Friday, 11 December 2009

Speech at farewell ceremony for SRSG Atul Khare

Dili, 9th December 2009


Ladies and gentlemen,

We are gathering here today to bid farewell to Dr. Atul Khare who has served in our country as the Special Representative of the U. N. Secretary-General (SRSG) for three long, intense years.

Prior to this mission, Dr. Atul Khare had served in Timor-Leste from June 2002 to May 2005 as Chief of Staff to the then SRSG Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma and as deputy SRSG totaling six years of tireless service to our people upholding the ideals of the UN.

So I invited you all today to join me in thanking Dr. Atul Khare and his esteemed wife Mrs. Vandna Khare, for their self-less, tireless dedication and kindness to the people of Timor-Leste, to me personally, and to all East Timorese political and religious leaders, leaders of our communities and civil society.

Dr. Khare arrived in Timor-Leste on 17th December 2006 almost four months after the UN Security Council authorized a new enhanced UN Mission for Timor-Leste - UNMIT. The worst of the political and security crisis was over by then. However, in December 2006 serious challenges remained; the situation was still very volatile, marked by sporadic violence, some of which were politically-motivated, but most were caused by rivalries among martial arts groups and youth gangs. In December 2006 we still had as many as 150,000 IDPs scattered in Dili and outside the capital; we were confronting the potentially explosive problem of the so-called “petitioners” and Mr. Alfredo Reinado’s group of heavily armed elements.

Four months after the Security Council authorized a new mission (Res. 1704 of 25th August 2006) with a police force of up to 1,608 elements, 1,070 civilian police personnel had arrived in Timor-Leste. This figure included a Formed Police Unit from Portugal that had been dispatched to Timor-Leste in early June under a bi-lateral agreement between Timor-Leste and Portugal and which transitioned to UNMIT in August 2006.

I wish to pause here to pay due tribute to Finn Rieske-Nielsen who managed the UN Mission in Timor-Leste during the most difficult months in 2006; he was a courageous and tireless presence, every day and night during those difficult days and weeks. His long-standing experience in dealing with humanitarian crisis situations both in Timor-Leste (he has served a total of almost seven years in our country) and other parts of the world equipped him very well to deal with the situation.

Prior to the arrival and full deployment of UNPOL in Dili and in the districts, the burden of assisting the Timorese authorities in restoring law and order in Dili had fallen on troops and police from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia and Portugal who had been dispatched to Timor-Leste at the end of May and early June 2006 in response to formal appeals from Timorese leaders. [i]

Australia alone had a force of 3,000 men and women, supported by an impressive array of equipment like Armored Personnel Carriers, tanks and helicopters. However, even such a robust force was inadequate and unable to quell the violence pitting rival martial arts groups or prevent the burning and looting of hundreds of humble dwellings, government warehouses and offices. This is not the type of conflict a conventional force is prepared for both in training and equipment. [ii]

Of the four forces on the ground in the second half of 2006, only the GNR was trained and equipped to deal with urban violence. But at company strength it was over-stretched and unable to respond effectively to every serious incident occurring in any part of the city.

The Australian mechanized force and heavily armed infantry soldiers, while impressive when they rumbled through the main streets of Dili, might have provided some valuable deterrence, but the reality was and is that conventional forces, however well trained and equipped, are ill-suited to prevent or stamp out urban violence and social unrest in the tortuous and confusing back alleys of the city.

Without the pretence of writing history or even modestly offering a detached and conclusive analysis of the 2006 crisis, I believe we can, nevertheless retain some salient elements.

I submit that the 2006 crisis was not inevitable. It could have been prevented if those in position of responsibility had addressed the numerous problems that had been timely and clearly identified and which required patient dialogue, imparting of information, followed by simple and inexpensive solutions.

As the tensions and resentment were not addressed they were exacerbated by certain elements in our society who saw in the crisis an opportunity to further their narrow interests.

The violence in certain neighborhoods in Dili was essentially a conflict over land and housing by those who felt left out or dispossessed. The seeds of this conflict began during the second half of Indonesian occupation and exacerbated from 1999 on as large number of individuals returned or flocked to Dili for the first time all competing for a piece of land and housing that had been vacated by departing Indonesian migrants and thousands of East Timorese who fled when they saw their fortunes changed.

The conflict had very little to do with a supposedly regional, ethnic or tribal divide. While Timor-Leste can be divided in geographic terms into three major regions, namely East, Central and Western, these regions do not correspond to perfectly identified, cohesive ethnic groups.

The implosion in the PNTL leadership and in the chain of command in Dili in April/May 2006 led to the break-down of law and order. As a consequence of the break-down in the chain of command in the police force, the government felt compelled to order the FFDTL to intervene in Dili. But this decision deepened the divide in the police ranks and between elements in the police force and the F-FDTL and in the F-FDTL itself.

However, in view of the situation prevailing in Dili on 28th April 2006 with the PNTL unable or unwilling to act to prevent the attack on the Palacio do Governo and subsequent attacks in many parts of the city, I do believe the government had no choice but to call in the F-FDTL.

I must add here that not every PNTL officer or unit in Dili deserted and failed in their duties. I will never forget a heartbreaking scene at the UIR HQTS in Dili when I visited them sometime at the end of May 2006. There were a total of about 40 men and women there, from all regions, crying desperately, their pain was visible, as they felt totally powerless. They had remained firm in their base but deeply concerned they could be attacked and overrun.

The Police Academy continued to function even as hundreds of IDPs were squatting in its grounds. A graduation ceremony of new cadets was even in that period. Credit goes to the Police Academy Director Insp. Julio Hornay who displayed professionalism and leadership qualities in times of crisis. The PNTL Migration Services, led by Inspector Carlos Jeronimo, continued also to function almost smoothly, without interruption.

While some PNTL elements from the districts deserted their base and joined in the conflict in Dili, the vast majority did not.

The basic problem in PNTL was that a huge force was created in haste between 2001 and 2003, with police numbers increasing significantly after 2003; those in charge seemed more interested in numbers than in quality and without considering all implications like strict selection criteria, adequate training, material incentives like reasonable salaries, equipment and infrastructures.

There was serious lack in wise political leadership which impacted upon negatively on the police command and in the entire force.

The U. N. and bilateral donors must ask themselves why they did not consider assisting the I Constitutional Government in providing basic infrastructure and equipment to our nascent police force. Apart from training, isn’t the provision of basic equipment a sine quo non condition to boost the moral, sustain the pride and effectiveness of a police force?

While the F-FDTL was deployed in Dili there was very little violence, arson or looting. There was a palpable fear of the F-FDTL and the common perception that the F-FDTL elements were not constrained in using force or were trigger-happy turned out to be a very effective deterrence.

As the ISF began to deploy in Dili in late May 2006, I discussed and exchanged views with Major-Gen. Taur Matan Ruak about the wisdom of F-FDTL retreating from Dili and return to barracks. The general promptly agreed and upon consultations with the then President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, F-FDTL soldiers and officers returned to the barracks in Tasi-Tolu, Hera, Metinaro and Baukau.

However, as the news of the removal of the F-FDTL from Dili was announced, panic spread and the exodus from the city began almost instantly with tens of thousands of people fleeing to the East towards Hera, Metinaro, Baukau, etc.

My own property and home became one IDP camp as I ordered the gates open to anyone wishing to take refuge with me. Many hundreds of desperate men, elderly, women and children, camped in my property grounds for the following weeks and I learned first-hand about the drama of the IDPs.

The departure of F-FDTL encouraged hooligans to act as they no longer felt constrained and afraid. A wave of house burning and looting began with the friendly international forces on the ground unable to prevent an orgy of arson in spite of their best efforts.

While the F-FDTL was in Dili there was a concerted and persistent campaign in certain quarters to denigrate the soldiers and officers of our armed forces with allegations of widespread killings and outright massacres particularly in the evening of 28th April 2006. Not a single eyewitness, a relative of those allegedly killed had come forward. No massacre took place of unarmed civilians or elements of the so-called “petitioners” group in the night of 28th April 2006 or in the following weeks.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is not my intention to offer you a detailed review or reflection on the past three years. I might do so at the end of my term as President.

As we gather here to bid farewell to a friend, Dr. Atul Khare and his esteemed wife, Mrs. Vandna Khare, I simply want to remind all of where we were in 2006, and to reflect on some root causes of the 2006 crisis and how we got here, today, in a Timor-Leste that has moved fast and away from the recent violence and is experiencing our best period of peace and economic growth.

When I took office in May 2007, I made it as priorities of my presidency, the restoration of peace and security, reform of the security sector, and poverty alleviation.

In regards to the security sector reform, my first concern was to have a unified, cohesive Timorese leadership view. In this regard I established the High Level Forum comprising the PR, PM and Speaker of the National Parliament. I instituted a Security Sector Review group in my office which liaises with the government agencies and UNMIT. The work of my team and that of the government has been detailed, exhaustive and conclusive.

The Security Council will review the situation in Timor-Leste in its February 2010 meeting. And as you depart, Dr. Atul Khare, I wish to convey to all our views and preference for the following two-three years in regards to the role of the UNMIT/UNPOL and ISF.

This has been the result of extensive review done by my security sector reform team, regular meetings with the Prime Minister and his two Secretaries of State in executive charge of the sector, the President of National Parliament and Members of Commission B of the NP, Maj.-Gen. Taur Matan Ruak, PNTL Commissioner and Commander-General Dr. Longuinhos Monteiro.

As you know I have convened many meetings in the course of the year with the Council of State and Supreme Council of Defense and Security, and in October I held a consultation with all stake-holders, having sent them in advance a detailed questionnaire in order to elicit their analysis and answers.

In view of the above, I wish to state the following:
1. The Timorese people and leadership are indebted and grateful to the peoples and leaders of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal who promptly responded to our appeal for assistance in our time of need at the end of May 2006;
2. The contribution of the four forces was central in helping to contain the violence in 2006 and in restoring peace and security to the people;

3. The Timorese people and leadership are indebted and grateful to the United Nations, in particularly to the Secretary-General and the Security Council for providing a robust response to our nation in time of extreme difficulties.

As the year 2009 comes to a close, we propose that in 2010 the following be accomplished:
1. Full Law and Order responsibilities in the Dili district be devolved to the Timorese authorities by June 2010 with hand-over of policing responsibilities from UNPOL to PNTL;
2. The UNPOL Formed Police Units currently in Dili should be reduced by half and redeployed to Baukau and Maliana, leaving only one platoon each in Dili for purposes of assisting in training programs and as a back-up to PNTL;
3. The hand-over of policing responsibilities from UNPOL to PNTL in the remaining districts must be completed by December 2010;
4. UNPOL units in each district and sub-district, subject to UN own decision on downsizing, should continue to provide all manners of assistance that may be required by their Timorese counter-part, namely, guidance and support in administration and management, continuing monitoring and training. However, like in Dili, UNPOL elements will no longer carry out mobile patrols or intervene except when necessary.
5. The year 2011 must be the year of consolidation of the review and reform processes, correction and improvements, in all aspects.
6. The government must insure that by the end of 2011 all basic infrastructure and logistic requirements of PNTL and F-FDTL have been satisfied.

7. The United Nations will determine the pace and size of the down-sizing of its police contingents in Timor-Leste from 2010 to 2012.

In regards to the ISF, following my regular discussions with the Ambassadors of Australia and New Zealand and ISF commanders, and consistent with our desire, the ISF in 2010 will see its mission further reduced and refocused:
· Between now and the end of December, the ISF will reduce in numbers by approximately one company.
· The ISF will withdraw from its Forward Operating Base at Baucau.
· The ISF will retain a permanent presence in Dili and Gleno.

· The ISF will continue to work with the F-FDTL to provide a presence in the Districts by conducting patrols to engage with the community and monitor the security environment.

The ISF will still be in Dili. However we expect ISF to place more emphasis on community engagement and not engaged in security patrols. We prefer not to see too many heavy weapons and military personnel in our city.

I expect that such activities be planned in consultation with our competent authorities, namely the two Secretaries of State and PNTL Commissioner as well as including the local “suku” chiefs.

You will have noticed that the honor guard in this building is provided by Timorese traditional warriors; security is assured by our unarmed civilian guards; a lively children playground is on the grounds of the presidency; there is a section of the presidential garden with free wireless internet open for the public. As you can see I feel very comfortable with little or no security at all.

I am comfortable with the path that the ISF is taking as I am very confident in its ability to support the needs of both the Government and people of Timor-Leste.

The changes I have just outlined are in some ways subtle and reflect the extensive consultation between our Government, the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the ISF. More importantly the changes emphasize the significant progress that we have made in the area of security since 2006. I am of the view that the changes have come at the right time, reflect the progress being made in our security sector but also reflect the fact that there is still work to do and that the ISF will be with us and UNMIT till 2012.

As I stated above, at the height of the crisis in 2006, the ISF had over 3,000 force elements in Timor-Leste. This number will be down to less than 600 in 2010, a reflection of the much improved security situation in the country.

The maintenance of a small but robust force is required as we continue the reform process in the two security agencies, a reform process which must be completed by the end of 2011.

We have two years to make greater efforts and achieve greater progress in skills transfer and capacity building in every area, and in providing our forces with every reasonable means required to sustain their moral, self-respect, self-confidence and effectiveness.

Timor-Leste is a Southeast Asian country, inextricably and proudly linked to this dynamic region. I expect the Government to explore opportunities for enhanced regional security and defense cooperation with friends and neighbors like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, The Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, in areas ranging from police to military training, joint exercises, intelligence training and sharing, maritime security, etc.

If Timor-Leste is to participate in the future in any humanitarian or peace-keeping mission outside our borders, I would envisage that we would do so as part of a regional mission under a regional structure and command. Hence I believe that we must endeavor to engage more our neighbors in the defense and security areas to learn and improve, adjust and adapt to our region.

I am very pleased with our enhanced defense and security cooperation with Portugal, a distant but loyal friend.

The recent visit to our country of a large U. S. marine group of 2,000 was very successful and immensely popular with the common people. The presence of, and activities carried out by, the U. S. Sea Bees, is one of the best example of an ideal bi-lateral defense cooperation that straddles the two areas, military and civilian, providing much needed assistance to local communities. Timor-Leste wishes to incrementally expand this very fruitful relationship with the U.S. .

Timor-Leste must stand on its own feet. We cannot continue to rely on friends and neighbors or the UN for our internal security, peace and stability. The international community and the UN have been overly sympathetic and generous, having committed, on a per capita basis, more resources to this tiny nation than to any other in the world.

Needless to say, not all these resources were invested wisely and benefitted the neediest ones, the poor who are the majority. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the facts of this extraordinary good-will on the part of the international community. However, we must bear in mind that there are many communities and nations around the world in even greater difficulties and need than us.

We are not the chosen children of God or of the UN. Even God gives up on those His sons and daughters who persist in conflict and sin. So more easily would the international community give up if Timorese leaders, political, civil society, religious, academia, private sector, do not walk halfway to meet each other, and together lift our people from extreme poverty, give them the peace and tranquility they desire and deserve.

When I addressed the UNSC in February this year, I promised the Secretary-General and the UNSC that this will be the last UN mission in our country; I told our good friend Secretary-General Ban Kie Moon that when he ends his current mandate and begins a second in one 2012, Timor-Leste will be at peace and relative prosperity and he can tick off Timor-Leste as a problem solved.

While some pseudo intellectuals and mediocre journalists insist that Timor-Leste is a failed State, I will say, with the wisdom of someone who has had a rich and intense life, having witnessed triumphs and survived tragedies, Timor-Leste is on the right track. We have recovered from the 2006 crisis; after years of stagnation or slow growth our economy registered a real 12.7% growth in 2008 and again an almost double digit growth this year. The country is at peace. We can see constant, endless smiles and happiness in the faces and eyes of the people, particularly in our women and children, the most vulnerable group; Dili is a booming town, for good and bad.

There is renewed faith in the political leadership and in the institutions - according to an independent survey conducted a year ago by the International Republican Institute which gave the Government very high marks with the Prime Minister toping almost 80% of approval rate; the F-FDTL and PNTL got very significant marks of around 80% as well. To all I extend my sincere congratulations.

As you depart Timor-Leste, rest assured, Dr. Atul Khare, that UNMIT, under your leadership, has made a significant contribution to the overall well-being of our people, to the climate of peace and security prevailing today in our country. Your professional expertise, humility and honesty, your wisdom which comes from thousands of years of an ancient civilization, endeared you to all and gained our confidence.

Whether as a UN envoy or as a country’s diplomat, I believe that those entrusted with a mission to represent an institution or their own country, if they wish to succeed in their mission, they must be able to gain the respect and confidence of the receiving community and its leaders through discretion, humility, honesty, hard-work. You have succeeded.

To you my friend Dr. Atul Khare and Mrs. Vandna Khare I will not say good-bye as we will see you again and again. I wish you good health, happiness, prosperity in the years to come. I wish your great country, India, the land of the immortal Mahatma Gandhi, peace and prosperity. May the leaders of India summon the wisdom of your ancient, rich and benevolent civilization to help bring peace to South Asia, to the whole of Asia.


[i] President Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and the President of the National Parliament Francisco Guterres Luo Olo wrote letters to the Prime Ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal informing them that the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste wads urgently requesting police and military assistance. On 24 and 25 May, Australia, New Zealand and Portugal sent letters to the President of the Security Council and to the Secretary General of the United Nations stating that they would be sending defense and security forces to Timor-Leste to assist in restoring stability, as requested by the Government of Timor-Leste. On 26 May, incoming international forces secured the airport and other critical facilities, including the UNOTIL compound, where many Timorese had taken refuge. On 25 May 2006 an exchange of letters took place between Timor-Leste and Australia inviting Australia to send armed forces to the assistance of Timor-Leste. This was followed the next day with a Status of Forces Agreement setting out the purpose, rights and privileges’ of those forces. The purpose of the ISF Deployment was to: a. assist Timor-Leste in the restoration of security, confidence and peace in Timor-Leste including through assisting in re-establishing and maintaining public order; b. assist in the provision of security and safety to persons and property in Timor-Leste and the suppression of violence and intimidation; c. as necessary, assist in the evacuation of Australian nationals and nationals of other third countries including personnel of the United Nations; d. at the request of the United Nations Mission in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL) protect and support UNOTIL in carrying out its tasks; and e. facilitate humanitarian assistance operations.
[ii] The International Stabilization Force, led by Australian Commander Brigadier-General Michael Slater, included Australian, Malaysian and New Zealand troops; Including a Portuguese rapid reaction police company of 140elements the international force group reached 3,500. The contribution provided at the height of the crisis in June 2006 was composed approximately as follows:

Australia - 3000 members
Australian Defense Force Infantry Brigade Group with 1x Infantry Battalion plus two additional Infantry companies, Commando Squadron, Field Engineer Squadron, Armored support (33 Armored Personnel Carriers), Aviation Support (8 x Blackhawks Helicopters, 4 x Kiowa Helicopters and daily Hercules aircraft resupply), Extensive Combat Service Support (logistics, transport, administration etc), Royal Australian Navy presence (3 Ships).

Australian Police Response Force - AFP International Deployment group approx 200 including 'special' police response teams.

New Zealand - 200 soldiers
New Zealand Defense Force - Majority Infantry presence plus supporting elements.

Malaysia - 300 soldiers
Malaysian Armed Forces - 300 Royal Malaysian Commandos from 10 Para Brigade, including Malaysian Armored Personnel Carriers. Royal Malaysian Navy Presence - Ship rotations in Dili Port.

Portugal – 140 police (GNR) with a total of 51 vehicles of which six were APCs.

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Peace After The Storm

by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate,
President J. Ramos-Horta,

During the farewell ceremony in honor of
The Special Representative
Of the U. N. Secretary-General, Dr. Atul Khare

At the “China Hall” of “Palacio Presidente Nicolau Lobato”

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