Subject: RSI: D. Kingsbury on UNMISET renewal

United Nations extends East Timor mission for final six months

By Melanie Yip, Radio Singapore International

First broadcast: 17 November 2004

This story was printed from

Title : Analysis: United Nations extends East Timor mission for final six months

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend the UN mission in East Timor for a final six months.

The extension of the mission to May 20 next year is an acknowledgement by the UN Security Council that East Timor has yet to reach an important level of "self sufficiency".

What are the reasons behind the Council's decision?

Melanie Yip put the question to Dr Damien Kingsbury, Senior Lecturer in International Development Studies at Deakin University in Australia.

DK: As Kofi Annan has pointed out, East Timor is not quite ready to stand on its own two feet. The administration still needs some assistance to ensure that it can function properly after the UN leaves. And there is, still in the background, a small security issue which the UN is aware of. They want to make sure in their own minds that the issue has settled before they finally leave for good.

United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan is studying several proposals on fixing the so-called "serious crimes process" to punish those responsible for the 1999 violence that killed 1,500 people. What were the challenges in the past in bringing the perpetrators of violence in East Timor to justice?

DK: The real issues revolve around two things. One of which is the political will to see these trials go ahead. It's very clear in East Timor that there is a difference of opinions, some political leaders such as the President, Jos Alexandre 'Xanana' Gusmão believes that the past is to be left behind. And he knows that pursuing these war crime trials will only alienate and annoy many Indonesians, particularly the Indonesian military. The other problem is of course, the judiciary , and the legal process in East Timor, which is still rudimentary, and does not function as a particularly high level, so they will continue to need assistance, in terms of being able to prosecute cases successfully. So I think those remain rather significant problems.

This revamping of the serious crime process to punish the alleged perpetrators of the 199 violence in East Timor, how effective will it be?

DK: To be honest, I don't know. I think we have to wait and see how effective it is going to be. I'm sure the intention is for it to be effective, but we have to wait and see how the process actually turns out in practice. I think that trying to anticipate at this stage is probably just guessing into the darkness, if you like. Having said that, I think there is, you know, a part on the judiciary and the legislature, a commitment to seeing this process being properly implemented. But it will really come back to issues surrounding the capacity of the prosecutors and the judiciary.

The United Nations Mission has 'six months' to focus on a effective 'exit strategy' in East Timor, what do you think some of the strategies will be?

DK: The strategies will principally focus on the capacities of the bureaucracy in the administration to function without UN intervention, and on the security environment. In terms of the bureaucracy and the administration, I think the UN will be trying very hard to ensure that it is going to leave behind a functioning bureaucracy and administration, one which can perform the necessary task of government, and not just collapse in a heap of confusion. And I think that there is some risk of that happening so clearly, the UN would want to try to ensure to the best of its ability that this potential problem is averted.

DK: The security issue, on the other hand, is a little bit more complex. There is obviously an internal problem with an organization known as the CPD-RDTL (People's Commission for the Defense of the Democratic Republic of East Timor) which has been stirring up a lot of trouble, this group comprises of ex-militia and unemployed youths. Now, that presents a real problem and I think how the government handles this, without the external intervention of the UN will really be a marker towards what type of society East Timor becomes. The tendency, unfortunately, is for it to be heavy-handed in its responses, which is while if it is justified in one level, really does not say much for liberalism and tolerance, which is what most outsiders want to see East Timor reflecting. The other problem, of course, comes from the border where there is still elements of ex-militias who are intend on destabilizing East Timor. They've certainly engaged in widespread smuggling, there's still considerable intimidation, and I think that, really, the international community is going to have to keep an eye on the external elements because they do have a potential, in the long term, to create difficulties that the East Timorese would not have the capacity to deal with. - RSI

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