East Timor well prepared for statehood, head of UN mission says in farewell address

East Timor well prepared for statehood, head of UN mission says in farewell address

Sergio Vieira de Mello
With just 10 days to go before East Timor's independence, the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration today said the soon-to-be new nation was well prepared to find its own way in the world and reminded its leaders that with statehood came great responsibility in the community of nations.

"Soon the anxiously awaited day of 20 May will arrive," UNTAET chief Sergio Vieira de Mello said in a farewell address to the Constituent Assembly, referring to the date of independence. "This will be a moment of great joy, not just for the East Timorese, but for the entire world, which has waited eagerly for the moment when it could welcome East Timor into the family of nations."

The UNTAET chief, who arrived in East Timor in November 1999, paid tribute to the “resolute manner” in which the Timorese people took up the challenge of the transitional process and pointed to that determination as a key to its success.

"You have enthusiastically come together to reweave the social fabric of your communities and construct a nation based on the fundamental principles of democracy," he said.

Recounting the many achievements of UNTAET in helping East Timor rebuild and to develop institutions of statehood, Mr. Vieira de Mello pledged that the successor mission, while smaller and more focused in scope, would continue the UN's commitment to the tiny island nation.

"The UN and its member agencies recognize that there is a continuing need for financial, material and technical support," he said. "As is appropriate, given the newly independent status of East Timor, the foci of the successor mission - UNMISET - will be technical assistance, and security and law and order."

Mr. Vieira de Mello also stressed the importance of good relations with neighbouring Indonesia, noting that it was to East Timor's economic and political advantage that its dealings with Jakarta be conducted in a climate of mutual respect and understanding.

"With independence comes great responsibility," the UNTAET chief said, pointing out that membership in the community of nations included such obligations as acting as a good neighbour, negotiating treaties in a mature manner and being a responsible partner in the region.

"In many ways, East Timor is better positioned than other developing nations, having a tremendous amount of international goodwill and support to drawn on," he noted. "The international community is rooting for your success."