Press Releases

    30 August 2005

    Overall Situation in Timor-Leste Calm, but Security of UN Personnel Remains Major Concern, Security Council Told

    NEW YORK, 29 August (UN Headquarters) -- The overall situation in Timor-Leste had remained calm and stable since the peaceful resolution of the dispute between the Church and the Government in May, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for that country and Head of Mission of the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste told the Security Council this morning.

    Briefing the Council on the situation in the country since the establishment of the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) in May, the Special Representative, Sukehiro Hasegawa, said that no major border and security incidents had taken place, but that there had been some isolated clashes involving martial arts and political interest groups.  Martial arts groups' clashes had prompted President Gusmao to bring together 14 groups to sign a declaration committing them to eradicate violence.  Political interest groups' activities had led the police to seize weapons and to hold some of their members for questioning, largely in the Baucau district.

    Concerning the political process, he said that local elections during the reporting period had been conducted in a peaceful and orderly fashion.  Presidential and national parliamentary elections were to be held in 18 months.  Recently, both President Gusmao and Prime Minister Alkatiri had requested that the United Nations provide assistance in drafting electoral laws.  "Given that free and fair elections will determine the sustainability of democracy, I believe that the United Nations should provide all necessary assistance as suggested by the Secretary-General in his current report S/2005/533", he said.  The Superior Council for Defence and Security and the Council of State had both been established in May, he continued.  The restructuring of the Government had been announced on 28 June, and the new Cabinet members sworn in on 29 July.

    He said that on the diplomatic front, Timor-Leste's relationship with Australia and Indonesia had continued to grow.  An agreement with Australia over the sharing of Timor Sea oil and gas resources was close to finalization.  The July Joint Ministerial Commission Meeting between Indonesia and Timor-Leste had agreed that the two countries would reach an agreement on the remaining four per cent of their common border.  In addition, Indonesia and Timor-Leste had launched the bilateral Commission of Truth and Friendship.

    In the economic sphere, new opportunities and challenges had emerged, Mr. Hasegawa said.  Revenues from Timor Sea oil and gas resources had started to flow, and the Government had drawn up legislation to realize the effective management of petroleum resources for the benefit of current and future generations.  The UNOTIL civilian advisers had played a major role in the formulation of legislation and establishment of the Petroleum Fund.  The laws on Domestic and External Investment had been promulgated on 27 May and were expected to encourage business investment in the country.

    Turning to the status of implementation of the UNOTIL mandate outlined by resolution 1599 (2005), he said the first component of that mandate was the support to critical State institutions through the provision of 45 civilian advisers.  As a result of their tireless efforts, Timorese counterparts had increased their ownership of their functional responsibilities.  The effectiveness of the civilian advisers to transfer skills and knowledge continued to be hindered, however, by the lack of national capacity in highly technical and specialized areas such as justice and finance sectors, as well as the difficulty faced by State institutions in establishing and implementing a sound career development system.  Those challenges required concerted and well-coordinated support by the international community, he said, and described some of the actions taken in that regard.

    He said the second component consisted of support to the development of the national police and the further development of the Border Patrol Unit through the provision of 60 police training advisers and 15 military advisers.  The UNOTIL police and military training advisers had conducted joint assessments of each unit with their Timorese counterparts.  The second Consultative Group meeting of all stakeholders had been held on 26 July to examine the four pillars of the joint strategy for police development:  professional ethics; leadership and strategic development; integration with bilaterally supported activities; and effective border management.  The 15 military training advisers were now conducting a training programme for the Border Patrol Unit, focusing on a broad range of border management skills that would provide it with the necessary capacity and confidence to interact with the Indonesian military counterparts.

    Support to democratic governance and human rights through the provision of 10 human rights officers was the third component, he said.  The UNOTIL had assigned six human rights officers to six national State institutions, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior and Defence, in order to strengthen their capacity to protect and promote human rights at all levels.  It had also assigned five national human rights officers to State institutions to play an increasingly important role as part of the transition to a sustainable human rights development in Timor-Leste.  Mr. Hasegawa stressed that he personally followed the development in that area closely and maintained a vigorous and constructive dialogue with key Government and State actors.

    Recently, the Provedor for Human Rights and justice had been sworn in by the National Parliament, he said, describing that event as a significant step towards enhancement of transparency and accountability in public administration, not only in the human rights area, but also in the fight against corruption.  The UNOTIL would extend maximum support to strengthening the technical and functional capacity of the Office of the Provedor, as well as the Offices of the Inspector General and the Prosecutor-General.

    He said that after four years of work, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation was nearing completion of its final report, expected by the end of October.  That report would include comprehensive recommendations, among other things on further action on the issue of justice, reconciliation and assistance to victims of past human rights violations.  As for the serious crimes process, he said UNOTIL had produced a copy of all records compiled by the Serious Crimes Unit.  The national judicial system had demonstrated its capacity to act upon the return of a former militia member who had been indicted under the serious crimes process.

    In conclusion, he said that in the absence of a United Nations security force, the security and safety of United Nations personnel remained a major concern and challenge to UNOTIL.  Necessary security measures within existing resources had been developed to ensure that all United Nations personnel would remain safe and secure.

    The meeting, which started at 10:10 a.m., was adjourned at 10:30 a.m., after which the Council went into closed consultations on the subject.


    The Council had before it the Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) (document S/2005/533) -- a follow-on special political mission, which was established last April to support the transition to a sustainable development assistance framework following the expiration of the mandate of the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET).

    The mandate of the Office -- as established by Council resolution 1599 (2005) of 28 April -- includes provision of support for the development of critical State institutions, further training of the police, and development of the Border Patrol Unit.  The Office is also mandated to provide training in observance of democratic governance and human rights and review progress in all those tasks.

    The Secretary-General reports that since its establishment, UNOTIL has continued the efforts made by UNMISET over the past three years to strengthen the capacity of the Timorese State institutions and security forces, focusing on the coordination of donor assistance and transfer of skills and knowledge to the Timorese public administration and national police.  Special emphasis has been placed on the coordination of international assistance through the consultative group, which brings together a wide range of stakeholders, and through weekly policy review and coordination meetings, in order to ensure a smooth and rapid transition to a sustainable development assistance framework by the end of the UNOTIL mandate on 20 May 2006.

    During the reporting period, Timor-Leste has made further advances towards self-sufficiency.  Progress has also been made in strengthening the country's legal and institutional framework -- including the adoption of a number of key pieces of legislation -- which is expected to enhance democratic governance, promote respect for the rule of law and facilitate economic activities.  As a result of these positive developments, the reduction in the number of United Nations civilian advisers, which accompanied the transition from UNMISET to UNOTIL, has not had a negative impact on the Timorese public administration and has been largely offset by a review of the advisers' competencies and distribution across various State institutions in accordance with the main priorities.

    The 45 advisers who have been retained continue to provide key assistance to ensure further development of the Timorese finance sector, where the lack of transparency and accountability could threaten the country's long-term economic and social development.  Even more essential is the support which UNOTIL and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) continue to provide to the Timorese judiciary, which is unlikely to become fully self-sufficient before 2007.  Although the support of UNOTIL to the training programme for national judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers is due to end in May 2006, additional on-the-job training will need to be provided before the Timorese judicial personnel are able to adequately fulfil their functions.

    The UNOTIL police training advisers began an advanced training programme for the Timorese national police.  In this regard, the Secretary-General notes that although the skills of the Timorese police have been considerably enhanced, instances of excessive use of force and human rights violations by police officers, including against members of political opposition groups, continue to be reported.  Thus, training in the observance of democratic governance and human rights will remain an important priority for the remainder of the UNOTIL mandate.

    The report also addresses the follow-up to the process of serious crimes investigations, which came to a close when the mandate of UNMISET expired.  Although the Serious Crimes Unit has made an important contribution to achieving justice, it was able to investigate fewer than half of the estimated 1,450 murders committed in 1999.  In this connection, the Secretary-General appeals to the Governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia, and to the international community as a whole, to ensure that all those responsible for the serious crimes committed in 1999 are held accountable, so as to respond to the desire for justice of all those affected by the violence.

    Regarding the overall security situation, the Secretary-General states that it remained calm, and relations between Timor-Leste and Indonesia continued to improve.  With continued support from UNOTIL military training advisers, the Border Patrol Unit has begun to engage in direct dialogue with its Indonesian counterpart, which bodes well for their future interaction once the mission's mandate comes to an end.  Timor-Leste and Indonesia have also recognized the importance of concluding a border management agreement by the end of the year.

    Despite significant progress towards the achievement of the goals laid out in the national development plan, however, Timor-Leste still has the lowest level of human development in East Asia and the Pacific and remains among the 20 poorest countries in the world.  Moreover, economic growth is expected to be modest in 2005 due to stagnant employment opportunities, a continued downsizing of the international presence and a decline in bilateral and multilateral assistance.  As potential revenues from oil and gas exploitation remain uncertain, the country will continue to depend on external assistance to finance its economic, social and human development and to reduce overall poverty.

    * *** *