Subject: DN: Timorese president says country needs expertise of emigres

Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

October 11, 2002, Friday

Timorese president says country needs expertise of emigres

SOURCE: Diario de Noticias web site, Lisbon, in Portuguese 11 Oct 02

Commenting on the first five months of independence, East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has said that he is willing to resign if possible, but that he has a duty to defend the people's interests. He also said that relations with Indonesia were unharmed by the outcome of the recent human rights trials in Jakarta, and called upon Timorese professionals living in Portugal to return and serve their country. The following is the text of an interview by Joao Pedro Fonseca, carried by Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias web site on 11 October

Diario de Noticias What balance do you make of five months of independence in East Timor?

Xanana Gusmao Mine is not a material balance. We have put a lot of effort - even if gradual - into trying to make the institutions work. The government and its departments have put their utmost effort into this.

DN You have said it is not easy to be independent, that it raises many doubts. What doubts?

Gusmao On several aspects. The first are personal doubts. It is easy to make political speeches. It is easy to say we are committed to do one thing or another and to serve. Sacrifices are not measurable. In the past we have risked our lives. In the past, everything was an obligation, a duty. Today, we have another duty. We must not refrain from the duty of rebuilding lives. Then, we have the ambitions, the selfishness, the comfort, a series of challenges that can hamper the efforts made by each individual.

DN You have said East Timor will try to avoid the mistakes other countries have made; but is it not true that power sometimes overlooks the people?

Gusmao It is true. In fact, I noticed the most interesting thing at the ACP Africa-Caribbean-Pacific summit in the Fiji Islands 16-19 July 2002 . I had never imagined that, so-called third world countries, in the light of their diversity, could still share a common language. Their leaders are looking for a change. We still share universal values.

I was glad to seem that some leaders tried to give me advice, such as, how to govern well, how to be transparent, how to value human rights, how to help civil society flourish and tackle corruption, among others, and I asked myself where they were coming from; and found out they were from the same countries where these problems exist. It is interesting, however, to see we all share the same language, that we all value the same principles.

This must be a constant reminder to us: that we have countries who became independent some 40 years ago but where little has been produced, where there still is not an intellectual elite and wealthy communities, and where the people are still suffering.

We shall remember, each day, that ambition can kill and that selfishness can surface and make us forget our political commitments and ideals.

DN I recall your presidential pledged that you would always fulfil the wish of the people.

Gusmao I am trying to fulfil my pledge, by guiding the people, telling them that we now have a constitution, that they have the right to participate and demand for changes.

DN Do you think politicians are frustrated because they feel they are unable to fulfil the aspirations of their people?

Gusmao I could not answer that question. There is a generalized feeling that we need time. We have asked the people to be patient, but that does not mean the people should be silenced. We will try to continue to help the public find the best solutions to their duties. It is important for the people to speak with one voice and to be capable, from the beginning, of correcting one's mistakes.

DN You have long said you did not wish to be the president. Five months later, do you feel accomplished, or do you still wish to return to farming, photography and poetry?

was forced to be president, that I was chosen by them but that I do not wish to be the president; but they can still count on me to defend their interests.

DN Has there been social unrest?

Gusmao There is a lot of hope and aspirations, but nothing too serious.

DN Essential facilities and jobs are still lacking in Timor. Does the population understand the situation, or do they feel agitated?

Gusmao They have understood and we have made a tremendous effort. The two years of UNTAET's UN Transitional Administration in East Timor administration were fundamental to help the Timorese realize the difficulties of this process. It takes time and it requires understanding.

DN Timor still needs foreign aid. What sort of aid?

Gusmao It needs aid and it is getting it. When we talk about aid, we mean support in terms of assistance and human resources. The UNTAET years should have been a period of preparation for the Timorese, but they were not exactly that. These two and a half years were aimed at maintaining security and filling a gap in the administration. Only now do the Timorese have the opportunity to show their capacities, in terms of decision-making power and scope to make mistakes.

DN Have the Jakarta trials, which ended with the acquittal of six Indonesian military and a light sentence for former East Timorese governor in favour of integration with Indonesia Abilio Osorio Soares, dented, in any way, your relations with Indonesia?

Gusmao They have not. We expressed our dissatisfaction to the international community, but I would not describe the sentence given Abilio Osorio Soares as too light. My criticisms sprang from our knowledge of how the system works in Indonesia, because we cohabit with it. Civilians have no authority, it is the military who have the power. In the Indonesian provinces the military had more authority than the governors, and if that was not enough, under the 5 May accord which led up to the independence referendum Indonesia had assumed responsibility for security in the territory. This is why I do not agree with a sentence for a single individual.

DN You have left that for the courts to decide. Did you not feel their decisions created a political problem with Indonesia?

and do not interfere in each other's internal affairs. It is an issue for the international community, an issue about the credibility of the Indonesian justice.

DN Timor's most recent dispute was with Australia, over the definition of your sea borders. Is oil still a problem for East Timor, just another source of conflict?

Gusmao I would not like to think about it in that way. Indeed, we have differences in terms of our exact sea borders. We do not demand much, nothing beyond what is conferred by international law. This is why we will continue to demand for our rights. As any good neighbours, we hold our differences, on economic issues. We believe we have differences, but their solution lie, always, on mutual understanding and respect.

DN You have told the Timorese community in Portugal about the lack of expertise in the territory. How will you convince them to go back?

Gusmao We are not asking all the Timorese to return. If nothing else, because we do not have the conditions to receive them, the jobs, the housing and other conditions. My call is aimed at experts, to the professionals we are lacking in the construction sector. We also know, we have many doctors here in Portugal , many experts who live well and do not feel motivated to come back. They should recognize that, at present, it is more important to give than to receive. It is more important to serve than to be served. It is one more sacrifice.

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