UN 'liquidation team' readies for E. Timor
By Tim Witcher, AFPUNITED NATIONS--A U.N. “liquidation team” will take over in East Timor on Monday from peacekeepers who put a lid on deadly unrest in the tiny nation marking a first decade of turbulent existence.
December 31, 2012, 12:12 am TWN
That would instill fear in most countries where U.N. missions are sent. This team will however be dismantling the U.N. presence after the global body claims a rare success.
East Timor is calm again after its people realized they were close to pressing the self-destruct button, according to a top U.N. official who led much of the peacekeeping operation after the country sought international help in 2006.
Troops sent by Australia and New Zealand have all gone home and only a handful of U.N. police will be left when the flag comes down in Dili.
“As of Monday, the liquidation team will be there. They are the ones who are unscrewing all the light bulbs,” said Ameerah Haq, U.N. under-secretary general and former head of the U.N. mission in East Timor, while acknowledging that the crisis could have been worse.
The U.N. played a key role in the birth of East Timor, officially known as Timor Leste. It organized the 1999 referendum that ended 24 years of Indonesian occupation in which an estimated 183,000 people died through conflict, starvation or disease.
It helped run East Timor until 2002 when an independent government took over.
For many Timorese leaders it was a national humiliation to seek U.N. help in 2006 when soldiers sacked from the army launched a mutiny which sparked factional violence that left dozens dead and 150,000 in makeshift camps.
“You don't want to say that a country learned by crisis,” said Haq, but in this case there was “good benefit” from the Timorese seeing in a few days the burning, looting and destruction threatening all they had built in the past seven years.