DOOR Newsletter on East Timor home
"We want to avoid too much
dependence on oil and gas revenues, however. For this reason, we greatly
appreciate international assistance to help diversify our economy, improve
farm productivity, and strengthen small enterprises in manufacturing and
tourism. Economic self-reliance is the cornerstone of true independence."
International Herald Tribune
Thursday, June 14, 2001
East Timor Is Worthy of Your Help
DILI, East Timor East Timor is entering the
final phase of its long struggle for independence, first from Portugal
and more recently from Indonesia. On Aug. 30, East Timorese will go to
the polls to vote for a constituent assembly. It will draft the constitutional
basis for an independent state.
We are ready. When I returned in late
1999, after representing the independence movement abroad during the Indonesian
occupation, I was shocked by the destruction, and part of me believed that
the country would never recover. But since then the East Timorese have
shown their extraordinary resilience. Dili now has more economic activity
than before the UN-organized referendum in August 1999 in which the overwhelming
majority voted for independence. In the rural
areas, although people still live in desperate poverty, they have planted
and harvested crops. With the support of the international community and
the UN transitional administration, they have elected local councils and
managed hundreds of local reconstruction projects.
Reconstruction is not yet complete, but
roads have been cleared, schools have been rebuilt and water, electricity
and irrigation systems have been repaired. Children are getting books to
read, and a national health service is being set up.
The political parties have debated peacefully
together and agreed on a legal framework and timetable for elections. The
task of recruiting an entire administration from scratch is almost complete,
and the public servants are taking power and responsibility into their
The reconstruction may not seem impressive
to visitors seeing the country for the first time, but they should realize
that 18 months ago East Timor was little but scorched earth.
We have made mistakes but have learned
from them. East Timor benefited from the experience of other countries
that have achieved independence. We realized early on that we would have
to manage within our own resources.
We have tried to create a capable public
administration with strong financial management that will make the best
use of international aid and our own taxpayers’ funds.
Recognizing the dangers of corruption
in new and fragile institutions, we have put in place mechanisms that provide
for transparent decision-making and effective financial controls. To avoid
an approach that is too top-down and centralized, we have favored reconstruction
programs which involve communities in setting priorities, and use local
skills and labor. East Timor has natural resources on which sustainable
economic growth can be based. In addition to our traditional farm production,
including premium grade coffee for export,
revenue from oil and natural gas projects in the
Timor Sea along with increased domestic revenues should, by around
2005, eliminate our dependence on international support to fund the core
operations of government.
We want to avoid too much dependence on
oil and gas revenues, however. For this reason, we greatly appreciate international
assistance to help diversify our economy, improve farm productivity, and
strengthen small enterprises in manufacturing and tourism. Economic self-reliance
is the cornerstone of true independence.
In addition to the support of foreign
governments, the United Nations and international
financial institutions, thousands of individuals around the world have
offered assistance and financial support to help East Timor recover from
the violence that followed our vote for freedom. We will continue to need
such help to make freedom a reality, and to combine political progress
with economic and social progress.
The writer, a Nobel peace laureate, is
the cabinet member for foreign affairs in the UN Transitional Administration
for East Timor. He attends a meeting in Canberra this Thursday and Friday
of governments and organizations providing aid. He contributed this comment
to the International Herald Tribune.
Added June 12
Mr Jose Ramos-Horta is an internationally-renowned
spokesperson for the East Timorese cause. He received the Nobel Peace Prize
in 1996 for “sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of small people”.
Mr Ramos-Horta has been a dynamic and determined
advocate for a free and independent East Timor. From 1976 until 1989, he
was the permanent representative of the Frente
Revolucionaria de Timor Leste Independente (FRETILIN) at the United
Nations. He currently holds the position of Cabinet Member for Foreign
Affairs, United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.
DOOR Newsletter on East Timor home
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