Sunday, April 01, 2007

UNMIT - Press Conference - 29 March 2007

Domingo, Abril 01, 2007
UNMIT - Press Conference - 29 March 2007
Obrigado Barracks
Caicoli, Dili

SRSG Khare: Bom dia, good morning and once more thank you for coming today to our press conference.

I am delighted that the campaign to help voters select their President, which began last Friday, has so far gone off very well without any notable reports of violence and intimidation.

This is a direct tribute to the people of Timor Leste who are clearly manifesting their commitment to a peaceful democratic process.

It is also a tribute to the authorities of Timor Leste - assisted by the international community through the United Nations – who are working to ensure a credible election.

I would like to congratulate the DSRSG Finn Reske-Nielsen and his team within the Electoral Assistance Section of UNMIT and also UNDP who have supported the STAE and the CNE to ensure that the presidential election on April the 9th will be free, fair and whose results would be broadly acceptable to all.

The campaign of all candidates would obviously focus on their vision and goals for the developments of Timor Leste. However a common goal must unite all campaigns and that goal is inclusiveness.

The importance of inclusiveness is defined in Rule 15 of the Code of Conduct signed by all Presidential candidates and witnessed by the representatives of the church, civil society the organ of sovereignty and myself on the 15th of March, which states, and I quote:

“… A language that ensures a peaceful environment, free of defamation, non-threatening, not encouraging violences, and without personal criticism towards persons or a group of people, notably other candidates and their supporters…”

I want to stress that the elections must have a restorative and unifying impact and must not on any account lead to divisiveness.

I would now like to pass over to DSRSG Reske Nielsen who will provide you with more details and information about how the United Nations is assisting STAE and the CNE.

DSRSG Reske-Nielsen: Thank you very much and good morning everybody.

As we all know, unlike the previous elections, the responsibility for conducting the Presidential and Parliamentary election in 2007 rest with the state institutions of Timor Leste, principally STAE in the Ministry of State Administration and the National Electoral Commission, the CNE.

However, as you know the United Nations has been given the mandate by the United Nations Security Council to provide extensive assistance to the electoral process in particular to the STAE and the CNE to ensure that the elections are indeed free and fair.

I would like to take this opportunity to brief or update you on the assistant thace has been provided by the United Nations, been provided for the past several months and we intend to do over the next several days in
the run up to the Presidential elections on the 9th of April.

The approach that we have taking is in accordance with the concept of an integrated mission and that means that some of the responsibilities for supporting the electoral process are being handle by UNMIT and others by other members of the UN team in particular UNDP and UNICEF.

At the present time we have about 200 to 225 international UN staff members working on the electoral issues – including a significant number of UN volunteers – in addition we have close to 200 national staff also working on this area.

All these staff work in various advisory roles providing support in particular to STAE and CNE.

The United Nations is also providing considerable logistical support and that support will intensify in the coming days.

As you know STAE with the approval of CNE has established 504 polling centres across the 13 districts of Timor Leste. Together with STAE and CNE the United Nations has undertaken an assessment of all of these locations and we have concluded that 71 out of the 504 would be difficult to reach and 39 of them cannot be reached by road.

For the next 10 days we will be supporting the government in delivering the voting materials to all of these areas including the hard to reach ones where we will be providing support through four helicopters that we have at our disposal and arrangements are also being made to reach the difficult to reach places by using porters and horses.

Security as you know will be provided by the UN police and supported by PNTL and we will have further support by the International Security Forces as required

In consultation with the national authorities and stakeholders the UN police has developed a thorough security plan that we confident will ensure security on election day so that everybody will feel safe coming to the polling stations to cast their vote.

We are also expecting that there will be a large number of national and international observers. We do expect that there would be about 1000 national observers across the country and we expect well over 100 international observers for the first round of Presidential elections.

Training and support for the observers will be provided by UNDP. The electoral observation is extremely important, in that, all of the observers are independent and would therefore provide a valuable role in ensuring that the elections are indeed free and fair and transparent and that they would meet the appropriate national and international standards.

Let me also mention that United Nations through the UNDP has been providing support to all 8 Presidential candidates. That is being done through a candidates resource center that is located here in Dili that enables each candidate to produce various kinds of campaign materials. This is not being done on a cash basis but by providing the equivalent of US$10,000 of in kind support.

Before concluding my opening remarks let me also mention that the voter registration is now completed and I think it has gone very well. We do not have the official number yet but it seems that the number of people who have register by far exceeds the number that we had estimated before the registration started. As a result of this we expect that a total of about 500,000 Timorese would be eligible to vote on the 9th of April and thank you very much for your attention.

SRSG Khare: Thank you very much DSRSG and I’m sure that with all these
details all of you would agree that when I said in my opening remarks that I sincerely wanted to congratulate DSRSG Reske-Nielsen and his team I was amply justifying in doing that.

We will take a few questions now.

Question: I would like to ask you about some accidents taking place in Baucau, Lospalos and Viqueque, the supporters of some candidates were creating some noises there and PNTL would not take a strong action against such persons. Why just leave it there. Can you give us some information regarding that?

SRSG Khare: On the whole, all elections, as I said in the beginning have been without major security incidents. All candidates have been campaigning well in different parts of the country. There are reports of some security incidents, which I have been receiving from different parts on different dates. I am happy that these incidents have not led to any major disruption of an electoral rally. I will want to assure that all these incidents including the incidents which were mentioned by you and some of other incidents are being looked into directly by the police and appropriate action against all groups who indulge in criminal activities will be dealt. I am also delighted that CNE is carefully observing the respect for the code of conduct, which was signed by all the Presidential candidates.

Question: Yes Sir, I understand that as of yesterday the official financial support from the government to the candidates of US$7500 per candidate was not paid yet. Don’t you consider that this hampers the fairness of the campaign?

SRSG Khare: I was told yesterday that the required financial support which was to be made available to the candidates and the required financial support for the CNE is being released or has been released to them.
Separately I would want to reiterate again what DSRSG Reske-Nielsen said that there is additional support that has been made available in a totally non-discriminate manner to all of the eight Presidential candidates by the UNDP. I think I would rather like to focus on what the UN is doing to assist them rather then to focus on what somebody else has done or not done yet.

Question: Just in detail. Did you get the information about the payment did you have to ask for it or was the mission provided with the information.

SRSG Khare: This is not a question of the mission. This was a meeting which the Deputy Prime Minister was conducting with all the diplomatic community and he himself volunteered this information.

Question: Thank you very much. As we all know that in the past few months the Certification Team of the United Nations is concerned about the electoral law and they came up with some recommendations that should be fulfilled by the Parliament or the institutions that must review the law.
Has it been done already or has it been developed?

SRSG Khare: Way back on 12th of February when there was discussion in the UN Security Council on UNMIT, I mentioned the need for the authorities of Timor-Leste to implement the key recommendations of the Electoral Certification Team to have a credible process. The Security Council then adopted resolution 1745 extending the mandate of this mission and also including the need for key recommendations of the Electoral Certification Team to be implemented.

Some of the required legislative changes have been incorporated in the recent electoral law but much more needs to be done. We have discussed at all levels and I have personally written to President Gusmão, to the President of the National Parliament and to the Prime Minister outlining the need for further changes. And I would request DSRSG Reske-Nielsen to give you more details on the Electoral Certification Team and its recommendations.

DSRSG Reske-Nielsen: Thank you. Indeed you have all seen the five reports that have been issued so far by the Certification Team and what we have done is to assist the government in drafting relevant legal provision that had been recommended by the team.
As the SRSG mentioned there was a supplementary package passed by the National Parliament last week which takes fully into account some of the recommendations that had been made including the provision for the counting of the ballots to take place at the polling station concerned on the day of voting. We have prepared a further package and that is under consideration by the government but we also have to be realistic in terms of what can be done in the very short and the very near term, given the fact that everybody is extremely busy with the electoral process. What the CNE and STAE are doing is trying to accommodate the recommendations that have been made through a certain regulation instead of in some cases through legislation.

The comments of the Certification Team pertain not only to legislation but also to other aspects of the electoral process. An important recommendation in this regard was to ensure that the CNE has available adequate support staff to carry out their functions. I am happy to note that over the past week or so there has been a significant strengthening of the secretariat of the CNE. There are also concerns in the Fifth Report about the security situation in Dili but I believe that we are all confident that the security situation will continue to improve. In act over the past three weeks we have seen a significant decline in a number of violent incidents in the city. And as I mentioned in my opening remarks a very elaborate plan has been developed to ensure the security of all citizens including those who choose to vote on the 9th of April.

One final comment on the legal framework, some of the recommendations of the Certification Team of course pertained only to the Parliamentary elections. Therefore I think there is enough time for the National Parliament to consider those provision after the Presidential elections.
For those of you who do not have a copy of the latest report of the Certification Team Allison Cooper would be happy to provide you with a copy or if you have internet access you can actually get it from the UNMIT website,

SRSG Khare. Thank you. Any other question? Kyodo?

Questions: You have talked about security. In the past the hospital was one of the places often in trouble. If something happens at the hospital, it would be one of the places very hard to access..

SRSG Khare: We will keep that in mind.

Question: I just want to brief and bring to your attention that there are people living in Tibar, Klibur Domin, aleijados [with physical disabilities] and STAE has not send in people to register their names and they are now complaining because they have their rights to vote but have not been register to participate in the elections.

DSRSG Reske-Nielsen: Thank you. I cannot speak for STAE but I do know that there was assistance for specific locations that were set for people to go to in order to register. It was the responsibility of each citizen who wished to obtain a voters card to go to the registration centers, go to the proper registration process and have their cards issued. It is not the responsibility of STAE to go around from one location to the other in the city to ensure this. I think we would agree that there were enough registration centers for people to go to. I should also note that the registration process was for new voters meaning individuals turning 17 by the 9th of April and for those who had lost their old voter registration card and any voter can use of course the old voter registration card. You can either use the new one, the old one or also use your national passport.
It has been clarified to me that the question in Tibar was also about a group of disable individuals and we would bring this to the attention of STAE.

SRSG Khare. Thank you. I don’t see any further questions. I wish all of you good participation in a good campaign, which has been going so far. I sincerely believe that the role of a strong independent media is critical for any democracy. I hope that you will continue to exercise that role during this period. Thank you.

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