Subject: AGE: Gusmao warns absent MPs to lift their game

Also: Full Text of Xanana's Address To The Nation

Gusmao warns absent MPs to lift their game

The Age June 14, 2002

By Jill Jolliffe Dili

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has put the new nation's politicians on notice to lift their performance in a free-wheeling attack on the government 23 days after it took office.

In an address to the nation, Mr Gusmao asked the people to be patient with the difficulties facing the government, which is dominated by the nationalist Fretilin party.

But at the same time, he gave the government a tight time limit to prove itself. "We should give it, in the first place, six months - enough time for all of us to know whether our government is or is not doing something to benefit our country," he said.

Mr Gusmao added that the government could then be given another six months "to see if it implements its one-year plan".

He branded the nation's MPs "enormously irresponsible" for failing to regularly attend sessions and for lacking dedication.

Before his election as president last April, Mr Gusmao said he would not confront the government, but play a watchdog role. His latest speech, however, suggested that he was putting the government on notice very early in his mandate, with the attendant risk of raising tensions.

The government, led by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, was elected with an absolute majority of 57 per cent last August. It had the task of drafting the country's first constitution, which was promulgated in March. With the agreement of parliament and the United Nations, it was sworn in for a further five-year term on Independence Day - May 20.

Dr Alkatiri and the Fretilin leadership refused to endorse Mr Gusmao's campaign for presidency, giving discreet support to his sole opponent, Xavier do Amaral. Mr Gusmao won with 78 per cent of the vote, which he reads as a right to call the government to account, although under East Timor's semi-presidential system his powers are limited.

Wednesday's address to the nation also dwelt on the government's much criticised handling of the media, arguing that "the government and civil society should pay attention to the media, guaranteeing its independence and liberty".

International donors to East Timor's budget have withheld funds from the state-run radio and TV station, which almost closed down as a result, because they do not consider the Fretilin-drafted constitution guarantees editorial independence.

In his swipe at MPs, Mr Gusmao pointed out that in two recent sessions they had not had a quorum to approve legislation.

In an interview with The Age, Dr Alkatiri put the attack down to Mr Gusmao's style. "He likes to administer shock therapy, to wake people up, but we don't need a wake-up call," he said.

He said that although the government faced difficulties of supply and other problems from the transition from UN rule, he was confident it would overcome them. "I don't see it as a declaration of war," he said. "He did say people should give us more time, after all. Let him talk."

The Indonesian Government is sending a delegation headed by Home Affairs Minister Hari Sabarno to East Timor tomorrow. Mr Sabarno's secretary said the delegation would include several ministers, including Industry and Trade Minister Rini Suwandi. The state news agency Antara said the delegation would meet Mr Gusmao and Mr Alkatiri.


Address To The Nation

By

PRESIDENT KAY RALA XANANA GUSMÃO

President of the Democratic Republic of East Timor

12 June 2002

Dear Fellow Citizens,

We have been independent and masters of our destiny for 23 days. Yet, it is somewhat ironic to feel as masters of our destiny without a corresponding feeling of change.

One may think that in such a short period of time there is not much to be said. Nevetheless, we ought to know that there are issues that if not dealt with now may become problems that will impact on our society.

For most, the fundamental issue of concern is security. I have been asked by some to travel to Wailili to solve problems involving violence and shooting.

People are concerned with the “ex-Falintil”, with the “isolated Falintil”, with the “Association of Former Falintil Guerrilla Fighters”, with CPD-RDTL and “new forces” which, some say, even are in possession of weapons.

Before elaborating on this, I should clarify that there is confusion about Veterans Associations. I wish to inform the People that there is the Association of Veterans of the Resistance (AVR) which encompasses members of the former clandestine network, namely the so-called ‘caixas’ (couriers) and, there is the “Foundation of Falintil Veterans”, led by Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak, which we believe is promoting the well-being of all Falintil veterans.

Later, a new “Association of Former Falintil Fighters” emerged, under the auspices of the present Minister for Internal Administration, Rogério Lobato, who notes that its establishment is enshrined in the Statutes of Fretilin.

Before 20 May, on 6 May, a meeting was held between the leaders of our country to discuss issues regarding the security of our independence commemorations. During the meeting it was also decided that a Commission was to be established and to include ETDF, Commander L-7 and Mr. Rogério Lobato to decide on the criteria to define “the ex” or “former fighters” or even “Veterans”.

It is in this context that I publicly urge all whom hold responsibility for this to act on this issue and to ensure that our People may live in peace and tranquility. When problems arise, meetings are held to discuss them but then problems fade away within the meetings. Eventually our population suffers the impact of the irresponsibility of individuals and even of bodies within the state apparatus.

Another matter frequently discussed by everyone relates to the RDTL and its political position that misleads the People and creates an unstable environment. Just as I urged Fretilin, I wish to urge all for contacts to be established for an open dialogue between Fretilin and CPD-RDTL. Radical stances taken during the past two and a half years of transition, are still having a negative impact on our population and I can not accept that we are all made responsible for the CPD-RDTL problem because this avoids to finding a solution to the problem. There is need for more dialogue, we must sow a culture of reconciliation otherwise, everything will sound false, that is if we do not promote dialogue in our midst for the reconciliation between groups or associations, whichever their nature.

Dear fellow compatriots, the third issue I wish to raise is the question of Amnesty. I should make it clear that when we speak of amnesty there are two concepts that must be identified. One is the concept enshrined in the Constitution and the other is the one I explained during the electoral campaign.

The draft law on Amnesty and Pardon was prepared as a tribute to Independence Day and to be adopted during the Special Parliament Session held on 20 May. The draft law has not yet been passed because Parliament members considered it untimely to discuss it on that day and have been too busy debating Rules of Procedure since then; it is clearly stated in the draft that amnesty will be granted to all those who were involved in violent acts at the exception of manslaughter and homicide. This means that this draft law does not comprise those who killed, raped or even caused physical injury.

The second concept, as I defend it, will have to emerge as the outcome of a debate within society, the result of discussions with political parties, with the government, with Parliament and with other interested parties to reach a national consensus, so that, upon request, Parliament may give the President of the Republic the capacity to promulgate such a law. I wish to ask you not to be confused with the two concepts of Amnesty and later we will have plenty of time to elaborate on this.

My Dear Fellow Citizens,

I have just touched on three key issues that have deserved our remarks as well as our concern.

I wish now to turn to other very important issues, that must be raised at this point in time to further clarify things and enable a better understanding of these first few months of independence. I wish to address you on the institutions of the State.

As you all understand it is up to the government to design and implement policies. The government will have five years to govern. We have all praised the donor countries for having pledged more than we expected for the implementation of government programmes during the first three years. However, we must all be aware that funds pledged for programmes to be implemented during the first year will only come into effect as from 1 July. As you know, our fiscal year runs from 1 July to 30 June. This is confusing for us but, hopefully, in the future we will re-arrange things so as to have a more adequate definition of the fiscal year and better adjusted to our understanding, cultural background and history.

For these reasons, we should restrain from expressing disapproval or frustration and award the government time to fulfil its programmes. We must be realistic and, as East Timorese, not make demands beyond our capacity to achieve that which we really yearn for.

Some may ask me “... but for how long; how long must we wait for?” It is a hard question to answer. I suggest that for this first phase we give the government six months. It is a period of time necessary for us to understand if the government is doing something, or not, for the good of the country. I would also add that, in a second phase, an extra six months be given so that we may assess if the government programmes for the first year have been implemented or not and if they have been well planned and managed.

In a democratic society, the people and the society as a whole monitor government activities in general. This monitoring covers the action of the government. And to be able to monitor, both the society and the people must be knowledgeable of the government’s programme. The people must know which is the government’s health policy; the people want to know which is the policy on education so that the Ministry of Education does not focus its work solely on statistical data on schools, pupils and teachers. Likewise, we must know which are the programmes for development, agriculture, tourism, fisheries, infrastructure and so forth.

It is, therefore, important that the Government ensures a regular flow of information from its agencies to the people and vice-versa. During the UNTAET period the Council of Ministers held meetings in the districts. I do not know if such meetings were fruitful or not. What is really important is that a permanent mechanism of communication is established so that the society and the people are aware of the efforts, difficulties and successes as well as of the mistakes.

However, to enable this, the media (radio, television and newspapers) must work with proficiency and professionalism so as to bridge the gap between the people and the power structures. To that end, the government and civil society must pay due attention to the media and guarantee its independence and freedom of speech!

Dear Fellow Citizens, allow me to elaborate on the Parliament. Although the Constitution was adopted, unfortunately, we are still dependent on all the Regulations that were inherited from UNTAET. Because we wanted to become independent on 20 May there was not enough time to draft all, or most, of the legislation that should be adopted shortly after the well-known and historical date of May, 20.

Proof of this is the fact that our Parliament is still discussing its own Rules of Procedure required for its institutional functioning. The people must know that our state institutions are working on provisional grounds. The government does not yet have its basic organisational law neither does the Presidency. Parliament is still to make a decision on which institutions are to pass Acts, Laws, Decrees, regulatory decrees, and so on. The Parliament is yet to vote the Government Programme and the State Budget for the first fiscal year and, without it, nothing will function and the disbursement of pledges will not be made.

In my address to the Special Parliament Session on 20 May, I reminded members of Parliament that although we have a Constitution passed by them, the process of governance will not move ahead without basic structuring laws to rule the functioning of the institutions.

Unfortunately, the lack of quorum in two Parliament sessions has hindered the adoption of resolutions. Parliament still has the same numbers of members and today’s MPs are virtually the same members of the Constituent Assembly. The lack of dedication to work is a huge lack of responsibility before the People. Secondly, it seems that most members of Parliament consider their main arm-raising mission accomplished as the Constitution was adopted and, therefore, afford to abstain from attending now.

For this reason, the government anticipates the adoption of decrees and we all experience a situation of doubt and indecisiveness. It has become common today to hear solemn expressions such as “distinguished” and “honourable” when members of Parliament address their peers. However, if MPs do not become aware the engine has stopped running because they are absent or not committed to their work they will cause a legitimate impression in society that Parliament is in need of more capable people, able to meet the demands of the process.

We are initiating a democratic system in our country and democracy can not be built on political compromise in the fore-mentioned meaning. Democracy is established with the commitment of all so to enable it to flourish in the society as a whole.

Therefore, I urge the government and Parliament to establish a mechanism to consult our society on legislation to be adopted so that, as it comes into effect, it may be accepted with an open mind as well as understood. This is important for participative democracy where the decision-making process and the legislation meet the needs of the country and respond to the yearnings of the people.

Otherwise, there will be clear demonstrations of disapproval as it is happening with government directives on property eviction. A careful assessment must be made for decisions to have legal grounds. Many people are asking to whom did Portugal hand over real estate in 1975? To whom did Indonesia hand over real estate in September 1999?

On which legal grounds is everything being considered as State property? Are there not other forms of handing over houses more consistent with the economic situation that people are experiencing? Is it not possible to set deadlines on a case-to-case basis? These questions are being asked by our society and the government will have to address.

Dear Fellow Citizens,

The judicial system is another sector I wish to elaborate on.

We are all aware of the problem regarding the status of judges and prosecutors. We all know about the recent problem in the Becora prison in which many were injured, two of them rather seriously, amidst prisoners, police officers, CIVPOL and even GNR officers.

Parliament and political parties must look into this problem as a serious one and understand that Parliament does not value itself because of the number of members it has but rather because the people demand dedication, quality and political sensitivity in its proceedings.

I urge judges and prosecutors to continue their work lawfully and gain a greater sense of responsibility and a clearer notion of the process to establish a professional and competent Justice system for the future and to ensure the much-needed independence of this institution. In this field, there is no such thing as enough debate or discussion and information as well as on-going dialogue are most necessary to balance different perceptions.

The other institution I wish to refer to is the Presidency of the Republic. For two years we all contributed in one way or the other to prepare the government structure. Notwithstanding, the Presidency is still undergoing its structuring. There are only three people working and hardly any conditions. We have drafted the Organic Law for the Presidency and, once adopted, it will provide the necessary legal basis for our work. We have planned a three phased recruitment process to be initiated in July. I will remain five years in office and, because this is only the beginning, in my opinion we should not attempt to do everything all at once and in haste. This is the reason why we will focus our attention on the capacity building of all the staff that will be working in the Presidency.

Unfortunately people are now asking to see me as if I am the solution to problems caused by others. I must also add that some are pushing small groups to see me as if I am the trustee of the funds pledged by donors or hold responsibility for the government programme.

It is true that I previously stated that I would give special attention to unemployment and the youth. I also committed myself to promote investment. However, this does not mean I have programmes to employ people. The implementation of programmes is part of the process of governance. The implementation of programmes is not a competence of the President.

As you have probably heard, in accordance with the concept of “Open Presidency” I have initiated contacts with political parties, with or without parliamentary representation. I have listened to their views on the political, social and economic situation of the country. I have equally listened to the views of the Church by meeting with Bishop D. Ximenes Belo. I will pursue this regular consultation process and extend it to civil society. I am aware that civil society does not yet have the means to participate better and more actively in the process. We will attempt to encourage and attain the necessary resources for this participation.

I believe we all agree that the Church can and should play an important role in mobilising our people for a better understanding of the process and, thus, enable all to comprehend the huge difficulties in managing the country during these initial years of independence.

I urge civil society to continue its work and ensure a democratic way of living and interaction amidst the people and to support the flow of information, which must never be distorted to defend political interests.

In ending, I appeal to all, to the people in general and to the youth in particular.

We must allow the government time to act and continue to demand that Parliament fulfils its responsibility during these first crucial months because, if it does not make a greater effort of harder and better work we will all be at a standstill.

As in Taci Tolu, I urge all to have the inner awareness of a new nationalism that will enable us to be patient without giving up the sense that we can demand responsibility, commitment and dedication from those who govern and serve the state. Above all, I ask for discipline so we may live in a climate of stability.

We will only foster self-confidence and are able to trust others if there is stability. Confidence will generate mutual respect for tolerance and good will. Only thus can we hope to build for we will eradicate obsolete mentalities and old habits that still live within many of us.

Thank you. ###


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