Subject: Timor Post Editorial: Civic Education, Urgent?

March 6, 2001

Civic Education, Urgent? (Timor Post Editorial/6/3/01)

We are now entering March 2001. According to the political agenda of East Timor, elections would be held on 30 August 2001 to elect a Constituent Assembly to write a constitution. It is extremely urgent that the people know and are informed in general of the transition process toward a democratic nation. For the public opinion, the big question is how will civil education be conducted? Are we optimistic or pessimistic about the real political situation of the people?

This topic and questions are related to the 'urgent debate' that CNRT/NC president Cay Rala Xanana Gusmao was obliged to hold with RDTL in the Dili Gymnasium on 2 March morning. Although the dialogue began somewhat "heatedly," it shows the people's need of civic education. But we do not yet know what is the model, where it would be conducted and what are its mechanisms. For us, the model that President Xanana used in the gymnasium is most effective. It began "hot" and finished with Xanana embracing and crying. This is not to say that the model we are proposing is one of embraces and tears. What is most important is how to create dialogue and debate, during which the people are given unlimited time to freely argue without protocol or moderator as in the National Council's Public Hearing of UNTAET.

This is a popular model of dialogue - one, that the people knew since the days of INTERFET in October 2000, with its daily long hours of debate, dialogue and discussion in the Gymnasium, sometimes for the whole day. But all these have disappeared with the Governor of UNTAET. Have Timorese people become lazy? Or these activities are forbidden by UNTAET? We don't know. This we know that there is a project and a lot of money from the World Bank or Asia Bank or donators for the Civic Education programmes. The question is how is the project conducted, what is the result - the people don't know. Perhaps the chiefs of the Project, as reported in the white paper of the World Bank, know better than the people. It is possible that we are already wrong!

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