CSM: Celebrating the Birth of a Nation [Kofi Annan on E. Timor]
John M. Miller
May 07, 2002 05:22 PDT
Received from Joyo Indonesian News
The Christian Science Monitor
May 7, 2002
Celebrating the Birth of a Nation
By Kofi Annan
NEW YORK -- At the stroke of midnight on May 19, 2002, the world will welcome
East Timor into the family of nations. It will be a historic moment for the
tiny Pacific territory, and for the United Nations.
A proud and resilient people will realize a dream common to all peoples – to
live as free men and women under a government of their own choosing. The
pride of the East Timorese on that night also will be the pride of the
international community and of the UN. Rarely has the world come together
with such unity, resolve, and speed to secure a people's self-determination.
Credit for this achievement should go first and foremost to the East Timorese
people, who have shown great courage and perseverance in rebuilding their
country. They have risen to every challenge that has confronted them, and
have unfailingly demonstrated their commitment to democracy. There are still
daunting challenges ahead, but with a determined and dedicated leadership in
place, and a strong constitutional foundation, I believe they can face the
future with confidence.
The international community can also take pride in the contribution we have
made. After the swift restoration of order by the international force,
authorized by the United Nations Council, the UN Transitional Administration
in East Timor (UNTAET) was established in October 1999 with a mandate as
unique as it was ambitious. The United Nations, in partnership with the
people of East Timor, was tasked with rebuilding a devastated country and
preparing it for independence.
Since then, peace has been secured, and basic governmental structures and
laws have been put in place. A sense of normality has returned. Children are
attending schools, roads are being built, buildings reconstructed, health
systems established – and new businesses are opening up every day. The
citizens of East Timor have turned out in overwhelming numbers to vote in the
Constituent Assembly and presidential elections. Most encouragingly, over the
past few months increasing numbers of refugees have returned.
UN peacekeepers and international police have brought about a return of law
and order. The embryonic national military and police forces are creating the
foundation for a secure future under the rule of law. True security also
requires that East Timor balance effectively the twin demands of justice and
reconciliation. This is an area where the international community must
continue to support East Timorese efforts, particularly by helping the
Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation, which is about to start
its vitally important work.
Perhaps most important, the UN has helped put in place the foundations for
effective, representative, and legitimate government. The people of East
Timor are rightly proud of the peaceful and legitimate character of their
elections – just as they are of the high proportion of women in their
institutions of state.
For many months now, authority in virtually every sphere of public life has
been vested in the East Timorese rather than in UN officials. On May 20, when
East Timor becomes an independent nation, an experienced and responsible
executive and legislature will already be firmly in place.
But all this is only a beginning. The government of East Timor faces enormous
tasks in the months and years ahead. The world must not abandon East Timor at
this critical juncture. It must do everything it can to help ensure that the
first years of independence are years of stability and progress. The people
of East Timor surely deserve that.
A follow-ON UN peacekeeping presence will provide support in three areas that
are critical for the stability and viability of the new state: public
administration, law and order, and external security. That support will be
reduced gradually over two years, as the role of the UN becomes one of
providing traditional development assistance.
Good relations with its nearest neighbors will be essential to East Timor's
future stability. This will include close cooperation with its former ruler,
Indonesia, in order to ensure timely agreement on the delimitation of the
border, on the situation of the remaining refugees in West Timor, and on
cooperation in prosecuting those accused of the serious crimes committed in
As secretary-general, I am proud of the part the United Nations has played in
that struggle, and especially in its last phase. I pledge that this will mark
not an end, but a new beginning. The UN stands ready to play its full part
alongside the independent nation of East Timor.
Kofi Annan is secretary-general of the United Nations.