Let me start by thanking you, Mr. President, for organizing this meeting and the Assistant Secretary-General, Mr. Hedi Annabi, for his very comprehensive and useful briefing.
The Presidency of the European Union already presented a statement on the situation of East Timor that we fully support. Allow me, nevertheless, to add some remarks in the name of my own country.
In would like to take advantage of this occasion, to extend a very special greeting to President-elect Xanana Gusmão. We are used to see seated on those chairs different and distinguished guests, some of them with an historical importance in the life of their countries. As a Portuguese ambassador, you may understand how pleased I am for having the opportunity of seeing here today the new democratically elected President of a territory which, for a long time, my country wanted to see free and independent. President Xanana Gusmão, as well as Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, are the legitimate voices of a courageous people my government wants to praise and to salute. Their visit to New York , on the eve of the independence of East Timor , is a tribute to the United Nations contribution for their country’s cause and also a new opportunity to listen to their important reading of the current situation on the territory.
The next time the Security Council meets on East Timor it will probably be to approve the mandate for the United Nations mission in the country after independence. We very much expect that this mandate will guarantee the necessary conditions for the fulfillment of the obligations created by the international community towards the East Timorese situation.
Today it seems like the right time to look back and to make a brief evaluation of the work the UN has done in East Timor until now. Not to benefit History, but to take some lessons for the future. I don’t think I need to go into details, as most of the facts are well known to us all. The Secretary General has presented, all along the last years, a full account, not only of the UN efforts and achievements, but also of the necessary steps to guarantee a smooth transition to the independence of East Timor . The Timorese themselves gave this Council, several times, the contribution of their own experience and expectations. We all recognize that East Timor is in a much better situation today than it was three years ago and that most of that is owed to the UN efforts.
It is easy to read on the SG’s reports how many schools have been rebuilt, how many roads repaired, how many civil servants recruited, and to just take that for granted. It is easy to look upon it lightly, not realizing how much that means to East Timor , how difficult it was to achieve and – I need to stress this - how complex it will be to sustain.
It is already a platitude to consider the role of the UN in East Timor to date a success. Not without flaws, not without gaps, but still an obvious success. We also use to say that we should be careful not to create a future situation in which all these efforts may be jeopardized and wasted. I want to take this occasion to reiterate, once more, Portugal ’s appreciation for the excellent work of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General throughout all this process - from Ambassador Jamsheed Marker and Ian Martin, to Sergio Vieira de Mello. It was their dedication and skills that made it possible to carry out the United Nation’s mandate in East Timor . They did it at different times but always under strenuous conditions.
The recent appointment of my colleague and friend, Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma, as the Special Representative of the SG for the post-independence period gives me the guarantee that this work will be furthered with the same ability. The Secretary-General will have a distinguished and outstanding diplomat, a man of good will and exceptional experience, to represent him and to be the face and voice of the international community in East Timor . We wish him all the best and I want to assure him, in his very demanding task, our full co-operation.
The case of East Timor has very painfully earned the support of the international community. I am sure this Council agrees with me that the Timorese have proved to us that this support was totally deserved. Anyone who has followed this process knows that we are in the face of a people of incredible courage and tolerance, with leaders of remarkable vision and commitment.
I believe we can consider the democratic process in East Timor an exemplary one. The presidential election of 14 April was just one more example thereof. However, a new democracy is not merely a question of new institutions. It is also about the capacity to face internal political conflicts and disagreements and to manage wisely the difficult periods - with lack of resources and lots of expectations. It is a mentality adjustment that needs permanently adequate material conditions to bear fruit. Being difficult to establish, a democracy is even more difficult to sustain and strengthen. That is why we believe that the emerging institutions in East Timor , created under the responsibility of the UN, need to continue to be protected and supported. Not for too long, but for as long as is needed for us to be able to say that the work of the international community and its main Organization there is complete.
The UN, together with the international community, is responsible for keeping an adequate presence in and support to East Timor after independence. Portugal welcomes the report of the Secretary-General contained in document S/2002/432 and supports its recommendations for the establishment of the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor – UNMISET. I believe it is worth underlining the consistent manner in which this presence was planned. About a year ago a concept was outlined and subsequently developed into what we have now in front of us: a clear and reasonable road map for the two years ahead of us. It is very welcomed that this road map provides a milestone-based approach, focused on specific targets and on-the-ground assessments.
I believe that UNMISET’s mandate, as proposed by the Secretary-General, will ensure the necessary security and stability in East Timor . Its three components cover the main aspects of UNTAET’s mandate that were not totally accomplished, but that are absolutely fundamental for the viability of the country in the first years after independence.
On the security aspects I would underline the need to develop and strengthen the East Timorese institutions. Well-trained police and defense forces, that respect human rights and civilian supervision, are not only a requirement for the sustainability of a true independence but also for guaranteeing democracy and rule of law. Since the UN police and military will have both executive as well as training functions, it will be very important to define clearly arrangements guiding the relationship between them and the Timorese forces, namely command and control mechanisms. We encourage the efforts underway to finalize these arrangements before independence.
The calm situation and the absence of recent security incidents, namely related with militia activity from West Timor, should not fool us into thinking that there are no risks at all for the security and stability of East Timor. We strongly believe that the current situation is the result of the presence of a robust UN peacekeeping force and the deterrent effect it has had over almost three years of operation.
After May, 20th, the international lights will start fading over East Timor. As soon as the situation in the new country becomes “business as usual” in the eyes of the international community, this Council, as it is perfectly understandable, will tend to put East Timor in its archives. But what will happen if things go wrong, if the East Timorese leader’s efforts, even with the residual support of the international community, are proved to be not enough to tackle the actions of those who may be interested in disrupting the normality of the life in the territory? How long will this Council take to re-engage in a concrete course of action to counter those acts? Why take that risk, with immense financial and political costs, which is, at the same time, the risk to undermine the credibility the United Nations earned throughout the last years?
What we are asking this Council to consider is not to create a sort of a dependent State, a permanently assisted administration. What we are asking is, very simply, the phasing-out of the military and security forces to be made on the basis of a clear assessment of concrete risks, not on the basis of those that are surfacing during the current circumstances. In particular, we consider that no final assessment should be made, with practical consequences for the capacity on the ground, without taking into account the experience of the first months after the independence.
It is not my intention to try to invoke ghosts and to create artificial threats. By nature, we, diplomats, are interested in being professional optimists; but we also want to have permanent reasons to remain like that. That is why I want you to know that it is my Government’s firm belief that there are important potential security risks that need to be taken into full account, not only in the external dimension, but increasingly in the internal front.
UNTAET and the transitional Government have been creating the future structures, which will assure the law and order in the territory. We know well their current capacities, but we are also very well aware of their weaknesses. The current transitional administration, under the very able direction of the SG’s Special Representative and Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, have been making strenuous efforts to put in place the necessary structures for the future. But are they already prepared to face major potential tensions?
I do not want to create alarm or sound gloomy, but I must call the attention of this Council to the potential threats that exist in the Timorese society and that will challenge the new government very seriously. This is a society where opportunities for the new generation are still lacking, where important sectors of the former resistance and the former administration still tend to feel excluded from the new social, political and economic life, and where a possible new wave of refugees could trigger an immense social problem, with public security implications.
In addition, the new Government will have to deal with the economic and social impact of the draw down of the international community. Obviously, the international presence will have less and less weight in the local economy and the Timorese will have to adapt their lives to this new reality. But it is essential to recognize that for the new Government this will represent considerable additional challenges. The extent of those challenges will not be fully known until some time after independence.
As I said, the transitional administration in East Timor is doing an outstanding job and the good will of the new leadership is not in question, but their means are scarce and that may become even more troublesome after independence. What we ask this Council is to exert some caution and patience in evaluating these difficulties and the support the new authorities may need to address them.
Regarding the civilian component of UNMISET I would highlight once again the importance of including in it the Civilian Support Group. I do not have to repeat how fundamental we believe these core functions are to ensure that the achievements in the public administration are not jeopardized. We also welcome the intention to include in the SRSG’s office a Human Rights office as well as a Serious Crimes Unit. In the past, I have spoken extensively before this Council on the fundamental importance of justice and the judicial system in East Timor. I do not intend, therefore, to take up more of your time on this.
Before I conclude I would just like to express Portugal’s appreciation for the work that the International Financial Institutions and UN specialized agencies have accomplished up to now in East Timor in their different areas of expertise. We believe the joint effort of these institutions, the UN Secretariat, NGOs and bilateral donors is crucial not only for the successful accomplishment of the UN’s mandate but also for a smooth transition to a normal development framework. We welcome, in this regard, the information on the Secretary-General’s report about the mechanism set up for co-ordination among these different actors.
In less than a month East Timor will be independent. We will all be represented at the ceremonies in Dili to celebrate with the Timorese that important and historic moment. I believe the Timorese will see that presence as a sign of the continued commitment and support of the international community, most especially the United Nations, for the future of their country. Let us not disappoint them.