Subject: UN Wire: Gusmao Tells Council U.N. Help Needed After Independence

EAST TIMOR: Gusmao Tells Council U.N. Help Needed After Independence

By Jim Wurst, UN Wire
April 29, 2002

UNITED NATIONS -- East Timor's president-elect, Xanana Gusmao, told the Security Council Friday that his country is making progress but still needs assistance from the world body.

"We are now certain that we are heading in the right direction, but we acknowledge that much more needs to be done," he said. The council meeting was examining the role the United Nations will play in East Timor following independence on May 20.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan argued for a continuing but scaled-back U.N. presence. "The government of East Timor faces enormous tasks, before and above all after May 20," he said. "It must not be left alone. The international community must ensure that the investment it had made does not go to waste. It will still have a crucial role to play in helping the Timorese to consolidate their new institutions."

Gusmao told the council that East Timor needs to make progress in the administration of justice in particular. "Other areas of critical importance such as education, health, agriculture and fisheries still require strong support in terms of finance and human resources," he said.

East Timor's chief minister, Mari Alkatiri, elaborated on the challenges facing his country. "It was not always easy, as there was no blueprint or manual on how to govern a country. We learned as we went along," he said, adding that the new government will concentrate on education health, housing, and "agriculture and its development potential." He added, "This is particularly important to halt the exodus of the rural population to the city."

Alkatiri said aid would still be needed since it would be three years before any money would come from the oil and gas development in the Timor Sea. "We will ... still be relying on the support of the United Nations and the international community to consolidate the progress that has been made so far, and guarantee the stability of the country after independence," he said.

"Our struggle for freedom was a litmus test for the process of resolving conflict through peaceful means," Gusmao told the council. " I wish to reiterate the fact that the successful implementation of the Popular Consultation was a product of the United Nations working together, creatively, with the people of East Timor."

Annan issued his plan for the U.N.'s future role in East Timor last week. He said the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) would have three main areas of responsibility "that are critical for the stability and viability of the new state: public administration, law and order, and external security." He added, "That support will be reduced gradually over two years, as the role of the United Nations becomes one of providing normal development assistance."

Gusmao and Alkatiri welcomed the U.N.'s plan for a successor mission. "We welcome these plans and shall work together to make sure that the objectives assigned to this successor mission will be successfully implemented," Gusmao said.

Alkatiri noted, "The East Timor defense and police forces are not yet ready to undertake these functions and there will be a need for a continued U.N. presence with an executive role in these two areas." The military component of UNMISET would be phased out by May 2004

Annan also said cooperation with Indonesia "will be essential to East Timor's future stability," including drawing up the border, assisting the refugees still in West Timor and "cooperation in prosecuting those accused of the serious crimes committed in 1999." After the Timorese overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence in a referendum in September 1999, attacks by militia organized by the Indonesian army destroyed much of the province and drove tens of thousands of East Timorese into the Indonesian province of West Timor.

The council issued a statement that said the council members "share the view that the United Nations system should continue to play an important role in further assisting the people of East Timor" and looked forward to the establishment of UNMISET.

see also Security Council Meets

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