Subject: NYT: Annan Wants Longer U.N. Role in East Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The New York Times April 20, 2002

Annan Wants Longer U.N. Role in East Timor


photo: José Alexandre Gusmão, the former anti-Indonesian guerrilla leader who was elected president of East Timor on Sunday. Yesterday the United Nations detailed the broad economic problems that the country faces. Agence France-Press

Secretary General Kofi Annan, convinced that the new nation of East Timor will need sizable outside help, recommended yesterday that the United Nations stay directly involved in building the country for three more years. East Timor becomes independent on May 20.

Mr. Annan has appointed Kamalesh Sharma, who is now India's representative at the United Nations, as his special envoy in East Timor. Mr. Sharma has served India as a diplomat in Europe and Central Asia and as a government expert in economy and finance.

He will leave the Indian Foreign Service and take over next month as the top United Nations official in East Timor, replacing Sergio Vieira de Mello. Mr. de Mello, a United Nations under secretary general from Brazil, has governed East Timor since Indonesia abandoned its claim to the territory in late 1999.

In a report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan said East Timor had yet to build a justice system to handle rising violence, particularly domestic violence, or to settle land disputes. Recruiting and training a civil service, especially to run local governments, has taken much longer than anticipated, with fewer than half the necessary management jobs filled, the report says.

The police and defense forces will need another year or two of outside help, the United Nations says. The East Timor defense force is not expected to be operational until January 2004.

"I cannot emphasize enough that material and financial support for the full establishment of the East Timorese police and military are essential and require urgent action," the secretary general said.

He also put a high priority on courts, noting that there had been protests in February and March by prisoners detained for long periods without trials. There are not enough judges, and all parties struggle with demands for the use of four languages — Portuguese, Indonesian, English and Tetum, the dominant local language — in the courtroom.

"All these difficulties have clearly had a negative impact on the effectiveness of the judicial system, at a time when East Timorese confidence in the nascent judicial system is vital," Mr. Annan said.

The decision by the interim Timorese leadership to introduce Portuguese has been widely criticized. Portugal, the former colonizer, abandoned East Timor in the mid-1970's, opening the way for an Indonesian invasion. The Portuguese government is fostering the project, paying for teacher training in a language that almost no Timorese speak when other educational needs are enormous.

Mr. Annan's appeal for East Timor comes when billions of dollars are also being sought for rebuilding Afghanistan, a much larger country with greater internal strife, and Congo, a huge undeveloped country that has been further weakened by civil war. United Nations officials do not want to see East Timor fade from the world's attention because fighting has ended there.

As the current United Nations mission in East Timor draws to a close, Mr. Annan said in his report, "East Timor is at peace, fundamental government structures are in place, and the independence that it has struggled over for so many years is very close." But he added, "All of these are at risk if they are not reinforced through a continued international presence and commitment."

Economically, East Timor will need "a sustained high level of development assistance, at least during the first three years after independence."

The country, now dependent on agriculture, is expected to earn billions of dollars from gas and oil reserves being developed in the Timor Sea in projects with Australia. But that income, and the development of tourism, is only a hope.

In August 1999, a vote in the territory for a break with Indonesia led to weeks of violence by pro-Indonesian militias. An Australian-led peacekeeping force restored order, preparing the way for a United Nations administration, but not before much of Dili, the capital, and other towns had been destroyed or extensively damaged, and tens of thousands of Timorese had fled the territory or been driven from their homes. The country has just under a million people.

Last Sunday, the East Timorese elected their first president, José Alexandre Gusmão, the former anti-Indonesian guerrilla leader known as Xanana.

Although he had in the past expressed qualms about leading the country politically, he won a landslide victory, with over 82 percent of the vote, according to the United Nations.

In an interview, Mr. Sharma, who will head the the new United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor, said that while he expected to meet with Mr. Gusmão and his cabinet ministers regularly, the United Nations would put a high priority on turning over decision-making to the Timorese.

Nine United Nations agencies as well as the United Nations' peacekeeping department, which assigns police and military trainers, will be called on for expertise.

This is the first United Nations assignment for Mr. Sharma, a graduate of Delhi University and King's College, Cambridge. While based in Geneva, however, he was a spokesman for developing countries at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

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