Transcript of UNMIT Press Conference
25 February 2008, 16:00 hrs
UNMIT Headquarters, Obrigado Barracks, Dili, Timor-Leste
25 February 2008, 16:00 hrs
UNMIT Headquarters, Obrigado Barracks, Dili, Timor-Leste
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of a press conference by Atul Khare, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Timor-Leste.
Spokesperson Allison Cooper: Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming at such short notice. The SRSG Atul Khare will be making a statement and then we will be opening for questions.
SRSG Atul Khare: Thank you everybody for coming. I personally received information this morning that one of the co-accused in the earlier case, you know the number of the case, 233/3/ord/2007, had willing decided to voluntarily submit himself to justice. I immediately spoke to the UNPOL Police Commissioner, who as you know continues as the interim General Commander of the PNTL, Rodolfo Tor, and requested that Deputy Police Commissioner for Operations, Mr Hermanprint Sing should go personally and ensure the peaceful submission by this individual to justice. I am very happy that Mr Hermanprint Sing, Deputy Police Commissioner for Operations, traveled this morning within minutes of receiving my call to Maubisse, ensured the peaceful submission of this person and brought this person back to Dili. Since it takes nearly two and half hours to go to Maubisse one way, and to come back the other way, he has just returned and I want to congratulate him and colleagues of the police, UNMIT and PNTL for doing such a good job.
As I said earlier, there was a warrant of arrest against this individual so he will now be produced before the Prosecutor-General who will then produce him before the court. But I want to highlight and underline that no restraint, no handcuffs, were required to bring this person back from Maubisse to Dili. So I want to stress that those who follow my appeal, who follow the appeal of the interim President, his Excellency Fernando Lasama de Araujo, who followe the appeal of the Prime Minister, his Excellency Xanana Gusmao, to surrender voluntarily to justice will be treated with dignity and according to the constitution and applicable laws of Timor-Leste.
So I take this opportunity once more, to launch an appeal to all those who have some case to answer for before the justice system to submit themselves peacefully to justice in order to strengthen the rule of law and in order to further promote the stabilization and development of this country. Those who wish to surrender can contact first and foremost the government of Timor-Leste, they can contact the Prosecutor-General, or if they so wish, they can contact UNPOL or me, or my UN colleagues and appropriate arrangements will then be made.
I would also like to inform you that on Saturday, the interim President, his Excellency Fernando Lasama de Araujo, and the Government represented by the Vice Prime Minster Mr Jose Louis Guterres, addressed the petitioners in Aitarak-laran. As you are aware, some of these petitioners were afraid, and therefore they had been escorted by UNPOL and PNTL from the districts to Dili. When I addressed the petitioners on Saturday evening, there were around 270. Today I believe there should be around 324. I can be so specific because Joachim Fonseca told me this afternoon that there were 295 and thereafter 20 petitioners had been escorted from Same by UNPOL so that makes it 315, and 9 more petitioners, including a woman have been escorted from Ainaro, which brings it to 324.
I want to take this opportunity through you [the media] to call upon all petitioners to join the Government-sponsored retreat in Aitarak-laran. I want to stress to the petitioners that if they present themselves to the police station in the districts, they will be provided by UNPOL and PNTL together, with transportation and an escort to come to Dili. I remain convinced that the Government is determined to resolve the problems of the petitioners, and therefore I would, through you, urge the petitioners to take advantage of this opportunity, this first real dialogue with the petitioners since 2006.
I also want to inform you that the Security Council met to discuss the situation in Timor-Leste and the mandate of UNMIT on 21 February. A large number of the delegations, both members and non-members of the Security Council took the floor, and all of them of course clearly condemned the acts of 11 February but they also noted the positive reaction of the Government, the parliament, the opposition, the fact that all decisions are being taken according to the constitution and according to the laws and they also noted the calm and patient manner in which the Timorese people have reacted to this crisis. They also noted that the while the reactions have been positive and encouraging, there is a need to resolve the underlying issues which we have been talking about. And the most important of these, are the issues of the petitioners and issues of the IDPs. I call them important, but actually, they are more than important, they are urgent, immediate issues. But then, there are long-term issues which are equally important to the national interest, namely review and reform of the security sector, strengthening the rule of law, socio-economic development with a particular emphasis on the eradication of poverty and on youth employment, and finally strengthening the culture of democracy which will hold this country in good stead if there are any future crises.
The resolution on UNMIT is likely to be adopted, either later tonight or tomorrow, and while I have no authority, and I cannot be presumptuous or speculate on what could be in the resolution, what the delegation said in the opening meeting on 21 February gives me a lot of reason to hope they will continue to support UNMIT. Before I conclude, I wanted to mention two other small issues, more for your understanding, and through you for the understanding of the Timorese people: first is the creation of the Joint Command. Those PNTL officers who are deployed for a short period of time to undertake operations under the joint command will obviously not be under mentoring and supervision. But all other PNTL officers and UNMIT police will continue as before. So there is no change to the supplemental arrangement and this has been agreed between me and the Prime Minister; and secondly, obviously there is a need for greater, more effective, strengthened cooperation between all the security agencies operating in this country to ensure that first and foremost, the operations can be more effective and that any adverse impacts can be avoided.
And in this regard, and I want to stress, as I discussed with the Prime Minister and he agreed, under the trilateral agreement between the Government of Australia, Government of Timor-Leste and the Untied Nations, that there is the possibility of strengthening cooperation between all agencies. And under this arrangement, every day, the UNMIT Police Commissioner, who is also the interim General Commander of the PNTL, Mr Rodolfo Tor, the PNTL Commander General Designate, Afonso de Jesus, ISF Commander James Baker and the F-FDTL Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak, who also happens to command the Joint Command, meet everyday without fail to ensure that there is good coordination. Before yesterday, these meetings were hosted by the Joint Command, but today, for the first time, this meeting was hosted by the ISF and of course at some stage, depending on the evolution of the situation, this joint meeting for coordination will also be hosted by the UNMIT police. And in this regard, I must place on record my deepest appreciation to the Government’s of Australia and New Zealand and particularly to the commanders and men and women of the ISF who are doing a good job under very difficult circumstances. Thank you very much.
Spokesperson Allison Cooper: Are there any questions?
Q: What time did the person submit themselves, where did they submit themselves to, and did they also hand in their weapons?
AK: He did not surrender a weapon because he did not have one. You have to realize that there has to be an investigation, he has to be submitted to the Prosecutor-General. He surrendered in Maubisse. It was around 12pm.
Q: Can you give his name?
AK: I cannot reveal his name- there are various issues associated with the name. First and foremost, there is the question of protecting the dignity of the person until such time he is produced to the court. And secondly there is the question of ensuring that there is no negative fallout on his family or relatives. What I can assure you is that he is one of the co-accused in the old case and there is an arrest warrant against him. I can also assure you that there are investigations into the attacks of 11 February which are still continuing. In these investigations, six arrest warrants have so far been issued and this person is not one of those six.
Q: Is there a chance that UNMIT and the ISF will have a bigger role then they have now in the Joint Command? Don’t you feel the international forces are being basically kept aside of the major operation to capture Salsinha?
AK: As I see it, there are three different agencies with three different operations. All of them will coordinate with each other to enhance the efficiency of each other’s operations. So I don’t see it as the negation of any person, I see it as a country which is in crisis and which is using all available opportunities and all available forces to address the situation that was created after the attacks of 11 February. And obviously all of them have different competencies. For example, the police, UNMIT police or PNTL, both of them together working as one, are here to ensure the maintenance of law and order in public security. They are not here to go after armed rebels. So their competencies essentially lie in maintenance of civil disturbances, in catching the culprits, in ensuring peaceful surrenders when they take place, and in conducting investigations to find out where people are, so that which ever force has the required capability can act. In this regard, I must say that I’m quite happy so far. Of course much more must be done in the investigations which are being directed by the Prosecutor-General and conducted by UNPOL/PNTL with the support from agents from the Australian Federal Police and FBI.
Q: I have two questions. One, where is the person who surrendered being held right now; and two, i have heard rumours that Salsinha and his group want to surrender. Would you be able to confirm this?
AK: Let me answer the second question first. I don’t know if it true if Salsinha and his group want to surrender or not. But I hope that it is true because this is the only way to go. Whenever there is a case against justice, you must submit yourself peacefully to justice. We should never speak ill of those who have departed, but many of you would recall that I spent one year appealing to Reinado to submit peacefully to justice. But unfortunately, he did not accept, and we saw the results which happened on 11 February. So I hope Salsinha and his group, like this other person, will submit themselves to justice, and I have discussed with the Prime Minister, just before I came for this press conference, and I want to assure you that on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Government and myself, that those who surrender will be treated with dignity and according to the constitution and applicable laws.
Q: Can the SRSG clarify whether the person who submitted themselves was a member of the police, military or a member of Alfredo’s group.
AK: The answer would be the same- he is a co-accused in the case where there are14 accused. Whether he was previously in the army or military doesn’t matter. We are not dealing with what he was before; we are dealing with his status as a co-accused.
Q: I have two questions: Can you please clarify who will take responsibility for the serious breaches in security that happened on 11 February- UNMIT or the Government? And the second question is why is it that we need a Joint Operation between the F-FDTL and PNTL? Is it because the international forces are unable to do their job?
AK: These are very important questions. The greatest responsibility for what happened on 11 February clearly has to be born by Alfredo Reinado and the people who were accompanying him. That is why those people are being pursued by justice. Thereafter, once we find the people who were involved in the attacks, there has to be a thorough investigation by all of us to see if there is any way the situation could have been avoided, and if not avoided, at least what improvements can be made for the future. On the second question, I look at the issue somewhat differently. This is a sovereign, independent country. It has its own constitution and under article 115.1c it is the responsibility of the PM and the Government to maintain law and order. In any other country, if the national authorities, F-FDTL and PNTL in this case, were not doing anything, I would question, what is the sovereignty of the country? So it is not the question of whether the international community is able or unable to assist- whether or not they can assist, the national authorities must act. So I told the PM that I am very happy that he has taken this decision under the constitution, article 115.1c, and applicable articles of the organic law applicable to the F-FDTL, particularly section 22d of 15 of 2006. It is also very good to note that from May 2006, and we all know what happened in May 2006, to see the F-FDTL and PNTL working together under a Joint Command- it gives me hope for the country.
Q: Till now, exactly how many people have surrendered and can you explain why this particular person decided to surrender today in Maubisse?
AK: As you know, in the six arrest warrants that were issued for 11 February, one person surrendered, namely Angelina Pires, who was produced before the courts and this is the first person who has surrendered in the older case. About the second question, frankly I don’t know. I think he saw the light and wanted to strengthen the law in the country- that is what I believe and I hope that his good example, for whatever reason, will be followed by others.
Q: I have two questions: If the security of the country was under the ISF, why were they unable to detect Alfredo’s movements, therefore allowing him to attack the President’s house; and two, about the Joint Command, what is the role of the ISF right now?
AK: For both questions, I think you will have to ask the ISF rather than ask me. Nevertheless, it is important for me to correct some misconceptions. We all remember that the President went a few weeks ago to meet Alfredo Reinado. There were discussions which were going on with Minister Joao Goncalves, some discussions going on with some parliamentarians and Reinado, some discussions going on between the government task force and Reinado. You all remember that on 21 December, Alfredo Reinado was going to come to the Government Palace to meet the PM- of course he never came. So now to think that that Alfredo was in one area that was controlled and that he was not allowed to move out is wrong- he was always allowed to move out and interact with high leaders of Timor-Leste. And that was correct because I have always said that negotiation is the best way to ensure a peaceful submission to justice. And about the role of the ISF, I said before that there are three agencies with three different operations- there is Joint Command, there is UNPOL and there is ISF. All of them will coordinate with each other so it might depend on different areas of operation, it might depend on different activities, and this is what the coordination mechanisms decide. But obviously I’m not going to discuss operational mechanisms here.
Q: We have heard Salsinha and his group have long weapons. Also, will Salsinha and his group be treated with dignity and respect if they surrender?
AK: Anyone who surrenders will be treated with dignity and respect according to the applicable laws. They can approach whichever organization they feel most comfortable with. This person felt comfortable with the UN so they approached us. There are some people feel who feel comfortable with the F-FDTL, so they can surrender to the F-FDTL, some people feel comfortable with the PNTL, so they can surrender to the PNTL, some people feel comfortable with the ISF, so they can surrender to the ISF. I have spoken to the ISF Commander also, so I can assure you that no matter where they submit, to F-FDTL, PNTL to UN, to ISF, they will be treated with dignity and according to the applicable laws. As far as long weapons are concerned, let me say something which I feel very strongly about. Many of you know I trained as a doctor. It takes four muscles to pull the trigger of a gun. But it takes 47 muscles to give a good smile. But believe me, I am man of peace. Till the time when you rely on these four muscles, the country is not going to develop. You have to rely upon smiles, upon receiving each other, if the country is to develop in a sustainable manner with peace and prosperity. Is a smile sufficient to take care of a long weapon? In a way, if you look at what happened on 11 February, you will say no. But if you look at the broader picture, believe me, there is no country, no society which has developed under the force of the gun. It doesn’t exist. So through you, I appeal to the Timorese people again, that if you want to say buka solution [look for a solution], good. If you want to say simu malu [receive each other], very good. But if you want to say baku malu [beat each other], that is not good obviously.
Spokesperson Allison Cooper: Thank you everyone. That concludes the press conference.