Subject: Xanana: Address to the Constituent Assembly

Address to the Constituent Assembly by the President-Elect, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão,

19 April 2002.

Your Excellency, President of the Constituent Assembly,

Honourable Members,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure today to be able to talk to this distinguished national institution, which a few weeks ago demonstrated yet again its high level of responsibility to our people when it approved the first Constitution for a democratic and independent East Timor. Without any notable emotional discords, over an intense debating period of almost six months, this assembly approved for the people a fundamental legal instrument for our homeland.

Our people have every right to feel proud of their elected representatives, who assumed the responsibility for this awesomely important task, to write and approve a constitution.

You are all to be congratulated! You demonstrated a high degree of expectations, which many of this assembly were initially hesitant to recognise.

My presence here today is a friendly presence. I am not here to give you lessons on the law or on politics. I am here to salute you as a sovereign institution with enormous responsibilities.

It will be you who will be articulating and approving the judicial instruments which will be the lifeblood of our people. It will be you who will, step by step, approve the laws which regulate the administration of our State. An enormous responsibility! But you have already proved yourselves to be of the stature to meet such expectations. Of this I am certain!

Our people through the ballots elected me to assume the office of President. During my electoral campaign I outlined clearly my hopes and aspirations. I uphold an open and active presidency, with regular consultation with civil society and with many institutions. My objective is to keep myself always ready to articulate the concerns of our people, and always with the hope of being able to influence the legislators, that is, you, and the members of Government, Ministers and Secretaries of State, so that you bear in mind what our people declare as their aspirations and priorities.

All of you will certainly always be capable of understanding such expectations. My contribution is simply to instigate an all-embracing process through those institutions of government which work together to shape the legal instruments and government programs which reflect, within the limits of what is possible, what our people actually expect of all of us.

As for the presidency which will be under my responsibility, like the parliament, which will be your responsibility, we are still in an embryonic stage. We have to build the essential mechanisms to ensure the smooth functioning of these two institutions. We have to create official channels indispensable to maintain official, regular and efficient lines of communication, in order to allow all possible co-operation between these twin fulcrums of our state.

For my part, I am conscious of the urgency of setting up the essential advisory services for the fulfilment of the responsibilities which were entrusted to me as President of the Republic, in accordance with the Constitution; I must establish the conditions necessary to allow me to take part in the political process, as I have promised to our people.

As a Parliament, honourable Members, you will have to decide on your priorities, updating as you go the rules that regulate your parliamentary procedures and reinforcing your support services, essential to the functioning of parliamentary activity.

Dealing with structural aspects, however simple they may appear, they require adequate human resources and working conditions, which take time to establish.

We have to consider the internal organisation of the constitutional bodies, because this is a sine qua non for their functioning and internal co-ordination. The Parliament will have to define its core priorities relating to the order of legislation for resolution in the near future, they must decide in this year 2002 which matters they will focus their attention on.

Are we going to spend months debating complex bills which could wait until later, or should we, first of all, define simple laws and structures of the financial and fiscal system that we want for our country?

Are we going to begin frantically revoking all those laws already passed during the transition period, or are we going to decide on targets to be achieved in important areas, such as taxation, or foreign investment?

The decision that will need to be taken lies, in the first instance, with Your Excellencies, as those who are entrusted with the legislative powers!

Our Constitution determines, for example, that the State has the responsibility to provide for appropriate assistance to disabled war victims, to orphans and widows of the veterans of the resistance. The State holds the responsibility to guarantee their rights to employment and to proper working conditions. The State also holds the responsibility to guarantee the equality of the sexes, and other fundamental human rights, critical to democracy.

The Parliament will also have to decide which will be the pertinent legal instruments for the good conduct of the economy of the country, including regulatory mechanisms for the monetary system, and support to local businessmen, in such a way as to encourage private initiative, and to promote a productive economic climate which allows the realisation of their individual entitlements. Without the obvious appropriate economic success, our people will not be able to benefit from many of the fundamental rights implicit in the Constitution, which would then remain a dead letter.

We have five years to prove that we are able to produce results. We have few financial resources, but our strength lies in our determination, in our discipline and in our ambition to prove that we know, we can, and we must succeed.

According to the Constitution, I, as the President, and you, as the distinguished Members of Parliament, must assume, at the legal level, the responsibility of approving that which is truly essential, acting always with the intention of how to best serve the future of our country.

The President must stay vigilant, because you, the Members, have given me the responsibility of scrutinising government. For that reason, the President has the duty of influencing, constructively, the whole process.

The norms and ethics dictate that the President may, always as he considers necessary, send official messages to the Parliament concerning matters of national interest, choosing in each instance, the best or most adequate way to do it.

In the period that lies before us, in the coming five years, we need everyday laws that guarantee the development of the democratic process of our young nation. The waste of efforts and resources, however insignificant, will be a luxury, and as such will be unacceptable. We can approve many laws, and all of them useless, or, we can approve a few laws, that in fact are useful and productive. The choice in the near future, is yours, honourable Members!

Whichever way we do it, we must always be guided by the spirit that nothing is perfect. All can be made, but all can be changed. What is made today may have its shortcomings, but what will be made tomorrow can be better. What is essential is that we are conscious, that each step we take, we take with the most profound sentiment of responsibility.

Before I finish allow me to reiterate, it is with great pleasure that I stand here today before you. It is a privilege, and it will always be a privilege, to be able to communicate with you, distinguished Members of the Assembly, for whom I have the most profound respect. In the execution of your tasks, I will be always ready to offer my contribution whenever you consider necessary.

I wish you good health and success.

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