SPEECH BY PRESIDENT FRANCISCO GUTERRES LÚ OLO AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE NEW MEMBERS OF THE EIGHTH CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT

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Ladies and gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Your Excellencies to the Nicolau Lobato Presidential Palace.

I especially welcome the new members of the government, whom I have just sworn in. I also take this opportunity to extend my warmest greetings to all other government members. I wish the Eighth Government success and fruitful work in the service of Timor-Leste’s progress.

Everybody knows that the country is focussed on combating the spread of the coronavirus. The fight against this pandemic belongs to each of us and to each nation; this fight is on a global scale. Let us therefore be aware of the global dimension of this pandemic: the number of confirmed cases worldwide is already close to six million and the number of people dead is close to four hundred thousand. But, so far, no one – not even the scientific community – can predict the outcome of this pandemic.

In Timor-Leste, the entire state and society are united in the fight against this public calamity. With the help of all Timorese people, we have so far managed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community and avoid fatalities within our territory.

The prevention and mitigation measures taken by the government, the Integrated Crisis Management Office, and all the entities involved – as well as the participation of the citizens in the implementation of those measures – have allowed us to control the situation of calamity created by this pandemic.

Today, 60 days after the implementation of the state of emergency, the fight to prevent and contain the coronavirus and to improve the conditions for treating its infection is already returning positive results at the national level; and our continuing fight can already be done with fewer restrictions than before – although it will continue requiring greater vigilance and the adoption of behaviours that avoid the disease, like washing our hands frequently, wearing a mask, and maintaining the recommended social distance. We have reached a situation where we are confident that the fight against this natural calamity is in our hands, and that, together with the international community, we will be able to overcome the tragedy of the coronavirus.

I therefore wish to warmly congratulate all our people and extend a special greeting to the Prime Minister, to the honourable members of Parliament, to all workers in the front line of the fight against the pandemic, to the religious denominations and their leaders, and to civil society as a whole. We have been able to, conscientiously and responsibly, stop the spread of the coronavirus by taking a joint, united, coordinated, vigorous and effective action.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Because of the spread of COVID-19, countries large and small, rich and poor, are now in recession. All around the world, companies went bankrupt and mass lay-offs occurred.

Our country is no exception. Our gross domestic product has dropped significantly. Families and individuals have less money in their pockets and, therefore, the purchasing power of families and individuals is at risk. Within this context, an increase in the number of families experiencing food shortages, malnutrition, rickets, anaemia, and other diseases is to be expected. The Council of Ministers, under the guidance of Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, has rightly taken measures to alleviate the negative consequences of the state of emergency on the population. This is a difficult choice. Not declaring a state of emergency would have paved the way for an uncontrollable situation that would cause the collapse of our already fragile national health system and an unpredictable number of human lives would be lost.

The COVID-19 economic response plan devised by the government meets the goals for post-pandemic recovery. The plan is focussed on the citizens, but also on rebuilding the economic fabric of the country. Within the scope of this plan, the 142 million dollars that have been allocated will help alleviate the burden on many households, individuals, workers and entrepreneurs.

It is now urgent that the wisdom in the decision making be accompanied by swiftness and effectiveness in its implementation.

Excellencies

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Prime Minister has proposed the appointment of new members of government and a first change to its organization, in order to make the action of the Eighth Constitutional Government stronger and more effective.

This government has the constitutional legitimacy that comes from the National Parliament. A new majority has clearly expressed its support for this government, providing the stability required to ensure the country’s governability for the duration of its term.

The President of the Republic sought to contribute to the strengthening of national unity and the promotion of a policy of greater inclusion in the government action by promoting a dialogue with all political parties represented in parliament and other political forces, as well as religious denominations and social organisations. The vast majority of the parties represented in parliament have been taking increasingly positive positions in this regard, which encourages me to continue the path of dialogue.

These signs of broader national unity indicated by the parties with parliamentary seats reflect the people’s desire for unity and greater participation in government, towards swifter and more effective national development.

I am certain that we all want UNITY to meet the great challenges which not only the state and the government, but the entire Timorese nation face.

We are therefore in new circumstances in parliament, which enable the Prime Minister to propose new members of the government for positions that had yet to be filled, as well as for new positions created by the government’s remodelling. It is the backing of this new parliamentary majority that allows the Prime Minister to continue to fully exercise his constitutional powers.

For my part, as President of the Republic, and after considering the proposals submitted by the Prime Minister, I have decided to accept those proposals, relying on my own sole judgement and in the exercise of the constitutional powers bestowed upon me by article 86(h) and article 106(2) of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

This way, we are taking fundamental steps to resolve what was considered a political stalemate with regard to the full formation of the Eighth Constitutional Government.

Great expectations are placed on the Prime Minister and on this government. Those expectations are not limited to beating COVID-19 and recovering from the negative effects of the floods that have devastated our country.

We all also expect this government and its Prime Minister to kick-start the recovery of our economy from the deceleration of our gross domestic product and from unemployment, which are becoming a growing threat to the well-being of us all. The root causes of this situation are structural and prior to COVID-19 and their resolution is key to stop our country from falling into a real economic recession.

It is urgent to think about a new model of economic and social development that places people at its centre.

The members of the government now being inaugurated come in at a time when, more than ever, high demands are made on our governing authorities. The People and the President of the Republic expect you to demonstrate dedication, hard work, team spirit, and conscientiousness in the performance of your duties.

Mr Prime Minister,

I’m sure that you’re as concerned as I am. Getting decisions with direct impact on people’s lives implemented on the ground is the challenge. I know that you are committed, and so I call on the newly inaugurated members of the government to surrender to the work in earnest.

Today more than ever, the prevention measures aim to save lives. However, mitigating the negative effects forces us to be quick in the implementation, so that people can have access to what they need in these difficult times.

The government and the Prime Minister can count on the President of the Republic. Like the Prime Minister, I have fought in the armed struggle for 24 years – and we learnt valuable lessons from it. One of them is that in difficult times such as these in which the world and Timor-Leste are living, we need humility, mutual respect, and the ability to work as a team by listening to one another.

By recognising what is essential from what is secondary, we will put aside unnecessary quarrels and join forces to do what needs to be done.

The struggle has taught me that, equipped with those qualities – humility, respect, teamwork, the ability to listen – we will make the most of adversity and come out stronger.

Members of the Government,

To be a member of the government is to take on a great responsibility. In difficult times, I hope that the members of the government will be the first in terms of sacrifice, ability to work, and humility to listen to and understand the aspirations of our citizens, especially the poorest among them. In fact, we must provide timely responses to their yearnings!

I have reasons to be hopeful. We have overcome so many obstacles; why wouldn’t we overcome this one too?

I wish you success in your work.

Long live Timor-Leste!

Thank you very much.