Subject: RSI: Xanana on the challenges facing Timor Leste

President Xanana Gusmao on the challenges facing Timor Leste

Producer: Yvonne Gomez

First broadcast: 30 September 03, <>Radio Singapore International

Xanana Gusmao the President of the world's newest republic, Timor Leste, is currently visiting Singapore. Accepting a "Leadership with Integrity" award, he spoke about the challenges Timor Leste faces in nation-building. Yvonne Gomez finds out more in this report.

YG: President Gusmao is hailed as a hero among his people in Timor Leste. Despite the country's successful bid for independence after years of violence and bloodshed, the new nation struggles to build its economy and other social systems like education and a competent judiciary. President Gusmao spoke about the process of nation building.

XG: Everybody knows that we are in the beginning of a long process. Nation-building is really a long-term process. The length of time the process takes is determined by the policies and programmes of development adopted by those in power. Timor-Leste finds itself in the process of nation-building. The process of nation-building requires all the segments of society to develop a force, which by itself, will subsequently become a pillar of citizenship.

YG: He also touched on the role of reconciliation in the healing process following the years of conflict with Indonesia.

XG: And because we are also facing problems of post-conflict situation, we see that reconciliation is important. Very important not only at the national- but also at the community-level. It is because actors and victims feel that since they live together, they have to deal with problems. What we could do in the border meetings was only as facilitators between victims and actors. It was a difficult process - a difficult process where our people had to be brave in the sense that they could forgive the actors of the violence and the killings. I can say that they did. People forgave. Reconciliation helps in the healing process, in accepting mistakes and in embracing new values. Sometimes we face problems of international pressure. People say justice is important, and is fundamental to societies. Yes, justice is important, but it ought to be achieved in a way that honours it, rather than achieving it for the sake of revenge. This is a challenge, a difficulty that we are facing in our nation-building.

YG: In nation building, President Gusmao believes that citizens should take ownership of the process, and that decisions should be made by the central government, as well as at a grassroots level.

XG: Nation-building is about community building. It is by enhancing the decision-making structures at the local level, that a nation can grow. But democracy can become a reality when people feel a part of the process. We are trying to avoid that the central government does everything and makes all the decisions. We are trying to get the people to decide their own development, to solve their own problems. It is something that we regard as very important in nation-building.

YG: By his own observation of world events, President Gusmao has come to realise that even after winning independence for his country, Timor Leste needs to inject real meaning to its new-found autonomy by learning from the mistakes of other nations.

XG: Even during our struggles, we tried to understand the war, we tried to understand why many other countries, that have already been independent for decades, are still facing problems, internal violence and conflict, and the people are still facing poverty, famine, illiteracy and disease. By understanding the mistakes of some other countries, and by learning from the example of other countries, we've started to realise that independence is not only about having a flag, a constitution, state institutions like a President, Parliament, government and ministries, that we have to give value to the independence itself.

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