Timor-Leste praises UN for critical role in securing sovereignty

28 September 2009

The Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste today paid tribute to the United Nations for the world body’s role over the past decade and more in supporting the South-East Asian nation on its path to independence.

“It was through the United Nations that a solution was found for what was then tabled as the ‘question of East Timor,’” Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa told General Assembly.

“It was the United Nations that shouldered the responsibility of finding a just solution to that question and was indeed able to do so with success,” Mr. da Costa said in a speech to the annual General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr. da Costa noted that the decision to employ the UN to resolve his country’s conflict through peaceful means and to defer to the UN Charter was a wise one.

“The engagement with the United Nations continues to be the policy of Timor-Leste today,” he added. “Timor-Leste has benefited greatly from this engagement, through the dedicated work of successive UN missions and through the presence and work of the various United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.”

Timorese turned out in huge numbers on 30 August 1999 to vote in a popular consultation on their future. The result – announced five days later on 4 September – was an overwhelming choice for independence over autonomy within Indonesia.

UN administrators moved in soon after the vote, which was followed by widespread violence in which 1,500 to 2,000 people were killed, and helped shepherd Timor-Leste to its eventual independence as a State in 2002.

“The UN’s current mission in Timor-Leste, UNMIT, is a testament to the need for a longer term engagement by the UN,” said Mr. da Silva, noting that the crisis in 2006 – when tensions within the security sector led to deadly riots – was a reminder of the fragility of peace when State institutions are still weak and need strengthening.

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