Subject: JP: Timor Leste Elections Must Be Free, Fair: UN [Hasegawa Interview]

The Jakarta Post Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Elections in Timor Leste must be free, fair: UN

This month, the United Nations Office in Timor Leste (Unotil) is beginning to increase is presence in the country through a newly formed police force, which will number 1,800 by early next year. The special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, spoke to The Jakarta Post's Jonathan Dart about bringing peace and stability back to the troubled nation.

The UN Mission in Timor Leste was until a short time ago considered one of the great successes of the UN. Is that still the case?

We still have a chance that it will continue to be a success story. However, it will require an engagement in this country of a different nature. We should not just be providing assistance of the same nature as before. I think we must have a more robust engagement -- I would call it an "engagement".

A World Bank study has said that many of these newly independent countries after five years relapse into conflict. This is the real test.

I would say if there is even a risk there, we have to be careful. There are different political parties and different groups with different agenda and interests, and all of them are seeking power and access to resources; therefore the stakes are very high. And when the stakes are high, these groups may resort to extra-legal means to gain votes, or they may not accept the outcome of elections. There is a potential for major disagreement between the stakeholders.

What will the UN be doing as part of this "engagement"?

Let me give you one example on the electoral side. Next year, (Timor Leste is) going to have presidential and parliamentary elections. These are extremely important. They are the first national elections since independence, a period of five years.

I think the United Nations has a chance of showing that it can support the Timorese get these elections right. In other words, the elections have to be free, fair, transparent and credible. But to do so, we have to have a new modality of constructive engagement.

An example is the case in Indonesia two years ago, when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected. Remember that the elections were carried out by an independent national electoral commission. I spoke with Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda recently and he was saying the elections were conducted by an independent body and president Megawati Soekarnoputri accepted the result. I agreed that this country should indeed follow the good example set by Indonesia; that the elections be planned, organized, administered, monitored and supervised by an independent national electoral body.

Will the elections next year solve Timor Leste's problems?

I think the elections are the key to bringing permanence in legitimacy in the government. The current government is headed by a very admirable man, a person who I respect very much -- Jose Ramos-Horta. This country is very fortunate to have him.

But the government itself remains very much intact, not much has changed since before. The parliament is basically dominated by the Fretilin party and they continue to govern the country and there are some people -- Major Alfredo Reinado for instance -- who question the legitimacy of that government. I think the elections will bring about more permanence in the legitimacy.

Elections alone, however, will not solve the problem. There has to be accountability for the criminal acts that have been committed in the past.

The United Nations currently has an independent commission of inquiry which will finish its work in about four weeks. They are going to publish their findings and recommendations and these may lead to further criminal investigations and judicial processes. That process has to be carried out for this country to feel at ease with itself. You said the legitimacy of the current government is being disputed in Timor Leste. Foreign Minister Hassan recently supported Ramos-Horta. Do you think Indonesia should be seen to be taking sides at this time?

I think Indonesia should support the government here because, while some people may question its legitimacy, in my view this government is constitutional with the full approval and support of President (Xanana Gusmao).

In the end, Ramos-Horta was accepted by the president. He then decided to form this government, and they should stay in power until the next elections are held in April next year.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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