Statement to the UN Security Council regarding the situation in Timor Leste
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
The situation in Timor-Leste
Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
I would like to join others in welcoming Foreign Minister Portas and Foreign Minister da Costa – important presences here today. And Special Representative Ameerah Haq whose contribution with UNMIT has remained instrumental.
I would also like to thank Portugal inviting non-Council members to participate. Australia and Portugal have developed a closer relationship through our joint cooperation in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste has experienced an extended and increasingly confident period of stability over the past three and a half years, allowing the government to turn its attention to the important tasks of strengthening state institutions, improving service delivery to its people, building infrastructure and boosting the economy. Into the future, growing government budgets will provide scope for greater public investment in health, education and rural development. Agriculture requires particular attention. And the employment needs of youth.
Australia welcomed the Government's decision to take a longer view of its development, which culminated in the Strategic Development Plan released in July – an appropriately ambitious vision. Australia will support the Plan's objectives through targeted assistance programs in health, education, infrastructure, rural development and other areas.
It is widely understood next year's national elections will test the strength of Timor-Leste's institutions, in particular the country's political parties, security institutions and electoral authorities. We have confidence in Timor-Leste's ability to run fair and transparent elections. We know that the Timorese people hold their democratic institutions to high account.
We are impressed by the commitment of political leaders to peaceful elections and to the education of voters about their rights and responsibilities in strengthening Timor-Leste's young democracy. The Maubisse dialogues, which bring Timor-Leste's political leadership together – including opposition members – continue to reinforce to leaders of all parties that continued peace is in everyone's interests.
The election period will test the capacity of security services, in particular the police. We have been concerned by the sporadic outbreaks of violence perpetrated by martial arts gangs. That said we are encouraged that the PNTL was able to contain recent incidents such as the violence in Zumalai in August. And I note Foreign Minister da Costa's reassuring comments on this this morning.
The resumption of full policing responsibility by the PNTL in March has coincided with a concentrated period of mentoring and consolidation, including focused capacity-building ahead of the election period. Australia has provided some of the specialist trainers within the UN police and continues to support the development of the PNTL through a separate capacity-building program. Looking ahead, adequate levels of government budgetary support for the PNTL – as well as continuing a sustained program of capacity-building – will be needed to ensure it develops into a professional, resilient police force, responsive to the community it serves.
The International Stabilisation Force also stands ready to provide support to Timor-Leste's security institutions and UN Police during the elections if needed.
As many have said today, the performance of Timor-Leste's democratic institutions during next year's elections will represent critical benchmarks for determining the timing of UNMIT's transition. For that and other reasons, it is important that UNMIT's mandate be extended until at least the end of 2012 to support the consolidation of a new government.
Australia is optimistic about the conduct of next year's elections and the future development of Timor-Leste. We encourage the conditions-based approach, clearly outlined in the Joint Transition Plan, to continue to guide the approach of the Council.
We acknowledge the work that the Government of Timor-Leste and UNMIT have put into the Joint Transition Plan and look forward to continued dialogue with the Government of Timor-Leste and UN agencies on its implementation. It will, of course, be an evolving plan. But its innovativeness and deliberation is commendable. While the Joint Transition Plan should prompt some preliminary discussions on a post-UNMIT UN presence, Australia agrees that the nature of this presence should be guided by the views of the next government in Timor-Leste itself. We have taken careful note of the views of political leaders that the UN should have an ongoing role in strengthening the foundations of Timor-Leste's democracy.
To conclude, 2012 will be an historic landmark year for Timor-Leste. Beyond the national elections and the expected withdrawal of UNMIT, Timor-Leste will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its independence. Important challenges of course remain. But the people of Timor-Leste have much to look forward to. My own country will continue to work with Timor-Leste's government, other partners and the UN to assist this crucial transition phase and beyond.
Lastly, I would also like to commend Brazil for its work over the past (nearly) two years as Chair of the Core Group on Timor-Leste. And welcome Vice-Minister Machado's presence here today. We are very grateful to Brazil for their leadership.
Thank you Mr President.