Subject: Xanana Gusmao: End of Year Message

(Scanned full text of English translation distributed by the President's office. The speech was given in Tetum, and the President expanded on a few points slightly.)


National Parliament, 22 December 2003 Dili


Excellencies, Speaker of the National Parliament Prime Minister President of the Court of Appeal Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General

Distinguished Members of Parliament and Members of the Cabinet Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Dear Guests and Representatives of the Media Ladies and Gentlemen,

Another year has gone by in our lives; another year in the political process of our nation. Our History and our lives have faced drawbacks but have also been filled with determination to surpass and overcome difficulties.

This is the struggling character of the Timorese people; a People who knows how to be self-confident; a People who has faith in the future.

And the future is initiated every day, every week, every month and every year. Next year will be yet another step towards the future.

When we mention stages, we speak of a process; when we speak of processes we refer to the past, to the present and to the future. And, at this present, which is the end of the current year, we must look into the past the long route we walked through during 2003 so that we may look to the future with greater certainty.

We must look over what we did yesterday so that we do better tomorrow. We must reflect upon what we did and what we did not do. We must look at what we did well and at what we did wrong. We must also look at what we did not do so to be aware of what must be done tomorrow.

Thus, the process of building and we are building our State. We attained our independence but our State is still weak because it is not yet a strong one, as it is yet to be consolidated.

It is this awareness that must continue to be our guiding light for only thus can we acquire the true notion of what is a State. And only thus can we attain the enduring notion of our individual and collective responsibilities towards the process. And if this is a building process then we must serve the process and become its builders.

It is necessary to keep this in mind to avoid feeling that the process was the already attained independence or, according to other political flavours, the act of restoring sovereignty.

It is necessary to keep this in mind to avoid feeling satisfied with our daily lives, to avoid falling into the monotony of our routines thinking that this is fulfilment because our duties have been achieved.

It is necessary to keep this in mind to avoid self-appraisal for ruling our people today, for holding power in our hands and through our behaviour.

It is necessary to keep this in mind to avoid ever forgetting that we are demanding further sacrifices from those who have sacrificed the most throughout 24 years of war and who continue to suffer and to feel that it was not worth it, after all to commit themselves fully to the struggle.

Members of Parliament Members of the Government People of Timor-Leste

Let us assess how the political aspects developed during 2003. I will not state that democracy was not consolidated as I would rather state that democracy this year did not improve much. Democracy was clearly used by some as a tool for criticism, as a way to offend others and to hold back what others have done. For others, democracy was constantly understood as a way to win arguments, win in debates and above all, relying excessively on the democratic rule that it is the majority that decides or who must win.

The issue is not to know who wins and who does not or who criticises the most or least. The question to be asked is if each and every one is aware that what is said and done meets the needs of the process and if it assists in the building, correction and improvement of the process.

We must always be guided by the conscience of knowing what we are doing or deciding without losing sight of the need to listen to the opinions of others, as they are always necessary to help view and consider issues we may have not noticed. Otherwise, we will take part in decisions as a mere obligation to agree rather than sharing clear understanding of the issues at stake. Opposing opinions should not be viewed negatively with the aim of defeating them, with the feeling that they did not arise from the majority group, as the majorities may not necessarily represent the best ideas.

Democracy nourishes the capacity to criticize as a freedom of speech. However, democracy lives on the confrontation of ideas, to validate them, and sustains itself with the debate of all matters as a means to clarify them. Democracy must not be mistaken with the freedom to criticize. The genuine democratic spirit entails accepting and applauding.

Minority groups must also recognise what is positive from the opposing groups. But, more importantly, the majority must accept constructive opinions from the opposing side. If we do this, we will become a strong society because we will improve ideas and greatly contribute towards the process; we will face problems whilst debating and seek the best solutions for the people and the country.

We are speaking of democracy, of building a democratic system, of the meaning of building a democratic State. Democracy is also a long process of consolidation. Consolidation can only arise from a continual awareness of our actions and behaviour so that it may unfold into the daily lives of our people.

What did we observe this year?

We noted the natural and legitimate concern of the opposition. They announced the setting up of a Platform; however, this Platform had no grounds and only revealed the simple intention to contest. A platform must be set up based on objectives to be attained, based on strategies for action and on development plans. That did not occur because the Platform set the Government of National Unity as its main goal. Of course it could not move ahead and, it was better that way as it was handicapped.

Later, we noted that our politicians were more inclined to a criticise for the sake of criticizing' type of democracy. This created an unhealthy atmosphere within our society and people felt saddened by it. I summoned the political parties to my residence; it was not an invitation to dinner nor to hold a meeting.

The aim was to correct the ill feeling, which was reaching levels of intolerance. The aim was to ensure that politicians felt as common people who have societal rules to comply with. The aim was not to promote a false idea of unity but rather the idea that in a democracy, intolerance is unacceptable. The aim was to get everyone to understand that beyond the walls of Parliament where different opinions are the rule we are all Timorese and brothers who must show mutual respect. The aim was to draw the attention of political parties and their leaders, whether capable or not, whether doing the right thing or making mistakes, to the fact that in this process they are leaders of the People and because of this, the People observe and will draw from their example of moderation and responsibility.

Today, all of us who are in power should set aside the feeling that we hold it; we should acquire the sense of duty whilst we are in a position to decide on issues pertaining to the whole Nation.

We noticed another rather surprising phenomenon, though a natural one when a process is initiated or under the psychological and political conditions we live: in. We experienced the so-called "crisis within the parties" that occurred in three political parties. First, we watched the long infirmity of PSD, which led to all sorts of remarks in our society and population. Then came the crisis within Pt though with a lesser impact, which created the perception that our politicians lacked maturity. Finally, the FRETILIN crisis became the main political headline this year and left our society and population questioning if things are actually working properly within the system.

What appears to be most notable in every political party is the lack of adequate and regular structural functioning. All have accommodated to the idea that parties are working properly because they have their representatives in Parliament.

We seldom hear about meetings, debates, decisions, and stances taken by parties on different issues regarding specific situations within the country or in the world. Reporters can easily meet and interview members of the parties represented in Parliament who express whatever comes to their minds rather than the stance taken by the party ... which actually does not exist because the party never met to make a decision on the issue in question.

There is hardly an effort to organise and consolidate the parties; there is lack of effort in regularly exercising democracy within the parties; there is lack of effort in promoting debates on different issues raised in Parliament so that every Parliamentary group has clear and resolute points of view when presenting problems. When parties become aware of the major responsibility they hold because they represent a segment of the electorate, they will know how to convey in Parliament clear ideas to the People on what each party can give to the People, on how each party can solve the problems faced by the People and how the People can count on a party in this development process of our country.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I have noted with satisfaction that progress was made in our media. Do not stop now and keep moving ahead because you still have a long way to go.

The press also has some responsibility in this process. Freedom of the press does not mean that one can convey whatever comes to mind. Freedom of the press means that there is freedom to express opinions; that we are not all condemned to think alike or compelled to say the same as the institutions that hold power.

Ethical responsibility demands clear reporting to avoid confusing stances on issues we do not know about; this means that it is necessary to research sources that will assist the correct analysis of issues you write about.

The press is a swift and efficient means of information to our people; therefore the media holds social responsibility in that it must have a clear notion of the great influence it can have on public opinion. The media can assist in easing tension within the community as it can add fuel to a fiery situation.

It is in this sense that the media must act according to the responsibility it holds within the process.

The media must continue to be independent and analytical but it must also be moderate when exploring a situation or problem. It must continue to draw attention towards mistakes or excesses by the State institutions but should not foster quarrels between politicians or create a feeling of insecurity in the minds of the people.

Building the State is after all the duty of all of us who make decisions and of all of you who assess such decisions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year we also witnessed several polemic moments between State institutions leading to disenchantment of the population and some interest and expectations from the society. The fact is that it created great discomfort in all of us.

First, there was the polemics on the Immigration Law and it was stated that the President was merely boycotting the efforts undertaken by Parliament. Almost every member of the National Parliament came from the Constituent Assembly after debating and adopting the Constitution. The Constitution enshrines the right to veto by the President of the Republic whether for political reasons or on the grounds of unconstitutionality. The right to veto is merely an exercise of constitutional control over another sovereign State entity. The same applies to the judgements made by the Supreme Court of Justice, in our case, the Court of Appeal just as Parliament has control mechanisms over the Government itself.

If we do not understand this, the Constitution will be meaningless and we will fall into temptation to use the State for our own purposes, to help all of us who are in power rather than serving the interests of the Nation.

The second polemic took place between the Government and the Court of Appeal on the issue of the "applicable law" in the country. A decision was made and I promulgated the law. However, we all felt that things were being done on an 'adhoc' basis without a clear vision for the future. A year and a half later, we are still confused over Indonesian laws, UNTAET regulations and our own legislation, most of which the population does not know.

There is also the fact that Parliament has not drafted a single piece of legislation and continues to act upon drafts prepared by the Government; adding to this is the fact that Parliament has not yet decided to elect the Judge for the Court of Appeal. I am listing these things because contrary to thinking that we are developing the country we would do better in thinking that we are still in the stage of consolidating the State apparatus.

There is a feeling created in society that State institutions were ailing because of lack of institutional solidarity, of dialogue, and of communication, which hampered an in-depth debate on issues of national interest. But we must keep in mind at all times that institutional solidarity does not mean, nor should it ever mean, 'collusion' between sovereign entities on matters that do not represent the interests of the Nation and the People.

The third moment, which was of grave concern to the population, was the misunderstanding between FDTL and PNTL. Both institutions need greater assistance in the field of ethics and professionalism. On December 10 this year, the Prime Minister correctly reminded both institutions of the need to acquire awareness that both are State forces and, therefore, there should be no parties within them. This means that neither FDTL nor PNTL, even less so, owe allegiance to party interests because their sole allegiance is to the Law and the Constitution. .

The fourth moment was the controversy between judicial institutions and the Court of Appeal proving that we have not yet understood that we need each other. Without this understanding, the State will become a Banana Republic. The independence of the Courts does not mean in itself that the State as a whole and, the society in general, may not express an opinion on the action of judges, prosecutors, lawyers or the police. Independence of the Courts does not mean that being a judge, a prosecutor, a lawyer or a police officer turns every action or decision into a correct one.

We must pursue our efforts to continue the building of the State so that, step by step, it may be truly consolidated in the future.

Members of Parliament Members of the Government Ladies and Gentlemen,

Much is said on corruption. Let us not lose sight of the undeniable fact that we have acquired the mentality of the former regime that fostered corruption as a necessary ailment and, on the other hand, that we still experience this difficult phase of correcting that mentality; this is the hardest battle of all. It applies to all without exception!

People complain that sometimes prices in Dili shops are lower than those suggested by 'procurement'. When traders are questioned over this they stress that they did not raise prices but rather that it was an arrangement made by 'procurement'. But of course, the paperwork filed in the Treasury Office reveals absolute transparency!

Investors complain that there are too many routes and hands to deposit money before a license is issued. Many also state that it will not be possible to put an end to the illegal lottery because some are earning reasonable and important amounts from it. Some information reports that the lottery is played three times a week with a flow of USD,75,000 representing a monthly flow of USD 900,000. In some districts, some have won prizes of USD 3000 . This represents a yearly flow of USD 10 million a year and we refuse to believe that it was all prize money or that it remains in the country.

The commitment and initiative taken by the Government to hold a workshop on transparency and responsibility deserve our appreciation. However, it is our duty to continue drawing attention to the need to establish strong mechanisms to avoid allowing lack of transparency or responsibility to become a cancer in our society.

We have noted the commitment by the Government to do well and extend our appreciation to some Ministries that have undertaken efforts to comply; however, we have also noted the need for continued improvement in programme execution and strictness of adopted measures. For example, much was said about foreign street vendors selling freely throughout the territory whilst everyone kept waiting for the converted Immigration Act, which the President vetoed. Now that the legislation has come into effect we are still incapable of exerting better control of this problem, which has effects on the economy of our population and raises issues of national security.

We were pleased to know of the Government's intention to create an opportunity for consultation and debate on the investment law to major potential investors. As a country taking its first steps, this was the best option and we wish to commend the Government for this.

It is time for us to think carefully over this matter for it is also time to create job opportunities for our youth. However, we must also give some thought to the fact that our youth is unskilled. Once investments flow into the country and to avoid limiting our youth to security and cleaning jobs, the Government has the duty to design a vocational training programme for the youth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last year, together with the Government, we held a meeting with Martial Art groups. If Timor-Leste had a similar number of enterprises, with dozens of 'experts', hundreds of professional coaches and thousands of members, as the Martial Arts groups have at this point, our country would have leaped ahead ten years in the struggle against poverty and in strengthening tolerance and mutual respect.

Unfortunately, we do not have such a number of enterprises or with such influence; we only have martial art organizations. We asked those in charge who call themselves Presidents (Timor-Leste must have the highest number of Presidents in the world) to prepare and present the Statutes of these organisations, to register as organisations and design a code of ethics to guide the character of the youth. We asked the Government to draft a regulation or law that could curb the excesses practiced by some organizations.

Today, we are saddened to still observe this type of brutal and stupid violence, where there is no respect towards 'others' and, worst of all, for other people's lives. We must definitely put an end to this situation. We must adopt preventive but also penalizing measures. We must ban, even if only temporarily, organisations that do not know how to educate their young members or followers. We must impose harsh penalties upon these organisations for the pain they are causing to society and, above all, for the evil they are spreading in the future generation of this country.

I urge the Government to adopt one of the martial art disciplines in. schools, as part of the syllabus, thus avoiding such organisations from transforming the youth.

On the other hand, I wish to commend the Football Federation for organising, for the first time in our country, the calendar for the official competition football matches. Since 2000, I have followed the difficulties faced with organising sports activities.

This initiative will avoid last minute organisation of 'ad-hoc' teams to represent the country; 'last minute organisation' will not only lead to losing matches but also ethics, technique and to a lack of strategy definition for matches. Audiences still cheer our teams because we are the youngest country in the world. But we can not expect everyone to cheer forever just for this reason; this reminds us that one of our laws states that a married citizen with 7 children is still young if not older than 35 years of age.

I urge everyone to actively support the other Federations so that we may direct our youth to practise sports instead of martial arts that only lead to arguments and violence. I wish to stress that such support ought to be real rather than make-believe to avoid repetition of former fund-raisers, such as when the football team was to play in Sri Lanka and some entrepreneurs announced donations worth thousands of dollars but never gave a cent. Either we want to assist or we cannot assist; whichever way, we must be honest.

Members of Parliament Members of the Government

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know UNMISET will end in May 2004. The question of security and stability is a matter of concern to our people. When we discuss security and stability, we may think that it is only about having an adequate police force or of having that Special Police Unit to be ready in May and whether it will be ready to respond to needs.

Security and stability can hardly be limited to this. Several other issues must be taken into account and it is our responsibility to be actively involved and in tune so to resolve these problems.

We must all concentrate further to understand the reason for the existence of radical groups. After all these years we must not trick ourselves into thinking that it is not a major problem and worse still, that is it the problem of some. The Parliament and mostly the parties must try to pay due attention to this and to finding a solution. Civil society should also participate in the search for a solution. It is always very easy to accuse those groups of all sorts of deeds. It is always easier to observe from afar and point fingers at the wrongdoings of these groups against the population and regret or demand for punishment.

In a way, this has shown our collective inability to find an answer. We should not be as bold as to ask solely for punitive measures but rather find political and economic answers. The political parties need to come down to earth, the root of the problem and formulate opinions so as to breed dialogue. Let us stop regretting and instead foster debate with the communities and these groups. Political parties must take up this responsibility. As soon as this general involvement takes shape, administrative measures will be adopted to complement the effort.

Only thus, can we avoid having the population living in fear; only thus, can we avoid having the population extorted; only thus, can we avoid having bandit groups spread out in the bush to threaten the population at night.

We must also pay greater attention to the political and social conditions of the population along the border and, whenever possible, gradually improve their living standards. We must not confine ourselves to drawing remarks on border infiltrations, regretting the unpreparedness of our Border Patrol Police Units or, least of all, continue to be so dependent on PKF's presence. Not only because there are worse conflict situations than ours that also deserve our solidarity but mostly because we need to know how to look into our problems in a holistic manner and to know how to acquire the capacity to solve them.

Everyone knows about the 26 who fled to Atambua; some of us felt concern, others felt it was not their problem. This is a problem of the country and all of us in this Hall, as country representatives, and therefore we it is a problem for each and every one of us.

You all heard recently that a group of armed bandits entered the country via Cailaco and you should all know that another group of armed bandits is in Suai. This pertains to security and stability the security and stability of the country.

Given the budget deficits we are facing I doubt anyone shares the idea of asking donors, in the coming months and years, for funding to continue increasing the Police Special Unit, to buy more weapons and ammunition, more cars, more fuel, more rations, more tents, more uniforms for border operations so that we may feel safe in Dili and not feel the need to pile up sand bags bordered by barbed wire along our daily routes.

We all yearn for stability so that the funds we receive may be allocated for education, health, infrastructure, and agriculture, in sum, for the economic development of the country.

I understand the Government will carry out more projects in the border regions next year; this will bring greater confidence to the population. However, I wish to seize this opportunity to urge NGOs, mostly the international ones, to cooperate better in the assistance provided to less privileged communities along the border.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was pleased to see that, during the Donors Conference, the Government made a commitment to the reconciliation process. The active involvement of all State institutions is of paramount importance. No one should forget that we still have thousands of fellow citizens in West Timor and they are longing to come back; we should spare no efforts in assisting them to come back.

I urge the Government to take this to the Council of Ministers and adopt the necessary support measures. I urge the Parliament to consider this issue seriously and adopt a national policy to inspire greater confidence in citizens. I urge the Judiciary not to waste too much time thinking on how to take people to trial but rather to think that in a State as fragile as ours and that we all represent and want to stabilise, the need for moderation and pragmatism does not necessarily mean denial of principles and values.

Reconciliation with, and the repatriation of, our compatriots is a matter that concerns all, mostly the State, because our People are longing for it and expect State institutions to work in a collective, coordinated and efficient manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last week, we attended the public hearings on the political conflict of 1974 to 1976 that had repercussions on the years that followed. This process demanded humility and courage from political parties and their leaders to recognise mistakes and assume responsibility. Everyone was exemplary in doing so. It was yet another process, which Timor-Leste, although still a young and fragile country facing huge difficulties was capable to assert.

On behalf of the struggling people of Timor-Leste and, above all, on behalf of the victims and their families, I wish to extend my gratitude to the political parties and their leaders for this great political gesture. Notwithstanding, I also wish to remind you that the process is not yet finished. As from now, we will encourage efforts to be undertaken by each party to rehabilitate the good name of each victim meaning that no one will be forgotten. At individual level, compensation is the recognition that they were victims.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For some, it is easy to feel pleased that finally UNMISET is leaving. For others, it is comforting to think that we ought to ask to stay. During two decades of struggle we always said: independence will enable us to be masters of our destiny. The question today is: what does it mean to be "master" and what does "destiny" mean?

"Masters of our destiny" simply means "we, ourselves, solving our own problems". 'We' means all of us, above all, those of us who hold the responsibility to make decisions.

We must face the post-UNMISET period with honesty and a sense of reality. They may be people or groups waiting for the post-UNMISET period. If we do not anticipate this, if we are not ready, the post-UNMISET period may be a disaster and I fear that we may fall into comfortable excuses so as to justify our mistakes with UNMISET's departure.

It is imperative that we direct our thoughts and actions to ensuring that 2004 becomes the YEAR OF STABILITY!

Only political and social stability can promote a climate of trust that, step by step, will allow us to meet the needs of the People.

I, therefore urge for greater dialogue between institutions. There is nothing to be gained when individuals close themselves in niches of wisdom; the whole Nation will gain with people getting together to discuss and seek the best solutions.

The fugitive smiles we exchanged with handshakes when we meet at ceremonies or receptions are not enough if we do not release ourselves from our niches in the sovereign and independent entities. We are all independent when it comes to drawing our signatures on invitations; but we are all dependent in this difficult process of building our State and when we make decisions on matters of national interest.

I recommend that, the Government establish a dialogue with the political parties, mostly on issues of national interest, either regularly or whenever necessary.

Only thus will the State be able to breathe the air of National Unity and safeguard the principle of independence of the institutions and political plurality.

Members of Parliament Members of the Government Ladies and Gentlemen,

If 2004 is to be paramount in asserting our capacity to solve problems, I suggest that the following objectives be met during 2004:

There is great need in the coming 6 months to establish the two presidential consultative bodies: the Council of State and the Superior Council for Defence and Security.

In the coming months it is equally crucial to adopt the Law on Local Governance so that local administrations and community heads may contribute more actively and efficiently in the solution of local problems, including the security of the population. No one doubts the importance of adopting a Law on Investment to create the trust needed in our process. It is equally relevant to establish as soon as possible the 'Provedoria da Justiça a Direitos Humanos' for it can become a catalyst in the struggle against corruption, clienteles and abandonment of responsibility.

Present circumstances demand that we do not postpone the drafting of legislation on Civil Service for another year; we need a system to regulate and encompass every civil servant, to define their status, privileges and duties. It is necessary to have legislation on political parties to avoid having the State recognising some and not all, thus creating mistrust and enmity, which lead to intolerance and radicalism as it has in the past.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Stability demands responsibility. There are different levels of responsibility, and there are different types of responsibility. There is political responsibility, moral responsibility, intellectual responsibility, social responsibility and individual responsibility as citizens.

If every segment of Timorese society understood their level of responsibility the process of building our State would be easier. To that end, it is paramount that the primacy of the Law becomes a practice that inspires confidence in all of us. We all owe obedience to the Law; therefore, in these initial difficult stages, the institutions that ensure law enforcement must undertake a continued effort not to be the one to breach the Law.

Only with the Rule of Law and primacy of the Law, can the democratic State be achieved where the People will be the main beneficiary of independence.


Mr Speaker Mr Prime Minister Mr President of the Court of Appeal Distinguished Members of Parliament and Government Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Ambassadors and Heads of Diplomatic Missions Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen

To conclude, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

To our People, Merry Christmas and New Year filled with renewed trust in the future!



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