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Community Building Essential for Nation Building, says East Timor's President

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão (www.defenselink.mil)

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão (www.defenselink.mil)

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

Ladies and gentlemen,
There is a perception that we are situated between Australia and Indonesia. In the real map, we are linked to Indonesia, by land, and we have Australia to the south, separated by sea. In the experience arising from our relations Indonesia is a developing country, coming out of an economic crisis but selling us products that are less expensive than the Australian ones and Australia is a developed country and, at the same time, a donor.

In the process of building our nation we must also take into account the bilateral relations between the governments of Australia and of Timor-Leste, without speaking of the relations intrinsic to the Timor Sea. We all believe in the continuing commitment of the Australian government in supporting a development process in Timor-Leste that truly responds to the fundamental needs of our people.

Nevertheless, I must state that the government-to-government bilateral relationship does not meet all the needs. During the long resistance period, we were the recipients of an unforgettable psychological experience of solidarity from Peoples around the world; it gave us strength and courage to remain steadfast. After the Black September 1999, the vast humanitarian assistance brought to Timor-Leste was most crucial to the people, who felt that they were not forgotten in that period of grief.

However, after the emergency period, because not all the population was conveniently assisted and being aware of the timeframe for the political process under UNTAET, the concern began to be that the international community would abandon us. Already then, there was a need to look at the remaining International Agencies and NGOs as indispensable sources to continue the assistance to the population, where the arms of the government could not reach and this happened almost everywhere.

The Government still faces the hardships of a difficult beginning in every field. Therefore, at this point, I must stress the importance of the relations between the two peoples, between the communities of both our countries.

There are plenty of initiatives in this sense, proof of the solidarity and, above all, the affection of the Australian people. We have received immense assistance from State Governments, humanitarian groups, such as Rotary and others, including schools and children. The ‘friendship city’ project began in 2000, in various towns of Timor-Leste such as the City of Liechhardt with Maliana, City of Port Phillip with Suai, City of Brisbane with Oecusse, and many others.

For example, in Suai, due to the lack of rain, there was almost no food production in last year’s second season and in the recent rainy season. In November last year, because of the hunger that was spreading, I took dozens of tons of rice, corn and beans to that region.

Although the population needed the food, they simply told me: “President, we would rather you had brought us water”.

I know that Port Phillip in Victoria, is thinking of sending water pumps to extract water to be channelled to the farms and rice paddies of the population of the friendship city Suai.

It is important to continue encouraging such magnificent initiatives. I must confess and with certain feeling of guilt and shame, that I have not adequately followed the development of these initiatives.