Press Releases

    21 May 2002


    NEW YORK, 20 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of this morning's address by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the Security Council meeting on East Timor:

    Many of the meetings that take place in this chamber concern conflict and tragedy. Today, we meet to celebrate a day of joy for a country that has overcome the conflicts and tragedies of the past.

    Shortly after midnight in Dili, the United Nations flag was lowered, and the flag of an independent East Timor was raised. History was made as the East Timorese marked the birth of their country -- the first independent nation of the new millennium.

    This is a cause for celebration for the people of that country, who have shown such courage and determination in pursuing their goal. But it is also an occasion to recall the long and painful road that took them to nationhood -- a road which required many difficult decisions and severe sacrifices. It is an occasion to remember those East Timorese who dreamed of this day, but did not live to see it happen. This is their day too.

    It is also a moment of inspiration for the entire international community. The people of East Timor have set an example to other nations in their steadfast adherence to the core values of the Charter -- to reconciliation and the creation of democratic institutions that can safeguard human rights. Their focus on the future, rather than on the past, augurs well for the future.

    And so today, we send our warmest congratulations to the people of East Timor, including President Gusmão, Prime Minister Alkatiri and Foreign Minister Ramos-Horta, all of whom have visited this Council, and who today assume the solemn responsibility of leading their nation. We wish them courage as they tackle the many difficult challenges that lie before them. The United Nations will work with them as they seek to strengthen the democratic institutions that have been established, and to promote the social and economic development of their country.

    Let me recall the role of the international community in making this day possible. Let us recognize the courageous contribution made three years ago by Indonesia and Portugal in the signing of the 5 May Agreement, which allowed the East Timorese to express their will for self-determination. Indonesia’s forward-looking approach was illustrated yet again this morning, when President Megawati Sukarnoputri attended the independence ceremonies in Dili. This gracious gesture of statesmanship does, I hope, augur close cooperation and friendship between East Timor and all its nearest neighbours. Such relations will be crucial to East Timor’s long-term stability and prosperity as a nation.

    This Security Council can look back with pride on its support for East Timor’s quest for nationhood, in which the Council has demonstrated unequalled dedication and imagination.

    Through the creation of the United Nations Mission in East Timor, or UNAMET, the Council helped establish a framework within which the people of East Timor could express their will for self-determination.

    In the dark days of September 1999, the swift action of the Council in dispatching a mission to the region, and in subsequently authorizing the deployment of a multinational operation, played a key part in ending violence and paved the way for future progress. We owe Australia a debt of gratitude for taking a decisive lead in that operation, as we do all the countries that took part.

    In establishing the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), the Security Council took a bold and unprecedented step. Equipped with a broad mandate, supported by adequate resources and coordinated through a single chain of command, UNTAET was able to help the people of East Timor maintain internal and external security, while laying the foundations for an administrative and political infrastructure, and promoting social and economic development.

    The international community’s contribution of financial and political support, and the service of its men and women on the ground, have been essential. I am sure the Council will join me in acknowledging with gratitude and admiration the service of the military and civilians of both missions. I am sure you will join me in expressing heartfelt thanks to Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose skill and dedication at the helm of UNTAET over the past two and a half years have been essential to the mission’s success; and to Ian Martin, who demonstrated exemplary leadership under pressure during the crisis of September 1999.

    I know you will also join me in paying special tribute to the peacekeepers and UN staff who died while trying to help East Timor in its hour of need. We are forever in their debt.

    Today is also an occasion to urge the international community to remain generously committed to East Timor in the future. The country faces enormous long-term challenges -- particularly in the reduction of poverty and the building of a viable economy. Much also remains to be done to consolidate the country’s fragile new institutions, to ensure the stability and viability of the new State. The Security Council’s decision to authorize a multidimensional follow-on operation -- the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor -- testifies to its commitment to completing the tasks that it has undertaken. It is a clear demonstration of the Council’s conviction that there must be "no exit without strategy".

    The Security Council will soon be called upon to support East Timor in still another way.

    Only a few hours ago, the Secretary-General received from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of East Timor an application for Membership of the United Nations. This request will be presented to the Security Council, in accordance with the established procedure. We look forward to its consideration by this body.

    But today, the final word belongs to the people of East Timor.

    As the Secretary-General said last night, as the flag of East Timor rose above Dili: Viva Timor Leste!

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