Subject: AFP: East Timorese officials not above the law, Gusmao says

Agence France Presse

November 28, 2003 Friday

East Timorese officials not above the law, Gusmao says

DILI, Nov 28

East Timorese government officials are not above the law, President Xanana Gusmao reminded them during a speech marking the young country's short-lived independence declaration 28 years ago.

"I hope that those who lead this nation will concentrate on their awareness of their responsibilities and in that way we can attain a healthy independence," said Gusmao.

The small nation was Asia's poorest when it finally achieved independence in May last year.

"As you know, a state based on the law means that the law holds power, not that we order the law," Gusmao reminded political and government leaders, the police, military and other officials.

He urged officials and intellectuals to "handle their responsibility well" and asked his citizens to believe in the process of national development.

"It's true there are difficulties and a lot of challenges, however we place our trust that the process will go smoothly," he told parliamentary and government leaders attending a ceremony at the Municipal Stadium.

November 28, a national holiday in East Timor, marks the declaration on November 28, 1975, by the Fretilin party of East Timor's independence after Portuguese colonisers had departed.

Nine days later, Indonesian forces invaded to begin a 24-year occupation which ended in a bloody separation after East Timorese voted for independence in 1999.

The country became independent on May 20, 2002, after a period of UN stewardship and an election that left Fretilin the majority party.

In an interview earlier this year, East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta told AFP the country had made tremendous accomplishments in one year.

But he admitted there was little foreign direct investment and said the judiciary was the weakest institution.

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