NEW YORK, 31 OCTOBER 2001
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA, AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL (East Timor)
Portugal fully supports the statement that has been delivered by Ambassador Jean de Ruyt, of Belgium, on behalf of the Presidency of the European Union. As many of our views are contained in that statement I will focus on specific points to which my country attaches particular importance at this juncture.
Allow me at the outset to underline and to welcome your presence here today, as an expression of the importance Ireland has always given to East Timor. For many years I had the privilege to witness the commitment of your country, and your personal commitment in particular, in this question and it is for me a very happy circumstance to see you here today, presiding this meeting.
I would like to start by conveying Portugals deep appreciation to the Secretary-General for his report on East Timor. His recommendations set out clearly the way for a smooth and gradual transference of responsibilities from the United Nations to the legitimate Timorese authorities.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose excellent work deserves all our gratitude and has been an important factor of prestige for the United Nations, gave us his reading of the facts, and we are very grateful for that.
This Council also had the opportunity to hear Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, head of the Timorese delegation. I hope his briefing on the situation on the ground may have helped the Security Council to make a better assessment of how the things are and what must be done in order to prepare the road for independence. I think his realism, but also his vision, represent a clear guarantee that the Timorese affairs will remain in good hands.
I also want to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to listen to presentations by the representatives of the World Bank and the UNDP, who have played and will continue to play an very important role in the transition of East Timor to independence.
Portugal has several times before commended the work of the Timorese and the UNTAET. The progress achieved in areas as diverse as the rehabilitation of infrastructure, the reopening of schools, the provision of basic health care, the setting up of a civil service and the establishment of police and armed forces is remarkable and truly impressive. We believe that such progress has set East Timor on a successful path to independence and hope this course can be maintained and sustained.
The engagement and support of the Security Council as a whole, and its members individually, had been fundamental in achieving such results. We trust you will continue to support this effort and make East Timor a positive precedent for the future of UN operations.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of ensuring sustainable peace and security in East Timor, especially in light of the present international situation. That region of the world has enough factors of instability and we should not create the conditions for more to arise.
Resolution 1272 clearly states that the mandate of UNTAET consists of the following elements and I quote:
- "to provide security and maintain law and order throughout the territory of East Timor;
- to establish an effective administration;
- to assist in the development of civil and social services;
- to ensure the co-ordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and development assistance;
- to support capacity-building for self-government;
- to assist in the establishment of conditions for sustainable development".
This mandate was unprecedented in scope and complexity. In spite of UNTAETs tireless effort, these tasks will not have been completed by the time of independence. The overall security and political situation will still be fragile. It is, therefore, vital to safeguard and build upon the progress achieved in order not to jeopardise the enormous investment made by the international community and, in particular, by the Timorese themselves including in terms of human lives.
This Council, in fact, has already acknowledged this fact by stressing, on several occasions, the need for a substantial international presence in East Timor after independence.
Allow me to focus my statement now on the specific proposals put forward by the Secretary-General in his report.
We understand these proposals still need to be refined. Further planning will need to be made in light of the outcome of the Constitutional Assembly, the views of the all-Timorese Transitional Cabinet, the co-ordination among all international actors and the security developments on the ground. But we strongly believe that the report of the Secretary-General contains the right framework for the future presence of the UN in East Timor. As a major troop contributing country, Portugal fully supports the Secretary-Generals plans for the establishment of an integrated mission, with a military, police and civilian component - including a civilian unit to support the future independent government.
We believe both the numbers and timings proposed by the Secretary-General for reductions in all components are rational and sensible. His recommendations for the post-independence period are achievable within the foreseeable future, which is more than can be said of other UN operations. They are also affordable, as the amounts involved will be reasonably small, especially if we think this may be the only success story for the United Nations in recent years. Most of all, they are absolutely indispensable to insure the fulfilment of UNTAETs mandate and avoid to jeopardise everything that has been achieved until now.
In considering the future of East Timor and the UNs role in it, it is fundamental to address the question of justice and human rights. We welcome the progress made so far both in the establishment of a Timorese judiciary and in the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We also welcome the progress made in the investigation of the serious crimes committed in East Timor in the course of 1999. However, efforts in this area need to continue, as they are fundamental for the long-term political and social stability in the country. Portugal, therefore, supports the Secretary-Generals plans to include in the post-independence UN Mission a Serious Crimes Unit and a strong Human Rights presence throughout the territory.
Portugal hopes this Council can agree on endorsing the recommendations put forward by the Secretary-General for the post-independence mission in East Timor. Anything short of that would risk conveying a very negative message to the Timorese, to the UN on the ground and to the region. I trust that is not what the Council wants at this point.
The United Nations success in East Timor will not be measured just by its achievements in three or four years in which it was present in the country. Rather, it will be judged in light of the sustainability of those achievements, especially of the administration and institutional framework it leaves behind.
As the Secretary-General rightly pointed out in his report "ultimately, the responsibility to establish a viable state in East Timor clearly belongs to its people". We couldnt agree more.
The Timorese have fought for years to gain their independence. They have demonstrated enormous courage and political maturity. They have shown they want and have the capacity to be responsible for their own destiny. But they have also asked for our support a modest support, actually, in face of the daunting tasks ahead of them. It is a duty for us, the United Nations, to assist them in that endeavour. It is for this Council simply to act according to the responsibilities entrusted to it by the Charter of the United Nations.
Thank you, Mr. President.