Ten years after the country’s restoration of independence, Timor-Leste is making significant progress for consolidating its security.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today commended the Government for consolidating a security sector that will be able to protect the country as the United Nations peacekeeping mission prepare to leave at the end of the year.
“Timor-Leste has come a long way. You have much to be proud of.” – Mr. Ban
Mr. Ban also commended all Timorese for the successful presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year.
The peaceful process reflects Timor-Leste’s strong commitment to stability, democracy and national unity, Mr. Ban added.
In addition, Mr. Ban also welcomed the progress made by the country’s security sector. He stressed that they would continue to have the support of the UN once the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) which is tasked with supporting the Government to consolidate stability.
Mr. Ban also commended Timor-Leste for its contribution of personnel to UN efforts to maintaining peace and security abroad.
According to Mr. Ban, 17 Timorese police officers passed a rigorous recruitment process to serve as peacekeepers in UN missions abroad.
“This is a powerful testament to the growing professionalism and institutional development of your security forces – as well as your commitment to global solidarity.” -Mr. Ban
Earlier this year, the United Nations refugee agency concluded its work in Timor-Leste.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)has closed its office in the Timor-Leste capital, Dili, after more than 12 years.
The closure of the office is considered as a move hailed by national leaders as a sign that the country had overcome most of the humanitarian problems it has faced in its recent history.
President Jose Ramos-Horta convened a gathering at the presidential palace to mark the closure of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and pledged that his country will never turn its back on refugees because so many of his compatriots were exiles themselves.
Mr. Ramos-Horta himself spent more than two decades as a refugee in the United States and Australia between 1975 and 1999.
UNHCR, along with Australian peacekeepers, worked to ensure that the airport in the capital, Dili, resumed functioning in the early days after the looting and fighting, which left at least 25 people dead and 150,000 displaced.
After Dili Airport was taken over by internally displaced people seeking shelter, UNHCR set up a nearby tent city which allowed the facility to return to its intended function.
UNHCR helped 220,000 refugees return home and worked for reconciliation as Timor-Leste moved towards independence in May 2002.
The UN presence has been drawn down since the original UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET) was set up in 1999 after the country voted for independence from Indonesia, which took over after Portugal’s withdrawal in 1974. Once independence was attained in 2002, that mission was replaced with a downsized operation, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), which in turn was succeeded by the current, even smaller UN office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL).
In May, Timor-Leste celebrated its 10th anniversary since its restoration of independence in 2002.