartial UN Military Liaison Officers (MLOs) to monitor and advise on the security situation, and to liaise with the Border Patrol Unit (UPF) and the Indonesian military (TNI) as required. Possible security risks at the border with Indonesia prior to and during the elections will certainly be mitigated through an impartial UN presence and professional advice on effective border management. A small number of MLOs would be able to provide advice and assistance to the Timorese Government, particularly PNTL in liaising with our own Border Patrol Unit (BPU) and the TNI in the planning and conduct of proper border security operations and in monitoring the border security situation. Their presence will certainly promote a secure and peaceful environment for the conduct of elections. In the past, a UN presence on an international border has also proven to be an effective way of easing tensions that arise from time to time through misunderstanding. Such a presence can provide impartial feedback and advice to reduce the possibility of conflict.
Fourthly, there remains the acute need for continued international assistance to the justice sector. While UNDP has successfully developed a Justice Support Programme, the funds made available are not sufficient to cover the provisions of support needed for the Office of the Prosecutor-General. Also, a significant number of human rights officers are needed to support the Office of Ombudsman and the National Parliament to ensure that human rights consideration is fully respected in preparation for the national elections.
As I stated in my letter of 2 March to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the type of assistance needed to ensure an environment that is conducive to a successful conduct of elections in Timor-Leste includes “support and facilitation, as appropriate, in key areas relevant to our political consolidation, including in the areas of reconciliation and human rights.”
On the issue of establishing a reliable justice system and fostering the respect for human rights, it is crucial that the international community remains committed to foster this genuine commitment to justice and human rights that exists in the Government, in civil society and amongst the Timorese people.
In light of the political and security situation and latest developments and in response to our modest request, the Secretary-General proposed the establishment of an Integrated Office as outlined in his recent report.
In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that the proposal contained in the Secretary-General’s proposal is a bare minimum that Timor-Leste requires. In light of the latest developments, the President, the Prime Minister and I consider it desirable to have again a robust international police force during the period leading to the national elections. Such a force of at least a company strength with appropriate logistical means is required by the volatility and fragility of the situation. The decision is in your hands, Mr. President, and this decision will decisively influence the course of events in my country, for good or for bad.
May God, the Almighty and the Merciful bless you all.