Saturday, 10 December 2011

East Timor – a brief Update

Tempo Semanal, Opinion by Agio Pereira

Agio Pereira
Secretary state for Council Ministers
Timor-Leste is amongst the youngest nation-state of the United Nations system and is about to mark its first decade as a sovereign state, with equal status as any member of the United Nations. There is excitement about marking this tenth anniversary on 20 May 2012. Next year Timor-Leste will also celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the 1912 great Revolt of Manufahi, led by D. Boaventura, against Portuguese colonial rulers. Having experienced centuries of colonial rule, almost a quarter of a century of foreign occupation and a war of resistance, a referendum for self-determination followed by a bloody transition, and finally the gain of its rightful sovereignty as an independent nation on 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste is one country with incredible history prior to becoming a State. As this piece is being written, the National Parliament concluded the 13-day debate on the 2012 State Budget, ending with the approval of almost $USD1.7 billion in expenditure which largely provides the  kick off envisaged by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão to implement the 20 year Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030 approved by the Parliament earlier this year. Reflecting upon this very first decade of Statebuilding exposes the pain and the inspirational dynamics of this process with its many lessons of success as well as its weaknesses, and of national resilience - important lessons for the international community, particularly in the realms of nationbuilding and Statebuilding.        

Key words: Timor-Leste, elections, stability, political parties, CNRT, Fretilin, celebrations, nationbuilding and statebuilding, development, trust, peacebuilding 

In May 20, 2002, East Timor was renamed Timor-Leste. This change was made so that East Timor would not merely be defined as a geographical reference to the eastern part of the Timor island, but that its name should reflect a sovereign nation-state encompassing not only the eastern part of the island but also the smaller islands of Jaco and Ataúro, located respectively on the eastern most tip of the island and in the northern region facing the capital, Díli, as well as all the maritime waters and air space rightfully belonging to a sovereign state. On September 27, 2002, Timor-Leste became a full member of the United Nations, after 24 years of fighting against the illegal occupation by Indonesia and three years of administration by the United Nations’ mission UNTAET following the Popular Consultation, which was the referendum held under the auspices of the United Nations and organised by UNAMET.  On 20 May 2012, Timor-Leste will be ten years old as a sovereign state. This update delves into the process of nationbuilding and the building of the modern state of Timor-Leste and considers the many challenges faced and the reasons for its successes. After a number of serious crises exposing institutional weaknesses and polarised politics, the current government succeeded in regaining the trust of the people in the institutions of the state.   The road towards consolidation of this institutional capacity building, however, still has diverse and complex challenges to overcome. Where Timor-Leste is now is the central discussion; where it is going will not be considered in detail, but the pattern of development achieved gives much hope that the future is bright for a resilient people and their state.

A history with much to celebrate, a future with much to be done
Understandably, as the year of 2012 approaches, there is growing excitement about marking the very first decade of sovereignty of Timor-Leste and the 10 year anniversary of existing on an equal footing, with the same responsibilities and rights, as all other members of the United Nations. For Timor-Leste joining the United Nations on September 27, 2002, meant commitment to abiding by and to implementing the provisions of the United Nations’ Charter. This is a huge responsibility. International security is one such responsibility. Prohibition on the use of force against other states and working towards global peace, are of paramount importance, as inherent principles of membership. Timor-Leste is well positioned to accommodate both provisions.  This is not only because of our culture of good leadership, demonstrated by the country receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, shared by Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo and Dr. José Ramos-Horta, but also because the people of Timor-Leste suffered 24 years of war with massive death toll and generational sacrifices. These particularities certainly position Timor-Leste, its people and leadership, with a disposition favoring peace and security.

In the year of 2012, Timor-Leste will celebrate three major events. One is the tenth anniversary of the restoration of independence; another is the 100 year anniversary of the revolt of Manufahi, led by D. Boanventura, in 1912. The third is the celebration of the 500 year anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese and the beginning of their colonial dominance. The last two celebrations are important political benchmarks. If on one hand the anti-colonial stand, led by D. Boaventura, can be rightly posited as the embodiment of the desire of the people of Timor-Leste to be independent, on the other, the five hundred years since the start of colonial rule can be viewed as the foundation of the modern process towards nationhood which ultimately led to the de jure right to be independent and sovereign. Both, therefore, complement each other. The celebrations will be important, but of more significance will be the enhancement of the deep understanding of the responsibilities of a Nation-State within the community of Nations, with particular emphasis on regional commitment towards security and peacebuilding. It is this understanding that will honor the sacrifices of those who perished in 1912, those who also suffered, for whatever political or other reason, during the centuries of colonial rule and, more recently, those who died under the 24-year Indonesian occupation. It is these sacrifices that made it possible for a Nation, that exists between two giant States – the Republic of Indonesia and the Commonwealth of Australia – to be able to strive successfully, with results that are already noticeable over ten years, as a sovereign State.  

Beyond its celebrations, 2012 will also mark an important turning point for the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. The second presidential election and the second legislative election will be held. These are free and democratic elections ever held in the history of Timor-Leste as an independent and sovereign nation-state. In the first two (presidential and legislative) elections, in 2007, the presidential election was undertaken without incident. The three main candidates, Dr. José Ramos-Horta running as an independent, Mr. Fernando ‘La Sama’ de Araújo, president of the Democratic Party and Mr. Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres, president of Fretilin, undertook their task as candidates in exemplar manners. The presidential election went to a second round and Dr. Ramos-Horta was comfortably elected, defeating Francisco Guterres. The legislative election, on the other hand, involved some violent incidents during the campaign period, resulting in the death of two persons, although whether these two deaths were directly related to the political campaign itself was not clear. The elections resulted in no single party obtaining an absolute majority to claim government in its own right and so, in accordance with the Constitution, the President was able to accept the post-electoral coalition named the Alliance of the Parliamentary Majority.

An alliance with a parliamentary majority was crucial for the stability of the State. First, because pursuant to the Timor-Leste constitutional system, the government of the day can be brought down if its proposed budget is rejected by the Parliament twice. This means having a majority in the Parliament is the only means to ensure that this does not occur. Second, the Government of the day can also face a vote of no confidence in the Parliament, put forward, obviously, by the opposition. If such a vote succeeds, the Government collapses and the President either establishes another government after consultation with the political parties represented in the Parliament or maintains a caretaker Government for elections to be help as soon as possible (in accordance with section 86 and 100 of the RDTL Constitution). A parliamentary majority is, therefore, crucial for national stability and the establishment of a foundation for development.

Will the 2012 legislative election produce an absolute majority for one party?  This is the sixty million dollar question. The behavior of the national electorate is not being tested frequently enough to provide a baseline by which an educated guess can be sustained. But there are some important indicators one may use to address this uncertainty. First, the party led by Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, CNRT, in 2007 had little time to prepare.  This was because Mr. Gusmão was then President of the Republic and only after the swearing-in of the new President was he free to lead his party to face the challenges of campaigning across the country to win votes.  The new President, Dr. José Ramos-Horta, was sworn-in by the Parliament on 20 of May 2007, and the thirty-day campaign kicked off immediately after that, leading to the vote on June 30, 2007. Fretilin, with a comfortable majority prior to that very first legislative election, lost 34 seats (out of previously 88-seat Parliament,[1] was reduced to only 21 seats in the current legislature. CNRT of Xanana Gusmão, in spite of being one of the newest parties in the campaign, managed 18 seats, only three less than Fretilin. Other major parties maintained approximately the same seats held previously, as a result of the Constituent Assembly election.

However, in the last two years Fretilin has made creative moves to regain the lost electoral ground. It has undertaken a process known as consolidação,[2] seeking to consolidate its support base and, from there, to work towards gaining further backing to win government in 2012. In addition, Fretilin also held its congress this year after a direct ballot where each member was given the opportunity to vote to re-elect the President and the Secretary-General of the party. Increasingly, Fretilin appears more confident in achieving its ultimate goal of taking back government. Whether this level of confidence reflects reality, remains to be seen. The next election will be held on June 29, 2012 at which time it can be confirmed whether Fretilin’s optimism is justified. Other parties have also been aggressively pursuing consolidação and for the same reasons, with some more visible than others. The Democratic Party (PD) has just completed its second congress in Díli, with 5000 (five thousand) representatives. Both, the incumbent President and Secretary-General were re-elected. The decision made by the Parliament last year to provide a subsidy for political parties with representation in the Parliament boosted the capacity of the Parliamentary Parties to pursue, with success, the revival and strengthening of their structures, their support base and their ability to succeed in the organisation of their national congress.   

For CNRT, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, who is also CNRT Party President, together with coalition partners, succeeded in re-establishing law and order and an overall sense of security, vital conditions for national development to proceed without unnecessary setbacks. Investment has been forthcoming, although much more is still needed to gear towards a satisfactory level of job creation so that long-term stability can be sustained. Major reforms with clear success have taken place. The creation of the national body for the public service, Comissão da Função Pública, (Civil Service Commission) helped to mitigate the perception of corruption, collusion and nepotism and build renewed trust in the process of governance. The creation of the Anti-Corruption Commission further enhanced this positive perception. Both bodies are crucial for corruption prevention as their existence has already provided deterrence with high levels of expectation that the worst case scenarios of corruption, at least, now have a higher probability of being exposed.

Changing mentality was the key strategic policy Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão brought into the realms of Timorese national politics. He did this for a number of important reasons. First, the people of Timor-Leste never experienced a sovereign independent nation-state prior to May 20, 2002. The consequence of this is that a mentality of dependence can exist which hinders the ways in which governance can be made effective and efficient, the latter in terms of budget priorities, execution and outcomes. Dependency mentality includes the expectation that the Government will, and must, provide handouts with little impulse to move beyond this to build self-reliance. Subsidies for the elderly, the handicapped and veterans, orphans and widows of the struggle for national liberation are sensible policies which were part of the official policy approved in the first congress of CNRT and have been implemented with strong national consensus. And dependency mentality mode is certainly not at all pervasive. However, the inherent dependency expectations that have resulted from poverty and lack of jobs require strategic policies aiming at responding and minimising the consequences of dependency mentality. Secondly, changing mentality also involved erasing the then prevailing culture of politicising the public service, public media, private sector, the military and the police.  It was based on these premises that Xanana Gusmão exerted within his party, CNRT, the motto that ‘we are struggling to take over government, not for the sake of controlling the Government, but to make governance of our country viable’. This motto instigates a mentality of focusing on results, not on occupying positions for the position’s sake.

The principles of changing mentality and making our government viable are central to Statebuilding. First, because there is the need to shift the mindset of freedom fighters from one with characteristics which are very important for the Struggle for National Liberation to one focus on citizenship of the state, as warranted by the Constitution. As often reminded by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, since 20 May 2002, all the Timorese have the same constitutional rights and duties, as citizens. The citizenship provides for the spirit of building together the institutions of the State without which the State cannot carry on its function with the expected normality. Second, shifting mentality means political parties must nurture the spirit of independence to help the young State to grow. Third, having a mentality which praises independence of the citizen means the State can provide for the necessary conditions for the people to enjoy freedom and to participate, in responsible and effective ways, in the process of national independence.            

What is it that makes governance viable? The fundamental condition for governance to be viable is national stability; and this requires that all institutions of the State are also stable and steadily evolving. Such institutions include the defence force, the police, the pillars of sovereignty, not least the courts. Governance is about the process of implementing the state budget according to the approved framework, but above all is about participation of all citizens in different levels of administration and other activities pertaining to the enhancement of the well-being of the citizens and the State. The Government, being the executive-arm, is charged with the responsibility to prepare the State Budget and to submit it to the Parliament for debate and subsequent approval. The budget process itself requires a proper reflection about the real needs of the country. Limited financial resources to answer to all the real needs impose upon the Government and Parliament the necessity to select priorities which first and foremost must be addressed to maintain national stability. Electricity for the nation and major infrastructure which impact on every key sector such as roads and water, including major irrigation systems, become determining factors. Combined with human needs, such as the elderly and veterans of war, the IV Constitutional Government and the Parliament have reached a compromise that ensures a positive impact on national security and stability. Compromise between long-term and short-term needs and priorities becomes the art of devising the State Budget.    

Governance also entails the development of civil society and the people in general. Development has different meanings in different phases of statehood. At this stage, Timor-Leste needs jobs for the youth. A healthy democracy requires active participation of civil society in the debates on the best ways to move the country forward, which complements the debates taking place within and between the political parties and in the Parliament. There is also the crucial factor of media development. This particular sector, for the first time this year, due to the work of the Government and the support from Parliament, succeeded in obtaining one million dollars to further its development. Issues such as professionalism and capacity of the newspapers to generate employment, media websites, structuring processes which include media law and capacity building, are some of the key factors to be considered. The equally important community radio system of the country figures as a major focus for this approved budget to be implemented in 2012. The general election will be held on June 29, 2012. It is expected that by July there will be a new government, the Fifth Constitutional Government[3] with its own program but will also implement the programs already approved by the Parliament for 2012.

Following the election, one major focus will be the phasing out of UNMIT, the United Nations Mission for Timor-Leste. UNMIT was established within a context and with a scope most appropriate to respond to the crisis sparked in 2006. Institutional capacity building for the national police, the PNTL, featured amongst the most important task. Until March this year, this mission can be said to have been accomplished because UNMIT has now handed over total command responsibilities to the Timorese PNTL.  A similar handover ceremony was held in 2004 by the then UNMISET, which included handing over the defense sector.  Within only two years, however, the crisis took place involving the PNTL and the defence force, the Falintil-FDTL. The question as to whether the United Nations has fulfilled all the prerequisites for a mission accomplished, or whether the handover of total command responsibility is premature, may still be lurking in the air. Time can give the best answer. There are reasons to be confident. One of these is the success of joint operations between these two institutions. Another is the stable process of police screening and promotions. A third is the successful recruitment and capacity building F-FDTL has undertaken so far, with promising results in terms of future senior military cadres drawn from younger generation with an in-depth sense of national responsibility.

Bearing in mind the above, an update on Timor-Leste has to involve taking into account major developments which will enable the country to move forward. It goes without saying, however, that this brief update cannot and it is not indented to cover every major aspect of the complex process of consolidating nationbuilding and statebuilding that Timor-Leste inevitably must pursue. The forthcoming 2012 general election will mark a turning point, one which reaffirms the resilience of the Timorese to succeed in this era of post-conflict and globalisation. As mentioned before, it is difficult to predict the outcome of the next legislative election. What is certain is that whichever political force wins the election will carry on the huge burden of moving the country beyond conflict to enter the much-needed era of infrastructure development, enhancing the capacity of private sector and foreign investment. National stability has been restored and mentality changes have occur, but these need to be understood as a process requiring building on what has been achieved to multiply positive effects; and in doing so, avoiding dangerous situations which could return the country to an environment of insecurity. Therefore, leaders must be realistic in their politics and avoid excessive idealism in their analysis of causes and effects.      

What about this last debate on 2012 State Budget just ended on November 25? This is the eighth budget the Fourth Constitutional Government has submitted to the Parliament for approval.[4]  All eight budgets were subjected to a process of in-depth analyses by relevant Standing Committees of the National Parliament. Government members answering questions by Standing Committee Members about the reasons and logic of the proposed budget, level of execution of the current budget and respective results. The analyses include almost item by item breakdown to highlight weaknesses and challenge the government to explain. This process helped to enrich the understanding of the philosophy of the budget, including budget dynamics imposed by national priorities as identified by the Government. In the first three years of the mandate (August 2007 – August 2010), as reflected in the first three budgets (see footnote), the major concerns of the Government were initiatives which help respond to national security needs. These included solving the problem of the so-called peticionários (petitioners), made up of former F-FDTL members dissatisfied with their Force Commanders and abandoned their barracks to protest publicly against what they perceived as discrimination in regard to opportunities for promotion and other matters. The Constitution of Timor-Leste allows citizens to present Petitions to the pillars of sovereignty. Officially, on March 1, 2006, all 591 military personnel associated with the group peticionários were effectively dismissed by the Command of F-FDTL.[5]

Another equally potentially destabilising factor was the group of former Major Alfredo Reinado. On March 4 2005, after suffering an armed assault by the ISF in Same-Manufahi district,[6] from which four of his men were killed but he escaped, Alfredo Reinado confiscated automatic weapons from the Border Police Unit and engaged in on-and-off dialogue with national authorities. In the early morning of February 8, 2008, Reinado decided to enter the residence of the President of the Republic, with unclear intention. As a consequence, he himself was killed by the guards, his former comrades of F-FDTL. His other subgroup led by former Lt. Ten. Salsinha, also shot at the Prime Minister, on the same day, on the road near Prime-Minister’s private residence at Balíbar, Díli. Prime-Minister Xanana Gusmão escaped without injury. Salsinha and his group also escaped the authorities, but after a Joint F-FDTL – PNTL operation to capture the group, Salsinha and his men finally decided to surrender and agreed to be driven to the Government House[7] in Díli, to handover their guns to the Prime-Minister whom they still considered their historic resistance leader. Following this final act, a major potential risk for destabilisation from para-military groups finally was put to rest.

To understand better the focus on national security and stability, one needs to go back some years, to reflect on the violence experienced by the newly-independent country of Timor-Leste. Soon after becoming an independent and sovereign state on 20 May 2002, Timor-Leste experienced the first serious crisis which took place on 4 December 2002, in Díli. Disgruntled youth, backed by political leaders and mainly sparked by an accident in a local school in Díli, marched in the capital, decided to burn down the popular supermarket known as ‘Hello Mister’, which was then a symbol of the newly acquired stability. The private residence of the then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri was also subjected to arson.[8] Two years later, in March 2004, a former veteran known as L-Fohorai Bo’ot or L-7, together with hundreds of his followers, marched to the Government House where the Prime Minister works and demanded his resignation, placing a coffin with the name of the Prime Minister right at the main entrance of the building. The police reacted with excessive force making the environment extremely violent although no deaths resulted. A year later in April 2005, after public statements made by leaders of the Catholic Church against the government, priests and followers occupied the main road in front of the Government House for 19 days, again, demanding the resignation of the then Prime Minister Alkaktiri. The protest ended amicably. A signed statement committing the Government to undertake a number of actions, including criminalising abortion was the end product. About a year later in April 2006, the phenomenon of the petitioners sparked violence, including car burnings, street shootings and the direct involvement of the military in responding to the violence provoked by their former comrades. The crisis ended with the killing of 8 and the wounding of 12 police officers. A United Nations independent investigation commission was established and the report exposed the complexities of the situation,[9] some of which remain to be addressed as this update is being written.             

That is why, the Fourth Constitutional Government, led by Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, identified that the one of the determining factor affecting national stability was institutional in nature. Due to the crises outlined above, in particular the 2006 crisis, the state of affairs in the institutions of the police and armed forces was not conducive to stability. For F-FDTL the issue was relevance. Having been a force deriving from the former and highly successful guerrilla fighters, its evolution towards a modern army was painful. This involved a different command structure, rules, relationships are and, above all, a different role which was to protect the sovereignty of the newly-born state, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. The Command, having been educated in the guerrilla warfare, where politics must be the essence of all actions, transitioning to a force separated from the political institutions of the democratic state was a new dimension to their existence. Understanding the Constitution and how it is to be implemented was an important step. The new motto was to work hard to understand politics but not to play politics. The latter, playing politics, is, of course, the central role of the political parties and civil society organisations and belongs to civil (not military) realms. The police or PNTL also needed to recover its morale and Command structure. Being the institution in charge of law and order, or law enforcement, the police required legitimacy which derives from the respect the public has for the force.    

Therefore, focusing on recovering institutional prestige was the important task the IVCG had to undertake at all costs for the sake of national stability and statebuilding. The Prime Minister, who also holds the portfolio of Defence and Security, supported by two Secretaries of State, respectively for Defence and Security, without delay, implemented all actions necessary to ensure such a recovery. For the F-FDTL, being an institution built on the prestige of the veterans of the Struggle for National Liberation, now led by the Minister of Defence and Security who was their own top leader of the resistance, recovery was not very difficult. The crisis of February 11, 2008, where the President was shot and severely wounded and the Prime Minister shot at but escaped injury, also resulting in Alfredo Reinado shot and killed, created the first very serious crisis where the State almost became a failed-state. However, the Government and all institutions of sovereignty and, the people as a whole, geared towards acting in synchrony and demonstrating high sense of responsibility. The PNTL and F-FDTL joined resources to generate a very successful conflict resolution. The remaining group of Alfredo Reinado, now led by Gastão Salsinha, surrendered without a shot being fired and they all accepted to be subjected to the due process of the formal justice system of Timor-Leste.   

This brief update could not be satisfactory without delving into the budget debate processes. For a number of reasons, Timor-Leste is perhaps one of the rarest cases in which the debate about the budget for each financial year is undertaken with a high degree of transparency. First, each Standing Committee has to review the budget proposals, especially those sectors that are relevant to the jurisdiction of each of the nine committees. Second, there is total cooperation between the Government and the Parliament even though both are autonomous pillars of sovereignty and members of Government must not sit in the Parliament. Second, the Standing Committee hearings are public and subject to intense media coverage. Once the Standing Committee ‘C’, which is responsible for reporting back to the Plenary of the Parliament on State Budget hearings, presents its recommendations and criticisms they must be answered by the Government. The Plenary session then begins with a 3-day debate on the general structure of the proposed budged. The Prime Minister presents the rational and strategies that led to the final proposal and the head of the Parliamentary Group of each of the political parties in the Plenary also present their views about the proposed budget. The first 3-day debate is often heated, as this last one has been. This 3-day initial debate is followed by ten days of further debate on specific items contained in the budget, including policies, attributed funding and the capacity to execute within the respective financial year or beyond. All the full 13-day budget debate is usually robust and is broadcast live via the public broadcasting television and radio or RTTL. The Budget debate for 2012 ended on November 25, 2011, with an amount of around USD$1.7 billion being approved and which has a particular focus on infrastructure and capacity building. Overall, this budget confirms that the Timorese people and the leadership of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão succeeded in implementing the program of the Fifth Constitutional Government. Strong self-confidence and resolve are obvious in the process leading to the final approval of this last budget. The people and leadership of Timor-Leste have decided to move forward at all costs. Failure, therefore, is definitely not an option.

On midnight of November 27 last, a major event took place in Timor-Leste with the switch-on of the Hera Power Plant to supply energy to the northern coast of the country. The event was led by President José Ramos-Horta, with a powerful speech highlighting the trajectory of Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão from guerrilla warfare until today. The courage and vision of Xanana Gusmão constitute the engine that is still moving this country forward. Only with such courage and determination could an investment of this magnitude have been made. This concerns providing electricity to the nation; the implications for the well-being of the Timorese society cannot be measured in words. In 2009, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão declared the kicking-off of his plans for infrastructure. Electricity, roads, bridges, ports, airports and water, were part of the plan that he had in mind. Electricity, having a determining structural impact over all others, had to come first. And it did. By December this year the remaining northern districts will also benefit from electricity supply. By March next year, the southern coast will also receive its own electricity, powered by eight generators from the power plant now under construction in the south coast town of Betano.

With sufficient and reliable electricity supply, the plans envisaged in the national Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030 can now be pushed forward. Factories can now be realistically built. Cement and other civil construction related industries can be established to supply the works within a reasonable price and with certainty of supply. Schools can benefit from electricity and students can also study in the evening without interruption due to regular power outages. Hospitals can function better and water supply can be improved with the power available to generate reliable water distribution systems. Foreign investment can now be contemplated with higher sense of certainty and confidence. The Government transformed the country from one where electricity was a daily political debate to one where reliable power supply is ensured. Timor-Leste is in a better position to respond to other structural needs, including water, sanitation, roads, bridges, ports and airports. Furthermore, once some bridges of major strategic value are built and some equally important ports and airports also becoming reality, the country will reach the much-needed threshold of strategic development where the remaining stages will be implemented with faster pace and quality. By 2015 political debates will not be so much focused on electricity, roads and bridges, but on higher quality of education and health, jobs and equity. Issues pertaining to competiveness of the country in the global and regional market economy, including efficiency in service delivery will also be high in the political agenda.         
In summary, the last four years of the current Government was dominated by the process of responding to national security risks and the actions undertaken resulted in great success. Statebuilding of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste is about to reach its  tenth anniversary which will, undoubtedly, register unparalleled achievement, in spite of conflicts that occurred almost on a yearly basis from December 2002 until February 2008. The nation itself – its culture, religion, identity and politics – emerged out of all these crises with stronger faith in statebuilding. Still, there are serious challenges ahead and constraints of all kinds which require careful attention and responsible leadership. Of the challenges ahead, there must be emphasis on a number of issues. First, unemployment continues to be one of the biggest barriers to be overcome by any future government. Having a predominantly young population, chronic unemployment, if not overcome, can be a time-bomb waiting to explode. The nation’s leadership needs to manage expectations properly so that communication between government and people continues to be reinforced, as Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão has successfully proven that it can be done; and then only hard work remains needed. Second, education for the younger generation needs to be of better quality so that the state can produce a well prepared younger generation to take charge of the future. Third, a smart international relations strategy needs to be adopted to make the most of the opportunities derived from the growing interconnectedness of the globalised world; and to deal with and balance all the benefits and risks any modern state has to face. If the success in these last ten years is an appropriate indicator, the future for Timor-Leste is promising. 

Díli, December 2012

[1] The 88 seat-Parliament was a result of simply transforming the 88-Member Constituent Assembly into Parliament
[2] ‘Consolidação’ is Portuguese, meaning to strengthen the membership and militancy of the political party
[3] Unless no single party won absolute majority and no parliamentary majority alliance has been formed by then. This would create a Belgium situation. Belgium has gone for more than a year without a government formed after the election. See 
[4] The first budget was the transition budget for the period of 1 July until 31 December 2008. The second was the 2008 budget; the third was the supplementary budget for the same year. The fourth was 2009 budget. The fifth was the 2010 budget; the sixth was the supplementary budget for the same year. The seventh was the 2011 budget and the eighth is this last one, just approved, for 2012.
[5] For detailed information on the events pertaining to 2006 crisis, see the “Report of the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste.
[6] ‘East Timor rebel hideout raided by ISF’, Agencies Díli, Monday, March 5, 2007, www.taipeitimes.comNews/world/print/2007/03/05/2003351053 
 [7] Known mostly as ‘Palácio do Governo’, in Portuguese
[8] ‘UNIMISET Report on 4 December 2002 Civil Disturbance’, East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin, 28 December 2008,  
[9] ‘The Report of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste’, op.cit.

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