Subject: XG: Trend of World Peace Movements - the Timor-Leste Experience

Special Lecture by H.E. KAY RALA XANANA GUSMÃO

President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Sangmyung University

Seoul, Korea, 14th June, 2004

The Trend of World Peace Movements - the Timor-Leste Experience

Lee, Joon-Bang, Chairman, Board of Directors, Sangmyung University

Seo, Myung-Duck, President, Sangmyung University

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure to be with you today at Sangmyung University, an institution which prides itself in its commitment to quality education and excellence. I am also delighted to be here again in Seoul, and to be the recipient of the warm and friendly hospitality of the Korean people.

I have been asked to speak on the ‘Trend of World Peace Movement’. I wish to address this broad, important theme in the context of Timor-Leste; in our perception of peace, in our efforts to build and consolidate peace in our nascent democracy, as our own small contribution to world peace.

Before I elaborate on our own experiences, let us look at the theme of ‘World Peace’. If peace is defined as freedom from war or hostility, when we examine the history of humankind, regrettably we can note that the world, in fact, has never really had peace. Somewhere, and often in many places at once there has always been war. It is rare to find a country that has not experienced war or other major disruption at some stage in its history, and sadly our two countries are no exception.

Peace also implies a full stomach, a roof over one’s head, remunerative jobs and access to educational opportunities, health services, clean water, etc. In sum, peace implies tranquillity now and hope for the future. In this light, at times, it may seem as if world peace is unattainable.

However, it is also true to say that in one way or another, and by one means or other, most people desire peace, even those who make war for the sake of peace.

The movement for world peace is anchored in the desire for peace that is common to all peoples. Many peace organizations fit the true definition of such a movement, changing history, politics and literature. Others may not have had such a global impact, but nevertheless deserve acknowledgement for their struggle to bring peace to their small corner of the planet.

It is extremely sad to note that at the same time that the values of freedom and democracy and principles of tolerance and mutual respect are increasingly becoming a conscious part of individuals, we are witnessing a rise in intolerance and the systematic use of terror, which hinders constructive dialogue.

We began this new millennium full of hope and optimism with the Assembly of the Millennium, in September 2000, where leaders of the world accorded due attention to the huge imbalance in the development of countries. Hunger, misery, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality were, amongst others, considered the main impediments of the majority of the world’s population and were the objective of the plan towards their eradication.

The beginning of the new Millennium, instead of instilling a greater trust between humans, has also revealed the brutal escalation of irrational terror and wars including civil wars.

Hatred and revenge have taken over the minds of the people and we are all witnessing the excesses of intolerance, in societies and in the community of nations.

Following September 11, humankind faced new and unpredictable threats to the security of every human being. The world is now living in an environment of revolt, revenge, distrust and fear. Alas, countering the violence of terrorism through the use of more violence seems to have emerged as the new guarantor of World Peace. Numerous debates are raging between experts and common people alike in different parts of the world on this answer to terrorism and, nowadays, more acutely on the situation in Iraq.

Given this new climate of fear and distrust that we live in, it is imperative, now more than ever, that all peoples of the world unite around the sacred goal of building and consolidating peace.

It is the duty of every citizen of the world to work towards this effort. Peace cannot be merely the privilege of a few and a “dispensation” to all others. We can all agree that peace is the most fundamental right and invaluable asset of every human being.

Peace must therefore derive from not only the physical circumstances alone but also and more importantly from the peace of mind within each human being. There has to be peace between peoples, expressed in the solidarity between communities and within societies, until it reaches the level of mutual respect between countries. If each citizen lives at peace with other citizens, then it is only natural that every people and every country will also live at peace with other peoples and countries.

Peace of mind means that people are truly free; · free from conflicts;

· free from threats to personal security, torture, arbitrary arrest and other violent acts; · free from want to enjoy a decent standard of living;

· free from discrimination by gender, race, ethnicity, national origin or religion; · free from injustice

They are:

· free to participate in the political, social and economic arenas; · free to express their views and preferences · free to associate in groups and organisations · free to access remunerative jobs without exploitation

And above all, they are free to realise their full potentials.

Achieving peace of mind entails the ability to understand, to empathize, to forgive and to accept all crucial components to a difficult and often daunting but by no means unattainable process of reconciliation. A process that encompasses personal and social dimensions, and which must mature within each individual so that society can unite around the values of tolerance and mutual respect.

Without reconciliation there can be no peace. The people of Timor-Leste recognized this from the very beginning.

For many years the people of Timor-Leste suffered untold human rights violations and were forced to lead an isolated existence at the periphery of the world. In the darkest period of violations and deprivations of freedoms and rights and throughout our 24-year long struggle for liberation, the people of Timor-Leste began to understand human rights. We began to desire an independence that would guarantee a society free from fear and terror and assure the building of peace; of peace of mind, freedom and tolerance; and respect for human rights.

It was this very conviction that guided the actions of the Timorese leadership and resistance movement in the lead up to the referendum for independence on August 30th, 1999 and through its violent aftermath.

What the people of Timor-Leste derived from the 24-years of suffering, is the commitment to avoid further conflicts at all costs of never allowing for political violence to be practiced in Timor-Leste to divide and destroy the people.

It was precisely because of this conviction that in November 1999, while our towns and villages were still smouldering from the enormous post-referendum destruction and dislocation, the Timorese leadership travelled to Jakarta to explain to the Government and People of Indonesia, that the past belonged to the past and that we needed to look forward to a future of cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

It was because of this that we also saw the immediate need to initiate a process of reconciliation between our peoples. A Commission on Truth and Reconciliation was soon set up to bring forth and address the festering problems of past wrongs committed not only during the occupation, but also dating back to the pre-occupation period in 1975. A measure of how far we have come over these last four and half years, was the public hearing held last December, in which the leaders of the two major political parties involved in the 1975 civil conflict, admitted responsibility for their actions and asked for forgiveness from the people. This demanded courage from all, in particular from the victims themselves. We began to realise that debate and dialogue are more appropriate mechanisms to reduce tensions and resolve problems.

Timor-Leste is a new state; our fragile democracy is barely two years old. Tremendous challenges await us on many fronts. To sustain the democracy and the fundamental human rights we have fought for so long, we need to build a fair and effective system of law and order, justice and good governance.

To achieve this, national stability is critical. We see our reconciliation efforts as a means of consolidating national stability and in turn contributing to world peace.

Our experience has made us realise that we cannot continue to allow hatred, racism and the need for revenge to soar. Every effort must be made to foster a culture of tolerance within society. Dialogue must be encouraged between conflicting parties to prevent violence from escalating into war. In today’s world, where violence, threats and terrorism are sad realities, reconciliation emerges as a pragmatic option in divided societies for people to learn to accept each other and to coexist.

But I am more than aware that the reconciliation process is not easy. It compels us to reflect upon the universality of pain, suffering and forgiveness. These feelings know no boundaries - they are part of the human condition. Sometimes the pain is so overwhelming that talk of forgiveness seems like an insult - people who talk to perpetrators of injustice are accused of insulting the victims. Opening dialogue with an enemy is a difficult process. Getting the opposing sides to the table sounds like a simple negotiation but in reality is very complex as people have widely different perceptions.

In Timor-Leste, we have experienced successes and encountered difficulties with our reconciliation process. But we have nevertheless persisted and persevered. Today, I am proud to say that we have made great strides in our reconciliation process. We have also been successful in facilitating the return and reintegration of a majority of our people who fled the 1999 violence to West Timor. Former militia members have been able to sit together with their victims or their families and talk and embrace, and re-integrate into their communities.

It is on the basis of this experience that I firmly believe that peace is attainable and that we can change the world. What is needed is the courage and conviction of world leaders to build peace. Egotism and individualism of today need to be replaced with solidarity and social spirit a sense of community and responsibility towards our fellow human beings.

But building sustainable peace must be the work of all members of society. It means that there must be two-way democratic interaction, from the grassroots to the top leaders, and from the top to the people at the grassroots. We believe that the gradual meeting of the basic economic and social needs of the population will lead to their broader commitment to civic and economic growth. Dialogue must always be encouraged at all levels.

And Timor-Leste is not alone in its desire to seek reconciliation as a means of achieving peace and harmony in society.

I wish to take this opportunity to commend the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula, initiated under the guidance of former President Kim Dae-jung, whom I had the pleasure of meeting this morning. Under President Kim Dae-jung’s leadership, inter-Korean relations warmed following the historic summit between him and the North Korean leader Kim Jong II in 2000.

We are heartened to see how your reconciliation process is moving forward and we stand with you in working towards fulfilling your desire to achieve everlasting peace and reconciliation with your sisters and brothers in the North. A reunified Korea will benefit all Koreans in the long term from an enhanced sense of national pride, greater security, a stronger economy, and uncountable emotional benefits for reunited families. It will contribute to peace in the region and in the world.

I have spoken on the need for citizens to contribute to world peace. Governments and member states too have a role in promoting reconciliation, and thereby securing peace. So do international organizations. The United Nations, as the premier global entity has and continues to play a crucial role in the protection and promotion of peace, most recently in such countries as Cambodia, Kosovo and Timor-Leste, and now in Iraq.

In the wake of September 11, we face today violence and terrorism, and threats to security and peace all over the world. In this context, the UN Peacekeeping Missions not only make sense but are also concrete contributions from the community of nations, to ensure our common future is one of peace and harmony. It is my hope that one day, the nature and essence of these missions will shift to become treasured contributions to development and to the dignity of every human being.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel very privileged that I have been asked to speak on world peace on this auspicious occasion, before such an august audience. It is my belief that too often state institutions are inoperative because their actions are mostly addressed to solve problems through appeasement. It is therefore up to civil society to progressively work towards changing mindsets, changing characters and changing attitudes. And where better a place to begin on this than at a university such as yours?

I believe this University is a privileged forum to raise the issues concerning Humanity and World Peace. It is within this space that the youth become the recipients of an education for freedom, of values and a critical spirit that must lead and encourage debate and exchange of ideas.

At a time when Timor-Leste is looking for its place in the region and the world, we hope to see our Universities establish ties with other Universities such as yours. It is on this note that I welcome and encourage such a cooperation of goodwill and friendship, as I strongly believe that Timorese students would benefit enormously from study at Korean Universities.

Today, our world is facing difficult challenges, perhaps more so than at any time in the past. There is an urgent need to develop deeper human understanding and co-operation. Person-to-person and community-to-community exchanges are a sound and effective means towards mutual understanding, to acquiring greater mutual knowledge and, consequently, to ensuring peace and stability, not only in countries but also between nations.

This is the path that we have consciously chosen to take and it will be the small contribution Timor-Leste can make to building peace and stability in the world.

Thank you. ###


Support ETAN, make a secure financial contribution at etan.org/etan/donate.htm

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