Sunday 1 June 2007


Dr Julio Tomas Pinto, Secretary of State for Defense, Timor-Leste

As delivered – provisional transcript

Thank you Mr Chairman, and thank you for inviting us to share information about the Timor-Leste experience in emergency situations.  I would like to use this opportunity to express our government’s sympathy and condolences to the people of Myanmar, and the Chinese people.  My presentation focuses on restoring peace in emergency situations in East Timor.

Timor-Leste has lived through too many conflicts and emergencies in the past 10 years.  The first crisis was in 1999 and the second was in 2006.  In 1999 the people of Timor-Leste voted for independence.  In the aftermath a major crisis developed in the region from those who lost out in the popular vote.   In 1999 it is estimated that a quarter of the population, 250k people, were displaced, and up to 75% of the Tutus were affected.
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  A massive multi-agency response to the complex humanitarian emergency was launched and coordinated by the UN, which assumed executive power in the absence of a sovereign government.  The humanitarian assistance was coordinated with the UN along with the bilateral development partners, who had the monopoly of resources and technical expertise.  Along with the differences resulting from the specific dynamic of the crisis, there was desolation from the local political pressures, and consideration of this merited the response to this emergency.

From April to May 2006 the internally generated crisis evolved into mass protests, and the division of the security forces in Sudan.  Government mismanagement contributed to the crisis in 2006.   Armed conflict was quickly brought under control, but political tension remained strong for a period of almost two years.
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  Unresolved social problems, and a small group of armed rebels were discovered only last month.  As in the case of all complex emergency situations, the response to the 1999 crisis, was initially focused on meeting the emergency security centres, and all the basic needs of the population.  The immediate needs of the population were met relatively quickly in 1999, but the long-term effect of the crisis and the response contributed to the dynamic that resulted in the 2006 crisis.  Given the destruction of infrastructure in 1999, and the main challenges related to absence of government structures, the immediate humanitarian response was extremely positive.   The security needs of the population were largely and quickly met.  This was due in part to the exemplary conduct of the former fighters, who remained on the continent, and were effectively reintegrated into the new security forces.  This contrasts with other countries, where humanitarian response and early stages of social rebuilding have been more challenging.

Where it could be said that the first emergency response was quick and effective, the transition to sustainable economic recovery and development proved significantly more challenging.  The 2006 was an internal crisis that required the response of the newly created institution.  The new institution led the immediate emergency response, but the dynamic of the conflict involved internal division in the police and armed forces, as well as momentary mistrust in both institutions.  This limited the scope of the involvement of the security or defence forces in the response.  The role of the armed forces was influenced by the consideration beyond that normally associated with the role of the armed forces in humanitarian responses generally.  This led to international involvement in the internal security arrangements of Timor-Leste.

In May 2006 the government of Timor-Leste met with the governments of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal, who provided military and police to the government of Timor-Leste.  I would like to use this opportunity to thanks the governments of Malaysia, New Zealand, Portugal and Australia.   Bilateral assistance was deployed extremely quickly, but was difficult to coordinate.  The government requested a new UN mission to take charge of law enforcement.  In 2006 the UN Security Council extended the scope of the unit and mission in Timor-Leste.  The UN was, and still is, mandated to ensure the restoration and maintenance of public security in Timor-Leste through the provision of support to Timor-Leste national police.  The Security Council resolution also called for international security forces to fully cooperate with and provide assistance to implement the mandate.  We currently have an Australian international security force in Timor-Leste.  The governments of Timor-Leste, Australia, and the UN established a trilateral coordination to discuss security issues relevant to the management and establishment of the security involvement in Timor-Leste.  This included not only the security operations, but also full coordination between the participants, through consultation and information sharing.  During this period the national and international security forces participated, not only ensuring security, but also in assisting as the humanitarian institutes performed their tasks of providing for the population.

The trilateral coordination arrangement was the basic form in which this coordination was established.  Other arrangements were created within the Ministry of Social Solidarity, to coordinate civil assistance and military operation in the emergency situation.  The trilateral coordination forum prepared a matrix based on trade analysed with the basis of assigning static security to different security forces, including national police and army forces, based on the degree of trade.

In 2007 regular elections were held according to the constitution, and the planning of security arrangements were coordinated within this trilateral forum.  The security of hundreds of polling stations across the country, and all related logistical preparations was coordinated with the assistance of the UN.  The trilateral arrangements performed very well, and required the coordination of all national and international security forces, like our national military, national police and international security forces.  This ensured the elections were held in a peaceful and free environment.  The challenges called for a more sustainable response, which was hard to assimilate within the classic emergency system.

Recognising the need to ensure an integrated government response to the multi layered nature of the crisis, the government developed and approved a comprehensive five pillar national recovery strategy.  They provided the specific framework to transition from emergency response to recovery and development.  In 2007, reaching international agreement was a national priority.  One of the national priorities was the security sector.

On 11 February 2008, an attempt was made on the lives of the President and Prime Minister Timor-Leste.  This was taken very seriously by the president of the republic, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, which was perpetuated by the arm group that perpetuated the crisis in 2006.  On the 12 February 2008 a state of emergency was declared, and joint command established between the military and the police, our national defence force and our national defence.  They carried on all security operations resulting from the state of emergency.  Let me point out that the mission of the joint comment ensured the capture of the rebels, and surrender of all their weapons without the use of force.  This was possible only because its strategy was based on the need to obtain a long-term solution, due to a close operation between security and defence forces.

The perception by the population ensured the newly achieved cooperation between the police and the army was credible and sustained, which has been a major factor in the continued popular support of the government, isolating the rebel group.  The experience of Timor-Leste in dealing with complex emergencies and crisis informs our present reflection on the future rule of armed forces in national emergencies, and the restructuring of our security sector.  Timor-Leste is undertaking a major review of security sector reform, and we will develop a strategy based on basic principles, and linking the reform and development of the security sector to the national interests: peace, development and the wellbeing of citizens.  Reinforcing social cohesion will be central to our restoration of national cohesion.  The positive result of operational cooperation between the army and the police force is an important blueprint to plan an integrated system of forces, able to prevent political and military crises, and to intervene in future civil emergencies.

A new national disaster management plan is explicit in the allocation of the role of armed forces in future emergencies.  Security, transportation and logistical support for the armed forces is key to participation.  We have been through these crises, and we need to develop a culture of conflict prevention.  This is an urgent and challenging factor in our current security concerns.
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  Finally, after 24 years wanting independence, our state is barely six years old.  In this short time we have faced many challenges, but have also made important achievements in state building.  However, the security situation has been preventing us from addressing our main challenges of achieving sustained economic and social development. This is a small insight into the Timor-Leste experience of restoring peace in complex emergencies.

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