Subject: XG: May 20 Message to the Nation


Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão


Dearest Compatriots,

People of Timor-Leste,

Today, we celebrate the first year of the restoration of independence, the first year in which the Timorese people finally assumed the reins of government. I have always said that independence is not an easy process. Managing and developing a country is a difficult process and, therefore, it is a process that must be consolidated gradually and permanently, with the passage of time.

Because this process must be consolidated gradually, we all have the obligation of analysing it with objectivity, starting from this difficult beginning. Thus, I invite you all for a joint consideration of what has already happened, at all levels, during this year.

What can we draw from this first year regarding the State institutions?

Dearest Compatriots,

As everybody knows, it was only eight days ago that we were able to complete the four pillars of sovereignty. This only shows how slow we have been in the effort of establishing the Rule of Law, and this gives us an accurate understanding of the need to always think in the medium term when we want to foresee the stabilisation of our State institutions.

This last pillar, which is that of the judicial system, is fundamental to secure the life of the people and the development of the country. Only a credible and competent justice system can put a stop to the excesses of any government or leaders. Only a credible and compentent justice system can meet some of the concerns of society regarding corruption, nepotism, and possible acts of abuse of power.

Just as it is the case in many other parts of the world, if justice fails in Timor-Leste, some politicians and leaders will find room to engage themselves in dirty businesses and, particularly, in fiscal frauds and all of this will make the people suffer greatly.

I call upon the young judges and magistrates, and I also call upon the lawyers to united themselves in the establishment of a good administration of justice. Let us not run after the easy money because of our positions, when the people still confront such hardship and when the process of independence is still so fragile.

However, I want to state publicly that we are all confident that our judges, our magistrates and defenders, including, and above all, our lawyers, will honour justice, and that, in applying the law, they will always remember that they are serving the people, that they are nurturing the foundations of democracy, of social justice and of human rights. Should justice fail, corruption will make room for a few Timorese, whether in power or connected to it, to grow fatter and richer, whilst our people will grow poorer and unhappier.

I also call upon the officers of justice to strip themselves of all kinds of xenophobia (an anti-foreigner spirit) that does not serve the development of the country. Without a credible and competent foreign investment, we will not be capable of taking confident steps in our development process. And if, in the application of the law, the officers of justice have as a principle to defend a cause only because it is from a Timorese against a foreigner, we will be opening the doors of Timor-Leste to corruptive pratices, which will contribute to the misery of our people and to the stagnation of the country.

We cannot depend only on the generosity of the donors to develop our country. The development of our country will depend, essentially, on a policy of openness to foreign investment and on the application of a justice system that is honest, exempt, impartial, and professional.

After all, the building of the country does not belong solely to those who are in government. The building of the country belongs to all of us, in one way or another.

I also call for a greater sacrifice, a greater self-sacrifice, a greater devotion to professional duties, whether the duties call at night, on Saturdays or on holidays. Be tireless in solving all of the cases that are still pending. Be always faithful to morality and to ethics and be worty of your own selves as officers of justice in the context of the commitment that we all took upon ourselves to build the Rule of Law.

Dearest compatriots,

Speaking about justice and law, the Constitution states that it is incumbent upon the National Parliament to exercise legislative powers and by doing so, to make laws. However, until now, the Parliament has only debated and approved bills, as submitted by the Government. This type of dependence that has been established, in terms of capacity to legislate and which does not motivate the Parliament to monitor the activities of the Government with the soundness and integrity of an organ of sovereignty, gives the impression to society that it is the Government that controls Parliament and that Parliament receives directives from the Government, because the Government belongs to the majority party in the Parliament.

There are still so many laws to be debated and passed that if the National Parliament keeps on waiting for the Government to submit bills, it will become an Organ of Sovereignty still incapable of understanding the needs of the country.

The Parliament is a place to debate the problems of the country and of the people. Some members of Parliament have been wasting time airing their dirty laundry there, as if the Parliament was a public sanitary facility, thus undermining the trust that the people wish to place upon their legislators.

With still so much to be accomplished, many a times one gets the impression that the distinguished members of parliament waste their time debating issues that do not contribute to improving the image of the organ itself and of the country, because some or many forget that our people are going through enormous difficulties.

It was a pity Parliament had a long two months holiday break. I do hope that in the next two months of vacation, members of the National Parliament will make use of this time to visit the country and to speak with the population because, one year after independence, the people are still waiting to know the laws. The publication of the laws in the electronic journal is not accessible to the people who are illiterate and so dispersed.

Dearest compatriots,

The system of open governance is in effect and some foreigners speak of it as being ‘exemplary’, because it is unique in the world. And I believe that the open governance is listening to the yearnings of the population of each district and subdistrict, that it is taking note of their aspirations, that it is enabling itself to put the best way of helping the populations into perspective.

However, this method of governance, which deserves our praise, only reveals the lack of a system of governance that would be more effective and avoid the constant trips that the Council of Ministers is making and will continue to make to the districts.

In some districts, the population claims that they do not know their administrators either because they confine themselves to their offices or because they are constantly travelling to Dili. In many subdistricts, the administrators are not aware of the local problems that have been dragging for so long because either they live in the district capital, or are constantly there, or still because they never leave their offices.

The lack of legitimacy of local government leaders creates a complex situation where there is no trust, where the rights and duties are not taken up with conscience and where nepotism and favoritism give place to greater frustrations, on the part of the population, and to some disappointment on the part of the State institutions themselves.

The inexistence of elected leaders, gives rise to the lack of democratic and conscious participation of the people in the building of the country. Only a structural chain, sketched by law, where the mechanism for the descentralisation of power is established can help to solve many of the countless problems where they originate.

As time passes by, more and more people are coming to Dili and to the urban centres. More and more hamlets think that they have been left outside of the attention of the central government. More and more villages think that the needs of the population in the villages are or should be number one priority in the agenda of the government.

The problems of the whole country can be summarised as follows: there is little food on the hearth; agricultural crops are either not sold or sold at extremely low prices; the price of imported goods are an insult to the purchasing power of the population. There is no prospect for employment for the youth, and both the legal and the infrastructural conditions of the country do not attract investors.

Dearest compatriots,

We have established a system that will be the foundation of our political life, where the defense of human rights will be guaranteed, and will be the basis of the search for greater social justice.

We are all feeling that the best gain from independence was the freedom that we are enjoying within the democratic system that we have instituted. However, we are not making good use of democracy. Democracy is to serve the people and to serve the country. Democracy should not be used to confound the people. Democracy should not be used for personal gains.

In this year that has passed, we have noticed that there are still people who use democracy in the way they think of it, to do whatever they feel like, to disrespect the State institutions. There are other people who make use of democracy by going to newspapers to speak ill about this and that, or about this person or that person. There are also those people for whom democracy is a mere act for people to debate and make their opinions or the opinions of the majority to prevail, rather than being the act of accepting the validity of other people’s ideas.

And when there is an environment in which we violate the meaning of democracy, people feel it is their right not to listen to the leaders or to mistrust the leaders they themselves have elected to serve them.

For every small problem, we yell at one another. For every small problem, we threat one another. For every small problem, we speak to the newspapers, so that the latter will help the people to learn the wrong concept of democracy of their political leaders. It is true that the People are following the process, but with sadness, with a feeling of sadness bordering shame over the fact that we have politicians who are not yet fully mature. The people want this to stop, once and for all, because they believe that when these quarrels between peers stop, the politicians will finally have time to think that it is time to do something to serve the people.

We are only at the beginning of a difficult process and all of this has its positive side, given that the people are starting to get to know those they have elected, they are starting to think maturely that, next time, they will not commit the same mistake of electing people who either never once opened their mouths to expose their interests and their difficulties, or who open their mouths too much to speak nonsense, to defend their own interests. Politicians can rest assured that the people are following everything and that, although they do not know how to read, they can see.

Very recently, the people heard about the platform. Long political speeches that, as usual, gave place to major reactions … from large and small factions.

Some politicians use the word “ambition or ambitions” to throw at other people’s faces, forgetting that it is legitimate for any political party to hold ambitions, the ambition to be in power, even if this ambition is never materialised. No political party should be considered as a mere “NGO” and, in this connection, I call upon the politicians not to create confusion in the minds of the people. What is required from everybody, for a profound and increasingly greater commitment, is that each and every political act must respect the Constitution. And this means that there must not be any reason for violence, there must not be any desires to stage coups d’etat and, not least, there must not be any intention to shut down the port, the airport and the borders.

Dearest compatriots,

We have just finished talking about the State institutions and of politics in its entirety. Now, let us talk about us, about ourselves, the people of Timor-Leste.

What does independence mean, for us, the people? It means that we can all live in freedom, in an environment of tolerance and mutual respect where we can actively participate in the search of solutions to our problems.

Independence would mean that we are actors of the integral development of the country, through an accurate perception of rights, but above all, of the duties of each one of us. Today, we all demand attention to our rights; rights that are translated into asking for clean water for our hamlet, into asking for a school and a health clinic for our village, into asking for roads, irrigations, bridges, agricultural seeds, buffaloes, tractors, teachers, nurses, mid-wives, medicines, work, electricity, houses, security, and stability.

These are the rights, the fundamental rights of every Timorese. However, independence is not and could never be an act of doing all at once, of meeting the needs of all in the hamlets and villages in the whole country in one go.

It is also in this sense that this right to ask, the right to remind those who govern, exists. But we also have our duties as citizens. Our independence must be an act in which we have to stop being continually dependent on the State, continually expecting that the State will provide for everything, that it will give us everything.

Because we have to be the actors of the development of the country, of our Timor-Leste, we can pose the following question: How can we develop and where is this Timor-Leste? The answer is very simple, albeit difficult.

For the gradual and continuous improvement, starting from the hamlets and the villages, from the subdistricts to the districts. Timor-Leste is in every hamlet, in every village. Timor-Leste cannot be in Dili, nor is it only in the districts.

For this reason, there is an urgent need for us organise ourselves better from the hamlets and the villages, for only in this way can we mobilise ourselves and only in this way can an environment of trust and mutual respect exist within the community.

We all know that in many places, nobody listens to anyone and that the chiefs cannot do much. Some youths do not listen to their elders anymore and the chiefs find it difficult to mobilise the people. Problems are virtually no longer solved within the community and most of the time require intervention of other instances.

In the past, we all used to follow the system of community work to fix the roads, ditches and to clean the towns. Today, if we see rain water damaging the roads, we no longer care to deviate the water course because we all want to see the road destroyed so that we can earn $3 dollars a day to repair it. We have lost the sense of duty to participate and we expect the State to do it all. We are no longer familiar with the bamboo and expect to have pipes to bring water. We now ignore the grass and we burn the palm trees so that we can wait for the corrugated iron sheets, wood and nails from international organisations.

We must break away from the perception that everything is a mere gift, because we forget that all of this came in the package of assistance to Timor-Leste and that, for sure, it reduced the donations initially designed to rehabilitate schools, clinics, bridges, irrigations and other projects.

Because we find no answers to everything we ask for, there are problems. Everybody claims that they fought, that they suffered, that they lost dear ones, and that those who have the power and those who have the skills continue to have an easy life. It is claimed that those who suffered and those who survived have no houses, no work and no money. Nowadays, even the President who already has a house, a car and a good salary, pays no more attention to these difficulties.

All of this is correct, dearest compatriots! As I have already mentioned before, we have the right to ask, we have the right to continue to dwell on these problems. However, we must not only wait for the State to do everything, all at once and everywhere. We must demand an active participation from ourselves, we must organise ourselves and we must also mobilise ourselves.

And to this end, I continue to remind the Government to organise the administration structurally, which will allow the people in the hamlets, villages, subdistricts and districts to start participating more actively in the process.

It is absolutely necessary to hold elections for local government, so that there is a synergy of trust and responsibility, thereby allowing the chiefs to have the capacity to organise and, above all, to mobilise the population. There still exists the tendency that, nowadays, nobody gives instructions to anybody, which gives rise to the existing confusion.

There must be a greater participation by the population in the settlement of problems from the hamlets and the villages. The population of a given village may get to know the difficulties of all other villages by exchanging viewpoints and searching for solutions as a group. In a subdistrict, every village must understand the problems that each faces, thus creating a collective conscience for the joint search of solutions. And the same should apply at the district level, so that the subdistricts can also obtain a global perspective of the district from the problems that each subdistrict faces. This will allow a common assumption of the difficulties in order to generate the necessary consensus in the definition of priorities for the District.

The populations of each and every district have to right to know and to follow everything that happens in other districts, in order to gain an accurate idea that Timor-Leste is made up of 13 districts, 65 subdistricts and more than 700 villages. Only in this way will the people stop referring to their own hamlet, their own village or their own subdistrict as the priority for the Nation.

Dearest compatriots,

This is what building our State is all about. It does not suffice to have the four organs of sovereignty. It is necessary that the people start to participate, that they also start to solve their own problems, that they start to feel, individually or as a group, that they are also actors in the development of the country.

I know that all of this may seem to be only a beautiful rhetoric. Indeed, this can in fact become a mere rhetoric, just as it is the rhetoric of “poverty reduction,” which we are all chewing on with a bitter taste of the reality, because the international “experts” around us try to whisper to us the idea that, this year, the Timorese economy is something real and concrete, because there are more and more people selling products on the streets, more and more people tend to open up kiosks in the streets of Dili, more and more Timorese open restaurants, there are more and more cars on the roads of Timor. And we are almost believing in these analysis, because only the “experts” know how to make economic development analysis of the underdeveloped countries.

This can in fact be a mere rhetoric if all of us who bear the responsibility for the process forsake the need to formulate programme-based policies in order to change this difficult situation the people are facing.

An economic policy that sustains and motivates the people to produce more and better, and a system that guarantees the purchase of agricultural produce, its transformation and distribution, are just as urgent as it is urgent for us to have a policy for our coffee. As a matter of fact, it will not be long before our coffee will undergo a crises in terms of its production and quality unless we pay an adequate attention to it in due time.

An economic policy that stimulates and improves small and medium industries, to avoid that we be continually dependent in all spheres on the import of consumption goods that we could be producing in the country.

A sound and clear economic policy that opens the doors of Timor-Leste to foreign investment in a fair and competitive manner, so that jobs may be created, so that the youth may be trained to professional levels, so that we can help relieve the tension currently existing in society.

A mere rhetoric indeed if the politicians and the intellectuals, all of them without exception, do not start thinking in terms of national interests, setting the example of the sense of responsibility that they have before the people and before the country.

Dearest compatriots,

To conclude, after this long message, I want to call upon everyone to exercise continuous patience, continuous understanding about our difficulties. I call upon everyone to exercise tolerance. I call upon everyone to exercise mutual respect. I call upon everyone to practice solidarity. I call upon everyone to build together, in the coming year and in the following years, an environment of stability and, above all, of democracy.

Long Live Timor-Leste! Long Live the Heroic People!

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