08 January 2009
UNMIT Headquarters, Obrigado Barracks, Dili, Timor-Leste
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of a press conference by Mr. Finn Reske-Nielsen, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and Mr. Takahisa Kawakami, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
Finn Reske-Nielsen: I would like to make a few comments on the past year and look at some of the challenges for2009. As we all know, 2008 started very badly with the attacks on the President and Prime Minister on February 11. However, many positive things also took place- the democratic institutions continued to be strengthened and they dealt appropriately with the crisis that was brought about by February 11.
Major achievements were finding a solution to the petitioner’s problems and also to make significant progress to solving the problems of the IDPs. As you know, 55,000 IDPs registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity have already been relocated either to their original places of residence or to other residence and most of the IDP camps in Dili have now disappeared. This is a great credit to the Government which has continued to receive support from the UN and the NGOs. However this is primarily a process that has been directed and executed by the Government and I do want to congratulate the Government for this achievement.
We do expect that the remaining 9 camps, including the Metinaro camp, will be disbanded over the coming weeks so that in a few months time we can safely say that the IDP problem in terms of the camps has been resolved. However, it will be important for both the Government and the UN to continue to monitor the situation in the receiving communities to see that any problems that may arise as a result of the relocation will be addressed in an appropriate manner.
Another area where there was very positive news in 2008 was the economy. The IMF estimated that the economic growth in 2008 amounted to around 10 per cent. This impressive economic growth was brought about primarily by increased public spending including the cash transfers that the Government implemented during the course of the year which included pensions to the elderly and to veterans. All of this has boosted the economy and economic activity and has shown tangible benefits for thousands of Timorese.
There has also been much progress in infrastructural development. You can see in Dili that many buildings are being constructed and renovated. You see more businesses that are springing up. These are all good signs that Timor-Leste is regaining stability and that the Timorese people are gaining confidence in the future.
We also see improvements in the areas of justice, strengthening of the court systems and the opening on a full time basis of the Baucau District Court. We expect that this will be followed by the opening of courts in Suai and in Oecusse in the coming months.
However there are many challenges for all of us in 2009. Looking at the economy, it is not enough to give out cash in terms of pensions- it is important that in 2009 there is sustainable growth based on job creation in the non-oil part of the economy. In order for jobs to created, the public investment program will need to be expanded even further by way of constructing roads, repairing roads, establishing irrigation systems- all the things that will lay the foundation for long-term economic growth that will later on be based on private sector investment.
In the Justice Sector, there are many challenges remaining. There continues to be a significant backlog of cases. This is something I believe needs to be addressed as a matter of priority and the UN stands ready to strengthen our support in this area.
Finally, Suko elections will take place in the second half of this year. This will be a good test for the electoral institutions of Timor-Leste to see that they can run these elections as they ran the 2007 elections. The UN will of course provide support for these elections within our means and resources. Personally, I am very confident that the Suko elections will take place on time and that they will be peaceful, calm and free and fair.
Takahisa Kawakami: The security in Timor-Leste is stable. The overall assessment is calm. Most of the incidents are assaults, public disorders and domestic disputes. The most serious incidents are caused by the martial arts groups. We just had an incident in Viqueque District triggered by fighting between two martial arts groups. However, the security situation in general has been manageable and continues to be manageable.
As for the human rights situation, after the state of siege ended, and the Joint Command was disbanded, there was a marked decrease in the number of human rights violations. During the course of last year, UNMIT together with the Government and the Provedor of Human Rights provided a number of trainings for various groups, including for PNTL and F-FDTL members. Also, the Provedor’s office expanded and the first Human Rights office was opened in Oecusse.
UNMIT Serious Crimes Investigations unit started their investigations last February and conducted 36 investigations from February to December 2008. This was an important step to resolving the 396 pending cases.
So, Timor-Leste is still considered a success story. To raise one final issue on policing, as you have heard, we are working on the resumption of PNTL policing. There is a general agreement between UNMIT and the Government that this handover/resumption should take place gradually and to those districts and units that meet the conditions. These conditions include preparedness by the PNTL in terms of institution, operations and administration. And of course we will look into the PNTL’s respect for human rights and the law.
So, if these conditions are met, we will handover to those districts and units which are ready. We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that law and order is in place.
Spokesperson: Are there any questions?
Q: I would like to ask about the monitoring by the UN on the work of the police. We recently visited Oecusse and we noticed that the PNTL face many problems in terms of radio communications. These problems have existed for a long time. When you talk about monitoring, how do you see the role of the UNPol in terms of dealing with such difficulties faced by the PNTL.
Takahisa Kawakami: I also visited Oecusse last week and at present, UNPol is conducting policing activities supported by the PTNL. After the handover, PNTL will take the lead. While we have to make a full assessment on the readiness of the PNTL, in my view, the PNTL are ready operationally. But as you rightly pointed out, there is a logistic shortage, for example in communications. There are only 17 radio sets for many police. The PNTL have expressed concern to the PNTL Police Commissioner about this and his answer was that PNTL HQ realised the problem and that HQ will try to provide more radio sets in due course.
So logistics are the responsibility of the PNTL and the Government. But the UN can help them. For example, it is not just the provision of equipment, but also one of maintenance. In this regard, the UN may be able to help by providing training and technicians so that they PNTL can maintain their equipment. At any rate, before we hand over, we will make sure that the necessary equipment is in place.
Q: What do you think the security situation will be like for 2009 in Timor-Leste? Knowing that the Government has an ambition to have a direct oil pipeline to Timor-Leste, this will need strong security. As the SRSG, what is your view in helping provide security for the Government to allow them achieve this goal?
Takahisa Kawakami: In 2008, there were 3094 incidents of crime. This was a slight increase compared to 2007. However, this was probably due to the increased reporting of crimes. As I mentioned most of these cases are assault, public disorder and domestic disputes. I don’t foresee any major changes in these patterns of crimes for 2009. Of course the upcoming elections will be have to be given attention to and to make sure that the elections will not create any large security incidents. Also there is no external threat to Timor-Leste. So in my view, the situation is under control.
Finn Reske-Nielsen: On the pipeline issue. It is difficult for me to comment as there are still technical studies that are being undertaken that will factor into what will ultimately be a political decision into where the pipeline will go. I think for the immediate future, 2009-2010, the main focus has to be on job creation in the non-oil economy. This is where the jobs will be found- there are very few jobs in the oil industry. It is positive that there a number of private investors who have indicated that they are going to invest significant amounts of money in Timor-Leste and all of this will help create jobs. For the short-to-medium term, I don’t think there is any alternative to increased public spending and drawing, in a prudent manner, increased financial resources from the Petroleum Fund in order to finance public investment projects - these are the areas the Government can immediately step in to create jobs that will lay the foundation for long term economic development.
Q: About the Suko elections, how many UN staff will be deployed to help with these elections?
Finn Reske-Nielsen: We have already received two official requests from the Government, one from CNE to field a number of UN Volunteers and a small number of elector experts, and from the Prime Minister to provide UNVs and technical support to STAE. This is in addition to what the UN has already been providing since the completion of the national elections in 2007.
We has a small number of electoral experts who are continuing to build the capacity of STAE and CNE to advise on legislative and other issues. You will recall in 2007, the UN provided some logistical support and that UNPol provided security support and that these are areas that the UN will most likely get involved in the Suko elections. However, the details are still being worked out and much will depend on the availability of resources and the decisions made by the Security Council when it meets on the new UNMIT mandate during the second half of February.
Spokesperson: That concludes the press conference, thank you.