|Subject: AFP: East Timor calls for debt
write off for poor states
Agence France Presse
East Timor calls for debt write off for poor states
NADI, Fiji, July 18
East Timor President Xanana Gusmao urged wealthy world powers Thursday to write off debts of developing countries not only as a gesture of moral obligation but also an imperative move to restore peace and stability.
Gusmao, head of the world's newest nation, also called on weapon-producing countries to redouble efforts to curtailing arms exports to developing nations, particularly those in conflict.
"The poor must spend less on weapons and should seek to resolve our internal differences or difference with our neighbors via dialogue," Gusmao told delegates at a summit here of the African, Caribbean and Pacific 78-nation group, to which East Timor is seeking membership.
"While we call on the rich to write off the debt of the poor, we in the South must redouble our efforts in implanting good governance, with transparency and accountability, rid ourselves of corruption and mismanagement."
Gusmao said the rich countries must increase their contribution to overseas development assistance.
And he urged a relaxing of trade barriers to prevent the "condemnation of millions of farmers and peasants to bankruptcy and permanent abject poverty."
East Timor is a debt-free country enjoying significant supportive roles from the donor community and the World Bank. The nation's Parliament comprises 12 political parties with almost 30 percent of membership being women.
"However, our Parliament and the political parties are incipient, lack experience and resources and a true culture of democracy. We believe that an independent judiciary is one of the necessary foundations of democracy and rule of law," Gusmao said.
"But we lack competent courts and judges and if we fail in this area, our best intentions and policies will not work.
"Our triumph is the triumph of the shared value of human dignity and compassion. We owe our freedom not only to our own people's courage and determination. We owe it too to the whole world. We owe it to humanity."
Statement by H. E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão President of the Democratic Republic of East Timor on the occasion of the 3rd Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government
Nadi, Fiji Islands
18-19 July 2002
Your Excellencies Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Heads of Delegations, Representatives of the European Union, Secretary-General of the ACP, Ladies and gentlemen:
First allow me on behalf of my people to thank the government and people of Fiji for the hospitality accorded my delegation.
Two months ago, on my country’s accession to independence, the Pacific islands, together with more than 90 nations, honored us with their presence.
I thank the Pacific islands nations, in particular Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu for their generous contribution with army and police contingents for the maintenance of peace and law and order in my country.
We are now looking forward to the establishment of diplomatic ties and cooperation between our countries both on bi-lateral level and through existing multi-lateral and regional mechanisms.
We experience similar challenges in nation-building, institution and capacity-building, and share the same vision of peace, eradicating poverty, empowering the poor and our women.
Allow me also to pay special tribute to the African nations for their historic founding of the African Union, a shared dream of hundreds of millions of peoples in that vast continent that has seen it all colonization, slavery, apartheid, cold war, inter-state and intra-state wars, genocide, malaria, the Aids pandemic, poverty.
Yet it is also a Continent that has offered humanity many great leaders, in politics and arts and literature. Endowed with enormous natural wealth and leaders with vision, Africa will shine in the decades to come. We wish them all much success in the new Union.
In the course of the many long years of the struggle for de-colonization, African and Caribbean nations were in the forefront of the debates in the UN General Assembly and Special Committee on De-colonization.
My special thanks go to our fraternal countries Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe with whom we share centuries of colonial experience. They stood with us and by us in our darkest hours of need.
At the end of this month, I will be representing East Timor at the Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in Brasilia when my country will formally be admitted as the 8th member of the Portuguese Speaking Community CPLP.
The CPLP is a community of more than 200 million people with shared history and values encompassing four regions of the world, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia-Pacific.
I must pause here to make a special reference to three countries, our former colonial power, Portugal, a country that shared with us almost 500 years of history, Indonesia, that shared with us the last 25 years, and Australia.
The Portuguese people and successive governments were among those who championed our cause for freedom when in 1974 they freed themselves from a 50-year old decrepit regime. Portugal has been a generous partner in our development efforts.
Early this month I paid a State Visit to Indonesia where I was warmly received by Her Excellency President Megawati Sukarnoputri, her cabinet, the Parliament, and the people at large.
One month earlier President Megawati honored us and displayed political courage and real statesmanship in attending our independence celebration.
We have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations at the level of Ambassador and a Joint Commission that will explore areas of cooperation.
With Indonesia we are working towards the creation of the Southwest Pacific Dialogue Forum involving Indonesia, the initiator of the concept, Australia, New Zealand, and PNG. This new group which will have its inaugural meeting early next month or soon after.
With Indonesia and Australia we have started the tri-lateral ministerial dialogue.
In June I paid an official visit to Australia where I held fruitful discussions with Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Australia and New Zealand have been in the forefront of the international efforts to secure peace in East Timor and both have been very generous in their support for our development efforts.
I hope to re-visit my friends in New Zealand this coming September.
We share with Australia an important common maritime border containing rich oil and gas reserves. We need to begin negotiations towards delimitation of our common borders.
The oil and gas wealth in the Timor Sea can be a blessing or a curse…we hope that it will be a well-managed blessing shared in a just and fair manner for the benefit of our two countries.
I would commit the sin of omission if I were not to pay tribute here to those in Europe who stood by us in our long struggle for freedom.
I wish to ask our good friend Mrs. Glennys Kinnock to convey to the European Parliament my warm personal greetings of gratitude for the friendship and solidarity you have extended to us over many long years.
The European Parliament was at times the only international forum where our voices were heard. In 1997 you honored me with the Andre Sakarov Human Rights Prize and I hope to return in October this year to thank you all for the honor and the generous support you have offered us.
In the last two and half years, the European Union has been one of our most important and generous partners. I wish to ask the distinguished delegation of the European Union to convey to the Commission my personal gratitude and that of my people.
Outside the European Union, but still in Europe, Norway has been one of our most important friends, contributing significantly through the multilateral agencies and bi-laterally.
The US role in my country in the past three years has been critically important and decisive both in terms of its contribution to the UN assessed contributions which have enabled the peace keeping forces to be deployed and via its substantial bi-lateral assistance.
Over the years, the US Congress has been one of the pillars of our struggle for freedom.
We will continue to work closely with our American friends to cement our already excellent relations.
East Timor is at the cross roads of Asia and the Pacific, a bridge of cultures and civilizations.
In our small island of 18,889 km2 and less than 900,000 peoples, a visitor comes across East Timorese whose roots are distinctly Melanesian or Malay-Polynesian, mingling with smaller communities that can trace their ancestry back to China and the Arab world.
Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Delegates:
At the Punta Cana meeting in June, you granted us observer status in ACP. We now seek full membership in ACP and early accession to the Cotonou Agreement.
In the next few years, as we are busy consolidating our democratic institutions, peace and stability, we wish to obtain observer status in the various regional institutions such as the Pacific Islands Forum, in order to get acquainted with the realities, challenges and opportunities offered.
We will be attending this month’s ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Brunei and we are seeking observer status in that very important regional body, whose members have given us unqualified support.
ASEAN countries and others in Asia namely the Republic of Korea, Japan and China, have provided East Timor with critical support, ranging from contributions to the Peace Keeping Force, Civilian police, technical experts in all fields.
It is in East Timor where one would see the largest police force outside China and where Japan has deployed the largest army engineer contingent.
The ACP-EU process is one of the most positive experiences in North-South cooperation, being an effective international development assistance and trade mechanism that goes beyond the proclamation of good intentions. The two sides must be commended for this unique and singularly successful partnership.
However, more is needed in order to eradicate poverty. We join with those calling on the rich of the North to increase their contribution to overseas development assistance to at least the 0,7% of GNP as called for by the UN.
The same time, trade barriers, sometimes through artificially created quality control devices, must be relaxed if the rich wish to be true to their own slogan “trade not aid”.
It is obviously impossible for the poor agriculture based economies to compete with the heavily subsidized American and European farmers. Here, free market, means the condemnation of millions of farmers and peasants to bankruptcy and permanent abject poverty.
East Timor is a debt-free country. So far we are succeeding in avoiding falling into the debt trap in part thanks to the understanding of the donor community, including the World Bank.
We call on the rich to write off the debt of the ACP countries. This is not only a moral imperative. It is also a security and strategic necessity for peace and stability cannot be attained in conditions of perpetual poverty with hundreds of millions living in slums with less than $1 a day, without access to clean water, basic health care and education.
While we call on the rich to write off the debt of the poor, we in the South must redouble our efforts in implanting good governance, with transparency and accountability, rid ourselves of corruption and mismanagement.
The poor must spend less on weapons and should seek to resolve our internal differences or differences with our neighbors via dialogue. The monies saved from weapons and huge standing armies should go to education and health care for the poorest of our societies.
The weapons-producing countries must also redouble their efforts to curtail weapons exports to the developing world and in particular to regions in conflict.
We do not wish to oversimplify the root causes of the many conflicts plaguing our regions, but the facts are that the weapons exacerbate these conflicts and export weapons business thrives when peoples are at war with each other.
If it is morally repulsive the business of drug smuggling that kills so many in the rich countries, why there is such a blaze attitude towards the equally repugnant business of weapons exports that kills and maims so many in the developing world? Would it be because the millions killed, maimed, blown off by land mines, are peoples of darker skin?
In our country we are spending almost 30% of our national budget on education and public health. This figure will go up in the next few years. The same time, our defense budget consumes less than 1% of our budget.
We are embarking on a National Sustainable Development Strategy that resulted from a wide consultation process involving the government, civil society and the donor community. This is a pro-poor strategy aiming at eradicating poverty in two generations.
We believe that the best ways to insure peace and security in our country is through a sustained effort in national dialogue and reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past, eliminate violence from our daily lives, promote a culture of peace and non-violence, promote respect for human rights and the rule of law.
We are less than two months old as an independent state and we are conscious that the road ahead is going to be a very bumpy one in all aspects.
We have a functioning Parliament with 12 political parties and an almost 30% women representation. However, our Parliament and the political parties are incipient, lack experience and resources and a true culture of democracy.
We believe that an independent judiciary is one of the necessary foundations of democracy and rule of law. But we lack competent courts and judges and if we fail in this area our best intentions and policies will not work.
Domestic violence is rampant. While East Timor has seen a period of real peace, free of political violence, with very few and isolated cases of revenge murder, there is an increase in the reporting of domestic violence.
East Timor is almost free of the Aids pandemic with so far a 0.6% rate of infection. This is an enormous blessing. But this figure can well explode into an epidemic scale if urgent preventive measures are not taken.
Our Ministry of Health working with WHO and UNICEF has been developing a national Aids prevention strategy which we hope will save our already poor nation from this world calamity.
Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Delegates:
On 27th September we will be joining the United Nations family as one of its members. We invite you to be there to once again offer us your moral support.
As we join the UN on that day, we will be paying tribute to the UN Secertary-General Kofi Annan for his leadership, without which we would not come this far…we will be thanking him for his caring support.
We will be paying tribute to the many thousands from more than 100 countries serving with UNAMET, INTERFET, UNTAET and the PKF, CIVPOL.
A special tribute will be paid to our friend Sergio Vieira de Mello who gave the very best of him for more than two years, enduring with us the pains and frustrations, celebrating with us the steady progress we have made from the ashes of the 1999 destruction.
We will be thanking the UN agencies, UNVs, NGOs, and the many thousands of our friends around the world for their friendship and solidarity.
Our triumph is the triumph of the shared values of human dignity and compassion. It has come about through the solidarity and common efforts of many, governments and civil society, the UN and the donor community, the media and public opinion.
We owe our freedom not only to our own people’s courage and determination. We owe it too to the whole world. We owe it to humanity.
Thank you all.
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