Subject: ABC: Tributes for former UN administrator

Also: Timor considers naming road after slain UN envoy

EAST TIMOR: Tributes for former UN administrator 20/08/2003 20:56:17 | Asia Pacific Programs

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Flags are now flying at half-mast in the world's newest nation as all East Timorese mourn the death of UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, the man who helped guide them to independence just over a year ago. In a statement, East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao said Mr de Mello fought tirelessly for democracy, human rights and justice in East Timor. He says the UN diplomat was a close personal friend, who endeared himself to the people with his sensitivity, humour and charisma.


DE MASI: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described Sergio Vieira de Mello's administration of East Timor as "brilliant" when he named him UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September last year. The career diplomat had extensive experience in nation-building.... in Bangladesh when it won independence from Pakistan in 1971 and in Cyprus after the 1974 Turkish invasion. In the 1990's, he dealt with refugees and other humanitarian issues in Cambodia and in the former Yugoslavia as the first UN administrator in Kosovo.

But Mr de Mello was perhaps best known for his work in East Timor. In 2000 he was appointed to head the United Nations Transitional Administration to prepare East Timor for full independence from Indonesia. East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

ALKATIRI: The people of Timor-Leste have lost one of their best friends in the world. He brought to Timor Leste a culture of dialogue, of democracy and of respect for human rights, they were not new to us but with Sergio Vieira de Mello, we learnt to implement what we were fighting for for many, many years.

DE MASI: Jim Dunn, a former Australian Consul to Timor when it was still under Portuguese control, worked closely with the UN and as an advisor to Mr de Mello when he arrived in Dili.

DUNN: It was an enormously challenging task. East Timor was pretty totally destroyed, 72 per cent of houses and buildings were destroyed, the population was demoralised and milling around, no infrastructure, no police, no law courts, no services , no post office, and 250-thousand Timorese had been deported into Indonesian Timor, and that's what met Sergio.

DE MASI: Jim Dunn says it was months before the United Nations apparatus was fully staffed and operational.

DUNN: And about 6 months after, he had some doubts, we had a meeting and he really talked about resigning. I pleaded with him to stay on because I couldn't think of anyone else who would be better able to deal with the problem. Because the Timorese leaders at that time were impatient to take charge of government and the UN administration was still taking shape.

DE MASI: East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri acknowledges that relations were not always smooth

ALKATIRI: Sometimes he fought very hard with New York, trying to change a lot of things, to try new ways of adapting themselves to the reality of Timor Leste- not only to come here and impose a solution. This was Sergio de Mello, Perhaps with others it would be much more difficult.

DE MASI: And sometimes perhaps you to fought with him as hard as he fought with New York?

ALKATIRI: Many times, we disagreed with each other, there's no question of it, many times, particularly after elections when we had to form the second Transitional government and the first 100 per cent East Timorese government, we disagreed but finally we agreed on ways to go forward.

DE MASI: East Timor's Consul General in Australia, Abel Guterres worked closely with Mr de Mello, especially during post- independence celebrations.

GUTERRES: He was very comfortable dealing with everybody from the highest to the lowest, and everybody..he travelled widely around the country, he knows every village he visits, they always warmly welcomed him, and I'm sure the news is now spreading across East Timor and of course...people will be saddened by it.

DEMASI: Former Australian diplomat Jim Dunn says the personal commitment of Sergio de Mello to the principles of the United Nations were evident in his work in East Timor.

DUNN: Sergio represented the hope of the United Nations, he had a realistic view of his task a kind of pragmatism you might say, but he also had a very strong personal commitment to the United Nations as a whole and in particular its humanitarian aspects, never forgetting what the UN should surely be about and that is advancing our civilisation.

Transcripts from programs "AM", "The World Today", "PM", the "7:30 Report" and "Lateline" are created by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcripts. ABC Online users are advised to listen to the audio provided on this page to verify the accuracy of the transcripts.

20/08/2003 20:56:17 | Asia Pacific Programs


East Timor considers naming road after slain UN envoy

East Timor's president, Xanana Gusmao, says the government is considering naming a road after slain United Nations envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Mr de Mello was one of at least 20 people killed in a truck bomb attack on the UN compound in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Tuesday.

The Portugese news agency Lusa reports a proposal is being studied to name a road leading to the main UN building in the East Timorese capital, Dili, after Mr de Mello.

The prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, has expressed great sadness at the death of Mr de Mello, who was appointed head of the temporary UN administration in East Timor in 2000 and remained there until it won independence in May, 2002.

Mr Alkatiri says Mr de Mello came at the right time for East Timor, and says the world's newest nation has lost one of its best friends.

21/08/2003 12:33:32 | ABC Radio Australia News

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