Timor-Leste making progress in overcoming last year’s crisis, says Ban Ki-moon

Timor-Leste making progress in overcoming last year’s crisis, says Ban Ki-moon

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Despite the recent flare-up of tensions following the announcement of a new Government, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended Timor-Leste on overcoming the crisis of last year that led to the bolstering of the United Nations presence in the country which it helped shepherd to independence in 2002.

An indication of that progress is the successful completion of presidential and parliamentary elections with which the Timorese people “once again demonstrated their faith in democratic processes to move beyond internal divisions,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report to the Security Council on the activities of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) from 27 January to 20 August.

However, he added, the process leading to the formation of the new Government and the violent disturbances following it “demonstrate that not all divisions have yet been overcome. Continued efforts to strengthen the culture of truly inclusive and participatory democracy based on rule of law and respect for human rights will be essential for the creation of a stable and prosperous Timor-Leste.”

The Security Council created UNMIT in August 2006 to help restore order after fighting, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, broke out in April and May and led to the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 155,000 people – or 15 per cent of the population – to flee their homes.

In his report, Mr. Ban says the security situation in the country improved overall during the reporting period but continues to be volatile and subject to sporadic violence, such as that witnessed after the formation of a new Government led by former president Xanana Gusmão following the June elections, which failed to produce a single outright winner.

“Elections are a fundamental step in consolidating democracy, but only an initial one,” he observed, adding that many of the challenges relating to the 2006 crisis remain unresolved, such as the grievances of members of the armed forces, gang violence and the situation of some 100,000 people who remain internally displaced.

Mr. Ban cautions that the Government will face “a delicate balancing act” in addressing more immediate problems stemming from the crisis while guaranteeing public security and ensuring effective socio-economic programmes to tackle issues such as poverty, which continues to be “one of the major causes of instability” in the country.

Other priorities include advancing on justice and reconciliation issues, strengthening the judicial sector and promoting human rights, as well as moving forward with security sector reform, including training of the national police force.

The serious but temporary escalations of violence in the course of this year “serve as a reminder of the fragility of the security situation,” Mr. Ban states. “They also demonstrate that, despite the peaceful conduct of elections and wide acceptance of the results, there is still a need to nurture a culture of non-violence and promote the peaceful resolution of differences.”