NEW YORK, 27 AUGUST 1997I would first like to express my appreciation to you personally and to all the other Members of the Council for making our presence here today possible.
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR ANTÓNIO MONTEIRO, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL (Agenda item: EAST TIMOR)
Portugal fully subscribes to the statement that will be made later by the Presidency of the European Union.
The question of East Timor has faced impressive developments since 17 years ago the General Assembly requested the Secretary General of the United Nations to initiate consultations with all parties directly involved to find a solution to this problem. At the cornerstone of the process now underway in East Timor are the 5 May Agreements, recently concluded through the good offices of the Secretary General.
Under these agreements the Secretary-General is requested to consult the east timorese on the status of their territory through a direct, secret and universal ballot. Let me stress that this is, in fact, the achievement of what the international community, and Portugal in particular, have for so long sought for East Timor: that its people be given the right to chose their own future.
East Timor may become a "success story" for the United Nations provided all actors comply with their obligations. I would like to commend the personal commitment of the Secretary General and the engagement of Ambassador Marker and his team in finding a political solution. Their efforts show that even the most difficult problems can be overcome if there is a serious and honest political will to do it.
I must also point out the remarkable work that is being accomplished by UNAMET and by the team headed by Mr. Ian Martin in the implementation of such a solution. Their task is not an easy one. Yet, they have shown extreme professionalism and diligence in carrying it out impartially and effectively.
The vote that is about to take place in East Timor is an historical event made possible by the efforts and resources of the UN and the many countries that are supporting it. But it is basically the result of the struggle of the Timorese themselves who have never given up the right to choose their future. It is only regrettable that they may not be able to do it under all required conditions for such an important decision.
In fact, the prevailing environment of intimidation, violence and insecurity in the territory is hampering the very aim of the 5 May Agreements which is the holding of a free and fair ballot. I will not go through the whole list of incidents that occurred with a repetitive pattern in East Timor. The international community is fully aware of them. But I have to express my Governments grave concern that on the eve of the consultation there are still armed militias active in the territory and that most of their criminal actions are not being properly investigated or punished.
After the success of the registration process we were expecting to see a broad and free campaign in which both parties would peacefully expose their views enabling people to make their choice free from any pressure. Instead, we have witnessed an increased environment of fear and a situation where so many persons in favour of independence were either prevented from participating in the campaign or subject to physical violence and intimidation. Several international personnel, and even UNAMET staff, have not been spared this atmosphere of threat and insecurity.
I seize this opportunity to once again appeal to the Indonesian authorities to make an additional effort. In the voting day, all conditions should be in place to "ensure that the popular consultation is carried out in a fair and peaceful way, in an atmosphere free of intimidation, violence or interference from any side". In this regard, I underline as is recalled in the resolution just adopted by the Council - that under the Agreements of 5 May it is the sole responsibility of Indonesia to maintain peace and security in East Timor.
The events that took place in East Timor yesterday are evidence that the measures taken so far are completely inadequate and insufficient. It is inadmissible that so close to the consultation we are witnessing such an increase in violence and even loss of human lives.
We hope that Indonesia gives an answer to the statements issued yesterday by the Security Council and by the Secretary General himself, strongly condemning these events and demanding Indonesian authorities to take concrete steps to stop and revert this situation.
Through the Portuguese Observation Mission of the Popular Consultation in East Timor, my Government has continuously reported to UNAMET and to the Indonesian Task Force on the Implementation of the Popular Consultation the incidents it witnessed. We have also always discussed these issues on a regular basis here in New York with the United Nations and the Indonesian representatives. The excellent cooperation that always prevailed in these contacts, and that I would like to emphasise, unfortunately not always found translation in the ground.
I would now like to turn to the future with renovated hope. We welcome the approval by the Security Council of a resolution that will allow the UN to maintain an adequate presence in East Timor after the ballot and to prepare the implementation of its result.
As you are aware, the trilateral dialogue between the United Nations, Portugal and Indonesia has continued to find the necessary arrangements to ensure a smooth transition in East Timor, whatever the result of the consultation might be. The Senior Officials meeting held in Jakarta, as well as the one that just yesterday took place in Lisbon, have allowed us to further our cooperation and to discuss ways to proceed from the consultation onwards. We are pleased to point out that the Indonesian authorities have reiterated their commitment to the process after the ballot.
When referring to the future of East Timor, the role of the east timorese and the progress they have made towards national reconciliation have to be highlighted. Overcoming their differences and living together peacefully is the biggest challenge facing them after the consultation. We vividly welcome the agreement by the east timorese leaders, in the meetings sponsored by the UN, to appoint their representatives to the East Timorese Consultative Commission and to have both the head of the pro-integration movement and the head of the CNRT, Xanana Gusmão, attend the first meeting of that council. Their full participation in such an historical meeting, to take place in Dili the day immediately after the ballot, will send an important signal of confidence in the future of East Timor.
Bearing in mind his role in promoting peace and reconciliation, which is recognised by all parties and the international community, Xanana Gusmãos presence in Dili will surely have a stabilising effect. Portugal, therefore, reiterates its appeal to the Indonesian Government to release Xanana Gusmão, as well as all other east timorese political prisoners and allow access to the territory by CNRT leaders who reside abroad.
Portugal stands ready to assist the transition in East Timor and the implementation of the result of the consultation, whether that is the acceptance or rejection of the autonomy proposal. We will do our utmost to support the efforts of the east timorese in building their future as the result of a free decision.
My Government will also continue to work within the framework of the United Nations, with Indonesia and the east timorese towards a successful transition. We will spare no efforts to make sure that East Timor is finally on the path of peace and development.
East Timor is proof, after all, that just causes can win.
Thank you, Mr. President.