Subject: XG: Speech at opening of parliament

Speech by H.E. President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão

On the occasion of the Solemn Opening of the National Parliament

Dili, 21st September, 2004

Excellency, President of the National Parliament Excellency, Prime Minister Excellency, President of the Court of Appeal Excellency, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Distinguished Members of the National Parliament Distinguished Members of Government Distinguished Ambassadors and Representatives of the Diplomatic Missions Representatives of the Press Corps Ladies and gentlemen

This is a sovereign occasion, and on behalf of the State and People of Timor-Leste, we express our congratulations to the State of the Republic of Indonesia, to the Government and Parties and in particular, to our brothers and sisters, the People of Indonesia for the way in which the democratic reform process has progressed in our neighbouring nation.

We accompanied the last general elections with interest and admiration and with special importance to the first direct presidential elections in the history of Indonesia, which culminated in the electoral act yesterday, 20th September.

The faith in individual and collective freedom was, in our view, a great historical reference, demonstrating the political maturity of the Indonesian people who left behind emotional attitudes to acquire a greater rationalism in their political choices.

Here, we would like to congratulate effusively, the two candidates, Megawati Soekanoputri and Bambung Susilo Yudhoyono, who with exemplary dignity knew how to represent the aspirations of the Indonesian people. Special congratulations to President Megawati for knowing how to steer the helm of reform on the right path.

We must pay our homage to our brothers and sisters, the Indonesian people, as they have also given us a lesson in individual freedoms and pluralistic democracy.

Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen

We are also a democracy, even identified as a Democratic Republic. And the Parliament is the heart of democratic representation; it is a sovereign body which expresses the plural reality of the Timorese people, with their diverse aspirations and expectations, with their distinct and at many times, contradictory interests, with their memories, their fears as well as their greatest hopes.

The Parliament resumed work on the 17th, which corresponds with the beginning of the third year of their mandate.

Throughout these two years, a great effort in legislative production was demanded of the National Parliament to give execution to the new constitutional framework.

The laws on the maritime boundaries, nationality, immigration and asylum were passed. The tributary system was established and the State Budgets were approved.

The independence of the courts was constitutionally guaranteed in the statute of judicial magistrates. The Parliament legislated on the functioning of community authorities, political parties, immoveable property and commercial businesses.

The Timor Sea Oil was debated, the doubts on sources of law were clarified and proceedings for publication of laws were adopted.

Although the National Parliament has not produced legislation, in relation to its own exclusive competencies, except for the law which adopts the Statute of Members of Parliament, as we are aware of the immense difficulties upon this Legislative Body, hence the work undertaken already represents an effort deserving merit.

I should therefore remember that there is still much to be done and, above all, the most urgent being to strengthen the capacity of Parliament to take initiative and to concede means which allow to safeguard this initiative and, at the same time, to effectively accompany and control political action.

President of the National Parliament Excellencies Ladies and gentlemen

The Parliament is, in this sense, defined as the place of democratic truth. Given that it is a free and open space, where it is hoped that differences of opinions and perspectives, questions and answers, where not only from divergences but consensus, is born the light which illuminates and founds the ‘management and execution of the general policy of the country’, a task which the Constitution entrusted to the Government.

The more lively and objective, the more widely heard and understood the debates in National Parliament are, the easier it will be for the People to understand what their leaders do, and from there, to support their polices.

Many people despair of their problems, many others wait for an opportunity to re-start their lives, and many also would like to give their contribution to the reconstruction of the independent homeland, because they fought for 24 years.

There are many who hope that justice rewards them and that their sacrifice is recognized. Resolving the situation of the ex-combatants and veterans and assisting orphans and widows, is therefore a question for the State, a demand in the name of the dignity of new democratic institutions of our Republic.

But if it is true that we have to understand that many are tired of the long wait, it is also true that we cannot yield to the demagogical temptation of easy criticism and thoughtlessness.

It has merely been two years since the Government of Timor was handed over to the Timorese. Yesterday marked exactly 5 years since Interfet entered to help put an end to the violence perpetrated by the Indonesian military and their militias. The dislocation that the occupiers left behind them in September 1999 placed the country under dependency on friendly nations and the international community.

However generous the international assistance was, it exposes our weaknesses, conditions our autonomy and evades our responsibilities. Definitively, we cannot rely on the temporary comfort of external assistance. The future of Timor belongs to its People and the journey ahead is long, very long; just as the Struggle for Liberation was long and at times, despairing.

Excellencies Ladies and gentlemen

I have stated in various messages that we still do not have the vision of the State, whether they be in individual or institutional terms. We understand democracy through the differences of opinion and we still do not know how to reach national consensus.

Individuals make declarations placing their opinions above the interests of the State. Individuals and organizations practice acts which adulterate democratic principles. Perhaps because we are a Democratic Republic, we think that democracy allows us everything, we think that democracy merely gives us individual rights or rights for certain groups.

We have witnessed with sadness that issues of national interest have not been able to mobilize an opinion of the State. We are in tow with the factor that who can ‘sell’, with greater probability of success, the ‘product’ to the international community or to foreign public opinion, forgetting that we are a pluralist society, not only based on differences but, above all, fractionalized in terms of vision and objectives.

I would like to quickly cover two issues I consider to be extremely important not only for the consideration of the National Parliament, for being the constitutional representation of Timorese pluralism, but also because this is an opportunity for me to address civil society.

The first is in respect to Justice or to be exact, the International Tribunal. Much has been said and written, from the distinguished members of the National Parliament to no less distinguished members of the Government; from the defenders of Human Rights of our Civil Society to the international experts, inside and outside the Country, in the highest spheres of Justice and Human Rights.

Some present themselves as realists and pragmatists and others, as very demanding and dogmatic. Opinions clash and society is divided. While for some, the concern for honour and principle is to stress the need for Justice for Justice, without taking into account the complex reality of this whole problem; for others, with whom I align, the concern is for honour and yes, Justice but in a manner more balanced and adjusted with the reality and new conjuncture into which we are inserted.

We have an internal reality, of which we also forget very easily. I believe that we are and will continue to be capable to shout for punishment for those who violated Human Rights in 1999, but we become choked when we merely intend to think on the punishment for those who violated Human Rights, even between ourselves since 1974.

We become terrified with the idea of having to name names, among us, when we think of honouring Justice and we end up by wiping out, with the eraser of reconciliation, our own political crimes.

The public hearings conducted by CAVR have not yet resolved the depth of the problems that we bear in our conscience. At the time, civil society, through the media, demonstrated perplexity and did not accept the version of facts.

When we speak of principles, in this case, the principles of Justice, these should be applied to whatever circumstances and to any case.

Today, we have collaborators usufructly enjoying again the benefits of the situation of an already independent Timor. And we explain to those who suffered the horrors of occupation, that this is a natural and logical consequence of the policy on reconciliation, tolerance and national unity.

But we are unable to understand, we are unable to undertake the same policy intention when we speak of relations with Indonesians, whether they be generals or not.

What concerned me and continues to concern me is the fact that we do not apply justice to ourselves. Today and for the future, it is ourselves that we should be afraid of and not of the Indonesians. It is more probable that we resort to killing ourselves and making our people suffer than the possibility of a new invasion. Indonesia is definitively changed towards political reform, while we are still very feebly initiating the construction of our democratic State.

There are more probabilities of new repressive internal politics in Timor-Leste than the hypothesis of an external aggression. The International Tribunal would be to punish and prevent. Our reconciliation, inside the Country, is not a firm guarantee of preventing new violations of Human Rights between ourselves, the Timorese.

There is an extreme need for all of us, rulers and politicians, the Church and civil society, activists and the people in general to debate this problem with maturity and without emotions or idealisms. If this does not occur, we may think that we have resolved a national or international problem, when in reality we are only postponing the resolution of the real problem.

Ladies and gentlemen

The second issue is the process of negotiations on the Timor Sea. Many marches, petitions and speeches have taken place this year alone. Have these been a result of the mobilization of consciences or at minimum, of concerns? If so, this is not complete. A real mobilization of consciences, a real response to the concerns suggests the need for a much larger participation in political terms of the understanding of this complex reality of the Timor Sea.

I extend my appreciation for the Government’s initiatives in holding conferences on petroleum strategies. However there is a need for greater engagement from the political parties and civil society in the perception of the process of negotiations.

The questions arise around the term ‘creative solutions’ expressed by the Prime Minister. The doubts persist in the minds of people in relation to the meeting between Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta and his Australian counterpart, when they spoke of an ‘open window’ and of ‘Christmas gifts’. The concerns question the need to speed up the process and whether concessions have already been made to the Australian Government on the maritime borders.

The President of the Republic should not be the only one accompanying the process, as he has been up until now informed by the Head of Government. The National Parliament, the parliamentary benches and above all, the political parties, the Church and Civil Society should at minimum, be allowed to know of the negotiation process, so that we do not continue to fall into self-affliction, provoking a need for greater opening and consequently a lack of understanding.

Allow me to ask of everyone for a greater political stance on issues of great national interest.

President of Parliament Excellencies Ladies and gentlemen

Building the State does not merely mean making laws and more laws. The State is composed of institutions of great diverse nature, with their own contrasting but complimentary responsibilities and functions. They are called ‘checks and balances’ which include the People, the real holders of sovereignty, and which design in its entirety the architecture of the separation of powers.

If all this works well, then we would have a constitutional democracy. And therefore the most important attribution of the President of the Republic is to guarantee the ‘regular functioning of the democratic institutions’.

We all remember that the month of July was filled with actions by groups and individuals culminating in a demonstration, which was dispersed with the use of exaggerated violence by our PNTL (National Police of Timor-Leste).

We subsequently held a Dialogue on the Veterans. I must thank the participation of the President of Parliament, Prime Minister, President of the Court of Appeal, Parliamentarians and Members of the Government in this Dialogue. It was extraordinarily comforting to witness the leaders maintaining their serenity when debating highly sensitive issues.

When we anticipated the meeting on 3rd September between the Minister for Interior and Mr. L. Forai Boot to take place, what occurred was a demonstration in support of the Government, organized by the Chief of Staff of the Minister for Interior, as understood in a Note dated 1st September from the District Political Committee of Fretilin in Ermera.

Information received affirms that the Chief of Staff of the Minister of the Interior distributed rice in Becora and was coordinating the departure of trucks for the demonstration.

I agree with the Prime Minister when he affirmed that the Government does not need this type of demonstration of support, with even less numbers of supporters than ‘L SETE’, as the real and genuine support was given by the election in August 2001.

We do not play with the politics of demonstrations to provoke courage. Unfortunately there are people who have readily forgotten the means which Golkar used in the past in Tim-Tim and today attempt to apply them again and without scruples in Timor-Leste.

Ladies and gentlemen

Building the State is to fulfill the program of the Constitution, to create the Bodies foreseen in it, but also providing them with the conditions to carry out their role, lend their services and exercise the controls with which the Constitution charged them.

It is good that we understand that there is still a long way to go. I would like to recall that the passing of a new electoral law is pressing, in order to regulate and put in practice the ‘contract’ (if we can call it so) between representatives and those represented, as a way of guaranteeing a more loyal representation of the people in all the elected bodies. It is not only worth contemplating on the sovereign bodies.

The construction of a democratic local government, satisfying the constitutional imperative for administrative decentralization is an indispensable instrument of identification, mobilization and engagement of all citizens in the common challenges of development and solidarity.

The Defense Forces of Timor-Leste, FALINTIL-FDTL, are experiencing a critical situation incompatible with the central role that the Constitution has entrusted them with to secure the independence of the Republic, ‘the territorial integrity, the freedom and security’ of the citizens. The current fragility of FDTL in terms of organization, equipment, finances and qualification of human resources, with the inherent operational limitations, seriously affects the respectability and dignity of the State of Timor-Leste. It is of the exclusive and indeclinable competence of the National Parliament to legislate on the ‘defense and security policy’.

The creation of the Supreme Council for Defense and Security will have a very positive reflex in the reinforcement and credibility of the Armed Forces and of the Police. The Supreme Council for Defense and Security guarantees the highest level of coordination of the forces, preventing eventual conflicts of competencies and institutional solidarity between sovereign bodies and with other representative authorities. In addition to its strategic reach, the Supreme Council for Defense is a consultative body of the President of the Republic, indispensable to the full exercise of his constitutional competencies as guarantor of independence, unity of the State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The Council of State as well, to be established, will culminate in the construction of constitutional building.

It is also of the Parliament’s competence to decide on the prorogation of CAVR until April 2005 and on the need to review the mandate and the manner of functioning of an institution which gives continuity to the work of solving conflicts in communities.

These are some of your activities in the new legislative year which begins. So that you fulfill your duties with responsibility, the People expect that the members of Parliament do not consult their watches, thereby showing their hurry to abandon this Hall.

Good work and much success!


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