Subject: Xanana on the Birth of a New Nation


At the end of the twentieth century, at the beginning of a new millennium, the world has progressed to the point where it is now able to watch genocide live on television. The genocide in East Timor challenges the entire international community, because it has come about due to my people having put their faith in the promises of the international community, through the United Nations, to safeguard their passage to democracy. Twice this century, my people have placed their trust in the promises of nations, only to see this trust betrayed. I think it is time now for the international community to put its trust in the people of East Timor.

East Timor may well be the first new nation of the twenty-first century. This is a nation that has waited too long to be born. For four hundred and fifty years my people laboured under the colonial rule of Portugal. East Timor was invaded and re-colonised by Indonesia. Over the past twenty-five years over 200,000 of my people have died, as a direct consequence of their desire to be free.

On 30 August 1999 my people finally won the right to vote to decide their future as a nation. ~n this UN-sponsored ballot they were given two choices. They could vote to be part of the Republic of Indonesia, represented on the ballot paper by the Indonesian flag. Alternatively, they could vote for independence. This choice was represented on the ballot paper by the flag of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, CNRT, of which I am honoured to be President.

Anti-independence forces resorted to every possible means of intimidation and terror to prevent my people from participating in the ballot. However my people refused to be cowered, and responded magnificently. 98.5°/O of registered voters went to the polls. 78.5% voted for independence. Unfortunately this decision was not respected by elements of the Indonesian army (TNI) and their militias. They attacked and killed local staff of the United Nations Mission in East Timor and launched a systematic campaign to destroy the entire civil society of my country. Denounced by the Vatican as genocide, this campaign stunned the international community. Diplomats looked on disbelieving, as Indonesian soldiers and police openly assisted militia in the total destruction of Dili and the forced evacuation of UNAMET, firstly from rural towns, and then from the capital itself. Former local UNAMET staff and associates were left to be slaughtered, along with the untold numbers of independence supporters. Previously inviolate institutions such as the Red Cross and the Catholic Church were not spared. Red Cross workers, priests, nuns and traditional village leaders were shot and hacked to death.

The final death toll in this Asian holocaust is still unknown. However, the UNHCR has estimated that the entire population of East Timor, 800,000 people, have been displaced. Over two hundred thousand were transported in Army trucks at gunpoint to West Timor and other islands of Indonesia. Here, as the world saw happen in the Congo, they are being held hostage in concentration camps under the total control of armed militia led by Kopassus Special Forces troops.

In these camps, boys of ten years of age are being rounded up and sent to militia training camps, to be conscripted to fight the UN forces. Hundreds of thousands of my people are still in hiding in the mountains of East Timor, some seeking refuge with the Falintil, the army of the Resistance. In Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali and other centres, some three thousand East Timorese students, workers and their families have been threatened or physically abused and forced to abandon their homes. They are currently seeking international safe havens from which they may return to East Timor as soon as possible.

In the present emergency, we may first ensure the physical safety of our citizens displaced inside East Timor or held hostage in Indonesia. Food, medicine, clothing, and shelter must be provided to all my people, and the Indonesian government must assist UNAMET, UNHCR and the UN-sanctioned multinational peacekeeping force to disarm the militias and free the hostages in West Timor. Secondly, my people need to be assisted to freely return home and start a new life in peace. With these two immediate goals being achieved, there will be two short to medium-term objectives. My people who have returned home will require the tools and resources necessary for them to rebuild the framework of civil society. They will need to re-establish Government and non-government organisations and institutions to take charge of the process of physical, social and psychological repair, reconstruction, reconciliation and re-integration.

During this emergency period I would urge the international community to immediately provide assistance. A decision to wait until the Indonesian Parliament (the MPR) formally ratifies the result of the ballot in November would lack humanity. The MPR ratification is solely an internal matter of the Indonesian State. The United Nations has never recognised Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. Australia, the one nation that has legally recognised Indonesian sovereignty, is currently leading the UN Multinational Force and relief efforts.

East Timorese will have to contribute to the process of reconstruction of our country. Of course, this will be difficult as our cities and towns have been bumed and our people have lost all their belongings. But what my country may lack in material resources is far outweighed by the resourcefulness of my people. Over the past two decades my people have shown the strength of spirit necessary to conquer the challenge of developing a self-sufficient nation. They have demonstrated this strength to an admiring world in three ways. First, from 1975 to 1999 the resilient people of East Timor maintained their struggle for freedom with no assistance at all from the outside world. Second, in 1999, despite every effort to terrorise them, the courageous people of East Timor did not give up their democratic right to vote. Third, despite all the slaughter by the Indonesian armed forces and militias, the disciplined people and the Falintil Army of East Timor kept their word to the United Nations and refused to be provoked into responding to violence with violence. Therefore I can say that while my people may offer no bank guarantees, we can give you the guarantee that we will remain resilient, courageous and disciplined in our commitment to rebuilding a just, prosperous and democratic nation of East Timor.

But we have been aware for some time that our people's qualities of resilience, courage and discipline are not enough for our nation to be prosperous. Long-term sustainable development demands good governance and much-needed capitai investment, skills and expertise. As our struggle enters into its final phase the CNRT met to chart a direction and plan a vision for the future Republic of Timor Loro Sa'e.

>From 21 to 25 October 1998 in Algarve, Portugal, the CNRT convened a conference to draft general guidelines for a National Development Strategy Plan for East Timor to be prepared at a follow-up meeting in April 1999 in Melbourne Australia. Multi-disciplinary working groups of East Timorese professionals came from inside East Timor, Australia, Mozambique and Europe. They made a preliminary assessment of the situation in East Timor and then drew up guidelines for the priority sectors of agriculture, economy, health, environment, education, infrastructure, legal system and the public service. These guidelines attempted to balance problems against the broad objectives of sectoral development and sought to identify how these objectives might be achieved. Existing East Timorese resources, including human resources, were surveyed, and recognition was made of the need to relate development strategies to traditional ways and culture. These guidelines were a landmark beginning by East Timorese to map out a vision for a free East Timor.

Public sector, Governance & Mass Communication

Legal and Judicial Systems Economy, Agriculture and Tourism, Education Health Infrastructure & the Environment

Looking elsewhere for models only show the failure of the majority of developing countries to support continuous economic growth without incurring heavy external debt. While poor economic management and inappropriate development strategies have been major causes of such failures, East Timor has had a spectacular lesson in the past two decades of the necessity for good governance. We will therefore be diligent in promoting total transparency within the apparatuses and organisations of power and, in the management and accountability of funds provided by international aid to civic and social organisations so that from the first moment we can firmly combat corruption and all temptation to debase the objectives of sustainable development. Only with such political commitment can we improve the living conditions of the rural people who will be called on to play an integral role in the gradual and persistent elimination of the main causes of poverty.

We are moving toward constructing a new government that can be supported by a viable economy within its geographical setting. This is to say that we are giving priority to build democratic institutions along with developing the economy to give prosperity to the East Timorese. The democratic system that we are envisioning is the one that allows a genuine representation where all democratic elements, such as the press and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also have a substantial voice in the decision making process.

Our view is to build an effective administration with a minimum number of people but is able to deliver the basic services that the country and the community needs. Therefore, we will seriously pay attention to the recruitment, placement, and wage systems.

Last April, I declared that we saw East Timor as practically starting from zero in all areas. Now I see we are starting from below zero. We are minus what little basic infrastructure we could have inherited, and we are minus almost all our settled population. But we know we cannot remain captivated by methodologies of solving social emergency problems, or stay preoccupied with questions of security. We know we must design and deliver to our people structured projects that guarantee sustainable development in East Timor.

The challenge that is facing us is one of whether will we be able to produce something that truly represents a strategy for development, which has as the main objective the improvement of the living conditions of our people? Will we also be able to produce something here that guarantees to the international community that the Timorese are prepared to avoid the mistakes of other developing nations, and that shows the beginning of the principles of co-operation that do not entail total or prolonged dependence on our partners?

Just as any other small country in the Pacific, Caribbean and other parts of the world, East Timor will be dependent on international trade and international aid. We were delighted to learn from the World Bank in July this year that, on average, small countries has a higher income per capita than their larger neighbouring countries.

East Timor is most fortunately located at the confluence of the commercial routes between Asia and Oceania, the Indian and Pacific oceans. We intend to draw the maximum benefit from our country's geo-political situation to define a policy of fiscal and custom incentives that encourage and stimulate investment in the production sector so as to replace imports, increase exports and stimulate investment.

In pursuit of this economic policy, Timor Loro Sa'e will facilitate the creation of some special economic zones in order to stimulate employment for the East Timorese, through the development of an off-shore centre consisting of a modern financial hub.

As far as the economy is concerned, there is a huge task to begin with. As all of you know, our infrastructure is totally destroyed. Therefore, the first priority of economic reconstruction is to restore these services.

The outflow of capital, professionals and labour, and private assets in addition to the destruction of the basic infrastructure resulted in a substantial contraction of the economy.

Nevertheless, this destruction also brings additional motivation for the East Timorese to rebuild their country, and provides for higher levels of immediate unskilled and semi-skilled employment in labouring and construction work.

Two other priorities that we will embark on are education and health.

The agricultural sector is the major sector in our economy. Around 80% of the population derive their income from agricultural related activities. Thirty percent of the GDP of East Timor comes from the agricultural sector. Given such substantial role, our economy will be developed around this sector. This is to turn the subsistence agriculture into a commercially oriented agricultural system East Timor can produce a wide range of agricultural products. Among those are rice, coffee, livestock and coconut.

With its fertile land in the southern bell, I believe that East Timor can be self-sufficient in rice production provided that we can use all of our dormant land and build an appropriate irrigation system. Besides coffee, livestock and coconut we also have a potential for exports.

We understand that the private sector is vital to the development of an economy. Therefore, the new Republic of Timor Loro Sa'e will also give incentives to the pnvate sector to grow. This is even more important given the fact that the government of Timor Loro Sate will have limited capacity. Timor Loro Sa’e encourages the transfer of resources available abroad and their channelling into fruitful investments in the country. To this end, a specific bill protecting national and foreign investments will be enacted. As it is the practice in the international banking, the State will protect banking secrecy by law.

With the intention of attracting foreign investment to complement domestic resources and the creation of jobs, the government of Timor Loro Sa'e will develop technical, scientific, economic, social and cultural co-operation, on the bilateral and multilateral level, with different countries and international institutions.

Having said that we also understand that the market does not provide all solutions for economic and social problems. Therefore, the government of Timor Loro Sa'e will introduce selective intervention to ensure efficiency and equity within a diversified economy.

East Timor will engage in international trade through exports of coffee, oil and gas, and tourism as well as importing goods and services from overseas. Nevertheless, we will emphasise on developing the agricultural sector together with small and medium industries as the engine of economic growth.

Many of you know that East Timor has limited resources, especially capital to finance its activities. Nevertheless we will work hard to raise our internal revenue side by side with the inflows of support from the international community. East Timor will not allow the shaping of a culture of dependency from international aid and assistance. We will also give priority to grants and soft loans while for long-term loans we will consider it carefully to minimise any long-term implications for our economy.

The road ahead of the East Timorese People is not only winding and intricate but also one that needs careful and balanced designing and mapping. The year 2000 will be one of emergency planning, assistance and work. The East Timorese will now face further sacrifices and hardship in the tremendous task ahead to rebuild the country. However, I am confident that side by side with the international community and continued solidarity and work from all our many friends around the world, the People of East Timor will initiate the Transitional period towards Independence with great hope and determination. A free and independent East Timor will soon be born from the ashes of our devastated and destroyed Homeland.

We welcome you to the new Nation of East Timor.

Thank you,

London, 6 October 1999

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