Timor-Leste

Secretary-General's chat with journalists travelling with him aboard the plane from Jakarta to Dili

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Q (CNN): Mr. General Secretary, this was a major project for you - East Timor - and I believe you have said that you wouldn't have changed anything in the process despite the violence that ensued. Have you had any second thoughts, as we now head into East Timor? Did it unfold the way you would hope it would in the end?
SG: I think we should look beck to the history of East Timor and remember that this was a conflict that had persisted for about twenty-five years. And in the process, thousands have died. At least today it's been brought to an end and the people of east Timor have taken charge of their own destiny and now are beginning to rebuild.

Obviously, reconstruction will take time. I've read press reports saying that after six month the police had not been established, the judiciary is not established, reconstruction is not completed. I don't know of any nation that was built in six months. We are beginning to get the money that had been pledged. In fact, after me, comes Mr.Wolfensohn of the World Bank. We are working very closely together and the money is going to begin to flow, and reconstruction will begin in earnest - the creation of jobs, quick impact projects that will create jobs for the people.

I think the East Timorese realize that this is going to be a long road. I can understand the initial frustration of some of the citizens, but I think in the long run they will take charge of their own destiny and live the dream they have waited for seventy-five years.

Q:(CNN): What are your personal thoughts as we now fly from Indonesia, in the air, to East Timor?

SG: I must say, that in fact yesterday, I saw former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas in Jakarta, and I was talking to Mr.Jamsheed Marker and some of the people who have been involved in this. And I recall my communication with (Independence Leader) Xanana Gusmao, who said, yes, it was painful, it was difficult, but we would not have had it in any other way. And now at least we can move forward and build.

I would hope that the East Timorese will reconcile among themselves. I would hope that East Timorese in the diaspora will come back and help rebuilt the nation. I have been encouraged by the discussion I've head with ASEAN leaders in Bangkok, and the discussion I had in Tokyo and China, where these governments Have committed themselves to Help East Timor. And I think this was also reflected in the success of the pledging conference in Tokyo. And East Timor, which has good relations with Indonesia, which is embraced by the region and ASEAN, as difficult as it is going to be, I think we'll stand a much better chance of success.

Q (CNN): Would you have liked to have seen the camps in West Timor?

SG: I would have liked to see the camps in West Timor, but there were several reasons - the question of logistical reasons and also some of on-the-ground arrangements that became a bit more complicated.

And besides, going straight to East Timor rather than going via West Timor gives me a bit more time with people on the ground, with the leaders. And also, of course, to have the occasion to review with the peacekeepers how things are going.

I've had chance to discuss the West Timorese situation very, very fully with the Indonesian authorities, and I've impressed upon them the need to contain the militia, and work with us to get the Timorese to go back to East Timor or to make a free choice, either to remain in West Timor or relocate in other part of Indonesia.

But they must exercise that choice and be given freedom of movement.

Q (CNN): Are you worried about a culture of dependency in the international community in East Timor?

SG: That is always a risk, but I think this is something that we are going to try and work with the East Timorese and the countries of the region to try and build as viable as economy as possible so that it will not become so dependent on the international donor community. Initially it will have to be, but I think we need to work with them and help then stand on their own feet.

Q: (CNN): As a human being, what do you want to see on the ground in East Timor as we are in the air flying there?

SG: Well, I think I have received enough reports and seen a lot of (inaudible) to know what to expect on the ground. But it also encourages me and should propel me and all of us to try and move as quickly as we can to get the reconstruction off the ground and to give people hope... hope that real help is coming, hope that the reconstruction is going to begin in earnest and that it will be sustained.

Q: (Daily Telegraph): Has there ever been a UN operation that has been so much in control? Is there another place where the UN is effectively being the Government and has been so much in control?

SG: I think this is a first. We were in Namibia and in Cambodia, but in these cases, there were Governments. I mean there was a government in Cambodia, and we worked with them. So East Timor is a first, really, for the UN.

Q: (Daily Telegraph): It is quite a challenge.

SG: It's quite a challenge, and we need all the help and support we can (get) from the international community, from the donor community, and we would expect the East Timorese to work with us patiently to get the reconstruction (under way).

Q (NHK): How long do you think it will take for the recreation, or reconstruction of East Timor?

SG: I hesitate to give you a time frame, but it is going to take several years. This is not something that will be done in months.

Q: Thank you for your time.