Slower pullout of UN troops will help security in Timor-Leste, Security Council told

28 April 2003
UN Security Council in session

The head of the United Nations mission in Timor-Leste told the Security Council today that the new timetable for the gradual withdrawal of UN peacekeepers was critically important in addressing the criminally and politically motivated threats to security in that country.

"A surge in violence at this time could potentially generate a demoralizing psychological apprehension in the population of a recrudescence of violence," Kamalesh Sharma, head of the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), said in an open briefing to the Council shortly before it is to decide on a one-year extension of the operation's mandate.

Mr. Sharma said along with the gradual drawdown of UN peacekeepers, it was important to reinforce the abilities of the local police force, elaborating on the latest report on UNMISET by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in which he notes that the worsening security situation is the most striking development in the country since his previous report of 6 November 2002.

Mr. Sharma said the risk of civil disorder appeared to be part of a strategy by the perpetrators to try and instigate numerous such incidents simultaneously across the entire country in order to encourage a perception of a crisis in governance and instil a fear of returning social disorder.

"The slower drawdown of the UNMISET military component would contribute to reducing the threat posed by such groups, while also ensuring that the police forces have adequate time to develop," he told the Council, which also heard from the representatives of some 20 countries.

Despite these threats to security, the country, with UNMISET support, is now on the path where it can quickly respond to such situations and work towards eventually dismantling such threats through appropriate security, political and economic measures, Mr. Sharma stated.

"Timor-Leste should proceed on its chosen path, reflecting the central importance of an ethos of governance based on the rule of law - the judiciary has to move swiftly to win public confidence - personal freedoms and universal principles of human rights, with faith and persistence," he said. "The UN will continue to be an ally in this journey."

Ambassador José Luis Guterres of Timor-Leste said the violence of last December and the subsequent terrorist activities of January this year created some fears about the country's future security. However, the firm and transparent response of the United Nations and his Government provided reassurance and had reasserted confidence and stability. UNMISET had been and continued to be effective, he added. Much progress had been made in the capacity building of Timorese police and military. Timor-Lest fully endorsed the Secretary-General's recommendation about the further extension of the mission's mandate.


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