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Timor-Leste: UN presents prime minister with blueprint to strengthen rule of law

11 July 2006 Seeking to restore calm in Timor-Leste and boost the rule of law in the country it ushered to independence from Indonesia just four years ago, the United Nations today presented the new prime minister with a report covering key issues such as the fight against corruption, ethical behaviour by officials and freedom of information.

“Implementation of this report could greatly help in his Government’s gaining confidence of the Timorese people,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Sukehiro Hasegawa said after handing over the report, Strengthening Accountability and Transparency in Timor-Leste, to Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta.

Te 62-page document was published in April but had to await distribution after two months of violence, attributed to differences between eastern and western regions, ripped through the South-East Asian country, killing at least 37 people and driving 155,000 more, 15 per cent of the population, from their homes.

Mr. Hasegawa said Mr. Ramos-Horta, had “pledged his intention to place the highest importance in ensuring transparency and accountability in the conduct of his administration,” and asked for international assistance in strengthening the capacity of legal authorities to halt abuse of power and corrupt practices.

The report, prepared by experts from the UN, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank and the Government of Finland, recommends full funding for an anti-corruption plan, establishment of an administrative tax and audit court, priority training of civil servants in a code of conduct and ethics, and a freedom of information law. Government plans and programmes should also be publicized more vigorously, it recommends.

On the humanitarian front, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it had begun the third cycle of food distribution to all internally displaced persons camps in the area around Dili, the capital, with over 62,400 people receiving food.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it was connecting nine camps in Dili to city water supplies and building latrines and bathrooms in 12 camps. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun a drainage project for the camps.

At present calm is being maintained by a joint Task Force of Australian, New Zealand, Portuguese and Malaysian forces invited in by the Government after violence erupted in late April with the dismissal of 600 striking soldiers, a third of the armed forces.

But Mr. Annan’s Special Envoy on Timor-Leste, Ian Martin, is on his way back to New York with recommendations for a beefed-up UN presence. He said that the next UN mission would need to stay until well beyond presidential and parliamentary elections set for next year, and one of its key roles will be not just carrying out policing in the short-term, but helping re-build the country’s police force.

The world body first set up the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in 1999 after the former Portuguese colony voted to break from Indonesia. When it attained independence in 2002, UNTAET was replaced with a downsized operation, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET).

This in turn was succeeded by the current, even smaller UN office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL), which has a mandate through 20 August. Mr. Annan will make recommendations to the Security Council based on Mr. Martin’s report early next month, but he has already said the UN will have to go back to Timor-Leste in a much larger form, noting that perhaps its effort there had been drawn down too quickly.

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