September 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 August 2007
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Timor-Leste

Expected Council Action
The Council is likely to discuss the current situation in Timor-Leste and the future of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), in the context of the new Secretary-General’s report and violent incidents in August. The report was due by the end of August, and at press time it seemed likely that it would recommend a continuation of UNMIT’s current size and mandate for the time being.

A Secretariat briefing (possibly in early September) and a Council statement are likely. Immediate Council action vis-à-vis the mission’s size and structure seems unlikely, but positions are sill being formed. UNMIT’s mandate expires on 26 February 2008.

Key Recent Developments
The situation in Timor-Leste continues to be tense. Following the announcement of the new government, a new wave of violence has so far led to the displacement of thousands more civilians, adding to the estimated 100,000 civilians (or about 12 percent of the population) displaced since the riots of April-May 2006.

On 30 July, the new parliament was sworn in, but there was much uncertainty over the makeup of the future government. The Frente Revolucionária do Timor-Leste Independente (FRETILIN) of former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri had secured 21 out of a total of 65 seats, and the Congresso Nacional da Reconstrução de Timor (CNRT) of former President Xanana Gusmão won 18 seats. CNRT and two other parties subsequently announced a coalition that would hold 57 percent of the seats.

On 6 August, after many tense days of discussion over who could command a majority in the parliament, President José Ramos-Horta announced that he had appointed CNRT’s Gusmão as prime minister. Negotiations on an all-inclusive government had failed to produce agreement. Ramos-Horta made it clear that his decision was based on constitutional presidential powers and that it was motivated by the need for a viable government.

FRETILIN objected, claiming that the Timorese constitution did not allow the formation of the government by a majority coalition. Instead, they argued it must be formed by the party that had secured the most votes. They also said the president had no powers to appoint the prime minister.

Renewed violence followed, reportedly involving FRETILIN supporters, including arson, rock throwing and an attack on an UNMIT convoy. The violence affected mostly the capital, Dili, and the FRETILIN eastern strongholds of Baucau and Viqueque. At press time, there were reports of more rioting in Ermera and Metinaro (respectively southwest and east of Dili). UNMIT police and Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) troops intervened to contain the violence.

FRETILIN leaders subsequently pledged to work to end the violence but expressed continuing desire for an all-inclusive government.

Discussions on how to reform the security sector continue. At a ministerial-level meeting involving the UN and the Timorese government on 16 August, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Atul Khare identified four key areas:

  • improving relations between the police and the military;
  • strengthening the security sector’s legal framework;
  • increasing capacity; and
  • enhancing government oversight of security forces.

Options
The most likely option for the Council at this stage is a statement:

  • expressing a willingness to continue to provide support for Timor-Leste and work with the new government to that end;  
  • emphasising concern with the recent tensions, as well as calling on all political actors to refrain from violence; and
  • signalling also the urgent need for progress with security sector reform and the reconstitution of the police.

Other options include:

  • indicating the importance of accountability issues, and that any solution must be compatible with international standards;
  • requesting a new Secretariat report in three months (after the expected August report, the next one is only due by mid-January); 
  • beginning consideration of UNMIT’s future size and mandate, including repatriating some of UNMIT’s police (due to the recent deterioration of the security situation this option now seems unlikely); and
  • signalling that consideration of UNMIT’s size will be deferred until closer to the mission’s expiry in February 2008.

Key Issues
In the short term, the key issue for the Council is making sure that the recent tensions are controlled and that the new government and the opposition are able to coexist and cooperate, particularly as a new cabinet is appointed.

With FRETILIN having dropped its proposed legal challenge it may be that standard Council language welcoming the new government will be accepted. 

Another issue is deciding whether and when to consider changes to UNMIT. Key aspects in that regard are likely to be:

  • the security situation;
  • in the medium term, whether and when there will be any changes to ISF; and 
  • lessons learned from the previous premature winding down of UN peacekeeping in Timor-Leste.

A number of other issues in UNMIT’s mandate are likely to loom large, including:

  • reconstituting the Timorese police (which could take three to five years);
  • drafting the comprehensive review of the security sector and the development compact for Timor-Leste; and
  • the interplay between reconciliation and accountability for the 1999 and April-May 2006 violence.

Council and Wider Dynamics
South Africa, as the leading country in the Council, and the Core Group (comprising Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, the UK and the US), appear ready to work on a draft Council statement to be discussed with other members in the coming days. 

There is wide sympathy within the Council and the Core Group for efforts to quell the violence, reconcile political parties and establish a credible national government through political means. There is also awareness of the risks of early UN disengagement, bearing in mind the lessons learned from the hasty winding down of previous UN missions in Timor-Leste.

As a result there appears to be support for the continuation of the current UNMIT and ISF arrangements and awareness of the need for progress with implementing key aspects of UNMIT’s mandate, especially regarding the security sector. In any case, positions are still being formed and there may be interest from cost-conscious members in indicating the need for initial reductions to UNMIT, especially police elements who had been responsible for election support, and in elaborating a preliminary timetable for reduction.

On justice issues, there is also sympathy with the need to balance accountability and reconciliation, especially with respect to the 1999 violence. It seems that Indonesia sees it as a bilateral issue that does not invite Council involvement. Others see progress with rule of law and human rights issues as an important aspect of UNMIT’s mandate and Timor-Leste’s future stability, and members such as the US, the UK and France have emphasised the need for solutions compatible with international standards.

Underlying Problems
The Indonesian-Timorese Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) on 23-24 July held a fourth public hearing that included Indonesian military, Timorese militia, a former Timorese local administrator, one victim and a popular consultation international observer. It was followed by a CTF workshop on 28 July.

Civil society organisations have criticised CTF hearings for not inviting more victims and for providing an opportunity to alleged perpetrators to offer a new version of the facts blaming the UN for the violence.

On 26 July, the Secretary-General stated that UN officials would not participate in or support the CTF’s work until the Commission’s terms of reference are modified to exclude recommending amnesty for serious crimes, since the UN “cannot endorse or condone” such practices.

One CTF commissioner reportedly suggested that UN participation would be important to balance the arguments of alleged perpetrators.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda reportedly stated that the CTF’s work would continue, emphasising the Commission’s importance in offering a mutually agreed approach that could preserve bilateral ties.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions
  • S/RES/1745 (22 February 2007) extended UNMIT until 26 February 2008 and increased its size by up to 140 police personnel.
  • S/RES/1704 (25 August 2006) created UNMIT.
Selected Report of the Secretary-General
  • S/2007/50 (1 February 2007) was the latest Secretary-General’s report.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General
  •  Atul Khare (India)
Size, Composition and Cost
  • Maximum authorised strength: up to 1,748 police and 34 military liaison and staff officers
  • Police/military component as of 31 July 2007: 1,631 police and 33 military observers
  • Civilian component as of 30 June 2007: 601 international and 938 local personnel
  • Key police contributors: Portugal, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh
  • Cost: 1 July 2007-30 June 2008: US $153.1 million (commitment authority for 25 August 2006 to 31 March 2007)
Duration
  •  25 August 2006 to present; mandate expires 26 February 2008
International Stabilisation Force
  • Size as of 14 May 2007: approximately 1,270 troops
  • Contributors: Australia (1,100 troops) and New Zealand (170 troops)

Full forecast