The Guardian January 31, 2001

Xanana Gusmao: The right to live in peace and harmony

A new year's message from Xanana Gusmao, President of the CNRT/CN Dili 
East Timor Dec 31, 2000

Compatriots! Timorese!

Today, in East Timor, we are witnessing a move by politicians to affirm, or 
re-affirm, their position in society. Some try to defend points of view 
that are almost contrary to common sense just to recruit some followers 
because they claim to be the defenders of the "underprivileged".

Others, resort to past memories, become untouchable and, because of this, 
become insensitive to the (real) facts of history.

They live in and revisit the past as an alternative to confronting common 
sense and reality.

They claim historic impunity, they surround themselves by angels of peace 
and heroes of a revolution ... that brought grief and left scars in our 

Others, living thousands of kilometres away from Dili, spout forth points 
of view as if they own a knowledge of their own, in a remote-control-style 
very much in line with the globalisation that turned each country into a 
larger or smaller village in this world.

Timorese reality

We are witnessing another phenomenon in East Timor; that of an obsessive 
acculturation to standards that hundreds of international experts try to 
convey to the East Timorese, who are hungry for values:

* democracy (many of those who teach us never practised it in their own 
countries because they became UN staff members);

* human rights (many of those who remind us of them forget the situation in 
their own countries);

* gender (many of the women who attend the workshops know that in their 
countries this issue is no example for others);

* NGOs (numerous NGOs live off the aid "business" to poor countries);

* Youth (all those who remind us of this issue know that in their countries 
most of the youth are unemployed and that experience is the main employment 
drive apart from some exceptions based on intellectual skills).

It might sound as though I am speaking against these noble values of 
democratic participation. I do not mind if it happens in the democratic 
minds of people.

What seems to be absurd is that we absorb standards just to pretend we look 
like a democratic society and please our masters of independence.

What concerns me is the non-critical absorption of (universal) standards 
given the current stage of the historic process we are building.

Old democracies are no longer like a smooth pavement or a linear social 
process where such standards slide along without the slightest friction.

What concerns me is that the Timorese may become detached from their 
reality and, above all, try to copy something which is not yet clearly 
understood by them.

It is necessary that we are sincere and humble so that we do not lose track 
of the highest interests of our People.


Democracy is not built overnight and it is by experiencing the system that 
democracy can be shaped.

Some think that mere political party membership is a synonym of democracy 
and, therefore, it does not need to be cared for.

School-aged youths think democracy empowers them with the right to protest, 
criticise and insult the teachers, to skip or disturb classes.

Some adults share the opinion that democracy demands that everyone must 
decide on everything.

This process of preparation for independence is not an easy one when we 
discuss issues such as democracy, human rights and freedom.

There is some anxiety for self-affirmation which the international staff 
currently in East Timor try to enhance; they forget how unaware they are of 
the whole process of our people's struggle and, therefore, encourage the 
expression of various forms of difference as if this was the only way of 
ensuring democracy.

This natural need for self-affirmation, of parties and individuals, whether 
politicians or not, leads to a strong ill-feeling against the CNRT as if 
the CNRT was the main enemy of political parties and civil society.

To a certain extent, this situation is encouraged by the perception shared 
by many international organisations that the CNRT is a political party.

It is hard for us to believe that foreigners who come to East Timor to work 
do not have some knowledge of Timorese political reality.

Foreigners should bear in mind that the essential condition for their 
operational success is to be aware that they do not come to save East Timor 
but rather to fulfill a mission of support; therefore, if they are not 
aware of this reality they will face the ungrateful mission of earning 
money for six months and returning to their homes, as so many have done, 
often revealing themselves to be less skilled than the East Timorese who 
can not find a job.

CNRT and political process

CNRT is looked at as an obstacle to the development of political parties. 
Those who fiercely attack the CNRT forget something. The CNRT is paving the 
way so that, in the near future, the parties may run for political power.

They also forget that CNRT is not a political party. We all know that if, 
one day, the CNRT were to turn into a political party, there would be no 
party capable of competing with CNRT.

The CNRT is quite certain of this although it will not do it.

The CNRT would like to say to the political parties and politicians that 
because the CNRT is more mature and better prepared than the parties, it 
will not exploit the current emotional condition of our People.

The CNRT is concerned with political stability during the post-independence 
period; the CNRT is concerned with the environment of peace and harmony 
that must be created amidst the population.

Our People have that right: THE RIGHT TO LIVE IN PEACE AND HARMONY!

Our political experience over the past 25 years alerts us to the 
possibility of violence amidst the people; we are observing manoeuvres by 
certain groups which are showing no respect whatsoever for our People's 
right to live in peace and the right to never again face a situation where 
Timorese kill other Timorese.

The CNRT is extremely concerned with the feelings some groups may begin 
having when there is violence amidst the population; a feeling of euphoria 
of a victory over "the others who got what they asked for" or because "they 
even have more supporters than we do".

CNRT is following the movement and the desire for affirmation or re-
affirmation of leaders and politicians. In fact, what our people need now 
is leaders, new leaders who are wise, thoughtful and with a broad vision of 
the process.

The CNRT only hopes that maturity resulting from 25 years of struggle may 
lead political parties to act with greater realism and objectiveness in 
their analysis on the complexity of the independence process.

A new millennium

January 1, 2001, will be the first day of the millennium. We are 
celebrating the most important New Year in modern history for we are about 
to enter a new millennium. In a few hours we will open a new chapter in the 
history of Mankind.

This unique event for Mankind will have a very special meaning for the 
Maubere People, Timor Lorosa'e will be engraved in the journals of history 
as the first independent country of this new millennium.

During the year 2000 many people celebrated the New Year as the beginning 
of the new millennium when it was actually merely the end of the old 

The year 2000 must be mostly considered as one of learning the numerous 
aspects of and the relationship with UNTAET (United Nations Transitional 
Administration in East Timor), with the international institutions and with 
the International Community.

If we do not understand this we will think of ourselves as able enough to 
rehabilitate everything overnight and to immediately do all that is 
necessary. This is being unrealistic.

Budgetary constraints are not UNTAET's; budgetary constraints are part and 
parcel of this transition and in its relationship with the donor community.

Of course there are many unfortunate things happening, many perceptions 
which are not in tune with Timorese reality, there is a lot more money 
available to pay the hundreds and hundreds of foreigners rather than for 

There is bad management or inclusion of structures and a heavy bureaucratic 
apparatus that, in some cases, resorts to corruption.

International staff are of the opinion that the East Timorese simply lack 
capacity and this opinion is seconded by some sectors of our society.

We do not call for a hasty transition period, an inadequate one "la 
Cambodia" where the international staff left a vacuum behind after leaving.

A clearly phased strategy

For this reason, we defend a clearly phased strategy for the political 

Rather than considering the success it may be for the UN we are 
concentrated on a process that may bring success to the suffering people of 
East Timor. And, eventually, the International Community will have assuaged 
its conscience for having assisted a martyred people.

We are about to commence a decisive year for East Timor and its People!

This year will be filled with political activity and, above all, activities 
that will involve the participation of the people.

The two foundations that sustain the transition towards independence are, 
as we have often stated, timorisation and the political process.

We must speak in one voice so that UNTAET will begin the timorisation 
process in a serious way. To appoint ministers is not to timorise.

To recruit Director-Generals or Heads of Departments and their staff will 
be our priority for the first quarter of 2001.

If this is not to happen we will be convinced that the extension of 
UNTAET's mandate only aims at benefiting the international staff who are 
handsomely paid in East Timor.

But if we are to undertake an appropriate and genuine timorisation, 
UNTAET's mandate will be looked at as an extension of the East Timorese 
capacity-building process.

Some people expressed their opposition to the political calendar.

We do not wish to discuss their reasons for differences of opinion are part 
of the democracy that all seem to so wisely put into practice. The 
timorisation process must evolve side by side with the development of the 
political process.

There will be a great number of political events during 2001. Civil 
Registration, as a database to be prepared for the Electoral Registration, 
will soon begin. The electoral system must be determined.

In January, the Regulation on Political Parties must also be prepared and 
adopted by the National Council.

This will enable the registration of political parties and give them a 
legitimate status to address the people; thus, we will hamper the activity 
by uncontrollable groups showing up as parties merely to create confusion 
amidst our people.

We urge New York to understand the East Timorese political reality; it is 
profoundly different from that in the United States which has just 
experienced moments during the recent presidential elections that countries 
undergoing democratisation processes called "the greatest democracy 

There will be civic education programmes throughout the territory to enable 
people to know the system to be set up in East Timor and to make people 
aware of the dimension of freedom, democracy, justice and peace, as basic 
conditions for progress and the well-being of every citizen.

A draft of a simple Constitution must also be drafted by the East Timorese 
whereby the fundamental universal principles, citizen's rights and the 
system of government will be clearly enshrined.

The debate of this draft with the population throughout the territory will 
enable the people to know the foundations of the Timorese Nation.

The National Council will also debate the Electoral Law; and once it is 
adopted there will be an electoral education campaign so that our People 
may have a genuine awareness of the democratic values by the time the first 
elections are held in the free Timor Lorosa'e.

The East Timorese People must feel by then total freedom to vote, i.e., 
they will not feel any kind of fear of intimidation or threat of reprisals.

Having said this, we truly believe that the electoral campaigns will be 
held in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.

Consequently, elections for the Constituent Assembly will also be held in a 
peaceful atmosphere.

Those who do not believe that our people will achieve this ought to recall 
August 30, 1999.

Those who feel sceptical about this process are those who were not in East 
Timor during the difficult and dramatic period experienced by our people.

If it is accepted that the Constitution should not be of a programmatic or 
ideological nature and that it should be simple and universal, the 
Constituent Assembly will not need a lengthy period of time to debate the 
first Constitution of Timor.

It will only require enough time to fine tune the draft that will then be 
adopted as the Constitution and which will come into effect on the first 
day of Independence.

We do not want a chaotic transition whereby for purposes of "revenge" the 
East Timorese will re-initiate the whole process again.

Phased and orderly transition

Once again, and to make it very clear, we wish to state that we defend a 
phased and orderly transition!

Independence is not forged by simply choosing the colour of the national 
flag or the choice of the day it will be proclaimed.

We understand independence as the system to be implemented and the capacity 
of the East Timorese to carry out their responsibilities even before 
independence is proclaimed.

The outcome of the elections will dictate the composition of the 
Constituent Assembly and may even be a reference for the setting up of the 

Consequently, political parties may (or may not) be called to debate this 
and to appoint members of the government.

This is the way the East Timorese are preparing themselves to gradually 
receive the transfer of responsibility until independence, including at 
ministerial level.

Similarly, the Legislative Assembly, as an elected body emerging from the 
Constituent Assembly, will gain greater experience and will also initiate 
its legislative activity in the run up to independence.

This is our perspective for the preparation of the East Timorese for 
independence, at all levels of governance. There may be other and better 

We perceive the elections, as the focal point of this political process for 
it will confer legitimacy to political acts.

The reviewing of ETTA's legal status may be easier to achieve with the 
existence of elected bodies. This process will meet the demands put forth 
in Security Council Resolution nr. 1272.

Dear compatriots

I repeat that this is CNRT's opinion and might not be accepted by the 
Timorese democratic society.

These thoughts are not being elaborated to serve CNRT's interests but 
rather the interests of the People which CNRT organised and mobilised to 
decide on their future and which the People has responded to with courage 
and determination.

As from January, the Timorese, political parties, politicians and 
intellectuals should initiate in-depth debates on the ideal Government 
structure (i.e. the minimum necessary one) to ensure that we do not inherit 
extremely heavy structures which are non-efficient and, above all, not 

These debates should also include the issues of centralisation and 

This will enable that, as from March, we will begin working on the budget 
for the next fiscal year from July 2001 to June 2002 because, in June 2001 
the Donors' Conference will be held in Canberra to decide on it.

There are political parties, politicians and intellectuals who claim rights 
but forget their duty to think carefully about this process so that the 
contribution of each individual may contribute to a better perception of 
the complexity of this problem.

CNRT is, therefore, convinced that the elections will be the engine for 
change, above all, for a change of still distorted mentalities that exist 
both in foreigners working in East Timor and in the East Timorese who seek 
self-affirmation in our society.

Dear CNRT Cadres

My last words are addressed to you.

Today we are being looked at as agitators of instability. August 30, 1999 
would not have happened if it had not been for your commitment and 

A year later, you are still committed to serving our People, without any 
salary. Many of the East Timorese who criticise you are well placed now.

The foreigners who look askance at you think you are about to take half of 
their salaries to provide for your families, build your homes or send your 
children to school.

They all forget that the fingers of one hand are too many to count the 
number of CNRT cadres who suffered in East Timor and are now working in the 
civil service.

They also forget that none of the CNRT cadres are working as UNTAET local 
staff. I will give you just one example, not to mention those which apply 
to NGOs and International Agencies.

In Oecussi, the local UNTAET staff were all pro-autonomy. And no one 
protests. However, any minor mistake by a CNRT cadre, where ever it may 
happen, is magnified to melodramatic proportions.

We were together during the extremely hard times of the struggle, when many 
of those who now arrive in East Timor, had no knowledge of our problem.

I am aware of the difficulties each one of you is facing in your private 
lives. Your and my experience is solely one of resistance.

We do not have the skills to hope for a job, and we acknowledge this with 
modesty. We have the CNRT imprint labelled on us and when others mention 
CNRT cadres, they are led to thinking of nepotism, corruption and lack of 

We have often mentioned amongst us that CNRT cadres are today like an old 
shirt that is thrown away when it is worn out.

This year will be very demanding of you and in your work with the 
population. Do not give up working to educate our people, to serve our 

I will be with you in undertaking this noble task, as you have already done 
in the past, as you have worked during the difficult years of resistance TO 

I will do my utmost and will bring down every obstacle so as to enable the 
establishment of a Credit Bank in East Timor.

A private Bank detached from meaningless political assumptions often 
referred to when it comes to CNRT cadres; a Bank that may give new 
perspective to your lives.

I will struggle for you as you have struggled for our People! Let us not 
think about rewards, where ever they may come from! The best reward was the 
victory achieved by our People on 30 August 1999 and there is no one in 
East Timor who can take from you the success of your work!

We still have work ahead, namely to lead our people to defend their right 
to live in peace and in harmony and avoid a repetition of the past 
experience of political violence.

In the meantime, we will organise ourselves in groups and learn the skills 
of management so that each one of you may be prepared to reconstruct your 

We will face new difficulties in this process but I know that you are 
always prepared to serve our People.

May 2001 bring success to your efforts in moving towards a genuine 
transition to independence and may it also bring you new prospects for the 

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