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East Timor: Briefing by Ian Martin, Sergio Vieira de Mello and Xanana Gusmao

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This is a near verbatim transcript of the press conference given by Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ian Martin, the outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Mr. Xanana Gusmao, President of the CNRT.
SVM: Thank you very much. I will say a few words on two issues. One is Ian Martin's departure. I want to pay a very warm tribute to my old friend and colleague Ian Martin. I want to tell you that I feel honoured to succeed him and that the Secretary-General, myself and the staff of the United Nations at large and I know the people of East Timor are deeply grateful and indebted to him and to his colleagues for the magnificent job that they performed in making it possible for the Timorese to express freely their will and their wishes for the future. He has also held on in most difficult and dangerous conditions displaying courage that is a well-known quality of Ian. He has also acted on my behalf pending my arrival. I repeat, Ian we lose you with great sadness and wish you every success and personal happiness in your future important endeavors.

I also wanted to say a word on our relations with President Xanana Gusmao of the CNRT. You are well aware, because you have been asking questions from the moment I arrived, and even before I arrived, that we needed to clear the air. There was a feeling on the part of the CNRT that we were not including that we were not listening to them, that we were not involving them. Now, I kept saying from abroad that this was not the case that I would demonstrate that this was not true from the moment I arrived. And as you know from only a few hours after my arriving here I visited him in Aileu. We had a very frank conversation. This morning we began a most important process of dialogue on how we shall work together on possible joint structures for our cooperation, for our consultative process in the weeks and months ahead and also on substantive issues that are at the top of our priority agenda. The meeting that has begun this morning and will continue this afternoon was extremely friendly. We went in depth into some of these questions. I think this has set the tone for the future of our cooperation.

That is all I have to say. I would now invite President Gusmao to take over before we give the floor to Ian.

XG: [translated from Portuguese] Thank you for having me here. First of all, on behalf of the CNRT and the East Timorese people we would like to pay a tribute to Ian Martin, to show him our gratitude and appreciation for all he has done during the difficult moments, as you will recall, for the period up to the Popular Consultation which took place on the 30th of August. The tribute we are paying Ian Martin today is extensive to all his partners who have shown real acts of heroism. We will never forget what they have achieved. I am sure that for a long time the East Timorese will remember UNAMET because it has traveled throughout the country and the children would shout everywhere "UNAMET". It was a very important period in our history. Ian Martin and his aids, especially Mr. Tamrat Samuel, have worked very closely with us. What we would like to say today is that East Timor would like to see Mr. Ian Martin again as a guest on Independence Day. Thank you Ian Martin.

The issue that the press has been asking about, and I think that some media has even contributed to friction, is on the relationship between the CNRT and UNTAET. I won't deny that there was a situation where one could think that doors for dialogue were closed. Yes, I admit that this existed. As Mr. de Mello has just said, we have just concluded the first session of a first meeting. That is the beginning of the process. We are aware that it will be difficult. We have always been honest right from the onset. We have always said that we would have to learn how to manage this country as an independent nation. We have been political activists for a long period. Now we have to get the practical skills to make an independent country and we are aware of our shortcomings. That is why we accepted the mandate of UNTAET in the first place. That is why I thank Mr. De Mello for coming to Aileu where we had a meeting. I would like to pledge the full commitment of ourselves because we know that UNTAET came here to prepare the East Timorese on how to manage their own country. Thank you.

IM: You will rightly want to ask a question about the present and the future and at this moment I am part of the past. But there are one or two pieces of unfinished business I would like to refer to.

First of all, I would like to thank Sergio and particularly Mr. Xanana Gusmao for what they have said about the work of UNAMET. It has been an extraordinary privilege to have been a part of the United Nations belatedly fulfilling a commitment to East Timor to enable people to exercise their right to self-determination. It is not something that should be personalized. I want again to associate all the staff of UNAMET, international and Timorese in that to say that the success of the Popular Consultation could only have happened with the extraordinary determination of the people of East Timor themselves and indeed with the wisdom and restraint that was shown throughout the leadership of the CNRT and of FALINTIL.

Of course, the successful outcome of the Popular Consultation has been clouded, even if only partly clouded, by the violence and destruction, which followed the ballot. It was first said to be a spontaneous reaction to an outcome rigged by the pro-independence bias of UNAMET; one of many foolish things said in a campaign of misinformation said against UNAMET. But it is surely now clear that what happened was planned, premeditated evil which involved murder, rape, forced deportation and physical destruction on an extraordinary scale. Amongst the victims of that violence were, as you know, local staff of UNAMET. And I want to make clear that UNAMET, now UNTAET, is pursuing its commitment to investigate those and other murders. We know that at least five of our local staff were killed and two others are missing, probably killed. In Atsabe, Gleno and Maliana the investigations into those murders point to the direct involvement of members of the TNI as well as militia. In Liquica the international police officer, who was seriously wounded, was wounded under sustained fire from the TNI, and POLRI, and militia. Those investigations by our police are amongst a much larger number which CivPol and INTERFET are conducting. Some 224 complete or partial skeletons have been located and, of course, there are many other cases including the massacres in Liquica and Suai where the bodies of those reportedly killed have not been found. An investigative team has identified perpetrators in several cases, and militia members are under arrest for involvement in particular murders. The information gathered in these and other cases makes it clear that the killings were planned and supported by the TNI. One particular [inaudible] ongoing investigation is into the killing of CRNT leader Mauhudo, where witnesses have testified that he was shot dead by a TNI sergeant.

I want therefore to leave East Timor with three appeals to the international community. The first is that the investigations are pursued vigorously and with all the necessary resources. I know Sergio strongly intends to uncover the full truth of the violence before and after the ballot, and put to justice those with prime responsibility, especially those responsible not just for its execution but for its planning. I do not believe that that is contrary to reconciliation. I believe that can be a foundation for reconciliation both amongst East Timorese, and between the [inaudible].

My second appeal is a reminder that violations of human rights against East Timorese is still ongoing and that the international community maintain the spotlight on the fate of East Timorese in West Timor until all those who are to return are able to do so.

My third appeal is that the international community will sustain its commitment to provide East Timor with all the financial assistance it needs to build an independent and economically viable East Timor, fully governed at last by East Timorese.

It has been a privilege to have played a part in that and to cooperate closely during that with Mr. Xanana Gusmao and with Mr. Leandro Isaac and with other colleagues. I wish them and Sergio well in continuing the close cooperation.

Questions & Answer:

Q: Mr. Gusmao, you came to the compound this morning with a number of armed men

XG: This is an UNTAET press conference, later I'll talk about other issues.

Q [translated from Portuguese]: There were indications of some problems within the leadership of CRNT. How successful was the meeting held today as far as participation of East Timorese is concerned?

SVM: We discussed two aspects of this question. One at the highest level, how we bring the CNRT and possibly the other protagonists to a mechanism of consultation and decision making on the many priority issues that lie ahead of us in the short and medium term. So, this would be the political consultative body. The other aspect is how we articulate the work of the transitional administration of the UN and of this embryonic Timorese civil service that we are here to nurture and to develop and train on the day-to-day execution of the policies defined at the highest level.

Q [translated from Portuguese]: Can I have an answer from Mr. Gusmao on this question, whether he is really happy over what has happened, whether he thinks that some names have already been named to be integrated into the administration?

XG: I should tell you that in our one-hour meeting you can't do everything. So, we started working on principles. After having dealt with principles, we will start with the implementation of a structure that will be an answer to the UNTAET mission and the wishes of the East Timorese people.

Q: How important is it that you say there are no more violations of the mandate [inaudible] to make this whole thing work?

SVM: I certainly wouldn't relate those two issues. Incidents have happened, and unfortunately are likely to happen in the future, but they are fortunately the exception rather then the rule unlike other parts of the world. These have to be dealt with as unfortunate incidents and solutions have been found and will be found in future. What we discussed here this morning are pretty fundamental questions on how we relate to one another during this transition in building a national capacity to take over after elections have been organized and on making the decision on the date of the transfer of the administrative authority to the Timorese people - that is independence. That is what we are focussing on. This far transcends any minor, as you call them, violations of the mandate.

Q: Some people have suggested that you and other UN officials should have received evidence that the TNI planned this tragedy and by trusting the Indonesian military with security the UN has somehow placed the East Timorese in a deplorable position. Do you have any remarks to that?

IM: I think that many people would agree that if there could have been an international security presence throughout the popular consultation that would have been greatly preferable. But, it is clear that if that had been insisted upon there probably would have been no popular consultation. I think that the people of East Timor are and will be the ultimate judge of whether it was right to proceed with the popular consultation in those circumstances. Many of us feared that there would be violence after the ballot, but I have to say that we did not anticipate the scale and extent of that violence. We believed that there was a consciousness on the part of those in Jakarta, including at the head of the TNI, that that would be disastrous for Indonesia's international reputation. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Q: Mr. Gusmao, you say that there has been a warming of your relationship with UNTAET. Is that also reflected in a similar warming of relationships with other international groups here, in particular INTERFET?

XG: Yes, some meetings took place. It is obvious that some were more successful than others, but everything was done in the spirit of progressing. Maybe we are looking at things only on the surface. You have to bear with us. Too many problems have to be solved. This sometimes prompts us to react. But, these reactions are legitimate.

Q [translated from Portuguese]: After the explanations you gave about UNTAET, can we now consider East Timor as a protectorate of the UN?

SVM: I have been at pains to explain in New York, and on my way to Dili, and since my arrival here, that certain concepts and words that express those concepts have absolutely nothing to do with the philosophy of the organization and its Secretary General. And least of all of myself or indeed the spirit of the Security Council resolution, even though it was adopted under Chapter VII, which, as you know is the enforcement chapter of the Charter. What we are aiming for here is a participatory, inclusive process that involves the Timorese, their representatives, in particular the CNRT, that has a preeminent role to play in decision-making on issues that will affect their future, not ours. It is in that sense that we have held our discussion since my arrival, and it is in that spirit that we have had our first discussion this morning which will continue this afternoon.