UNTAET Daily Briefing
16 November 2001:
Alkatiri/de Mello press conference
UNITED NATIONS TRANSITIONAL ADMINISTRATION
IN EAST TIMOR
Dili, 16 November 2001
This is a near verbatim transcript of the
joint press conference held today by SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello and East
Timor Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri following their briefings before
the United Nations Security Council on 31 October.
This is a briefing on our visit to New York and our meeting with the Security Council. You know that we both returned last week from New York. In New York we had a series of meetings, which I will not go into, with senior United Nations officials including the Secretary-General, the permanent representatives of the members of the Security Council, as well as of the so-called Core Group.
But the main purpose was to attend the Security Council meeting on the 31st of October, which was chaired by the Foreign Minister of Ireland, Minister Cowen, who flew to New York from Dublin especially to preside over the Security Council meeting, a clear indication of the importance Ireland attaches to East Timor. Both [Chief Minister] Marí [Alkatiri] and myself addressed the Council, and many observed that this was the first time that a democratically elected Timorese appeared before what is, afterall, the supreme organ of the United Nations in peace and security, the Security Council.
We were accompanied by Fernanda Borges, Minister of Finance, and by Fernando de Araújo, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Democratic Party. The briefing was based on the report of the Secretary-General which was issued on October 18th and that contained a series of recommendations that you must be familiar with. The focus of our discussions in recent months with the Timorese leadership and Government in particular, with the members of the Security Council and the Core Group, has been the successor mission to UNTAET which would be put in place subject to a formal request by the Timorese Government from the 20th of May which, as you know, is now the date of independence as endorsed both by the Secretary-General and by the Security Council, following a recommendation from the Constituent Assembly. I am pleased to tell you that the response from the Security Council to our presentations and to the Secretary-Generalís report was unanimously and overwhelmingly positive. As a matter of fact, even more than I could have expected, the message that came out of the Council, even in terms of international circumstances, which as you know are focused virtually exclusively on Central Asia and Afghanistan, was very clear: East Timor remains on the agenda and East Timor will not be forgotten. Let me simply remind you what Iíve said in previous briefings following Security Council meetings. The membership of the Council, as well as non-members, are unanimous in their support for the East Timorese cause and for the United Nations mission in East Timor.
Let me focus briefly on the successor mission which I believe is of particular interest to the Timorese public opinion, and I wish to inform the Timorese public opinion before Marí makes his own remarks, perhaps with a more political and longer-term perspective.
The successor mission [to UNTAET] will be divided into three main components. First, the military. The military strength of our presence here would be reduced from its current size of around 8,000 to approximately 5,000 soldiers just after independence day.
The bulk of the downsizing will occur mainly in the eastern part of the country where the first operational battalion of the East Timorese Defence Force will be deployed towards the middle of next year. Further downsizing will follow as the second battalion becomes up and running by 2004.
Second, the police component: this will have a likely authorized strength on independence day of about 1,250, down from the current size of close to 1,500, and further downsizing will occur as the East Timor Police Service grows to its target strength and obtains the necessary expertise and operational capacity. The handover of power to the East Timor Police Service will occur gradually, and last well into the successor mission.
Third, the civilian component: This will be integrated by the following two main branches: the office of my successor, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General; and a small civilian support group, as we call it, of international experts performing core functions in support of the Government, and also, obviously, as is the case in our classic peacekeeping missions, an administration division.
The office of my successor will look very much like the office of an SRSG in a classic peace mission. Obviously it will no longer exercise the powers under [UN Resolution] 1272, and will be composed of political, legal, public affairs, human rights, and serious crimes units.
What is more important perhaps is the civilian support group. This has been the focus of our joint attention with the Timorese government. Why? Because with the downsizing of the civilian presence of the United Nations we needed to define the requirements of the independent Government of East Timor in the consolidation of the tasks entrusted to UNTAET under Resolution 1272. What I mean by that is that clearly by independence it will have been impossible to complete some of the tasks contained in 1272, especially when it comes to the creation of a new Public Administration in East Timor. Those that believe that a Public Administration from the ashes of the previous one can be created in two or two-and-a-half years forget how long it took in their own countries to establish credible civilian administrations. And clearly, it will be necessary to continue to provide the independent Government of East Timor with international expertise and support, not least with emphasis on the transfer or skills and capacity building, for some time after independence.
The Security Council has accepted the rationale of the Secretary-General and has even agreed, which is fairly unprecedented, to fund about 100 of those positions from the assessed budget of the United Nations, that is, with an authorization of the Security Council which recognizes that, unless these posts are provided with dependable foreseeable financial support from the United Nations, then everything we have been trying to establish here could falter and collapse. This is the main achievement of this mission: the approval by the Security Council of a strong support group to the independent Government of East Timor, one-third of which - that is 100 out of approximately 300 - will be funded by the assessed budget with an authorization from the Security Council.
We are right now, and with the help of the UNDP, defining and formulating clearly the job descriptions and profiles of the 300 or so international experts that will be supporting the independent Government of East Timor, which we will be presenting, at least in a rough preliminary manner, to the donor community in Oslo [Norway] this coming December. During the coming months what we need to achieve is a smooth transition before obviously we reach the date of independence, and this transition has in fact already begun. It is a difficult administrative process, downsizing the civilian component of UNTAET and also the transfer of assets from UNTAET to the Transitional Government of East Timor, and ultimately to the independent Government of East Timor. These are not easy questions [and] they have financial implications. A committee will be meeting in New York next week to study these issues in greater detail: my deputy Dennis McNamara and the Director of Administration are there in order to brief this General Assembly committee soon, but I just want you to know that the process is ongoing and should bring us down to this reduced size by independence day.
So, in the coming months on the political front, and Iím sure Marí will cover this much better than I can, we will be focusing on the completion of the work of the Constituent Assembly. I am very pleased with the reports I have been receiving on the progress achieved in the assembly in the formulation of the Constitution for an independent East Timor. Weíll also be getting ready for the Presidential elections that we will likely be required to organize sometime towards the end of March, early April, of next year, and also getting ready, with the help of José Ramos-Horta, who is presiding over a commission for the independence celebrations of East Timor, for the month of May, which will be a month during which a number of events will take place: some ceremonial, others pretty substantive.
You should know that we will be proposing in Oslo that a last donor conference for East Timor during this transition be held in Dili just before independence to galvanize the attention and solidarity of the international community in the hope of securing multi-year pledges in support of the East Timor budget and reconstruction at least until fiscal year 2004/2005 which is, as you know, the year when we hope the revenues from the Timor Sea will start flowing in larger quantities into East Timor coffers thereby reducing its dependence on international budgets.
Thank you for your attention, let me now give the floor to Chief Minister Marí Alkatiri:
CHIEF MINISTER MARÍ ALKATIRI:
As the Transitional Administrator has said, we went to New York to recommend that the Security Council define a strategy for when the transition period is over, most importantly to define a post-independence UN mission.
It was important for us when going there to inform the Security Council about what East Timor really needs, and that East Timor still needs international support after independence since the UN mission in East Timor is different from other missions.
The [UN Security Council] Resolution 1272 gave the mandate to UNTAET to establish an administration and prepare East Timor for independence. Because of this, in the view of Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello, that is shared by all of us in the Transitional Government, it has not been possible to prepare a fully functioning administration in just two years.
Once independence is achieved, we still need the support of international community and the support of the UN. The first and foremost support is in the areas of security and defense. All [of the Security Council] members have no doubt that we need it for two or three more years. There will be still a UN mission with an SRSG, a mission similar to other missions in other countries, for dealing with political, human rights and serious crimes issues, and no longer with the [creation of an] administration. We will also still need a support mission that can give assistance to [East Timorís] administration. The UN with its assessed budget will guarantee a support mission in order to support the administration. A study conducted by UNDP concluded that at least 300 experts are still needed to help the administration. A third of them should be funded by the UN assessed budget.
We can say that the Security Council considered all of our concerns and approved what we proposed. We also presented to the Security Council a date of independence and transference of the power. All the Security Council members accepted the recommendation that 20 May  be the date of independence.
Now that a date for independence is set, there has to be a process moving towards it. This process is the presidential election. We need to decide whether it will be a direct or indirect vote. I think there is unanimity that the vote will be a direct one: People will vote for the president directly.
There are other matters that we should address. There has to be an Electoral Law. There has to be a political parties law because the candidates for the President might be from the parties or coalition of parties. This can happen. Because of this, we should have an Electoral Law.
The Security Council asked us whether we would like the presidential election to be held before or after independence. Our answer was that we want it to be before independence because when sovereign power is handed to the East Timorese, all the elements of sovereignty must have been chosen by the people. Therefore all of these laws are really important because there can be independent candidates [running for the president]. The independent candidates need for a certain amount of people to support them.
In the coming weeks, starting from today, there will be discussions on all of these matters so that the process will be accelerated, and once we reach 20 May, everything is in place.
That is all. Thank you.
Questions and Answers:
Q: You have been talking about a Presidential election but you have not been talking about parliamentary elections. When do you think parliamentary elections will be?
Marí Alkatiri: This is a decision that is going to be made by the Constituent Assembly itself. Are we going to have a parliamentary election before independence or after independence? If after independence, when? Two, three, four years after independence or immediately after the independence? The Constituent Assembly will decide on this.
Q: What kind of experts do you expect to fill [posts in the successor mission] after independence?
Sergio Vieira de Mello: Yes, we will come up, as I said, with a fairly comprehensive inventory of the positions, the core ones, that is the 100 or so to be funded from the mandatory assessed budget of the United Nations, will be in essentially three areas of government: one, central administrative support services to all the ministries of the independent Government of East Timor; second, financial and banking; and third, justice. But obviously, in the 200 additional posts you will probably find a few in each sector of government, more in some than others, but across the spectrum of government responsibilities.
Q: How long will they stay?
Sergio Vieira de Mello: The presidential statement of the Security Council speaks of six to twenty-four months depending on the positions in question.
Q: You have mentioned that 20th of May will be East Timorís Independence Day. Does the Constituent Assembly agree with this? Will 20th May be the permanent date on which East Timorís independence is marked?
Marí Alkatiri: Well, the recommendation [of 20 May] comes from the Constituent Assembly with 73 votes in favor, 3 against, 3 abstentions and 6 absentees. There is no consensus but it is a majority of votes. And the six members being absent, if they were there, five would vote in favor for sure, and one I do not know. Therefore, democracy is not managed by consensus. Sometimes consensus is against democracy. People sometimes think that all matters dealing with democracy should be dealt through consensus. Consensus is oftentimes against democracy because the majority has won but only a minority does not agree, and there is no consensus, we say that there is no democracy. If a minority does not agree with a decision, that is exactly what democracy is not. Therefore we have to know what democracy is really all about.
Q: Who will fund the Presidential election?
Marí Alkatiri: It is the UN that is responsible for the upcoming presidential election. That is why it is better for us to hold the election before the independence!
Q: UNTAETís departure will lead to significant job losses for the East Timorese and perhaps the best way to tackle the situation, at least partially, will be by attracting foreign investment. What will be your Governmentís policy on foreign investment -especially against the background of the formerly known socialist leanings of Fretilin?
Marí Alkatiri: I think I have been telling many times that we will do everything possible to create incentive, if necessary, to attract foreign investors. This slogan of left wing, I am tired of it.
Q: Lú-Olo [Constituent Assembly President] mentioned yesterday in a Constituent Assembly press conference that 28 November is Independence Day of East Timor, but you just mentioned that 20 May is Independence Day. What does this mean? And what is your plan for East Timorís future economy?
Marí Alkatiri: I have just explained this matter. I am also a member of the Constituent Assembly but I do not really mark my presence in the Assembly because there are many matters that I have to deal with. Even though I am not present in the Assembly, I know that they know what to do. As I said that there will be a Constitution. The Constitution itself has not been approved. The Constituent Assembly will decide on the date of the independence. I know there is a discussion in the assembly stressing that 28 November is the date of independence. 28 November is recognized as the date of independence. This will be discussed in the assembly. As the Constitution has not yet been approved, we cannot really say that 28 November will be the date of independence. Once it is approved, we will find out what the Constitution will really say. 20 May is a recommendationÖ Our independence is clear. Once it has been achieved, it will be forever. There is no such thing as a temporary independence It will be the Constitution that will really define it. 20 May is the restoration day of the independence. The Constituent Assembly will define this matter.
Q: There have been lots of criticisms of slowness in prosecuting serious crimes in East Timor. What is your opinion towards this and are you confident [progress will be quicker after independence]?
Sergio Vieira de Mello: Well, let me answer the second part of the question first and then the first Ö As I said, the Office of the Special Representative, after independence, will include a component of the Serious Crimes Unit, which will continue to carry out investigations and the preparatory prosecutorial job for serious crimes in the areas of serious crimes prior to submission of those cases to the existing two - possibly, tomorrow, three - Special Panels for Serious Crimes within the Dili District Court. So, the Security Council has approved the continuing funding from the assessed budget for the Serious Crimes Unit in both its investigative and prosecutorial functions. Therefore, the international community remains committed to justice for serious crimes in East Timor post independence.
Second, the criticism that has been levelled against our judiciary for slow motion is unfair. Alright? Unfair. If you compare the record of our Serious Crimes Unit as well as of the two Special Panels so far, it is better than that of the two Special International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and with very limited resources indeed. Alright? I have said many times, in this very room, that when we arrived here, I did not have what I had when I entered Kosovo on 12 of June 1999. The structure of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had teams of investigators, of prosecutors, of forensic experts who immediately started investigating serious crimes in Kosovo. We didnít have that. We had nothing, we had zero, we had to go around begging, first of all from friendly donors. So to come and tell me two years later that we havenít done a sufficiently good job in the area of serious crimes is most unfair.
Q: What is your opinion about East Timor joining the Commonwealth countries?
Marí Alkatiri: Well, sometimes we see contradictions in matters where there are actually no contradictions at all. Some people say thatÖĒWell, once we become a member of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, we cannot be a member of the Commonwealth. There is no contradiction at all. Since there is no contradiction, therefore I gave an example of Mozambique.
Mozambique, being a member of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, is at the same time a member of the Commonwealth. Practically, Mozambique is a member of many international organizations in the world. If there is a benefit [we can gain from being a member of the Commonwealth], then why we cannot be so? If it is good for our country, why canít we be members of both?
The important thing is that we should have our own identity. That is why we should know what our identity is. This is most important because if we can be a member of many organizations, we can have a guarantee of greater security, rather than choosing to be a member of one organization only. I do not say that East Timor should be a member of the Commonwealth. What I said was that East Timor can possibly become a member of Commonwealth in the future. On 21 May East Timor will become a member of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. This is guaranteed. There will be a summit meeting of Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries in Dili so that East Timor can become a member of the Community. We will, for sure, be a member of the UN and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. And now, for being a member of other organizations, we should first find out what benefits we will gain from it. If there is a benefit, we will become a member, there will be no problem. I do not say that the decision has been made. All of this will be studied by the government. It will go through the Parliament, which will approve whether or not we can be a member of any organization. It is not the Chief Minister himself who makes all of these decisions.
BD: UN appointed, East Timorese, Second Transitional Government of East Timor / Pemerintahan Transisi Kedua Timor-Timur - A collection of recent media releases, reports, articles and news
BD: Constitutional Process / Konsulta iha Konstituisaun - A collection of recent media releases, reports, articles and news