|Subject: CNRT: Xanana's New Year's Message
CNRT/Congresso Nacional Presidency
NEW YEAR’S MESSAGE by
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, President of the CNRT/CN Dili, 31 December
This is not intended to be an exclusive message; the time for exclusive
leaders playing the ungrateful role of addressing the people who fought
and struggled is long past. A year after achieving the great victory of
liberating our Homeland we have not lacked, nor will we lack, speakers on
behalf of the people, from politicians to members of the civil society and
from intellectuals to NGOs. This only means times are changing ....
The emerging awareness that we are all participants of a process is a
social and political phenomenon inherent to processes similar to our own;
there must never be a monopoly in the interpretation of the process and,
consequently, one must allow the emergence of different opinions so that
the process may gain a greater dynamic, a broader participation and be
In every post-liberation war process, we have observed the mounting
need of politicians to know which place he/she will occupy because, in
general, politicians’ aspirations for power are considered to be natural
and legitimate. This is how politicians fulfil themselves. Political
parties reflect this nature without which they would be yet another NGO
alongside so many others established in East Timor attempting to cover
every sector of development in the country, from education to agriculture,
from health to fisheries and from sanitation to entrepreneurial projects.
Today, in East Timor, we are witnessing a move by politicians to
affirm, or re-affirm, their position in society. Some try to defend points
of view that are almost contrary to common sense just to recruit some
followers because they claim to be the defenders of the ‘underprivileged’.
Others, resort to past memories, become untouchable and, because of this,
become insensitive to the (real) facts of history. They live in and
revisit the past as an alternative to confronting common sense and
reality. They claim historic impunity, they surround themselves by angels
of peace and heroes of a revolution ... that brought grief and left scars
in our souls.
Others, living thousands of kilometres away from Dili, spout forth
points of view as if they own a knowledge of their own, in a
remote-control-style very much in line with the globalisation that turned
each country into a larger or smaller village in this world.
We are witnessing another phenomenon in East Timor; that of an
obsessive acculturation to standards that hundreds of international
experts try to convey to the East Timorese, who are hungry for values:
- democracy (many of those who teach us never practised it in their own
countries because they became UN staff members); - human rights (many of
those who remind us of them forget the situation in their own countries);
- gender (many of the women who attend the workshops know that in their
countries this issue is no example for others); - NGOs (numerous NGOs live
off the aid ‘business’ to poor countries) - Youth (all those who
remind us of this issue know that in their countries most of the youth are
unemployed and that experience is the main employment drive apart from
some exceptions based on intellectual skills)
It might sound as though I am speaking against these noble values of
democratic participation. I do not mind if it happens in the democratic
minds of people. What seems to be absurd is that we absorb standards just
to pretend we look like a democratic society and please our masters of
What concerns me is the non-critical absorption of (universal)
standards given the current stage of the historic process we are building.
Old democracies are no longer like a smooth pavement or a linear social
process where such standards slide along without the slightest friction.
What concerns me is that the Timorese may become detached from their
reality and, above all, try to copy something which is not yet clearly
understood by them.
It is necessary that we are sincere and humble so that we do not lose
track of the highest interests of our People. Democracy is not built
overnight and it is by experiencing the system that democracy can be
shaped. Some think that mere political party membership is a synonym of
democracy and, therefore, it does not need to be cared for. School-aged
youths think democracy empowers them with the right to protest, criticise
and insult the teachers, to skip or disturb classes. Some adults share the
opinion that democracy demands that everyone must decide on everything.
This process of preparation for independence is not an easy one when we
discuss issues such as democracy, human rights and freedom.
There is some anxiety for self-affirmation which the international
staff currently in East Timor try to enhance; they forget how unaware they
are of the whole process of our people´s struggle and, therefore,
encourage the expression of various forms of difference as if this was the
only way of ensuring democracy.
This natural need for self-affirmation, of parties and individuals,
whether politicians or not, leads to a strong ill-feeling against the CNRT
as if the CNRT was the main enemy of political parties and civil society.
To a certain extent, this situation is encouraged by the perception shared
by many international organisations that the CNRT is a political party. It
is hard for us to believe that foreigners who come to East Timor to work
do not have some knowledge of Timorese political reality. Foreigners
should bear in mind that the essential condition for their operational
success is to be aware that they do not come to save East Timor but rather
to fulfil a mission of support; therefore, if they are not aware of this
reality they will face the ungrateful mission of earning money for 6
months and returning to their homes, as so many have done, often revealing
themselves to be less skilled than the East Timorese who can not find a
CNRT is looked at as an obstacle to the development of political
parties. Those who fiercely attack the CNRT forget something. The CNRT is
paving the way so that, in the near future, the parties may run for
political power. They also forget that CNRT is not a political party. We
all know that if, one day, the CNRT were to turn into a political party,
there would be no party capable of competing with CNRT. The CNRT is quite
certain of this although it will not do it. The CNRT would like to say to
the political parties and politicians that because the CNRT is more mature
and better prepared than the parties, it will not exploit the current
emotional condition of our People.
The CNRT is concerned with political stability during the
post-independence period; the CNRT is concerned with the environment of
peace and harmony that must be created amidst the population. Our People
have that right: THE RIGHT TO LIVE IN PEACE AND HARMONY!
Our political experience over the past 25 years alerts us to the
possibility of violence amidst the people; we are observing manoeuvres by
certain groups which are showing no respect whatsoever for our People’s
right to live in peace and the right to never again face a situation where
Timorese kill other Timorese. The CNRT is extremely concerned with the
feelings some groups may begin having when there is violence amidst the
population; a feeling of euphoria of a victory over ‘the others who got
what they asked for’ or because ‘they even have more supporters than
CNRT is following the movement and the desire for affirmation or
re-affirmation of leaders and politicians. In fact, what out people need
now is leaders, new leaders who are wise, thoughtful and with a broad
vision of the process. The CNRT only hopes that maturity resulting from 25
years of struggle may lead political parties to act with greater realism
and objectiveness in their analysis on the complexity of the independence
January 1, 2001 will be the first day of the millennium. We are
celebrating the most important New Year in modern history for we are about
to enter a new millennium. In a few hours we will open a new chapter in
the history of Mankind.
This unique event for Mankind will have a very special meaning for the
Maubere People Timor Lorosa’e will be engraved in the journals of
history as the first independent country of this new millennium.
During the year 2000 many people celebrated the New Year as the
beginning of the new millennium when it was actually merely the end of the
old millennium. Similarly, many people tried to imagine which kind of an
imprint would 2000 leave in the transition process. The year 2000 must be
mostly considered as one of learning the numerous aspects of and the
relationship with UNTAET, with the international institutions and with the
International Community. If we do not understand this we will think of
ourselves as able enough to rehabilitate everything overnight and to
immediately do all that is necessary. This is being unrealistic. Budgetary
constraints are not UNTAET’s; budgetary constraints are part and parcel
of this transition and in its relationship with the donor community.
Of course there are many unfortunate things happening, many perceptions
which are not in tune with Timorese reality, there is a lot more money
available to pay the hundreds and hundreds of foreigners rather than for
reconstruction. There is bad management or inclusion of structures and a
heavy bureaucratic apparatus that, in some cases, resorts to corruption.
International staff are of the opinion that the East Timorese simply
lack capacity and this opinion is seconded by some sectors of our society.
We do not call for a hasty transition period, an inadequate one “à la
Cambodia” where the international staff left a vacuum behind after
leaving. For this reason, we defend a clearly phased strategy for the
political process. Rather than considering the success it may be for the
UN we are concentrated on a process that may bring success to the
suffering people of East Timor. And, eventually, the International
Community will have assuaged its conscience for having assisted a martyred
We are about to commence a decisive year for East Timor and its People!
This year will be filled with political activity and, above all,
activities that will involve the participation of the people. The two
foundations that sustain the transition towards independence are, as we
have often stated, timorisation and the political process.
We must speak in one voice so that UNTAET will begin the timorisation
process in a serious way. To appoint ministers is not to timorise. To
recruit Director-Generals or Heads of Departments and their staff will be
our priority for the first quarter of 2001. If this is not to happen we
will be convinced that the extension of UNTAET’s mandate only aims at
benefiting the international staff who are handsomely paid in East Timor.
But if we are to undertake an appropriate and genuine timorisation,
UNTAET’s mandate will be looked at as an extension of the East Timorese
Some people expressed their opposition to the political calendar. We do
not wish to discuss their reasons for differences of opinion are part of
the democracy that all seem to so wisely put into practise. The
timorisation process must evolve side by side with the development of the
There will be a great number of political events during 2001. Civil
Registration, as a database to be prepared for the Electoral Registration,
will soon begin. The electoral system must be determined. In January, the
Regulation on Political Parties must also be prepared and adopted by the
National Council. This will enable the registration of political parties
and give them a legitimate status to address the people; thus, we will
hamper the activity by uncontrollable groups showing up as parties merely
to create confusion amidst our people. We urge New York to understand the
East Timorese political reality; it is profoundly different from that in
the United States which has just experienced moments during the recent
presidential elections that countries undergoing democratisation processes
called “the greatest democracy scandal”.
There will be civic education programmes throughout the territory to
enable people to know the system to be set up in East Timor and to make
people aware of the dimension of freedom, democracy, justice and peace, as
basic conditions for progress and the well-being of every citizen.
A draft of a simple Constitution must also be drafted by the East
Timorese whereby the fundamental universal principles, citizen’s rights
and the system of government will be clearly enshrined. The debate of this
draft with the population throughout the territory will enable the people
to know the foundations of the Timorese Nation.
The National Council will also debate the Electoral Law; and once it is
adopted there will be an electoral education campaign so that our People
may have a genuine awareness of the democratic values by the time the
first elections are held in the free Timor Lorosa’e. The East Timorese
People must feel by then total freedom to vote, i.e., they will not feel
any kind of fear of intimidation or threat of reprisals.
Having said this, we truly believe that the electoral campaigns will be
held in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect. Consequently,
elections for the Constituent Assembly will also be held in a peaceful
atmosphere. Those who do not believe that our people will achieve this
ought to recall August 30, 1999. Those who feel sceptical about this
process are those who were not in East Timor during the difficult and
dramatic period experienced by our people.
If it is accepted that the Constitution should not be of a programmatic
or ideological nature and that it should be simple and universal, the
Constituent Assembly will not need a lengthy period of time to debate the
first Constitution of Timor. It will only require enough time to fine tune
the draft that will then be adopted as the Constitution and which will
come into effect on the first day of Independence. We do not want a
chaotic transition whereby for purposes of ‘revenge’ the East Timorese
will re-initiate the whole process again. Once again, and to make it very
clear, we wish to state that we defend a phased and orderly transition!
Independence is not forged by simply choosing the colour of the national
flag or the choice of the day it will be proclaimed. We understand
independence as the system to be implemented and the capacity of the East
Timorese to carry out their responsibilities even before independence is
The outcome of the elections will dictate the composition of the
Constituent Assembly and may even be a reference for the setting up of the
government. Consequently, political parties may (or may not) be called to
debate this and to appoint members of the government. This is the way the
East Timorese are preparing themselves to gradually receive the transfer
of responsibility until independence, including at ministerial level.
Similarly, the Legislative Assembly, as an elected body emerging from
the Constituent Assembly, will gain greater experience and will also
initiate its legislative activity in the run up to independence.
This is our perspective for the preparation of the East Timorese for
independence, at all levels of governance. There may be other and better
ways. We perceive the elections, as the focal point of this political
process for it will confer legitimacy to political acts. The reviewing of
ETTA’s legal status may be easier to achieve with the existence of
elected bodies. This process will meet the demands put forth in Security
Council Resolution nr. 1272.
I repeat that this is CNRT’s opinion and might not be accepted by the
Timorese democratic society. These thoughts are not being elaborated to
serve CNRT’s interests but rather the interests of the People which CNRT
organised and mobilised to decide on their future and which the People has
responded to with courage and determination.
As from January, the Timorese, political parties, politicians and
intellectuals should initiate in-depth debates on the ideal Government
structure (i.e, the minimum necessary one) to ensure that we do not
inherit extremely heavy structures which are non-efficient and, above all,
not sustainable. These debates should also include the issues of
centralisation and decentralisation.
This will enable that, as from March, we will begin working on the
budget for the next fiscal year from July 2001 to June 2002 because, in
June 2001 the Donors’ Conference will be held in Canberra to decide on
There are political parties, politicians and intellectuals who claim
rights but forget their duty to think carefully about this process so that
the contribution of each individual may contribute to a better perception
of the complexity of this problem.
CNRT is, therefore, convinced that the elections will be the engine for
change, above all, for a change of still distorted mentalities that exist
both in foreigners working in East Timor and in the East Timorese who seek
self-affirmation in our society.
Dear CNRT Cadres
My last words are addressed to you.
Today we are being looked at as agitators of instability. August 30,
1999 would not have happened if it had not been for your commitment and
dedication. A year later, you are still committed to serving our People,
without any salary. Many of the East Timorese who criticise you are well
placed now. The foreigners who look askance at you think you are about to
take half of their salaries to provide for your families, build your homes
or send your children to school.
They all forget that the fingers of one hand are too many to count the
number of CNRT cadres who suffered in East Timor and are now working in
the civil service. They also forget that none of the CNRT cadres are
working as UNTAET local staff. I will give you just one example, not to
mention those which apply to NGOs and International Agencies. In Oecussi,
the local UNTAET staff were all pro-autonomy. And no one protests.
However, any minor mistake by a CNRT cadre, where ever it may happen, is
magnified to melodramatic proportions.
We were together during the extremely hard times of the struggle, when
many of those who now arrive in East Timor, had no knowledge of our
problem. I am aware of the difficulties each one of you is facing in your
private lives. Your and my experience is solely one of resistance. We do
not have the skills to hope for a job, and we acknowledge this with
modesty. We have the CNRT imprint labelled on us and when others mention
CNRT cadres, they are led to thinking of nepotism, corruption and lack of
We have often mentioned amongst us that CNRT cadres are today like an
old shirt that is thrown away when it is worn out.
This year will be very demanding of you and in your work with the
population. Do not give up working to educate our people, to serve our
people. I will be with you in undertaking this noble task, as you have
already done in the past, as you have worked during the difficult years of
resistance TO SERVE THE PEOPLE!
I will do my utmost and will bring down every obstacle so as to enable
the establishment of a Credit Bank in East Timor. A private Bank detached
from meaningless political assumptions often referred to when it comes to
CNRT cadres; a Bank that may give new perspective to your lives.
I will struggle for you as you have struggled for our People! Let us
not think about rewards, where ever they may come from! The best reward
was the victory achieved by our People on 30 August 1999 and there is no
one in East Timor who can take from you the success of your work!
We still have work ahead, namely to lead our people to defend their
right to live in peace and in harmony and avoid a repetition of the past
experience of political violence. In the meantime, we will organise
ourselves in groups and learn the skills of management so that each one of
you may be prepared to reconstruct your lives.
We will face new difficulties in this process but I know that you are
always prepared to serve our People.
May 2001 bring success to your efforts in moving towards a genuine
transition to independence and may it also bring you new prospects for the
Dili, 31 December 2000
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão President of the CNRT/CN
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