Resigning today from the National Council of East Timor, independence leader and Nobel laureate José Ramos-Horta appealed to the Council and all East Timorese to continue supporting the presence of the United Nations in the territory.
According to UNTAET, the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, Mr. Ramos-Horta's resignation follows his failure earlier this month to be elected by the Council to replace the body's former Speaker, Xanana Gusmão. Mr. Ramos-Horta will be returning to his former post as Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs, where, he said, his skills would be put to better use.
In his statement to the National Council, Mr. Ramos-Horta said the Council's role was not to oppose UNTAET, but to channel constructive criticism of the UN mission's regulations and policies from various East Timorese groups. He also reminded the 20 members in attendance that the presence of the UN had been requested by the East Timorese for 24 years during the struggle for independence and had allowed peace throughout the country for the first time.
Speaker Manuel Carrascalão, who chaired today's meeting of the Council, stressed that the UN should not leave East Timor until the groundwork was laid for a functioning independent country.
Tomorrow, the Council is expected to consider a draft regulation on the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, which would help to address the violence and human rights violations committed in 1999.