UNSECCO: Statement on East Timor
I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for calling this Open Debate today. The representative of Sweden will shortly make a statement on behalf of the European Union with which Ireland fully associates itself. However, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a number of issues which Ireland, as an incoming member of the Security Council, a troop contributor to UNTAET and a country which has long demonstrated a special concern for the people of East Timor, considers to be of particular importance.
We have heard from a number of distinguished speakers today. I will not list them all but I am sure that nobody would begrudge me paying special tribute to Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, in his own right and as representative of all the men and women of UNTAET, who are currently serving in our name in East Timor. Nor can I omit to mention the moving contribution of Mr. Ramos-Horta. The statesmanship and generosity of his remarks concerning Indonesia sets a standard which could usefully be emulated in post-conflict situations elsewhere.
Ireland has read the latest report of the Secretary General and agrees with other delegations that his Special Representative and UNTAET have achieved significant progress to date. They must continue their excellent work. We fully support the recommendations of the Secretary General and agree that the mandate of the current Mission should be extended to the end of this year.
As East Timor moves toward independence and international recognition as a sovereign State, it is clear that the ‘timorisation' exercise remains central to achieving the aims of peace building. When UNTAET was established in October 1999, there was no history of open and democratic political activity in East Timor. In a short period of time, significant progress has been made towards independence. A political structure is now emerging with the development of consultative mechanisms such as the East Timor Transitional Administration and the all-Timorese National Council.
The UNTAET programme of promoting civic education, constitutional development, the rule of law and political education, and in preparing the people of East Timor for democratic elections, has laid good foundations. As a result of the further development and intensification of this work, my delegation looks forward to the people of East Timor participating in truly democratic elections this summer which, in turn, will provide a solid foundation for the future.
Ireland welcomes the development of the judicial system in East Timor and encourages member States to respond to Mr. Vieira de Mello's renewed call to provide additional personnel for the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes. We also welcome the positive steps taken by Indonesia to arraign before their courts those militia members accused of crimes against refugees and personnel of international organisations. We support these and other attempts to reestablish trust and confidence amongst all people of East Timor.
Despite the many positive developments, Ireland remains concerned about the security situation, particularly the plight of refugees in the region. In this regard, we strongly condemn the continued activities of irredentist militia groups in West Timor and call on them to end their attacks in line with Resolution 1319.
We call on the Indonesian authorities to further increase their efforts to eliminate militia action, which serves only to damage the international reputation and standing of their country. We hope to see an early improvement in the security situation, especially in the Western Districts. As well as enabling refugees to return home safely, it is essential that the security environment should enable a resumption of humanitarian efforts and ensure that elections can be prepared and carried out in a calm and safe manner.
We emphasise that objective assessments of the security situation need to be made by UNTAET on a regular and ongoing basis, and that any revision of the military and security components of the Mission should be made only in the light of real progress towards sustainable transition. The significant efforts of the international community, including the European Union, should not be endangered by a premature reduction of troops.
Ireland fully recognises the desire of the people of East Timor to move quickly towards full independence. We believe that an international presence will also need to be maintained after independence including military, humanitarian and technical expertise components. We believe that such a presence should be mandated by the UN and should comprise as wide as possible a representation of countries. It will be important to include careful plans for the progressive handover of defence and policing responsibilities to the East Timorese authorities, keeping in mind the need to constantly evaluate progress within the East Timor Defence Force and the local civilian police. We agree with other delegations at this meeting that the handover from UNTAET to the newly-established, functioning structures should be as smooth as possible and that a precise exit strategy should be worked out in advance.
On a national basis, in addition to providing troops to UNTAET and making financial contributions to the UN and World Bank projects, Ireland has a substantial bilateral programme of assistance with East Timor. To this end, we have recently opened an office in Dili which is helping to draw up plans for assistance that include the post-independence period. Ireland is committed to spend the equivalent of US$ 10 million which will be focussed on the vitally important areas of Education and Agriculture, as well as the establishment of a proper Justice system.
For its part, Mr. President, Ireland remains fully committed to supporting the people of East Timor, both during the period of transition to independence and, importantly, after independence has been achieved.