Subject: SMH: East Timor shock as new UN chief changes his mind

Also AU: UN withdraws new E Timor envoy for lack of English

Sydney Morning Herald

East Timor shock as new UN chief changes his mind

Lindsay Murdoch September 29, 2006

THE man appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to head a new mission in East Timor has decided not to take the job, in a setback for plans to help the country recover from months of violence.

Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro, a former president of Cape Verde, who originally accepted the job earlier this month, has changed his mind, which will leave the UN mission in East Timor leaderless for weeks as international police and troops struggle to curb gang violence in the capital, Dili.

The mission is also under pressure to move quickly to help organise national elections scheduled for April.

The mission approved by the UN Security Council in August has been without a leader since it formally assumed responsibilities in East Timor almost a month ago. Japan's Sukehiro Hasegawa, who had led the former UN mission since 2004, has already left the country.

The new mission will consist of 1600 international police, including 130 Australians, and about 500 UN civilian personnel. Hundreds of Australian troops will also remain in the country.

Mr Monteiro told the UN this week that he decided not to take the job because of opposition to his appointment in Dili.

He told a news conference in Cape Verde, an island state in the North Atlantic and former Portuguese province, that he knew there were some "reservations" about his appointment in East Timor and "I was no longer interested in serving there".

"The functions of a representative of the UN Secretary-General in East Timor are very broad and must be exercised with the goodwill of all parties involved," Mr Monteiro said.

"It is better to stand down now than to create problems later on, especially in view of the complexity of the situation in East Timor."

Some of East Timor's leaders are known to have questioned Mr Monteiro's appointment, partly because of a perception that he would favour interests aligned with "lusaphone" (Portuguese-speaking) countries such as Portugal, Mozambique, and Angola.

Critics of East Timor's deposed prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, have often accused him of pursuing Mozambique-type Marxist policies; Mr Alkatiri spent years in exile in Mozambique and Angola.

Another criticism of Mr Monteiro was that he was a poor speaker of English and many of East Timor's young people cannot speak Portuguese, even though it is one of the country's formal languages.

Some leaders are known to be disappointed that Mr Annan did not select an experienced UN administrator for the job, as he did in 1999 when he appointed the Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, who served in the country until May 2002. Mr de Mello was killed in a bomb blast in Iraq in late 2003.

A UN spokeswoman in Dili said last night that she had not been told when a replacement for Mr Hasegawa would be appointed.

In the meantime Finn Reske-Nielson, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator in East Timor, would stand in as Mr Annan's special representative, she said.



UN withdraws new E Timor envoy for lack of English

Mark Dodd

September 29, 2006

THE UN mission in East Timor has been thrown into disarray after the appointment of a new mission chief was revoked when it was realised he could not speak English.

Antonio Macarenhas Monteiro - the former president of Cape Verde, an archipelago off the western coast of Africa - was named UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative in East Timor on September 19, but he has now been told the job is not his.

The Australian understands from diplomatic sources in Dili that President Xanana Gusmao was concerned by the choice of replacement for Sukehiro Hasegawa.

It appears no one at the UN had bothered to ask whether Mr Monteiro, a lawyer, could speak English.

When it became apparent that he could not, his tenure as East Timor's shortest-serving UN head of mission was terminated.

"Right now, there is nobody running the show," said a Dili-based Western diplomat.

"He (Mr Monteiro) was offered the job by the UN under-secretary for peacekeeping operations. He accepted the job, but it's now been terminated in between the offer and Kofi Annan's confirmation."

The UN had begun the hunt for a new head of mission.

Mr Hasegawa's bid to stay in the UN's top job in Dili was strongly opposed by the US, Australia and Britain, amid concerns he could have done more to prevent the troubled country's descent into violence in April.

Mr Monteiro, 62, was Cape Verde's first democratically elected president and served two consecutive terms before taking on the role of president of the country's Supreme Court.

East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta this week met the leader of the so-called "petitioners" - a loose grouping of 600 former soldiers whose actions in deserting the army earlier this year triggered months of violent unrest.

On a visit to their base in Gleno, 50km south of Dili, Mr Ramos Horta commended the rebels for staying away from political demonstrations.

One of the group's supporters, Australian-trained army major Alfredo Reinado, remains at large after breaking out of Dili's Becora prison with 56 other inmates last month.

Back to September menu 
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu