Subject: First student congress held in Dili

Media Release First Congress of the East Timor Students Solidarity Council (ETSSC)

East Timorese students hold first democratic congress. Designing a new mission and vision for the new East Timor

The East Timor Student Solidarity Council (ETSSC) last week held their first national congress, the first democratic student congress held in East Timor. The Congress was held at the former site of the University of East Timor (UNTIM), and was attended by 500 students from all districts of East Timor.

The East Timor Student Solidarity Council emerged in June 1998 following the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto. It is the main body of tertiary students studying in East Timor. It is established in all thirteen of East Timor s districts, and includes representatives from all tertiary institutions in East Timor.

The Congress passed resolutions on issues ranging from agriculture and economic to political systems and language, as well as education. The Congress also democratically elected the new co-ordinator of the Student Solidarity Council, the first such election in the new East Timor.

The student congress called for: The re-establishment of all academies and the University that operated in Indonesian times. Tetum to become the national language and, after three to five years, official language. During the transition period, Tetum, Portuguese, English and Bahasa Indonesian should all be used as the official language.

A full list of the resolutions of the congress is attached.

Joao da Silva Sarmento was elected as the new co-ordinator of the Council. He is a 24-year-old orphan who was born near Ossu, Viqueque. Mr Sarmento trained to be a priest before studying English at UNTIM. He has been a prominent member of the Student Council since its inception. He replaces Antero Benedito da Silva.

The congress was addressed by Mari Alkitiri and Fr Filomeno Jacob, both members of East Timor s new transitional cabinet, as well as former UNTIM academics and an indigenous student activist from Australia.

The congress decided that the focus of the Student Council s work in the next two years will be on building the capacity of the people, especially youth and students. The Council will also focus on East Timor s first elections and on the reconciliation process.

For more information please contact etssc@hotmail.com or call +61 419871883.

------ Media Release First Congress of the East Timor Students Solidarity Council (ETSSC)

The First Congress of the East Timor Student Solidarity Council was held between 24 and 27 July 2000. It was attended by 500 students from the University of East Timor, College of Economics, Polytechnic, Dili Nursing Academy, and the College of Elementary Teacher Training. The East Timor Student Solidarity Council emerged in June 1998 following the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto. It is the main body of tertiary students studying in East Timor. It is established in all 13 of East Timor's districts, and includes representatives from all tertiary institutions in East Timor. During the congress, participants passed resolutions relating to questions of: political and economical systems, national security, education, agriculture, health and the official language. The students also talked about their constitution, re-structured the ETSSC and recommended a program for the years 2000 - 2002.

1. Agriculture: development of sustainable agriculture

Agriculture is the priority sector for development as the majority of people's livelihood in the rural districts is from agriculture. The transformation from subsistence to sustainable agriculture and an emphasis on organic agriculture should be the future direction for this sector in East Timor. It will be a significant goal to develop agro-tourism and the protection of forests and other environments in East Timor. The reformation of the community should be based on agricultural development. The development of human resources is viewed as important for creating balanced capacity among the human resources of East Timor.

2. The tertiary education system must be strongly supported by the government. The education should be divided into three terms.

Short-term programs:

a. The short-term programs should be oriented to Civic Education for the people. This is practical because the community must have political and socio-economic rights. The ETSSC members are fully aware that thousands of young people took part in the resistance movements against the occupation of the dictatorial regime of Indonesia. Therefore, both international and national agencies should create a mechanism that enables youths to have an active role in the development of the new East Timor.

b. The government should re-establish academies and the university, namely the former University of East Timor, Dili Nursing Academy, Hera Polytechnic, Dili School of Economics, and Pastoral Institute of East Timor. ETSSC will also use the former buildings of the UNTIM campus site for the purpose of group discussion that will involve students, youths and the community. The university should be academically independent of the control of the state.

Medium and long-term programs:

National development in the sector of education should be based upon the natural resources of East Timor. The educational systems should be inclusive. The government should provide subsidies for students in both private (the Church) and public schools so that everyone can access education. The transitional and future governments should apply the principle of universal education.

3. Health System. There must be strong support from the government for the health system.

The health system should be underscored by strong regulation of the privately run systems by the state. The government should provide subsidy for the health department to pay doctors and nurses. The government should control pharmacies and clinics. This policy should be in place for a period of five to ten years and consequently revised. The history of health services in East Timor and the current urgent need among the population for medical attention are justifications for this policy. An important aspect of health education is to promote both preventative and curative health care that is important to the community in East Timor. The Dili Nursing Academy should be restored to enable students to complete their studies. The government should support a sound environment for the development of herbal medicine and/or alternative heath cares.

4. Political systems

East Timor should be called the Unitary State of East Timor. While the type of government is the presidential system with clear lines of power separation between the executive, legislature and judiciary. The people should directly elect the president of the state.

The ideology of the people is Maubere.

The principles of Maubere are to respect humanity, mother earth, and the spiritual dimensions of the people such as the sacred house, the Church, etc.

There should be a multi party system in East Timor

The 7th of December should be declared the day for national heroes and heroines, while the Independence Day is 28th of November. Those who should be called national heroes and heroines are those who were killed or died in the fight for the independence of East Timor. The criteria for the national heroes and heroines are those who held strong nationalism and died for self-determination (a.k.a. ukun rasik-an) and led the movements and / or groups towards self-rule.

The national symbol should be Loriku Aswa'in (the Warrior Parrot).

The national flag should be the flag of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, the flag that was hoisted on the Day of the Unilateral Proclamation of Independence on 28th November 1975.

The Constitution of East Timor should accommodate the cultural values of the people and the enhancement of the international instruments of human rights that are relevant to East Timor's situation. The people should take part in the writing process of the National Constitution.

Independent judiciary systems should be drawn from the Constitution.

5. National and Official Language

The national language should be Tetun, which is currently the lingua franca of the people of East Timor. The Official languages during the transition period (up to three or five years) should be Tetun, English, Portuguese and Melayu (Indonesian), and then Tetun should be the national and official language of the territory.

The government should be responsible for the development of Tetun.

6. The economic system that is suitable for East Timor is a mixed economy aimed towards the concept of sustainable development. The people should be given equal opportunity to develop their economy. The position of the government is to make selective interventions in certain areas such as agriculture and natural non-living resources.

The formation of cooperatives should be the initiative of the people. In the short term of three to five years, the government should not exploit the natural resources due to lack of human resources in this area. The exploration of natural resources should give equal share of the results.

There is widespread concern that lack of human resources in this area would only bring forth advantages for the foreign partners instead of the people of East Timor.

The people should create a system to control the foreign investors coming into the territory; the land should not be sold to foreign investors although they may have rights to use it. There should be limitation to the rights to purchase or own the land - the land should be equally distributed among the people. It is necessary to establish a bank of the people, like in Bangladesh, to counter the global economy.

7. National security

The ETSSC concept of national security is the defensive one in which the people are highly involved in order to strengthen the professional military system. Youths and university students should take part in compulsory military basic exercises to set up experts of the national defence system. The justice ministry should take control of the state police. The police should be in charge of the maintenance of national law and order. The active military personnel should not take part in political parties.

Diplomacy with neighbouring countries, such as Australia, Indonesia, and other Asian countries, should be one of the priorities of government policy in East Timor. The territory of East Timor should not be used as a military base by any foreign countries but East Timor should take part actively in the promotion of peace and stability in the world.

This document will be presented to the National Congress of CNRT that is going to commence on August 20th and run until August 30th, 2000. However, there has been strong criticism from many political parties that CNRT is not legitimate to make all the decisions on the above issues. Taking this into account, some points of this document should be more widely discussed.

The structure and programme of the ETSSC

The former Secretary General of the ETSSC is Antero Benedito Da Silva (from the period of 1998-2000). The new Coordinator of the ETSSC for the period 2000-2002 is João Da Silva Sarmento.

The general programme of the period 2000-2002 is to build the capacity of the people, youth, and the students.

There are two more important events that will face the students and also the people of East Timor: the first democratic election in East Timor and the Reconciliation that represents justice for the people of East Timor.

The ETSSC Congress, therefore, decided to establish a Commission of Reconciliation and Justice and a Commission for the Success of the First Election in East Timor.

This restructure was done through a process of democratic election. It is regarded as the first election to have taken place in the student movements and in the new society of East Timor. There were 301 people voting on that day and the voting itself took place at the former campus site of the University of East Timor, Kaikoli Dili.

Dili, 28th July 2000


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