"We are here as your partners", says Secretary-General in remarks to people of Liquica, East Timor

News and Press Release
Originally published
Press Release - SG/SM/7304 - 20000216
Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the people of Liquica, East Timor, on 17 February:

It is a very moving experience for me to be in Liquica today with you and your leader, Xanana Gusmao. This is the first stop in my visit to East Timor. I wanted to come here because I know that Liquica was particularly hard hit by the violence of the militias last year. I wanted to be able to tell you in person that the United Nations is here to help you rebuild. We want to help you to recover from a tragic period in your history.

Father Rafael has just provided me with a full account of the massacre at the church last April. It is particularly shocking to me that a house of worship should be desecrated in this manner. I know that many more of your relatives and friends lost their lives before and after the ballot. In memory of all of them, I have just laid a wreath at the church.

Liquica is also a place where United Nations personnel were attacked and injured after the ballot announcement. Today, we are here to work with you to establish a free and independent East Timor. That was the clear result of the vote. That is the basis of our work.

As all of you know, the task ahead is enormous. You need jobs, shelter, clean water and more. I have only begun to see for myself how extensive the destruction was here in Liquica. I want to assure you that United Nations agencies are establishing themselves here and throughout East Timor in order to restore basic services and rebuild other infrastructure.

You want justice to prevail over impunity. Our civilian police and human rights team are investigating the atrocities that took place. A justice system has started to take shape so that justice can be handed down in courtrooms, not in the streets.

I know that you are particularly concerned about the fate of loved ones who are still in West Timor. My message to those still in exile is simple: come home, East Timor is your country. This is also the message I delivered during talks with the Indonesian leadership in Jakarta before coming to see you. I asked the Indonesian Government to work with us to ensure the safe and speedy return of all who wish to do so.

I know you are also hoping for reconciliation within East Timor and for harmonious relations with your neighbours in the region, particularly Indonesia. Mr. Gusmao has taken very courageous and admirable steps in this direction. I trust that each of you, individually, is equally committed to this path.

Any one of these tasks would be a serious undertaking. Taken together, they add up to one of the biggest and most complex challenges in your history and in the history of the United Nations. We will need to work closely together. And we will need patience. These things take time.

Your transition to independence is under way. East Timor is on a more hopeful path than anyone would have imagined just one year ago. But suffering remains widespread, and there will be more difficult times ahead. At such moments, I hope you will remember that the international community strongly supports your cause.

Nations have pledged $500 million in assistance. That money is now beginning to flow, meaning that reconstruction will begin in earnest and jobs will be created. The leaders of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have also promised to help. The United Nations, for its part, will spare no effort in carrying out its responsibilities. That job started with the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET). It continued with INTERFET, the international force. It has now entered a new stage with the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

We are here as your partners. Our work is to be guided by your concerns and your hopes. Together, we can weather the current crisis and usher in a new era for East Timor -- an era in which East Timor takes its place in the family of nations, and in which its men, women and children can lives of dignity and peace.

My friends, Viva Timor Loro Sae!