East Timor: Presentation.

Before we commence, I wish to advise witnesses that whereas Members of the House enjoy absolute privilege in respect of utterances made in committee, witnesses do not enjoy such privilege. Accordingly, caution should be exercised, particularly with regard to references of a personal nature.

I welcome Mr. Tom Hyland, an old friend of the committee, who will update members on the current situation in East Timor. Members are familiar with Mr. Hyland, his unique contribution to the development of East Timor and the key role he has played in bringing the plight of the Timorese people to the attention of the Irish and international communities. I note with some sadness that it has been a very difficult few months for the people of East Timor, with civil unrest and political uncertainty leading to some of the worst violence there since the people voted for independence from Indonesia seven years ago. I understand that events are unfolding in the country, with reports yesterday regarding the resignation of the country's Prime Minister and the earlier resignation of other key members of the Government. The latter has raised some hope of an end to the political turmoil and unrest.

I invite Mr. Hyland to update the committee on the current situation in East Timor.

Mr. Tom Hyland

I thank the Chairman and members for the opportunity to address the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. Many of the Members of the Oireachtas have been involved with the issue of East Timor over the years and many members of this committee have honoured the campaign not only by lending their names as patrons but also by taking an active and hands-on approach to the plight of the people of East Timor. I must apologise in advance if events overtake my presentation, but the situation in Timor is developing on an ongoing basis.

I will provide some background information. There have been three great tragedies in Timor's history. A brief civil war in 1975 came about as a result of Indonesian exploitation of the differences between the pro-independence FRETILIN and the more conservative UDT parties. This occurred against the background of the collapse of the Portuguese empire of which Timor was a part. The wounds of this civil war are still evident in Timor. Approximately 1,500 Timorese died in this conflict and human rights abuses were committed by both sides.

The second great tragedy was the Indonesian invasion and illegal occupation. According to the recent report by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, an estimated 186,000 Timorese, one third of the population, died as a result of this. Following a UN supervised referendum on 30 August 1999, in which up to 1,600 Timorese died at the hands of Indonesian security forces and their Timorese militia, 78.5% of the population opted for independence. However, Indonesia instigated a scorched earth policy which led to the destruction of 80% of Timor's infrastructure. The Timorese are still living with the legacy of this carnage. A UN force arrived and restored order. East Timor was a UN-administered territory from 1999 until 20 May 2002. The Timorese took effective control of their own affairs at that time.

I will now outline the catalyst for the latest violence. Earlier this year, an estimated 591 soldiers went to the presidential palace to complain that they were being discriminated against. The soldiers were largely from the western part of East Timor. They alleged that their commanders, who mainly come from the eastern part of the country, were passing them over for promotion in favour of soldiers from the officers' districts. The Timorese army, the FTDL, is made up of ex-resistance fighters and new recruits. It has been stated by observers that the new recruits lack the discipline and training needed for a professional army. The soldiers were ordered back to barracks but refused to do so and camped out at the presidential palace. A decision was then taken to dismiss them. It is believed that the Prime Minister ordered their dismissal. The army commander decided to dismiss the soldiers while the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were out of the country on official visits. The soldiers stayed in the capital, Dili, and in April took to the streets in a series of week-long demonstrations against the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri. The situation became violent and five of the dismissed soldiers were shot dead when the security forces opened fire. The ex-soldiers allege that many more died in the aftermath. Inter-communal violence followed but was confined to the capital. It seemed to break down along geographical lines, with people from the west of the country attacking the homes of people from the east. However, criminal gangs then became the order of the day and began burning homes and looting business premises. Within a short period an estimated 100,000 Timorese were internally displaced.

The Foreign Minister requested that Australia send peacekeeping forces which were on the ground within a couple of days. They were joined by security personnel from New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal. A level of order was restored but gangs continued to roam the inner districts of the capital. It is estimated that there are 60,000 internally displaced persons in the capital and a further 75,000 in outlying areas. The United Nations has issued an appeal stating it needs up to $15 million for food and shelter. I welcome the decision of the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for overseas development assistance and human rights, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to allocate €500,000 to this appeal.

Last weekend saw the threat, since withdrawn, by the hugely popular President Xanana Gusmao to resign if the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri, did not step down. This weekend the Foreign Minister, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, announced his resignation. However, it now seems that this has been withdrawn. It was announced yesterday that the Prime Minister has resigned. He was very unpopular, partly due to the fact that he had spent the 24 years of the Indonesian occupation outside the country in Mozambique. Many Timorese view him as largely untouched by the violence.

I will explain how this situation has arisen and what went wrong. I ask the committee's indulgence as this is a complex and difficult problem. Timor is very much like Ireland was in the aftermath of our gaining independence. There are many personalities and factors at work. There is great trauma in Timorese society. It was generally felt that everything would be fine after the creation of the new state by the United Nations, but this has not been the case. The period of Indonesian occupation was a difficult one for the Timorese. Families were turned against families and many difficult compromises had to be made in order that people could survive. Proportionally, more people have died in Timor than in Cambodia under Pol Pot and they were subjected to unspeakable cruelties.

There are huge levels of unemployment which reach 70% in certain areas, particularly the capital. Many young people are of the opinion that they have not seen the economic benefits of independence. Until now they have benefited in terms of security. They believe they have suffered and that most of the jobs have gone to those Timorese who left the country during the occupation period and benefited from better access to education. They live in the poorest country in Asia, with some of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality. For young people, this is regarded as a generational issue. They see themselves as the lost generation, the ones who took to the streets. They were involved in a clandestine movement that opposed the Indonesians, 30,000 of whom were in the country at one point. They have not benefited because they have no skills. There is an underlying resentment that these people fought the good fight but have not seen any of the resulting benefits.

An educated elite existed under the Portuguese but under the Indonesians, the Timorese were not allowed to gain necessary skills, such as middle management and other skills, to effectively run their own country. The people who benefited where those who agreed with the integration and followed the Indonesian line.

East Timor is a difficult country in terms of its geography. Large communities exist but they do not have communications with other communities. There are little or no communications. A rumour factory has contributed to some of the violence we have seen. Mobile telephones are used to communicate details when something happens. The message is passed on to people several times and, before long, the rumour factory takes over, with fiction being aired instead of fact.

It is evident that the sense of Timorese identity that was evident during the occupation has not, to a great degree, been built upon as a result of a lack of communications. I stand open to correction on these figures, but for every $10 spent in East Timor, $8 is spent in the capital, where 10% of the people live. The remaining $2 is spent in rural areas, where 80% of the people live.

Another issue I would like to address is a core matter, namely, the culture of violence that has existed in Timor since the Indonesian occupation. Problems were solved through violent actions. It is difficult to convince a population that there are ways to solve problems other than through violence. The Indonesians had a policy of separating and dividing communities — or divide and rule — and the legacy of this is still evident.

I wish to allow time to answer questions so I will deal with where we could go from here. The two main factors regarding Timor are the violent past and the high unemployment rate. We must also consider the lack of analysis, following the UN withdrawal, regarding the direction Timor would take. It has been said that the UN pulled out too soon. I agree with that assertion. A nation could not have been built in the three years from 1999 to 2002, particularly when one considers what people had endured.

I have outlined four points in my submission on what can be done in the future and I am open to questions on them. The issue of unemployment must be addressed because it is absolutely central. The schisms existing in Timorese society must be mapped out. These are both geographical schisms and divisions in respect of other matters such as justice. Proper political leadership is required in Timor. There should be a re-engagement on the part of the international community.

I thank the joint committee. The content of my submission has been changing right up until the last moment. My latest information is that the Prime Minister resigned yesterday and that many of his supporters have come from the outlying districts to the capital. If a Prime Minister is forced to resign, there is bound to be a knock-on effect. What many saw yesterday as a solution is not so. The Prime Minister's supporters are now coming to the capital to vent their frustration. Timor is not out of the woods yet.

Thank you, Mr. Hyland. With the agreement of the committee, I will now call on Senator Norris to comment.

I appreciate the Chairman's graciousness in allowing me to contribute first. I accept we all have difficulties with regard to speaking on the Order of Business and I am sure the Chairman and committee officials will try to ensure the Seanad is not disadvantaged. I apologise to Mr. Hyland for having to leave to attend the Order of Business before I hear his reply, with which I will catch up in the published report.

I congratulate the Department of Foreign Affairs on its excellent briefing which is very much up to date. We are talking about events that are still unfolding and the Department seems to be on top of the issue. It is not necessary for me to rehearse Mr. Hyland's story, but I use it time and again as an illustration to young people here who are disillusioned with the political process and feel they can contribute nothing. He shows clearly that they can.

I welcome Ireland's contribution which is significant in terms of the percentage of the overall budget, €11.1 million. I also welcome the fact that the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Conor Lenihan, has indicated a grant of €500,000 has been made available through the Red Cross to specifically tackle this emergency.

With regard to the immediate situation, it is worrying to hear from Mr. Hyland that supporters of the Prime Minister are massing in Dili. If this situation is not properly handled, it could be the prelude to a civil war, a horrendous prospect considering all that the Timorese people have suffered. The Prime Minister's action in summarily dismissing one third of the army — in spite of the fact that 591 may seem a small number — for reasons which are not entirely clear, is to be regretted.

The final report from the committee on project Timor-Leste which we have been given has been overtaken by events. However, it is an important one and there are lessons to be learned from it. Mr. Hyland poses questions as to where we can go and what we can do, etc. He has highlighted the issue of unemployment, particularly for young people. Based on what he said about the generation gap, I assume this is critical for them. Perhaps he could say more about the issue.

I assume education is also a critical issue. I know Mr. Hyland was involved in this area in East Timor and may be going back. Ireland is involved in assisting educational programmes there and I know that up to recently some Timorese people were being educated here. What is the current status? In a situation where not only infrastructure has been destroyed but the educated elite has also been dispersed, it is important that people are provided for the administration who will have the necessary skills, experience and know-how to help build the country.

The committee has invested much of its time, in terms of its programme, in the situation in East Timor, while Ireland has invested much money in proportional terms from its budget for the area. Therefore, the committee should adopt East Timor as a special project and continue to monitor the situation on a regular basis. We need to keep on top of events because the situation is developing rapidly. Perhaps we were not alert enough to the situation that might have been and was, in fact, created by what now appears to be the precipitous withdrawal of the United Nations some three or four years ago.

I welcome this opportunity to meet Tom Hyland. This subject is very important and it continues to be a priority for the committee. As Mr. Hyland indicated, we in Ireland, sadly, have some experiences that are parallel. My Oireachtas colleagues feel very strongly that Dublin, in the context of everything from broadcasting to roads to transport infrastructure, is far too highly favoured. The same position appears to obtain in East Timor, with 80% of expenditure spent on the capital and only 20% spent in the countryside. We must also take cognisance of fact that traumatisation of an entire population occurred in East Timor. Something similar happened in this country during the War of Independence and the Civil War. There is no doubt that it is difficult to deal with events of this nature but we have some experience of doing so.

I thank the Chairman for his indulgence. I am always interested to hear what Tom Hyland has to say. I hope and strongly urge that this committee will continue to give priority to monitoring the situation in East Timor. It may perhaps be appropriate for members of the committee to visit East Timor at some stage. I am not promoting myself because, thanks to the intervention of the Indonesian secret police, I significantly failed to obtain entry to the country some years ago, although Tom Hyland provided me with a poem written by Bono of U2——

Once a subversive always a subversive.

Absolutely. It might be important and useful for members of the committee to visit East Timor to supplement the excellent report we have been given by Tom Hyland.

I thank Mr. Hyland for his contribution. I have two questions. What is the current situation regarding the utilisation of funding from the petroleum resources of the region? With reference to the five recommendations set out on page 49 of the report published by this committee in February 2006, how many of these have been taken up by Irish Aid, which is referred to in the report under its former name, Development Co-operation Ireland?

My colleague, Deputy Costello, wishes to ask a question so I will be brief. I support what Tom Hyland said. This committee should give as much assistance as possible. I sympathise with him and through him to the Timorese people on the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves. I welcome the Irish Government's fundamental funding and also its special funding of €500,000.

I wish to make a few points. This committee is not just here to offer sympathy, it must also critically examine its past and current recommendations. Much of what is good in our report of February 2006 took a long time to happen. For example, William Binchy examined the judicial process in 2005. He made specific recommendations as to how the administration of justice could be improved institutionally and how an office of the ombudsman could be created. He recommended the training that could be carried out in respect of the administration of the different legal offices. Why did we not see this earlier? Successive reports from the committee made recommendations in this regard. Why does it take so long for a response to be made?

That matter relates to the area of justice but there are also other areas which we must consider. Mr. Hyland correctly made reference to Ireland's transition to independence, the circumstances of the Civil War and so on. The British Treasury remained in Ireland, whether for good or ill, for more than a decade after independence. The occasion of Timor-Leste's independence would have offered an opportunity to give administrative assistance on the division of powers and the structure of government departments but this did not happen. The issue of dealing with international institutions could have been examined critically but that did not happen either.

I do not have the time to go into this matter in detail and I would not be deliberately provocative on the issue in light of current circumstances. However, Timor-Leste was one of the countries asked, as a precondition to aid from the United States, to sign an immunity clause relating to the International Criminal Court. This was a new country under pressure to move away from an instrument of international law. Ireland should have criticised those who exerted that pressure. I do not blame the people of Timor-Leste or their representatives for not doing so. The international community should have objected but it did nothing. The Department of Foreign Affairs, which has a special relationship with Timor-Leste, said nothing. The end of the parliamentary session is approaching and I am speaking directly so that this can be clearly recorded. We did nothing on these issues.

I join colleagues in offering sympathy and help. We should examine how we can develop better and quicker responses to such situations. Regarding the report, the economic prescriptions offered are fairly superficial. We have been inclined to test administrations such as that of Timor-Leste to ensure that they put legislative frameworks in place that will guarantee international capital. There is a certain logic to that, but the report spends too much time on issues such as private sector development and not enough on meeting basic needs such as nutrition, food sufficiency, infant mortality, clean water and so on. There should have been several pages on the provision of clean water in Timor-Leste. Such ideological priorities are a feature of EU member state reports on other countries.

I have made my point and realise that mine is a minority view. However, this is an endemic defect in reports. In the 1970s we could discuss meeting basic needs, though African countries objected to us doing so. They said that when they won freedom, they would consume just as the fat Europeans do. They favoured a rights-based approach that did not focus on basic needs. I have noticed that basic needs, sufficiency, agricultural reform, indigenous technology and so on no longer feature in our reports. Instead, there are long pages on creating a corporate legal framework, which is necessary, but which should not be the only element of such reports. I accept that certainty is required in respect of economics. However, the creation of a corporate legal framework is not the only aspect.

Let us return to our report, put in new recommendations and see how we can quickly respond. I think the Foreign Minister, the person to whom Mr. Hyland immediately reports, and the President have responded with great sophistication. I hope the coming days will enable peace to come about. If the latter comes to pass, we should re-engage, in a more practical way, in order that we might, for example, help tackle unemployment and the problem of rural isolation. In my opinion, we could previously have provided assistance in respect of setting up a conference to deal with the language issue. There are several different languages in Timor-Leste.

The Deputy's comments regarding the follow-through on the report, and on reports in general, are true. Senator Norris asked us to monitor what is happening and work closely with regard to this case. We must engage in discussions with Irish Aid and the other agencies involved. They have given an overview — which, of necessity, is quite short — of what is happening. It should, therefore, be discussed and elaborated upon further. The action plans make the difference.

Yes. We could become known as the overview committee.

I am equally frustrated.

Many years ago, I spent much time writing academic material. I gave that up and entered politics in the pursuit of action. I was very fortunate in that I had an opportunity for much action. Action is needed and Mr. Hyland understands that very well. He went there to act rather than sit around talking about doing so.

I welcome Mr. Hyland. It is very useful to have a presentation by him at this stage, particularly as he was the original catalyst and motivator of sustained Government intervention and assistance in East Timor, as it was then known. It is now known as Timor-Leste.

What happened recently in respect of unrest and violence has been a wake-up call for those of us who were overly euphoric and optimistic about the future of the new state. There was a great deal of excitement, euphoria and international celebrations regarding the emerging nation, which was borne out of conflict and terrible oppression over many years. However, it is too easy to assume that the building of the nation will go smoothly. There are clearly underlying ethnic tensions and there is also the legacy of the long conflict. There is an absence of human capital in terms of the education system. All of those services that relate to building up a nation's people have been absent.

How is the Irish Aid programme proceeding? I know that it has been interrupted in a disappointing way by the unhappy political developments and unrest. Generally, will Mr. Hyland indicate if he is happy that we are touching on the right points and focusing on that at which we are best? Are we concentrating on where we have proven experience in the areas of basic needs, development, education, health — including women's reproductive health — and eradicating child poverty in respect of which Ireland, particularly in the context of its development co-operation in Africa, is a world leader? Are we focusing on the right areas?

I hope Mr. Hyland, from his direct experience, will indicate, in terms of the continuing development of the aid programme, where we might be making mistakes or focusing on the wrong areas. We need his on-the-spot advice and ongoing assessment of how well or poorly we are performing.

I am also interested in the question raised by other Deputies regarding the sustainability of the economy of Timor-Leste. The oil reserves are due to come on stream soon and will provide revenue, beyond that which comes in the form of aid, to the new nation. We are all aware that there is a danger that the country will be completely dependent on aid. We are also aware of the complexities involved in this regard. It may well be that so much aid has gone into the new state from Australia, the US, Portugal — the former colonial power — Ireland and other nations that there is a confusion of aid, a lack of co-ordination and, perhaps, a duplication of effort.

I recall having a conversation with a former Portuguese development Minister who wished to encourage the Irish Government to consider co-operating on programmes for the future. Why not co-operate with another European country, rather than working in different areas or duplicating efforts? How sustainable will be this little country, which lies just off Indonesia and in which Portuguese is an official language, in the long term? Will it be sustainable as an independent nation or will it always depend on international assistance? If so, what does Mr. Hyland think should be the principle focus of international assistance? Is duplication of effort a problem? I imagine that it is and that there is saturation in some areas. Are issues such as those relating to the rural poor being neglected?

Some 30 languages, the main ones of which are Tetun, Mambae and Makasae, are spoken in East Timor, which shows how complicated the situation is.

Mr. Hyland

The national language is Tetun, the official language is Portuguese and there are 30 distinct languages in different geographical areas.

I welcome Mr. Hyland and compliment him on the work he has done over the years in Ireland and in Timor-Leste. As Senator Norris said earlier, he is an inspiration for all those who think that nothing can be done and he has proven how much one person can do in a particular area.

It is sad that the situation in East Timor seems to have deteriorated and degenerated into a degree of civil strife. The most immediate concern is the 65,000 displaced persons in Dili and the 35,000 in the countryside who account for over 10% of the population. Further masses of people are coming to Dili from the country now that the Prime Minister has resigned and no doubt there will be even further displacement. How serious is the situation and how close is the deterioration to civil strife or civil war? Is the country teetering on the brink of civil war?

Is the force of 1,800 Australian and Portuguese troops in the country there purely on the request of the now-resigned Prime Minister and is it seen as neutral? Is it in a position to ensure stability and security? It appears that the country's existing armed force is out of the loop.

In terms of financial aid, Ireland has provided a welcome €500,000. Mr. Hyland stated that approximately €50 million is required. Has the international community made a commitment in respect of that amount? How serious is the immediate situation and what steps are being taken to deal with it?

Mr. Hyland referred to underlying problems such as the resolution of difficulties by means of the culture of violence and the perception by those who fought the good fight that they are not benefiting from the peace. What has happened to the peace, truth and reconciliation project which was put in place? The church was a significant player in the pre-independence days. What role is currently played by the church? Has it been sidelined or is it still playing a central role in the affairs of the country?

Deputy Michael D. Higgins referred to the question of engagement and the need for implementation. How effective is the implementation and by whom is it being carried out? How is the money donated by our Government being used? How effective and relevant is this funding in providing a sustainable and stable democracy in the country? What further action can be taken? Mr. Hyland stated that most of the people who had been in the original army fighting against the Indonesians had no skills and have found themselves left on the perimeter of the new society. Has Ireland any contribution to make by providing skills and training, either by people coming to this country or through providing the expertise in East Timor? A long-term solution can only be achieved if we are able to engage in a meaningful fashion and provide an effective model of the services, skills and needs that are identified. Otherwise, Ireland will end up being a country that makes contributions to a Third World country, sends out a delegation and adopts a remote overseeing role which lacks the engagement required for implementation.

One of the recommendations in the report is a call for a more long-term and closer involvement. It seems that we were correct in this regard and the recommendation we made must be re-emphasised.

I wish to ask a question about the petroleum and gas revenues. The figures show an increase. In 2005 and 2006 there was to be a balance in the fund of $63 million. The revenue in 2005-06 was $159 million. The withdrawals were to be $73 million, leaving a fund for the future of €153 million. The fund was designed to continue forward for quite a number of years. Mr. Hyland referred to significant levels of unemployment and the need for schemes to employ people and undertake health and other projects. Are these projects, which seem to represent a good arrangement, working?

Mr. Hyland

Senator Norris asked about unemployment and education and whether the Government had continued with the Timorese education programme. Unemployment levels are very high. It is estimated that 70% of young people in the capital are unemployed. In rural areas it is more difficult to define what constitutes unemployment. Is a young person who helps the family by cutting rice gainfully employed?

On education, Ireland has afforded East Timor priority country status, which means a certain number of scholarships are awarded to Timorese students each year. There will be Timorese students coming to Ireland this year to study development issues. The Irish Aid programme has approached this issue in a considered and sophisticated manner in that it brings some students here but also encourages education and training in the relevant region, be it in Malaysia, Australia or the Philippines. It is important to remember that students who come here have to be able to speak English and the poorest of the poor probably do not. Students who speak Bahasa Indonesia can go to Malaysia.

Senator Norris mentioned the visit. It gives me a great sense of pride to attend the Foreign Ministry in East Timor and to see the list of embassies accredited to the country, with Ireland on it, given all that it implies about our long-term involvement with East Timor. I endorse what the Senator has said and think when the latest situation calms down, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, in line with the questions raised on Project Timor-Leste and other issues, should consider visiting East Timor which would allow it to engage in a first hand analysis.

The figures relating to the trust fund may be higher than those mentioned by the Chairman. A problem with the fund is that to spend money one must have capacity and to have capacity there must be a certain skill level. If the skills are not available in society, the petroleum fund is practically useless. The oil can either be left in the sea until the capacity to use it is generated or it can be extracted and a trust fund created which will I hope earn money during the years. There is a debate as to where the consequent jobs should be created. Workers will be required for petroleum production, that is, if the oil is brought ashore in Timor. There is an argument over where it should be brought ashore. It is closer to Timor but the Australian Government is insisting it should be brought ashore in Darwin. If it is brought ashore in Timor, questions will arise on the level of training among Timorese workers. These are deep, complex issues facing East Timor.

Regarding the first recommendation, Ireland has given a commitment to the Foreign Minister, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, to stay engaged for ten to 12 years. The recommendation that the resource base of the Irish mission be increased to enable expansion of Irish Aid programme activity, as far as I know, has not been implemented. There was a recommendation that DCI increase its media coverage and public awareness of Ireland's development co-operation with Timor-Leste. I have not been in Ireland for a time and returned only in the last three weeks to a month. I cannot comment on that recommendation as I am not sure of it.

There is a recommendation that DCI should investigate new linkages with the Timor-Leste Government to increase the level of direct development co-operation programmes and more distinctive development. I understand that DCI, now called Irish Aid, will probably be looking at different areas in the programme such as unemployment, social inclusion and other areas. I presume Irish Aid has regular briefings with the NGO community in Ireland.

My feeling is that the Irish Aid programme is very good on the ground. There may be some type of reassessment in light of current difficulties in Timor-Leste. Priority should be given to job creation and problems such as violence. As Deputy O'Donnell mentioned, if the tackling of unemployment is considered, does it mean that funds will be taken away from the issue of gender in society, violence against women or the infant mortality rate? That should be examined.

We spend between €3.5 million to €5 million in Timor-Leste each year. Considering the enormity of the problems facing Timor, one or two areas in which there can be an actual impact should be singled out. These areas might be budgetary support for the Government, unemployment, supporting the justice system or helping in gender issues and women's health. Forces should be concentrated on these in co-operation with the Timorese Government. The actions of other governments should also be taken into account. The issue of closer co-operation between particular countries that we discussed before, such as Portugal and Ireland, should be considered again.

That brings me to Deputy Higgins's comments on the issue of justice. If there is to be an impact, there should be a concentration on one area. Some of our funds go towards administration for budgetary support in Timor-Leste.

A Deputy asked how the Irish Aid programme was going. I am not a specialist in development aid, but I would always offer a comment. The Irish Aid programme is very good. It is right that we have given East Timor priority country status. I have previously stated that all this comes back to engaging in areas where we can have an impact. That might be the area of unemployment, for example.

We have raised with a number of Departments the issue of strategic mentoring. Ireland would choose one or two areas, possibly those relating to resources, fisheries or education. We have progressed rapidly from an economic perspective and we have done particularly well in the area of communications. We could strategically mentor Timor-Leste in that area. If we are to engage with Timor-Leste, it must be through hands-on engagement. We must sit down and analyse the situation and put in place the proper structures to facilitate ongoing engagement that does not simply involve visits.

Whether East Timor is sustainable has been always the €64,000 question. The people seem to think it is and I agree. They have significant oil resources. Sustainability relates to employment and to what industry can be attracted to the area. The country can attract tourism and it has significant fishing resources. It could be also open to international banking opportunity. All these areas offer potential. Is it sustainable? The answer is yes, but it needs training and capacity building over time to make it sustainable.

Deputy Costello asked how close the country is to civil war. The past few months, weeks and days have been difficult for all of us, but I do not think there will be civil war. That is not to say we were not caught off guard by the latest events. We had all taken our eye off the ball, but I do not believe there will be civil war. It is good the Australian, Malaysian, Portuguese and New Zealand forces are there. The invitation to them was timely as the situation was deteriorating rapidly. They are seen as a neutral force.

I disagree with John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, who stated recently that the UN did not leave too early and that East Timor does not need another UN peacekeeping force. I was deeply distressed to hear those two comments.

The CAVR has issued a report, but before the report was finished it was replaced by a truth and reconciliation commission which currently alternates between Dili and Bali.

On the role of the church, there was a significant stand-off earlier this year between the church and the state in East Timor. This happened as a result of the government trying to implement a policy of separation of church and state in terms of education. The church did not agree with this and called its supporters onto the streets, resulting in a physical confrontation which was defused. With regard to revenue from oil, this is, so to speak, in the trust fund. One issue is the capacity of the Timorese to spend it.

I hope I have covered all of the issues. The situation is extremely complex and needs a hands-on approach. We realise East Timor needs the active engagement of friendly governments that have been supportive in the past. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in this regard.

I thank Mr. Hyland for attending today to give us his views. He has been in East Timor for some time since we last saw him. He is returning to East Timor in a few weeks and the committee hopes to keep in contact with him. The committee wishes to monitor the situation as it develops. We have been asked to consider making a visit to East Timor and we will make a decision in that regard in light of events there.

The committee has published its report on East Timor. In general, the report takes a broad view of the situation. As Mr. Hyland specifically stated, Ireland had problems dealing with large-scale unemployment, particularly in rural areas. It was necessary to introduce different schemes as an interim measure to at least give people some return and assistance. The committee will consider all the points made by Mr. Hyland regarding the current situation and will raise them with Irish Aid. The committee takes a keen interest in East Timor. The report details its findings and offers several recommendations which have been made to the Minister. It provides a useful input to the planning and strategic development of Ireland's programme of assistance to East Timor.

I thank Mr. Hyland for his attendance and wish him every success in his continuing work in East Timor, to which he will be returning in a couple of weeks.

The joint committee went into private session at 3.12 p.m. and adjourned at 3.50 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 4 July 2006.