East Timorese making broad advances towards independence: Annan

East Timorese making broad advances towards independence: Annan

The past six months in East Timor have been "a most productive period," during which the East Timorese people made broad advances towards independence and self-government, according to a new report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan released today.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), the Secretary-General describes the overall security situation in the territory as stable despite a number of serious incidents.

Highlighting preparations for the 30 August elections for an 88-seat Constituent Assembly, which will write and adopt a constitution for the fledgling nation, the report notes that thousands of people turned out for a series of public hearings on the future constitution in an "extraordinary expression" of popular participation in the political process. The report also points out that of the 1,138 party and independent candidates who have registered to run in the elections, about 27 per cent are women.

The Secretary-General also outlines the shape of the international presence that is to remain in East Timor after it attains independence, calling for the maintenance of both a military and civilian presence in the post-independence period.

Although militia infiltration into East Timor remains at a relatively low level, Mr. Annan says that as long as the Government of Indonesia does not disband those groups, there remains a need for a UN force to continue to maintain a secure environment, in close coordination with the Government of East Timor. He recommends that a strong combat force should be deployed at its current level in East Timor's border regions and in the Oecussi enclave, which is located entirely in West Timor. However, the level of peacekeepers could be reduced in eastern and central East Timor if the situation remains stable there.

According to the report, the civilian component of the successor mission would include the essential elements of a sizable operation, including a small political office, headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General. In the early days after independence, it will be necessary to maintain within the mission a small team of professionals in various fields, to continue the work of "Timorisation" and skills transfer. These staff would provide help to Timorese officials in areas that are "absolutely critical" to effective government, the Secretary-General writes, such as executive and central management, finances, justice and human rights, and security, as well as areas of national sovereignty such as border control.

The Security Council intends to consider the report on Monday 30 July, when it is expected to hear a briefing on East Timor by the head of UNTAET, Sergio Vieira de Mello.