XG: May 20 Message to the Nation
John M. Miller
May 20, 2003 04:39 PDT
PRESIDENTE DA REPÚBLICA
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão
MESSAGE OF THE 20th OF MAY 2003
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Long Live Timor-Leste! Long Live the Heroic People!
John M. Miller Internet: email@example.com
Media & Outreach Coordinator
East Timor Action Network: 12 Years for Self-Determination & Justice
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