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"But congratulations should not lead to complacency. For there is an enormous amount still to do, both before the transition to independence in East Timor and afterwards. East Timorese expectations are not being realized in a number of areas, including infrastructural improvements. ... for the sake of the East Timorese people and for the sake of the United Nations itself, we must get
it right." Stewart Eldon, UK

UN: UK Statement to UN Security Council Jan 26, 2001

The situation in East Timor

Statement in the Security Council

Stewart Eldon United Kingdom Deputy Permanent Representative

26 January 2001

Mr. Eldon (United Kingdom): Mr. President, thank you in particular for bringing together such a galaxy of talent today - not only our distinguished briefers, to whom I am most grateful for their useful and insightful contributions, but also the public gallery. It is a great pleasure to have the public gallery with us today.

I would like to join others in expressing my delegation’s condolences to the Governments of India and Pakistan on the recent earthquake.

In recognition of the long list of speakers we have today, I will shorten my printed statement. I should also draw attention to the fact that the representative of Sweden will be speaking later in the debate on behalf of the European Union, and my delegation associates itself with that statement.

Many of us in the Council have been closely associated with East Timor, particularly since the Agreement of 5 May 1999. The Secretary-General’s report shows that an enormous amount has been achieved in a relatively short period of time. But, Mr. President, as you have said, the priority now must be to look to the future. It is particularly noteworthy that recent months have seen a real effort to accelerate the transfer of authority to the East Timorese.

The process of Timorization was not envisaged when the Security Council adopted resolution 1272 (1999); it was, frankly, an act of great vision and imagination on the part of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. And it seems to be working well. In the United Kingdom’s view, the establishment of the National Council not only is important in terms of accountability and legitimacy, but it is also a crucial contribution to capacity-building for self-government in East Timor.

For all this and more, we owe a vote of thanks to the Special Representative and to his staff for their remarkable work in such difficult conditions. We should also remember the enormously valuable work done by the International Force, East Timor (INTERFET) in re-establishing security in the territory. This is all the more important, since I gather that today is Australia Day. I understand that Lt. Gen. Peter Cosgrove, the former Commander of INTERFET, has been named Australian of the Year, and frankly, nobody is more deserving of such an honour.

But congratulations should not lead to complacency. For there is an enormous amount still to do, both before the transition to independence in East Timor and afterwards. East Timorese expectations are not being realized in a number of areas, including infrastructural improvements. The statements of the Special Representative and the President of the General Assembly implicitly recognized that fact. Although Mr. Rohland from the World Bank told us that the reconstruction programme in East Timor was the quickest ever, it was not quick enough. Realistically, we are unlikely to be able to deliver everything for which the East Timorese people might hope. But the international community must do better in improving the delivery of the resources that are available. It is a good thing that the World Bank intends to draw out the main lessons of the Timor experience. I hope we will all learn them well.

I was also grateful for the information given by the Special Representative and Mr. Ramos-Horta on the timetable for elections and independence. The East Timorese are understandably impatient to strike out on their own. But we also have to recognize that although the process of building a new State is not a simple one, precision will be needed soon. Whatever the exact timetable proves to be, independence by the end of the year means that the time to complete the job is short. So it is vital that the next six months should see a continued delegation of authority to the East Timorese. This must be accompanied by a real effort to transfer skills to them through development and training, so that they can be fully prepared for the administration of an independent State.

This will be one part of a wider effort to build capacity in East Timor, which must become UNTAET’s priority in the next months. On this point, I would be grateful for Mr. Vieira de Mello’s assessment of the success of Timorization in qualitative rather than quantitative terms. This is relevant in the context of José Ramos-Horta’s statement. Is the process effective in terms of building skills and competencies, rather than just filling offices?

Political skills will also be crucial. East Timor will shortly become the first newly independent country of the new millennium. It is important that it become a shining example to the rest of the world. As we have seen in José Ramos-Horta’s statement today, the territory is well endowed with political leaders. But we also need to get the political and constitutional structures right. First, the process leading up to elections must be inclusive and transparent; and discussions on the terms of the new constitution should involve a full range of representatives from all sectors of society.

But if it is to move forward, East Timor must also deal with its past. When I travelled with the Security Council mission to East Timor and Indonesia last year, I was concerned at the rate of progress in building a judicial system. As Sergio Vieira de Mello has reported, some useful progress has since been made in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity. It is particularly encouraging that this week saw the first successful prosecution by an international court in East Timor for the violence that surrounded the 1999 popular consultation. But more needs to be done by UNTAET and Indonesia to ensure that the judicial process remains credible and effective. UNTAET and the international community as a whole must think through the timelines for the judicial process, which cannot be allowed to drag on endlessly. The Special Representative has appealed for international assistance to help build the judicial sector. I would be grateful for any more detailed update he might wish to give us on the response to that appeal. And, as the President of the General Assembly has said, to complement the investigation and trial of serious crimes there must be a determined process of national reconciliation within East Timor, behind which the whole of Timorese society must stand together. Again, I should be grateful to hear from the Special Representative, and perhaps Mr. Ramos-Horta, how that process is maturing.

Another problem faced by East Timor is the tangible security threat that continues to exist on its border. As the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Mr. Ramos-Horta have said, a stable border is one of the keys to East Timor’s future. That is why we agree that, despite the improvements reported to us today, there should be no downsizing of the UNTAET military component at this stage, and that is also why we believe that a significant United Nations military presence is likely to be necessary for some time into the future.

But it is no good simply saying that security measures must continue. Real progress has to be made in reducing the security threat. That the militias are still active in the camps in West Timor is appalling. No less worrying is the fact that large numbers of genuine refugees continue to live in such difficult conditions in the camps and are subject to serious intimidation, as the Security Council mission saw for itself. This problem must now be properly addressed, not only because it has direct implications for the security of East Timor and the future structure of the United Nations presence in the territory, but also on the obvious grounds of pressing
humanitarian need.

The successful “come and see” visit programme over Christmas was encouraging, and we hope it will lead to an increase in spontaneous returns. But more must be done. We urge the Government of Indonesia to take steps to implement resolution 1319 (2000) in full and without delay, to complete the planned registration process and to facilitate the return of those refugees who want to go home to East Timor. Further delay would mean that the refugees would remain disenfranchised, which would have serious implications for the coming elections.

As you have reminded us, Mr. President, we must look to the future. It is clear to us that the newly independent East Timor will continue to need extensive international support. We welcome the intention to start planning for a follow-on operation now. The East Timorese are and should be fully engaged in this process. We look forward to receiving the detailed plans promised by the Special Representative as soon as possible, and to a further report from the Secretary-General later in the year. We have the time and opportunity to think carefully about how UNTAET should evolve from its present state to a new operation that will assist the East Timorese people to assume their rightful place in the community of nations in safety and security. That, as the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme has said, is a real challenge. And though the funding aspects are not necessary considerations for this Council, for the sake of the East Timorese people and for the sake of the United Nations itself, we must get
it right.

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