The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), set up in 2006 after an outbreak of deadly violence to replace several earlier missions in the small South-East Asian country that the world body shepherded to independence in 2002 after it broke away from Indonesia, has already transferred policing responsibility to national authorities in most districts, pending a total hand-over.
“This will signal a new phase in PNTL [Timor-Leste National Police] development, the beginning of the reconstitution phase during which UNMIT police will primarily focus on further institutional strengthening and capacity building of the PNTL,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ameerah Haq told the Security Council.
She stressed that this phase will be critical in ensuring PNTL’s ability to guarantee security ahead of UNMIT’s eventual withdrawal. “Given the strong commitment of the Government of Timor-Leste to the transition, our aim is to ensure a smooth and successful UNMIT withdrawal, which hopefully can also serve as a best practice for other peacekeeping missions,” she said.
The PNTL has already resumed responsibilities in 10 out of 13 administrative districts and six units, including the largest district, Viqueque, as well as the Immigration Department, Border Patrol Unit and Interpol Office.
Ms. Haq was presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report in which he recommends a 12-month extension of UNMIT, which currently has nearly 1,520 uniformed personnel on the ground, including some 1,480 police, as well as over 1,200 civilian staff and volunteers.
She said she is optimistic that Timor-Leste’s progress can be maintained if all political leaders and the broader public continue to act responsibly. Although poverty and unemployment remain high and widespread, there is hope that ongoing socio-economic development will help tackle these conditions.
It is promising that so far there has been no significant increase in violence in districts where the PNTL has taken over responsibility, she added, although she voiced concern at the high levels of domestic violence and sporadic fighting among youth and martial arts groups.
One of the main political challenges ahead are the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2012, for which the Government has indicated that it will need continued UN electoral support although less than in 2007.
Continued support “will contribute to credible elections,” she stressed. “Such assistance will require further donor support.”
Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão said his Government would seek an agreement with UNMIT to have UN Police help maintain public order during the election period from March to June next year.
“The UN has been present from the moment our nation started to be built, and as such I urge you to remain with us in solidarity so that we may fulfil the dreams of our people,” he told the Council. “Today those dreams are about peace and development.”