13 February 2010

Foreign Minister Fires Timor-Leste Ambassador to the UN

The Timor Post of 3 February 2010 has a banner headline:
"Espulsa Embaixador TL ba EUA, PR Horta Kontra Zacarias"
"Expel Timor-Leste Ambassador to USA, President Horta Against (Foreign Minister) Zacarias"

That headline and the brief article under it contain errors which we will not repeat here. To provide some background on the situation,  La'o Hamutuk has written this brief article, which also appears at http://www.laohamutuk.org/reports/UN/06UNMITcreation.html#Burma with links to relevant documents.

On the day before Christmas 2009, Timor-Leste's Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa notified UN authorities that he had fired Timor-Leste Ambassador to the United Nations Nelson Santos. Santos had just voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution on human rights in Burma (Myanmar), which passed 86-23 with 39 abstentions. Santos was continuing Timor-Leste's previous policy of supporting this annual resolution, following guidance from President Jose Ramos-Horta. However, the Minister had instructed Santos to abstain from this vote to be more in line with ASEAN countries' votes. When Santos voted in favor during the night of 23 December in New York, da Costa immediately sacked him. Timor-Leste had no ambassador to the UN in New York to represent its views in consultations and discussions regarding the future of the UNMIT, whose mandate expires on 26 February 2010.

Article 87(b) of Timor-Leste's Constitution assigns to the President of the Republic the authority "To appoint and dismiss ambassadors, permanent representatives and special envoys, following proposal by the Government."

During the first week of February 2010, Nelson Santos, the President, the Foreign Minister and both deputy Prime Ministers had several discussions in Dili about how to salvage the situation. No resolution was reached, and Mr. Santos, now unemployed, returned to his family in New York.

Several Ministry officials have privately told La'o Hamutuk that Timor-Leste continues to support democracy and human rights, recognizing that similar support for Timor-Leste from others during the 24-year Indonesian occupation was critical to Timor-Leste's obtaining independence. However, the Minister's action, which apparently stems from an ad-hoc approach to foreign policy, has raised concerns among people who believe that Timor-Leste's leaders should continue to support universal human rights principles, as they did prior to independence.

In mid-February, Minister da Costa appointed Sofia Borges to fill the vacancy. 

A more extensive article Timor-Leste: Choosing Between Asean and Burmese Reform?" was published in the Irrawaddy news magazine on 13 February. 

[Note: since mid-2009, Timor-Leste has had separate ambassadors to the United Nations (UN) and the United States of America (USA). Ambassador to the United States Constancio Pinto is not involved in the Burma controversy, and has not been fired.]

No comments:

Post a Comment