Following the recent deadly violence in Timor-Leste, in which 155,000 people were forced to flee their homes, it is important for the international community to realize that the tiny nation needs a sustained, long-term commitment, a United Nations envoy said today after briefing the Security Council on his recent assessment mission to the country.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, said that the Timorese Government’s request for increased assistance from the UN had focused in particular on an international police force, not only in terms of an immediate security role but also for the longer-term.
“It’s important…that the international community recognizes that the commitment it now needs to renew to Timor-Leste has to be a sustained one, has to be a long-term one, and I’m pleased to say that I think is the mood of members of the Council too,” he told reporters.
“The request from the Government focused firstly on international policing and the expectation that the United Nations will take over from the international force’s responsibility for international police to maintain law and order directly in the short-term and then to work again on the long term development of the Timorese police.”
Mr. Martin said that although he could not fully anticipate the recommendations of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report to the Security Council in August, which will call for an increased UN presence, it is clear that next year’s elections need support and so too does the country’s fledgling human rights and justice system.
“And in general, support to the key institutions of Government whose fragility has in some way been exposed by this crisis will be of great importance,” he said, adding that while the number of personnel for such a UN force has not yet been discussed it “will need to be substantial initially.”
The crisis in Timor-Leste erupted in late April with the firing of 600 striking soldiers, a third of the armed forces. Ensuing violence killed at least 37 people and drove 155,000 more, 15 per cent of the population, from their homes to seek shelter in camps or with host families. At present a joint Task Force made up of Australian, New Zealand, Portuguese and Malaysian forces invited in by the Government is helping to restore calm.
Last month, Mr. Annan said it was “obvious that the UN will have to go back to Timor-Leste in a much larger form than we are at the moment,” noting that perhaps its effort there after shepherding the nation to independence four years ago had been drawn down too quickly. The mandate of the small UN Office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) runs until 20 August.