|Subject: TLGOV: Statement by Zacarias da
Costa, Minister for Foreign Affairs to the UN Security Council
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Zacarias da Costa
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation,
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
to the United Nations Security Council on the “Question of Timor-Leste”
10 September 2007
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Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
I shall begin by congratulating you Mr. President for assuming the Presidency of the Council. I wish to express my gratitude to you for convening this meeting on the “Question of Timor-Leste”. I should also like to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his comprehensive report and his Special Representative Atul Khare for an insightful presentation on the situation in Timor-Leste.
I am deeply honored to address for the first time this eminent audience. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs I have the privilege to speak on behalf of all the people of Timor-Leste to express our foremost gratitude for your sustained commitment to the development of our young country. Looking back at our past it is not difficult to conclude that the Timorese people bear on their shoulders a heavy burden of pain and suffering; but it is also apparent that they have always been able to overcome obstacles and difficulties in expressing and affirming their desires.
The three rounds of elections just concluded were no exception. These were the first national elections run by the Timorese and an important assertion of our ability of exercising our independence. The national authorities and the electoral staff trained by the UN carried out the necessary legal, operational, and logistical procedures successfully and in a highly professional manner. Overall, with the extensive support of UNMIT, the presence of international observers and the International Stabilization Force, the elections were peaceful, free, fair and transparent and a show of the popular display of hope, confidence and enthusiasm.
The first round of presidential elections was held on 9 April with a field of 8 candidates; the run-off was held a month later, on 9 May. As a result of these elections, former Prime Minister José Ramos-Horta was sworn in as the new President on 20 May, succeeding Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. The legislative election held on 30 June was a culmination of the long process begun with the presidential elections. Its result was a true test of the Constitution of Timor-Leste and the political and democratic maturity of the Timorese. In electing their representatives to the National Parliament, the citizens clearly expressed their desire for political dialogue and plurality together with stability and national development. The new 65-seat Parliament was inaugurated on 30 July, with seven of fourteen parties and coalitions gaining seats. The President of the Parliament was elected on the same day whilst the two Vice-Presidents, a Secretary and two Deputy Secretaries were elected the following day. I am pleased to say that we have 18 seats occupied by women, which is the largest percentage in our legislature’s short history. On 6 August, President Ramos-Horta invited CNRT President Gusmão, nominated by the “Alliance with a Parliamentary Majority”, a post-electoral coalition of four parties, to be the new Prime Minister and to form Government. On 8 August, Prime Minister Gusmão was sworn-in, together with 10 Ministers, 2 of whom are women who head the key Justice and Finance portfolios, and 14 Vice-Ministers and Secretaries of State. On 30 August a further 12 members of Government were appointed, bringing the total number of women in Cabinet to 5. There are still 3 outstanding positions of Secretary of State to be appointed.
Throughout the electoral process, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste (SRSG) Atul Khare and his UNMIT team provided invaluable support to us, urging constitutional as well as politically acceptable solutions. The Timorese did their part, but without the substantial contribution of the international community, including those of the UN Agencies Funds and Programs, of UNDP, UNIFEM and UNICEF, such positive results would have not been achieved. On behalf of the people of Timor-Leste, I would like to extend our most sincere appreciation to the United Nations as well as to our bilateral partners for their support throughout the entire process. I would like to acknowledge the support of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal. These countries responded without hesitation to our appeals first during the crisis and since then maintained a continuous presence on our national territory to guarantee public order.
The Government of Timor-Leste takes in serious consideration the recommendations of the Independent Electoral Certification Team. We are aware that the benchmarks underpinning the certification exercise were, in some cases, only partially met. We are committed to address our shortcomings in those areas to improve the conduct of future elections, including measures to guarantee the independence of the electoral authorities and the consolidation of the legal framework.
We profoundly regret the loss of two lives during the electoral period and the serious damages to private and public properties that occurred immediately after. These tragic episodes remind us that our emerging democracy needs sustained assistance to consolidate. Although I believe that there has been a qualitative change between April 2006 and now, the road ahead is still long and challenging. For this reason, the Government of Timor-Leste fully accepts and supports the recommendations put forward in the Report of the Secretary-General presented today.
Through their vote, the people of Timor-Leste sent a clear message to their leaders that peaceful dialogue and inclusive politics should prevail. They are committed to become a truly tolerant and pluralistic society based on the rule of law and the respect for human rights. The leaders of Timor-Leste shall facilitate that process by strengthening the democratic institutional framework and ensuring that the fruits of the economic development equally benefit all citizens. All political parties - those that now form the Government and those that do not, those that sit in the new Parliament and those that do not - pledged to adhere to the fundamental principles of good governance and to support a meaningful role for the opposition after the election. They showed their commitment by signing the Political Party Accord in May this year. Yet, to achieve those goals and keep faith to our word, we must overcome numerous challenges in the short, medium, and long term. The support of the UN will be essential at each step of this tortuous road.
The fragile institutional structure is the major challenge facing Timor-Leste, which, coupled with limited capacity and lack of skills and training, undermines the building of a culture of peaceful settlement of conflicts. Justice is crucial also for building respect for the rule of law, which is undermined by a widespread perception of lack of accountability. In this context, it is essential to solving the Petitioners’ issue as well as clearly defined roles and functions of the PNTL and F-FDTL while ensuring adequate civilian oversight mechanisms. The outstanding socio-economic problems include poverty, unemployment, violence against women and humanitarian issues, such as the return of the IDPs.
I believe Timor-Leste is at a crucial moment and should seize the opportunity to build on its recent security and democratic gains. In his inauguration speech, Prime Minister Gusmão set the short-term priorities of his Government and named consolidating security as first. This will include solving the Petitioners’ issue, the case of Alfredo Reinado and promoting dialogue with the F-FDTL. Also a major pillar of UNMIT’s mandate, a stable security environment would serve as the foundation of all further developments. For this reason, interim law enforcement continues to be the priority for the UN police. Maintaining the current contingent at its current strength would be essential until the expiration of the present mandate. Only a stabilized security situation would allow the subsequent transition from executive policing to the monitoring phase, depending on progress in the screening and certification processes of PNTL.
The coalition of parties that form the Fourth Constitutional Government is internally solid and committed to an open and consultative approach within the Cabinet, but also and especially toward all other parties. As an indication of that conciliatory attitude, Prime Minister Gusmão offered Cabinet positions to the former ruling party. The post-electoral period, however, showed that our nascent democratic mentality is still in need of substantial guidance. Consolidating a culture of justice, in which citizens’ rights are respected and disputes are fairly settled through legal channels, is the building block of a free, open and democratic society. UNMIT’s revamped support would be vital to build the necessary capacity in the justice sector.
The provision of protection and assistance to the internally displaced will remain an issue for some time in Timor-Leste. As much as we would wish, there is no short term solution to this situation and addressing the root causes of the crisis requires a medium to long term effort. Continuous efforts to guarantee security, resolve land rights issues, strengthening the judiciary, and national and community-level dialogue initiatives to re-establish national unity have to be undertaken. These are the preconditions for the full reintegration of the internally displaced and their ability to reclaim their lives and livelihoods. In addition to the challenges related to the return and reintegration of the around 100,000 persons who remain displaced from and within Dili since last year, we are now facing a new humanitarian situation in Viqueque and Baucau districts, where 323 houses were burnt and around 6,000 citizens were affected last month.
I would like to personally thank all Member States, which have so generously assisted our young nation in addressing the humanitarian crisis. Although we continue to rely on the assistance of our partners at this critical juncture, the Government of Timor-Leste remains primarily responsible for delivering assistance and protection to our people. In the recent past we have been fortunate to have received financial support through the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP). In the medium-term, the Government of Timor-Leste aims to be able to bear more of the financial burden to respond to the humanitarian emergency needs, as well as to enhance the level of preparedness and contingency planning for future disasters. Timor-Leste appreciates the support from the Central Emergency Response Fund, which provided funds quickly and predictably during the crisis.
As you can see, Timor-Leste is faced with all sorts of formidable challenges. The international community has so far been at our side. We shall not forget, however, what we learned from UNTAET that consolidation the state’s institutional framework is a long and difficult process. On behalf of the Government and the people of Timor-Leste, therefore, I shall ask you to give consideration to the possibility of extending UNMIT’s mandate until 2012. I understand that the SRSG also foresees the need for International Support, for at least two and half years after the end of the present mandate and I do agree with him that subsequently a mission with a peace building mandate should be created and stay in place for five additional years. I think however, that a peacekeeping mission would need to be in place longer than 2010. In expressing Timor-Leste’s gratitude for the numerous signs of continued engagement of the international community, let me assure you that we are strongly committed to put your trust and investment to good use.
On 13 September, the new Government will present its programme to the National Parliament. It has committed itself to a) strengthen the institutional framework including integrity and professionalism of the civil service, fight against corruption, investment in the education sector; b) fight impunity by creating a functional, credible, independent and impartial judicial system; c) reform the security sector by revising the existing policies and promoting dialogue among all national institutions to develop highly professional forces that could participate in international missions; d) continue the good work done by the previous Governments in the health sector, with a view to ensuring universal access; e) support the professionalism and independence of the media, while facilitating access for the entire population and to dedicate special attention to the needs of youth and women to enable them full and meaningful participation in all aspects of Timor Leste’s development.
The Security Council resolution 1704 (2006) mandated UNMIT to “promote a compact between Timor-Leste and the international community for coordinating Government, United Nations and other multilateral and bilateral contributors to priority programmes". In this regard, the Government of Timor-Leste has prepared a 24 months recovery programme to address the priorities emerging from the crisis. The Compact's implementation has begun with the formation of new Government of Timor-Leste. Also the Government of Timor-Leste has made contributions to key priorities emerging from the crisis and hopes that the development partners will enhance support towards these key areas.
The new Government is strongly committed to the economic advancement of Timor-Leste and acknowledges the remarkable job of its predecessors in building from scratch the foundations of the national development. To consolidate those achievements, it will pay considerable attention to the private sector and will encourage the opening of the country to foreign investment. In this context, Timor-Leste is keen also on deepening its economic and commercial ties with the countries in the region. Advancing the negotiations for accession to ASEAN is one of the first priorities of the new Government.
Timor-Leste is poised to participate meaningfully in the family of nations. We pledge to put into practice the universal principles of human rights to which we adhere and which are enshrined in the international covenants we have ratified. We are committed to participate in the best possible way in the United Nations to foster the democratic values of dialogue, tolerance and peace. We are determined to reinforce our friendship ties with the countries that are both geographically and historically close to us, including Australia, Indonesia, and Portugal.
In particular, Timor-Leste and Indonesia are seeking to deal with their past while deepening their friendship. Although I am aware that some in this room will not agree with me, the Government of Timor-Leste believes that the best mechanism available to deal with our shared past is the bilateral Commission on Truth and Friendship. We understand the reservations of the UN, but we encourage you to reflect on the fact that countries in transition to democracy, as both Indonesia and Timor-Leste are, must be prudent and sensitive when looking at their own realities.
I shall conclude by stressing that the Government of Timor-Leste fully accepts and strongly supports the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s Report, including in particular those pertaining to continued engagement of the FPU and UNPOL contingents until February 2008.
I am grateful for this opportunity to address you Mr. President and the distinguished members of the Security Council. I also wish to extend to the Members of the Council an invitation to visit Timor-Leste so that the new Government could better benefit from its advice.