SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello at Dili airport upon his arrival from NY and his address to the Timorese officers of the new Border Control Service

Originally published
These are near verbatim excerpts of a press briefing by SRSG Sergio Vieira de Mello at Dili airport upon his arrival from New York and his address to the Timorese officers of the new Border Control Service.
Dili 9 February 2000

Statement addressed to the Border Control Service officers after having his passport stamped for the first timesince the estbalishment of the Service.

SVM: We are now regulating the life of this country, re-establishing the respect for the law. The first thing that people notice when they came here is precisely that... lack of everything, lack of control... which is always dangerous. I think that now we are showing to the world that things are changing, that things are evolving for the better. And that now finally one legitimate authority exists. You are the first front line. Congratulations!

Press briefing:

Q: (on the results of the trip to Geneva and New York)

SVM: (Inaudible...) full support for the UN. I also had a number of good meetings with donor countries in Geneva and with all those countries that support UNTAET in New York, a large number of member states. I also had meetings with agencies, specialized agencies, programs and funds of the UN.

That was a good exchange. Not least with our colleagues from the [World] Bank and the IMF. You know that one of our priorities is to ensure a speed disbursment of funds under the six-month reconstruction program. We received strong assurances from our colleagues from the [World] Bank, including president Jim Wolfensohn himself, who will incidentally be visiting Timor on the 21 February, that this will happen. So, he will come and look for himself and that is extremely encouraging to us. So, all in all very positive, so we are back here to try and implement all those promises.

Q: Can you comment on the arrest of Moko Soares by the TNI?

SVM: I am very happy, as you know general Cosgrove and myself have been requesting the Indonesian authorities to interrogate Mr. Moko Soares and to determine whether all the intelligence we have received was indeed accurate.

I had discussed this with governor Tallo, with general Syahnakri, with foreign minister Shihab, and I received assurances from all of them that they would indeed apprehend this gentleman and look into his past record. I was informed this morning by the chief of police in Kupang that he had been detained and that they found weapons in his possession. He is being charged therefore with illegal possession and sale of weapons, which we certainly welcome because we knew that this is what he had been up to.

Q: How and where was he detained?

SVM: I believe he was detained in Kefa.

Q: Was he detained by the police or by the TNI?

SVM: I believe it was the police.

Q: Can you please comment the decision by Joao Carrascalao to resign and the controversy about the plane?

SVM: I don't like controversies and when we have disagreements, and fortunately that is rare, I prefer to solve them directly and not through the press. I am Brazilian and we are in East Timor, which is a big coffee producer, so I would just say that this is a storm in a cup of coffee. (translated from Portuguese)

Q: Will you be able to create jobs more quickly as a result of this visit?

SVM: As you know, that has been our main concern in recent weeks, I would say our obsession. That has been one of the main themes, together with security and what we needed to do to restore a meaningful dialogue with the pro-autonomy groups and leadership in West Timor. I think I can say yes.

We were taken very seriously in Geneva by the Humanitarian Liaison Working Group, which is a group of donors, and in New York by the Security Council, by troop contributors, by those member states that support UNTAET in broader sense, and indeed by the agencies themselves, including the World Bank.

As you know deployment of labor intensive programs can only be launched with the support of World Bank and the release of the money contributed to its Trust Fund. The WB has already made considerable effort to shorten its cycle, which is normally 12-18 months - here we are talking of only a few months. So this is already a major achievement.

What I tried, also conveying a message from Xanana [Gusmao] and CNRT, and Timorese as a whole, was to further shorten that gap. I believe I have succeeded. Certainly, I have received all assurances from senior officials of the [World] bank, particularly from the president Jim Wolfhensohn, that no effort will be spared to make sure that disbursements actually take place starting now in March. And if that happened, I would say it's a revolution in terms of our partnership with the [World] Bank and the IMF in postconflict situations such as this one.

Q: So finally, the Portuguese troops arrived, can you comment?

SVM: Finally. Of course, we regret the delays caused by technical problems... And they certainly were not according to the wishes of our HQ in New York. I am very happy. I am very happy with the arrival of Portuguese troops. I have done anything that I could before and during the mission to avoid any delays in Central Sector. With the arrival of the Portuguese troops, we can now proceed according to the schedule and take over the command of this sector from Interfet on the 14 February as planned. (translated from Portuguese)

Q: You yourself saw firsthand the difficulties of the situation in the camps in East Timor. That a situation is still as difficult as it was when you were there. What steps will UNTAET take to try to relieve that situation?

SMV: First of all, I have told Xanana [Gusmao] and Jose [Ramos Horta] over the telephone that we need to discuss exactly that. I was rather encouraged by the attitude of leaders in the camps in Atambua, but shocked and dismayed by the emotions and irrational behavior displayed by those in the camp near Kupang.

It was obvious that in Kupang there was a high proportion of former militia activists, hard-liners and TNI members, East Timorese police members, which obviously did not facilitate our dialogue. But, as you know, it was very tense, contrary to our meetings in Atambua.

What happened subsequently and the outcome of the congress in Kupang, which seems to have given the hard-liners a prevalent role, which I certainly regret because that is neither the official Indonesian government line, and certainly not what we here, both CNRT and UNTAET expected.

What I think we need to do, as long as leaders on the other side are prepared, as I told them, to renounce violence, what we need to do is to establish perhaps more regular dialogue.

They certainly asked for it, strangely enough. Even though they continue to voice radical themes, such as questioning of impartiality of UNAMET, questioning therefore the outcome of the Popular Consultation, demanding equal representation in the NCC, equal to that of CNRT, which as you know are demands that would be extremely difficult to entertain, particularly those that challenge the outcome of the Popular Consultation, they were still grateful that we came to talk to them and listen to them.

And I would like to do more of that, myself, my colleagues are prepared to go and talk to them. I am sure this is also true for the CNRT. We need to agree on a strategy to engage them and make them realize that through violence and the weapons they did not succeed last year and they will not succeed in future. Therefore, what they need to do is to recognize that only active participation in a peaceful, democratic, political life in East Timor, and there will be ample opportunities to do so, is the only way forward. This will be our strong message to them despite these recent disappointments.