United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative in Timor-Leste today called for calm and for the observance of the rule of law to allow justice to take its course in dealing with the outbreak of violence in April that forced tens of thousands of people in the small country to flee their homes.
In a statement released in the capital, Dili, Sukehiro Hasegawa pointed out that the international community is aware of, and will respond to, the aspirations and demands for justice, fair and equal treatment of everyone alleged to have committed a criminal act during the period preceding and leading to the violent incidents in April and May of this year. That was when some 600 striking soldiers – a third of the armed forces – were fired, sparking clashes that killed at least 37 people and drove 155,000 more, 15 per cent of the population, from their homes.
The United Nations will respond by supporting an independent inquiry into the facts and circumstances relevant to the incidents, said Mr. Hasegawa, noting that the “Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste” has already commenced its investigations. Officials connected to that probe are expected to arrive in Timor-Leste next week.
The Special Representative pointed out that the Office of the Prosecutor-General may be conducting many criminal investigations into the recent incidents, a process which will take time, and that it is important that the justice system be allowed to run its course. “What counts is that, at the end, justice be done with fairness and integrity. That, after a fair trial, innocent people are acquitted and those individuals found guilty of criminal acts are convicted and sentenced in accordance with the law of the land,” he said.
He also urged the Timorese people to find the strength to start the reconciliation process with their neighbours and fellow citizens – “whether they happen to be from the eastern or the western districts” – and to work together to achieve democratic reforms.
Looking to polls scheduled for early next hear, he observed that peace and stability are necessary “so that the process can be completely free and democratic and be carried out without threats of violence or intimidation.”
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 in Timor-Lestes.