Subject: ABC: Xanana on Preparing for the future

Preparing for the future

President Xanana Gusmao concedes security will be a concern when United Nations peacekeepers pull out of East Timor.

The troops are due to leave next June, almost five years after the nation gained independence from Indonesia.

The President told Asia Pacific's Linda Lopresti that a national policy is needed to protect East Timor's borders from the militias who are already threatening to make a comeback.


GUSMAO: What we need is national policy on conservation.

I believe that you know I am (in favour of) an amnesty after the trial, and I went a few times to West Timor, talking to the people, our people, and they put the problem to me like this: We believe that you want to do better than the other institutions.

This is why I don't believe in security in terms of security itself. Security depends on many other conditions.

The one that I said, another one is social conditions, social in terms that if we have enough jobs for the people, jobless people - essentially the youth - maybe we can say that we are ready.

That is why we've already talked about this issue with the special representative of Secretary-General.

The problem is not only thinking about downsizing or the withdrawal, but how to prepare not only our police, but also our army, to face the inevitable withdrawal.

LOPRESTI: Should the United Nations stay longer, is that a possibility that you might be lobbying for?

GUSMAO: I would prefer to say it's better to focus the attention on the preparation ourselves, rather than waiting for a delay of the withdrawal.

LOPRESTI: You spoke earlier about reconciliation; in the last few months we've seen the echelons of the Indonesian military and militias indicted by the United Nations for their crimes in East Timor, before and after the independence vote in 1999.

And I know that you're a man who prefers to look at the future rather than the past, and you've said your focus is not on past human rights violations but rather human rights needs for the future.

But is that not going against the popular expectation that justice must be done?

GUSMAO: No. It is not like this.

I told you before that we only sent to trial two militias in three years.

It is an ambition, we feel ourselves to be capable (of trying) the Indonesian generals.

We recognise that we don't have any capability, any means to get the militias back to East Timor to face trial, that is something that is - why I continue to say an international tribunal is not our priority.

If we cannot do it with our own people, we prefer to ask the international community to help us put an international judge in East Timor - something that is a little bit beyond our capacity now.

LOPRESTI: President Gusmao, you said earlier that East Timor is an evolving nation and it relies heavily on foreign aid, I guess, as well as handouts from the United Nations.

Is there a danger that East Timor could become a dependent society, given the pullout of United Nations troops next June?

GUSMAO: It will depend mostly on those of us who govern right now - the government and the legislators of parliament.

Of course we must be more proactive in terms of trying to solve our own problems.

When I say there is a lack of jobs, it means that we have to make more efforts in shaping investment law.

People are living in bad conditions and we must do something in terms of planning.

This shames us, our capacity to respond to the needs of the nation, our capacity to look forward and try to understand our potential, our needs, the needs of our people.

LOPRESTI: Australia was once viewed as the most likely economic saviour of East Timor.

Under the deal struck between East Timor and Australia over the oil fields in the waters between Australia and East Timor, East Timor will get a share, an anticipated 70 billion dollars, but under the deal will only get an initial 15 billion spread over 20 years because of some hard bargaining by Australia.

Are you disappointed at the way Australia has handled the matter?

GUSMAO: Of course I should say, first of all, that our government, we accepted.

But as Timorese we were a little bit disappointed, because we took the friend that Australia and Indonesia to negotiate the question, the area.

LOPRESTI: We spoke earlier of the difficulties of the past twelve months and you've had some difficulties with the government of East Timor, Prime Minister Alkatiri.

Has that improved somewhat, do you feel that the government's now working more efficiently?

GUSMAO: No difficulties, it is more the expression of the separation of the institutions.

I always tell them that if we try to walk together it is my duty to say what I don't agree (with) on behalf of the people.

If they do something good, yes, I will be the first one to applaud, but the government must do its best to serve the people.

LOPRESTI: President Gusmao, you said once you'd prefer to be a pumpkin farmer or a photographer than the president of East Timor. Does that still hold, 12 months on?

GUSMAO: I still think I want this, this possibility. Unfortunately there was too much pressure to accept, and I felt that I should.

But if I can be free to run my pumpkin farm and to do something that in other ways can help civil society to change their mentality in the future, to look at their own duty as citizens, instead of only demanding rights.

We have too much to do and sometimes I feel that outside, maybe I could help better.

LOPRESTI: The people of East Timor, though, were clearly elated when you put your hand up to be president. Will you be running again?

GUSMAO: I am in the process of counting down.


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