Subject: XG: On the 3rd Anniversary of the founding of FALINTIL-FDTL

Address by H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão

President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

On the occasion of the 3rd Anniversary of the founding of FALINTIL-FDTL

Dili, 13th February, 2004

Your Excellency, President of the Parliament,

Your Excellency, Prime Minister,

Brigadier-General Tauk Matan Ruak,

Members of Parliament and Government,

Your Excellency, Acting SRSG,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Three years have gone by since the first graduation ceremony for Officers and Sergeants of FALINTIL-FDTL, which took place in Aileu on 1st February, 2001.

It can be reaffirmed here that, after all, the journey taken by our Armed Forces was not short, as in effect, it continues to grow in material and human terms. The move from Aileu to Metinaro, the placement of our Forces in Lospalos and the presence, albeit diminutive, in Baucau and Suai, the establishment of a naval component in Hera and the Headquarters in Caicoli, are the visible aspects of this journey.

There were many problems, some of which were overcome and others, resolved. There are some which we will have to continue to tackle if the Armed Forces are to become what the Nation needs. This will take time for all contingencies involved in this process.

And the process is also one of building. We are all building the democratic State of Timor-Leste. All the institutions created in this process must undertake the obligation to collaborate, with responsibility, in this enormous and grandiose task of building the Nation.

It is in this context that we have been alerting everyone to the practices and behaviour that are not compatible with the responsibilities that come with participating in the building of the State. The Democratic State has its base in the primacy of law. And this is precisely why we should be concerned with the Institutions of Justice, such as the Courts and all the actors who make decisions in the service of Law. We should also be concerned with the Police as agents of Order and Law enforcement.

And it is for this reason that we will never tire of drawing the attention of society and the population in general to the need to demand responsibility from the servants of this democratic State that we are building. The Rule of Law means that we are all subject to the law and that nobody can be nor should they believe that they are above the law.

Anyone can feel or be led to believe that they are above the law, especially when the agents of Law and Order act against the law, that is, they do not obey the law nor enforce it. And if the judges, prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers think merely of winning cases, for monetary gain, ignoring their own conscience as servants of justice, servants of the Democratic State, we would be insulting the sacrifices to which our People consented during the long years of the struggle. And if the Police do not observe the judicial procedures nor respect human rights in their actions, we would be guiding the process towards a system of abuse of power, and the primacy of law would merely be applied to the people, especially to those without means or authority.

As President of the Republic, it is a constitutional duty conferred to me to continue to draw attention to the process of building the Democratic State.

Officers and Soldiers of F-FDTL,

I began my message to you with an introduction on the building of the Rule of Law that our Constitution proclaims.

Firstly, it is important that you, officers and soldiers, understand this. Secondly, that you undertake this. If you were only of FALINTIL, I would address you differently. Given that you are a combination of FALINTIL and FDTL, I must address you in another manner.

Although you have kept the acronym of FALINTIL for reasons of nostalgia, you are first and foremost the Defense Forces of Timor-Leste. Article 146° of the Constitution states that you are ‘responsible for the military defense of RDTL’ and that you guarantee the ‘national independence, territorial integrity and the freedom and security of the population against any aggression or external threat, respecting the order established by the Constitution’.

You are the ‘guarantor of freedom and security of the population’ in times of war. What this means is that in times of peace, and with much more reason, you should be an institution that instills trust in the people in regards to freedom and security.

What does ‘respecting the order established by the Constitution’ mean? It means that the Armed Forces should respect the Constitutional State, which is not merely the four Sovereign Bodies, but including all the others prescribed in the Constitution.

And the Constitution prescribes Law and Order being maintained by the Police. Article 47° of the Constitution defines that it is the police that ‘defends democratic rule and guarantees the internal security of citizens’. And the Police are a State institution; that FDTL, like other institutions should respect.

The Police also need to greatly improve in their actions and behaviour so that they can be capable guardians of the democratic rule. The Police should never forget that N° 2 of Article 147° of the Constitution states clearly that ‘crime prevention must be carried out with respect for human rights’. Only through practicing this, can the trust needed from the communities and the people in general be gained. We know that the Police have to improve much more and constantly, in order to be a police that serves the population, communities and society. But I must state that an environment of respect for this institution of law and order needs to be created by all and for all of us, whilst being mindful always of the failures and errors that will be continually committed.

If each one of us knows what we had to do in this process of nation-building, we would then each be capable of knowing our own and each other’s responsibilities, thereby forging greater cooperation between the institutions.

Officers and Soldiers,

What occurred in Lospalos is serious indeed! As the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, I was and continue to be concerned.

There are those who say that it is not the Institution of FDTL that is in question but rather undisciplined individuals. I am of a different opinion, as it was a group, albeit small, which was involved in leaving their barracks with arms, ammunitions and utilizing military vehicles.

There are those who say that there are no problems in FDTL; and there are also those who say that there are no problems between FDTL and PNTL.

What occurred in Lospalos contradicts these claims. And we have to be objective in our analyses and realistic in our conclusions.

The problem of Lospalos suggests that there are psychological grounds, and if we can also say, political grounds for what occurred. And we need to profoundly investigate these issues in order to understand the core of the problem.

For some time, we have been observing frictions between the two institutions, and it seems to me, that the solutions proposed were very superficial. And this has allowed in the minds of the people, as individuals or groups of individuals of both institution, for an environment of disquiet, enmity and distrust to take root. And I would not be mistaken to say that the burden of responsibility weighs more on one institution than on the other, whichever one it is.

I speak this way because it was a group, albeit small, of our Forces that acted and therefore, not being an act of the whole Institution, it was also not merely an individual act.

On the other hand, the incident raises doubts in terms of the professionalism of the Armed Forces. I want to understand that professionalism is not restricted to the way a soldier behaves, inside and outside of the barracks, in and outside of work hours. It is also not merely restricted to the way a soldier handles a rifle and shoots at targets but in the exact perception of the role of the Armed Forces in a democratic society.

We may have placed emphasis only on the factor of non-partisanship and on not being involved in politics, neglecting the elements that constitute the daily life and relations with society in general and with other institutions.

What occurred also raises doubts as to what degree discipline has been undertaken, given that a few months or weeks before, there was a mass expulsion of soldiers on the grounds of lack of discipline.

Discipline can be acquired in two ways: by imposition and through commitment. Sometimes, when daily life reflects a certain abandonment of discipline in small actions, in small gestures and words or in conduct, it is difficult to create an environment of discipline in the heart of an organization, and even more so in a military one.

Sometimes, I pass in front of barracks and I notice the soldiers in a relaxed state of posture, giving the impression that the meaning of being a soldier has not yet sunk in the minds of the soldiers.

A soldier should be proud to belong to the Armed Forces; a soldier should be constantly concerned with, in whatever circumstances, honouring the uniform and they should be an example of discipline for society and the people in general.

It is in this context, that I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to their Excellencies, the President of Parliament and the Prime Minister, who have favourably announced the participation of both the Parliament and the Government in the Investigation Commission, which I proposed. I am also grateful to UNMISET and to the ambassadors of the countries which are involved in the training of FDTL, for their willingness to contribute to helping us look to the future with greater certainty and confidence.

It is hoped that the Commission, which is broadly representative as one can see, may clarify the gaps and needs in terms of training and assistance. It is also hoped that the Commission can improve the perspectives for the consolidation of the Forces, at the truly professional bases, and with a view to clearly defining a role and a mission for the Armed Forces, in the absence of ‘aggression and external threat’.

It really becomes unsustainable to have Armed Forces preparing themselves only to respond to the possibilities of war, whilst they are incapable of handling cases of instability provoked even from outside. A concept is needed to allow the Armed Forces to be able, in times of peace, to be fully deployed in the process of building the country, in various or specific areas, thereby avoiding the barracks becoming centres of monotony and psychological pressure.

Officers and Soldiers,

I know that you are still in the process of making the transition from the mentality of a guerrilla to that of a regular and professional Army. And when I say this, I refer over all to the most senior ranks of our Armed Forces.

Let us pay attention to our soldiers. Let us pay attention to the living conditions of our soldiers. Let us resolve in a timely manner, small problems that emerge within companies, platoons, sections and even at the level of individuals. To the officers and above all the superior officers, do not think that soldiers are no longer human beings and that a few months of training will turn them into good soldiers. The training and assistance must be ongoing.

It is the process of institution building. On the one hand, those who made the transition from FALINTIL came with a psychological state of mind befitting that of the end of a long guerrilla war. On the other hand, the new youths are also imbued with a situation of prolonged conflict, in which they were directly or indirectly involved, albeit with a different disturbed psychological state of mind. In both cases, the factor of observing discipline must be the weakest element.

We should never forget that they are actually soldiers, because they did receive military training, but in order to be good soldiers they will continue to need better education in discipline, ethics and professionalism.

Officers and Soldiers,

Today, we are present at a ceremony for the promotion of new Officers and Sergeants of FDTL.

I congratulate you all, the new Officers and Sergeants of FDTL. However, I wish to remind you that the fact that you have been promoted today means that you have been afforded greater responsibilities. To be an Officer or a Sergeant does not mean having the capacity to order and not to be ordered, of giving orders instead of obeying them, of demanding discipline instead of being punished.

Your responsibilities are to be, in each moment, examples of discipline, of sobriety and posture. You will prove that you are worthy of these responsibilities in the justness of your decisions, in the patience with which you handle problems and in the promptness with which you act on orders from your superiors.

The responsibilities will demand that you never be satisfied with what you have learned and that you are always willing to learn more, so as to, on the one hand, serve the Armed Forces, and on the other, to educate your soldiers.

Learn and learn always, to better serve the Nation!

Support ETAN, make a secure financial contribution at

Back to February menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu