National Elections Commission
Dili, 07 April 2018
Your Excelency, the President of Court of Appeal, Dr. Deolindo dos Santos
Your Excellency, the Minister of Defence and Security, representing the Prime-Minister
Members of the Government,
President and commissioners of the National Elections Commission,
Leaders and representatives of the political parties and electoral coalitions
Distinguished members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
People of Timor-Leste.
I warmly salute all who are present here today. Greetings also to all citizens throughout Timor-Leste and in far away lands. The participation of all citizens in the upcoming election is very important to strengthen our democracy.
I begin by expressing my satisfaction at this initiative and by saluting the National Elections Commission for promoting this National Unity Pact.
Together, in peace and stability, we can contribute for Timor-Leste to take a leap – towards development of our beloved land so that we all can access higher levels of wellbeing, in the present and over the next five years.
What identifies us as a people are the traditions that our ancestors transmitted to us. Let us not forget, therefore, traditions – they are our root. However, we can innovate. Innovation is creating, today and in the future, new knowledge, enriching our culture. We must harmonize tradition and innovation in order to continue to develop the country, keeping our Timorese identity alive.
The traditional ceremonies with which this event began come from our deepest national culture, from those roots – and hold the conviction of obligation, as they herald their own sanctions.
Tradition says: “Laos ai-manas, manas kedas iha nia hun”! The adage means that he is mistaken, the transgressor who might think he will go unpunished as he is inclined to the awareness of his injury … sooner or later. The lia-nain with us here today will be able to say more about this.
And let us not forget that the citizens of Timor-Leste have to respond to the formal law, in particular the laws we have approved and enacted after the Restoration of Independence. The formal law has its own statute and its own rules, as well as sanctions that the law itself establishes.
This must draw the attention of those who have promised obedience here today, by signing the Pact. I believe they will honour their promise, out of political maturity and sincerity with the only goal of better serve our country and the people whom we love.
It was with great honour and pride that we learnt that Timor-Leste was ranked as the most democratic country in our region, Southeast Asia. This ranking has been granted by the research and analysis division Economist Intelligence Unit, a private organisation independent from governments and public opinion. The Democracy Index for 2017, published in January 2018, honours the name of Timor-Leste within the international community and reiterates honourable assessments obtained in previous years in this subject matter.
Besides being the most democratic country in the geographical region of ASEAN, the Democracy Index ranks Timor-Leste as one of the five most democratic countries in the whole Asia-Pacific region. The Index gives our country a score equal to that of Japan – despite us being the youngest independent state in Asia and having started building our democratic institutions less than 20 years ago. Fast but firmly with our ability and wisdom we have advanced the process of the continued construction of democracy.
This kind of international assessment about quality of democracy, quality of education or of social development, in general, is important to us as the research and analysis unit of the Economist is followed up by governments, businessmen, and international investors.
The Democracy Index values the participation levels of citizens – including men and women. It shows the wider world that Timor-Leste is able to hold free, peaceful and fair elections and values us as Timorese, as we are free to enjoy the rights, freedoms and guarantees that our Constitution establishes. The Restoration of Independence, on May 20, 2002, allowed us to again exercise the rights we now enjoy, after a long struggle that cost countless sacrifices.
As a son of Timor-Leste, I feel immense joy and justified pride, because the quality of the democracy in our land is a conquest and a success of our people. These are successes coming from each one of us as citizens, from each family, community group, political party and institution. They are the people’s successes.
I highly admire and appreciate the political maturity once again displayed by our people while following political developments in the country over the last months. I believe that voters know well why we return to the polls and what democracy is. I believe that each citizen will vote according to his own will and choose the party or coalition that will better serve the country in the next five years.
It is important that the 12 May elections strengthen the resolve of our citizens: I call on all citizens to commit themselves to focusing our efforts on the priorities of development and the improvement of the people’s living conditions in our land.
The National Unity Pact is a commitment made by all parties and coalitions. As the Pact is aimed at ensuring peace and stability throughout the electoral process and after elections, as President of the Republic I also support it:
– On one hand, in the context of the honest electoral commitments which I signed in the 2017 elections and keep on promoting and defending;
– And also in the fulfilment of the duties and competences that the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste confers to the Head of State.
Nevertheless, it is not up to the Head of State alone to ensure peace, stability and the conditions for the exercise of the rights of the citizens, including the right to development.
To promote favourable conditions for development is a duty of all citizens – and foremost of those who aim to be the people’s vanguard to better serve Timor-Leste and the Timorese.
I wish to express once again my wishes for this National Unity Pact to contribute to the strengthening of the conditions of unity in society and the country. To all the political forces running for election, to party leaders, older or younger, I only want to say:
Your criticism during the electoral campaign must be focused on policies and proposals presented. Not on attacking people.
I have no doubt that criticism may be necessary and useful to political discussion to advance and point to ways for development.
But as we have conquered peace through the sacrifice of our people – of all people –, our citizens do not want to hear of any more attacks. They also do not want feeling under attack for belonging to any party A, or B, or C.
No. Citizens want to hear about political programs to develop Timor-Leste. Let’s conduct a free, honest and useful electoral campaign to improve the country.
I call on the leaders, on all candidates, activists and the common people: do not insult. Instead, present policies for development. For the good of our country, let us make this election one more step towards development, furthering the construction of our beloved land and the fight against poverty!
I call on you all to help turn these elections into a new demonstration of the democratic culture of our country, recognized and admired by the international community. Let us keep holding on high the name of Timor-Leste and the Timorese. We must all contribute to turning politics into an instrument of development and improvement of the people’s wellbeing.
I conclude by expressing my wishes for successful work to the leaders, activists, and members of all parties and coalitions. You are the key elements at this ceremony and I wish you all good luck.
This sacred land demands our help, our participation so as to continue fulfilling the dreams of our ancestors:
– Of upholding our right to development;
– Of upholding Timor-Leste’s right to democracy and wellbeing for all.
The time has come! May God help us all!
Long live the Timorese people. Long live Timor-Leste.