Subject: TLGOV: JRH Statement to UN SC February 12, 2007
United Nations Security Council
Sixty-second year 5628th meeting
Monday, 12 February 2007, 10 a.m.
The President: I thank Mr. Khare for his briefing. I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. José Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.
Mr. Ramos-Horta (Timor-Leste): First, allow me to congratulate you, Sir, on your assumption of the presidency of the Security Council for this month and to thank you for giving me an opportunity to address the Council today. I would like to commend the Secretary-General for the report before the Council (S/2007/50), and for the statement just delivered by his Special Representative, Mr. Atul Khare. I generally concur with its observations and recommendations. On behalf of the Timorese people, I thank the Secretary- General for having appointed such distinguished diplomats as Mr. Atul Khare and his team. I thank them for their enormous efforts and good work in my country.
Before I continue, I have to apologize; I may have to leave before the end of this meeting for a meeting with the Secretary-General. I apologize if I have to step out before the meeting concludes, but members of my staff will stay behind.
I would like first to address the question of the security sector. In May 2006, when Portuguese, Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian forces readily came to our assistance, there was a different situation: they saw a different Dili compared to the relative state of calm and order that we have returned to today. Then, in May 2006, the Timorese national police, our police service, had disintegrated in the capital, and our defence forces were besieged.
Since then, the security arrangements established on the ground have been working. They provide an indispensable mechanism for coordination and cooperation in the security sector and thereby make an essential contribution to preserving the integrity, national reconciliation and development of the country.
In the police sector, the arrangement between the United Nations and my Government on the restoration and maintenance of public security in Timor-Leste is addressing both policy and operational issues of police reform. Because the Special Representative has touched upon details of the training and reintegration of our police force, and for the sake of saving time for the Security Council, I will skip some of my prepared remarks in that regard.
Under the United Nations Police Commissioner, Rodolfo Tor, the policing operations are starting to have an impact on returning law and order to the streets of Dili. I thank Mr. Atul Khare for his leadership and Police Commissioner Rodolfo Tor for his efforts. I also wish to express our sincere appreciation for the previous acting United Nations Police Commissioner, Mr. Antero Lopes, for his leadership in undertaking a planning and operational assignment and bringing it to a successful conclusion despite scant resources.
In view of the still-fragile and precarious conditions in my country, the President of the Republic, the President of the National Parliament and I believe it prudent to request the Council to consider the deployment of an additional formed police unit to be provided by Portugal. The Portuguese authorities stand ready to provide such a force in the lead-up to elections. As the past six months have shown, the Portuguese National Republican Guard (GNR) is a very effective force that served very well in Timor- Leste in 2001 to 2003 and has done so again more recently. It is for that reason that we have specifically requested that the GNR send us an additional unit to our country. We know that the Portuguese side is ready to deploy such a force, if requested by the United Nations.
External support cannot be the solution in the long run. Therefore, my Government, supported by the United Nations, has made it an urgent priority to review and reform the entire security sector: the police and armed forces, including their management and overall governance structure.
Forca 2020” is a comprehensive study, just issued by the Ministry of Defence, that defines the objectives of the armed forces for the next 15 years and provides an assessment of what is needed to face the challenges ahead. That includes the creation of a military academy to improve training and doctrine, the deployment of military personnel to United Nations peacekeeping missions and the use of engineering units for civil protection tasks in the event of natural disaster.
To that end, new legislation has been adopted promulgating the regime for military promotions, the code of military discipline, the organic law of the Ministry of Defence, amendments to the organic law of the defence forces and a draft law on conscription into military service that has just been adopted by the parliament.
With regard to reconciliation, allow me to say a few words on the status of our armed forces, the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL). As members know, I am Minister of Defence, which is a role that I had not envisaged. When I accepted the responsibility of that role in the midst of the crisis, I stated to the parliament and to our people that I viewed it more as that of a chaplain and moderator, building bridges among the forces and with the communities. Both President Xanana Gusmão and I have put a lot of effort into healing the wounds between the police force and the F-FDTL. A number of joint initiatives are under way to facilitate that.
I can say proudly that our armed forces have demonstrated remarkable discipline since the tragic events of 25 May 2006. When they were ordered back to their barracks — having been called in at the end of the end of April to carry out law-and-order duties, which was not their responsibility — they complied. My recent decision to deploy them to guard the Government palace has not been challenged by the public.
Our defence force was the subject of malicious rumours that proved to be unfounded. In its report, the Independent Special Commission of Inquiry found no basis for the allegation that the defence force had been involved in massacres. The pride of the force was wounded, but the combined effect of being cleared of the rumours of mass killings and resuming some regular activities is assisting them in healing that wounded pride.
Regarding the issue of the so-called petitioners, we have made some progress. On 27 April 2006, at the beginning of the crisis, the then-Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, alongside President Xanana Gusmão, announced the establishment of a Commission of Notables to look into the allegations contained in the petition signed by 594 former members of the defence force. The report of the Commission is ready and will be released very soon, in the next few days.
With regard to the issue of national reconciliation more generally, I wish to place on record our appreciation to all our political, community and church leaders for their efforts. I thank the Government of Norway for engaging Gunnar Stålsett, retired Lutheran Bishop of Oslo and a former member of the Nobel Committee, as its special envoy to assist us in the dialogue process. I wish also to thank the European Commission, through the Club of Madrid, which has also assisted us in the dialogue process. In particular, I would like to highlight the event of 10 December 2006, led by President Xanana Gusmão, which brought the national leadership together in a traditional peace ceremony during which Timorese leaders publicly acknowledged collective responsibility for the crisis.
President Gusmão has also set up a commission involving our youth, who are among the most disadvantaged and disaffected groups in our society. They have not yet earned the dividend of our hard-won freedom, which we and they so eagerly expected and fought for. We must pay attention to them. They need to build a stronger sense of identity through stronger participation in our nation-building and community relations efforts.
The combined efforts of President Xanana Gusmão’s national reconciliation programme, the Government’s “Simu Malu” initiative, my personal engagement and United Nations police security measures are starting to bring under control criminal gangs and martial arts groups, recruited primarily from among the jobless youth.
The Government’s “Simu Malu” policy initiative was born of the need to address the problem of the 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) at that time. “Simu Malu” — which, in our native Tetum language, means “to receive each other” — means that IDPs are being received back into their communities, in line with the internationally accepted principle of voluntary return in safety and dignity. The programme has been successful to an extent. Still, 25,000 to 29,000 IDPs continue to live in camps in and around Dili.
Efforts are being made to access the real damage that we suffered during the crisis, through the development of an emergency reconstruction plan that includes a survey in the field that will enable us to plan for the relocation of families. At the same time, the Government has made land available for the building of new housing, which, although it will not cover all needs, will be a first step in providing support to displaced families, especially those at greater risk.
With the help of development partners, temporary houses have been built in several areas of Dili to provide shelter for IDPs, who are at risk owing to the rainy season. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those agencies and the donor community for their immense efforts and for responding generously to the United Nations appeals, as well as for their bilateral and local contributions.
The violence of last year led to the destruction of an estimated 2,500 houses, most of which were burned. The often violent manner in which many people were forced to flee their homes — some under severe and imminent threat to their lives, others intimidated by the throwing of stones onto the roofs of their houses — has brought to light a serious strain on our young country: the violence of today is part of a collective trauma caused by the violence of our past. Overcoming it constitutes one of the greatest challenges for our generation. We must learn to settle our disputes peacefully and to enjoy our individual freedoms responsibly.
We remain committed to achieving our long-term vision for the justice sector: an accessible system capable of delivering equal and efficient justice, upholding the rule of law and protecting the democratic system of the State, with the ultimate goal of sustainable growth for the benefit of our people. From a difficult starting point in 2000, we have come a long way in constructing our legal and judicial system with clear priorities: developing the legal framework for the country and institutional and human resources capacity, together with increased legal awareness among the general population. With the support of like-minded partners and through the United Nations Development Programme, we are slowly but steadily progressing. Since mid-2006, as a result of focused, systematic capacity-building strategies and coherent in-country training programmes, we have had a small but qualified cadre of Timorese court actors working alongside and under the mentorship of more than 15 international judicial practitioners.
However, the 2006 crisis has had an enormous impact on our nascent judicial system, which was created to deal with a normal development scenario. The system is determined to provide justice for the people and to help restore social peace. Clear steps have been taken in that regard, with several sensitive cases having been investigated and already being tried. However, owing to the additional burden and complexity of the caseload resulting from the events of April and May 2006, the system is overstretched and not prepared to deal with this post-crisis scenario.
The State is united and determined to see justice done. The principal framework of assistance that the United Nations is providing to the sector must be enhanced, so that we can respond to the immediate need for justice delivery without losing sight of our long-term goal: developing the capacity of our institutions and human resources.
We are facing a twofold battle: the delivery of quick, efficient and impartial justice, as recommended by the Special Commission of Inquiry, alongside the long-term endeavour of forming — not reforming — a judicial system from scratch, knowing that the evidence indicates that the judicial reform process in any country needs 10 to 15 years to bear fruit. High, unrealistic expectations without adequate support to fulfil them can create unnecessary anxiety and lead to failure in both battles.
Notwithstanding our national reconciliation policy, we cannot accept impunity. Several cases currently on trial, including that of the former Interior Minister and cases relating to F-FDTL soldiers, demonstrate our commitment to equal and efficient justice.
In the case of Major Alfredo Reinado and of others implicated in the violence of May 2006, my Government, with United Nations support, has opted for dialogue — a prudent approach aimed at ensuring that justice can prevail without the use of force.
Another critical milestone on Timor-Leste's path to restoring stability will be this year's presidential and parliamentary elections. Parliament has recently adopted electoral laws governing both elections which provide a legal framework for a parliamentary, multi-party, party-list system, with a 25 per cent female representation quota, and for the establishment of an independent electoral commission. The United Nations Independent Electoral Certification Team has provided constructive feedback in the three reports it has submitted to date. They are being considered in the framework of the regulations to be submitted for approval by the National Elections Commission and in discussions on an interpretative law.
The President has set 9 April 2007 as the date of the presidential elections and will announce the date of parliamentary elections immediately following the presidential ones. According to Timor-Leste’s electoral law, parliamentary elections must be held within 80 days of the announcement.
We are confident that, with extensive support from UNMIT, the presence of international observers and with an internationally supervised body of laws and processes in place, we can organize and conduct peaceful, free, fair and transparent elections.
Another cornerstone of Timor-Leste's development is economic stability, in particular the further exploitation of its petroleum reserves. Timor- Leste is blessed with significant natural resources that, if well managed, may guarantee our economic future.
The petroleum fund, which was established to guarantee transparency in managing Timor-Leste's petroleum income and to ensure that future generations benefit from our resources, entered into effect only two years ago and has already accumulated $1 billion.
The National Parliament will soon ratify two additional agreements with Australia related to the exploration of oil and gas in the Timor Sea, in particularly in the area called Greater Sunrise. We expect, following ratification by the two sides and the exchange of notes, that the parties involved in the Timor Sea will immediately begin additional investments that will bring significant new revenues to Timor-Leste within a few years.
In that context, I would like to commend my predecessor, Mr. Mari Alkatiri, for his able and pragmatic leadership in the context of the negotiation of all petroleum treaties and concerning our maritime boundary treaty with Australia. I wish also to commend and thank Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer for their equally pragmatic and sensitive approach to the negotiations in regard to the three treaties.
In my inaugural speech as Prime Minister of Timor-Leste in July, I emphasized the fact that I would govern as an advocate for the poor. Poverty eradication, progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals, and the establishment of conditions for good governance will thus continue to be the guiding principles of my Government.
We have already increased the number of “cash for work” programmes; we have expedited rural development programmes across all villages; we have ensured that local leaders such as the Chefes de Suco have better and greater resources to do their jobs; we have increased scholarships for the young; we have provided financial support to widows, including those affected by last year's events; we have undertaken a radical review of our tax system, with the support of the International Monetary Fund; and we have streamlined the business development process, including legislative changes aimed at ensuring that doing business and creating jobs in Timor-Leste becomes more a attractive proposition.
However, building a State almost from scratch is a Herculean task. That is why, at this critical juncture, we need the continuing assistance and sustained commitment of the United Nations to successfully carry out this lengthy and arduous task.
When we look at our own region and at the success stories of Singapore, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and others, we are reminded that success did not come to them overnight. It was the result of decades of dedicated and disciplined institution-building, socioeconomic development, massive investment in vocational training and education, and the ability to convert setbacks into opportunities for the future.
Having said this, we do not wish to make excuses for our own shortcomings in the area of governance. But we believe that all of us have a better understanding of the challenges facing us than we did six years ago. I therefore plead with the United Nations to stay the course with us, so that Timor-Leste can eventually become a lasting success story. The extension of UNMIT's mandate for another 12 months would be a first step in that regard.
We know that Timor-Leste is not the centre of our universe, and that, tragically, Timor-Leste is but one of many of the conflict situations of which the United Nations is seized and that requires its attention. However, the international community has made significant investments in our country since 1999. It has been labeled a success story, and rightly so. Some in the past have been overly optimistic, but that can lead people to lose perspective, to lose sight of reality, and turn pessimistic at the first sign of trouble. One day they label East Timor a success story, the next day they call it a failure.
We not a failing State. We are a State that has existed for only five years, and what we have achieved so far — thanks not only to our own people and our own leadership but to the generous commitment of the international community — has been impressive. The crisis of April-May and of the following weeks is the type of crisis that many developing countries face at the beginning of their history and that some still face many decades after their independence.
The important thing that we have learned in the case of Timor-Leste and of other post-conflict situations is that the international community, bilaterally or through the United Nations, must remain committed and steady for the medium and long term. There are no quick fixes.
Again, I emphasize that we are conscious of the fact that we are not the centre of the universe, and that, unfortunately, there are many other conflict situations that require the attention of the United Nations. But an extra effort and investment in our country would go a long way towards consolidating peace and security there. Therefore, the extension of UNMIT for a another 12 months is absolutely necessary.
I would like to be frank — allow me the frankness of someone who basically grew up with the United Nations. I began lobbying this very body — the Security Council — for the first time in December 1975, and that allows me some liberty to be frank with the United Nations. I am sure that members would agree that it would be unrealistic to expect even a simple take-away food restaurant in Manhattan to require less than one or two years of investment to achieve profitable and sustained management. Therefore, it might require a bit more time — more than a year or two — to build a nation-State.
We believe, therefore, that — whether in Timor- Leste or in any post-conflict situation — there has to be long-term commitment. In the case of Timor-Leste, we are talking about a six-month mandate — in this particular case, six months after the establishment of UNMIT by the Council in August. UNMIT has not completely recruited the required personnel as set out in the submission by the Secretary-General to the Council. A six-month mandate creates instability for those who are recruited and sent on mission. People are individuals, with family commitments. They need certainty before they are sent off to Timor-Leste, or Afghanistan or the Congo. And when they have committed to a mission for six months, before the end of the mission — three months before — they begin to search the Internet looking for other jobs. Their attention begins to focus on job possibilities on the Internet, rather than on the job on the ground. It is with such frankness that I am asking the Council to seriously consider extending the Mission for 12 months.
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