Address by Dr José Ramos-Horta at his swearing in ceremony as Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

from Government of Timor-Leste
Published on 10 Jul 2006
(Literal translation from the original Portuguese version)
Your Excellency President of the Republic

Your Excellency President of the National Parliament

Your Excellency President of the Superior Court of Appeal

Your Excellencies The Reverend Bishops of the Dioceses of Dili and Baucau

Ministers, Members of Parliament, Members of the Forces of Defence and Security, Community Members,

Excellency Ambassador Miguel Armado, Special Envoy of the President of the European Commission,

Your Excellencies, Sukehiro Hasegawa and Ian Martin, Special Representatives of the Secretary General of the United Nations,

Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, Representatives of the Interational Agencies

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, July 10th 2006, in the year of Christ, we enter a new phase in the construction of our State for the quest for Law and Peace. The path has been long, difficult, dangerous, and has resulted in the shedding of tears and blood, with the loss of too many lives. Our journey to nationhood has been a centuries long journey, with those years now lost in time, when the beaches of our country were first stepped on by the Portuguese Missionaries.

On May 20th 2002, our nation concluded that long journey and it was an occasion crowned with joy and festivities. We then had to initiate another immediate journey, that of the edification of our state and its institutions. We had also to initiate the painful process of examination of conscience, reflection, and national and international reconciliation. We have gone through generations of pain and mourning, of hate and treason. It was necessary to dispaly a lot of courage and generosity to try to forget, but this is not always possible. It is however, always possible to pardon. Pardoning is an act of courage and generosity and grandeur. Hate and revenge are feelings and expressions of weakness, that lead to self-destruction, because such feelings can consume as, as we don't live the present and future but instead we live as prisoners of the past. The experiences of past and present generations have left deep wounds in the great Timorese family, causing collective trauma.

The crisis that imploded in our country on the 28th April 2006, the crisis that continues to this day, admittedly now a lot more calm and secure, has reopened the wounds not yet fully healed and has rendered opened new ones.

It is then necessary to undergo even deeper reflection about our collective experience of the years 1974-1999. The extensive CAVR report is an encylcopedia of our history, both rich in teachings and suffering. We must utilise its great teachings to better understand today's crisis and to help prevent futute crises.

The Special Inquiry Commission that the Timorese State asked for and establsihed by the international community, will soon begin their mission. We leave to them as a neutral and independent body to gather information and statements of some key and recent incidents and other events enveloping the crisis to enable us to know the truth. We will wait for the result and its recommendations.


Today I have been sworn in in the honoured function as head of government as a result of the resiganton of my old friend and combatant in the struggle, Dr. Mari Altatiri. I served in a government led by him, always guided by prudence and loyalty to the people that he really loves. What we inherited from UNTAET in May 2002, was only a sketch of a state. After the violence and destruction in September 1999, the Security Council mandated the Secretary General to build a modern and democratic state in only two years. The late Sergio Veiria de Mello that our Lord has in his care, was tireless, intelligent, dedicated and a friend, but it was not possible for him in two years to give birth from the ashes from the violence and destruction of 1999, to a modern and democratic, stable and fully funcitonal state.

If it is not possible to make a small business viable in two years, consolidate it and make it commercially sustainable in two years, yet we ask, 'Is it possible to build a state in two years?'. The answer is no, but the Security Council had other concerns and priorities. And us the Timorese, fueled by patriotism, we even thought that a transition of two years was excessivley long.

In regard to the new United Nations Mission, I simply reiterate the view expressed in our letter of 11 June 2006. We trust that the Security Council will once again decide with wisdom on the needs of the Mission that is best needed for the people of Timor-Leste and that our request will be positively responded to.

If we recall what the United Nations handed over to us on the night of May 19 2002, then we could say on balance the government of Dr. Mari Alkatiri registered notable progress in many areas.

We provided our nation with a judicial and legal system with laws and rules that had not before existed, wih a public administration whose previous existence was very weak, a school network that has significantly increased since 2002, a health network that surpassed our expectations; we negotiated and concluded important agreements with our neighbours, and we acceded to more than twenty internationl treaties including all the Human Rights Conventions.

We failed in other areas. We failed in the area of internal security, we failed in the dialogue with the people, we stand accused of insenstivity and arrogance, and corruption started to invade institutions of the state. We say that we want foreign investment and we know of the importance of its development to our country, becasue of the very slow and complicated burueacracy. In a short time we managed to create by us and for us, a bureacratic stranglehold that undermines our best intentions and political decisions and opens the door to corruption.

Unfortunately I cannot say that I learned a lot from Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, during his four years in government. I was always absent about half of the yeasr and when I was in the country, I was not very enthuasistic in the very long sessions of the Council of Ministers. I could have learned much more with this brother and friend from my youth, but Mari Alkatiri has volunteered his support now and I will rely often on his good counsel. I am also obliged to consult regularly, to listen to, the National Political Committee of Fretilin. I will do it always with pleasure and respect. I have two Deputy Prime Ministers in whom I have total confidence and who have much more experience than me. I have a dedicated and experienced team of Ministers that will be sworn in sometime this week. For that reason, I believe that the weight that I carry of leading the government, will be lessened.

I know my intellectual and professional limitations. I am not a person of virtues. I am not Mahatma Gandhi. I don't know if I am worthy of the trust that you Your Excellency Mr. President, have placed in me and I do not know if I am worthy of the trust that the people have placed in me. In the last few days I have received numerous expressions of friendship and support from very the most humble members of our great people. May God guide me so that I don't betray their trust.


Our immediate task is to consolidate the security in Dili and in all of Timor-Leste. Make a return to their houses the thousands of brothers and sisters who during these weeks have taken refuge in several centres and give them necessasry support to rebuild their lives.

Our people has suffered and many, who were poor before the crisis, now lost the little that they had, but they also lost faith in the state institutins and in the political leaders. The Government action in the weeks and months ahead is to restore faith and hope, respect for our young democracy and for our young nation state.

This Government has only got nine months to govern until May 2007. If to this time constraint we add the burueaucratic obstacles that we bulit, the inefficiency, the incompetence, the laziness of some of the public and private sectors; the useful time of Governmet will be even more constrained. We are going to simplfy processes so that they are not a constraint to the development of the country. The so called "procurement", bids or tenders have to be more transparent and responded to more quickly. We are going to introduce the concept of 'fast track' to accelerate the execution of projects. The item public grants in the 2006-2007 budget, is a response to the need felt by all that we have to simplyfy the process to make quicker the rendering of services to the nation.

Timor-Leste is cited in a study of the World Bank as one of the worst countries in the world to register a company. We are going to reverse that immediately. The country is not poor. We have money from our own resources and from the generosity of friends.

This Government is not going to find excuse for inertia. This Government will try to serve the best interests of the poor. This Government is going to be the government for the poor. This Government will be at the forefront in the fight against poverty. We are going to use existing money to dignify the human being, give them hope, given them food, clothing and give them a roof.

The poor and forgotten in the rural areas will be our main focus and we are going to mobilise all our financial and human resources to rapidly revitalise economic activity in those regions, through small projects that will have a rapid impact. We are going to support more the public servants who serve in the Districts, we are going to support the Liurais and the Chefes de Sucos, restoring the dignity and secular moral power of the Liurais, giving them the means to serve the people.


The Timorese Catholic Church is the only continuous solid institution, that has absorbed the fabric of Timorese. It must be venerated and called once again to partnership with our young State, help us get out of this crisis, heal the wounds, help us better serve the people in all the areas such as social, educational, cultural, spiritual and moral. This Government, then, invites the Catholic Church to assume a bigger role in education and in the human development of our people and in the fight against poverty.

The State must make available to the Institutions of the Church, namely the Dioceses, the necessary financial means so that this partnership with the State will be a reality. Our Muslim and Protestant communities, although small in number, also play an important role in their contribution to education and human development. This Government will continue and will reinforce the dailogue of cooperation with these two religious communities.

Timor-Leste has a singular historical experience. Timorese people are a people deeply spiritual whose day to day lives are inspired and influenced by the spirits of the past and by supernatural beliefs that are fused with Christain beliefs. For that reason we cannot import or impose modern models of secularism or Europeanism that would disturb the symbiotic relationship of Timorese animist and Christain beliefs.

This Government awaits with excitement the opening of the third Diocese in Timor-Leste and we reiterate our desire to see installed in Dili a Nunciatura representing the Vatican. Timor-Leste is going to nominate an Ambassador to the Holy See.

I salute with reverence and friendship our two Bishops, Dom Ricardo and Dom Bascilio, and through them all the Timorese and foreign clergy serving in Timor-Leste. I want to pay homage to the late Dom Jaime Garcia Goulart and Dom Martinho da Costa Lopes, unforgettable historical figures of Timor-Leste and the Catholic Church. I also want to pay tribute to Bishop Dom Carlos Filipe Ximenes de Belo, who in the more difficult years of our history, side by side with Dom Bascilio and the then Priest of the Church of Motael, Dom Ricardo and other priests and nuns of this country, were the refuge of the persecuted.

This Government is going to give special attention to our Youth. I propose that we study the viability of a university campus, comprising accommodation, canteen, internet access, library, gymnasium, etc., so that we can offer our youth the basic conditions to enable them to achieve their academic goals.

This Government is going to establish a programme of scholarships for the students that study in Timor-Leste, to enable them to feed and clothe themselves and to buy their books and materials.

Already in place is an extensive food distribution programme, called a "Meal-a-Day per Pupil", although still of a preliminary and limited nature. The objective is to reach a target of 300,000 pupils in the whole of Timor-Leste.

We have to look after our Veterans, the big heroes of our nation. We are going to honour them very soon, with valour and decoration in solemn ceremonies, and support their well deserved retirement and housing. We are thankful to the Chinese Government for the offer of 100 houses for the Veterans, but the Timorese State is going to do even more for them, for their widows and their orphans.

We are going to take care of the Defence and Security sectors, through prudent reforms to equip our country with modern forces to better serve our people and the cause of peace.

The two institutions of Defence and Security charged with the protection of our nation and people, in our Constitution, were deeply affected by the crisis in our country. Tragically some lives were lost, others were critcally injured in their bodies and practically all suffered injury to their souls.

We did not know how to manage the problems that emerged within these two institutions. This failure of ours resulted in the crisis that affected the whole nation. To the people, to the members of the F-FDTL and of the PNTL, let down by the political elite, of which I am part of, I do apologise. I can only promise that the nine months of this Government over which I preside is going to look at these two institutions, with total attention and prudence, so that from them, they can be reborn from this crisis more dignified and more deserving of the trust of our people.


The private and entrepreneurial sector is an indispensable pillar in te development and well being of our country. With them we are going to find ways to offer incentives and enthuse them and facilitate their activities. The foreign investors in this country can count on this Government to listen to them and to support them. We are going to better and simplfy the laws and rules for the process of registration of companies. We are going to investigate the complaints about the non-payment of bills by the Government.

National and International non-government organisations (NGOs) have a central role in the development of the country. We know that the work of the NGOs has not been well supported, and sometimes we displayed an attitude of suspicion towards international NGOs. We invite suggestions and proposals that can simplify our laws and our bureaucracy in this sector.

I cannot conclude this address without thanking the Governments and the people of the four friendly countries, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Portugal who came to help in a moment of grave crisis. They responded without hestiation to our appeal. Thanks to their prompt intervention, life in our city of Dili is returning to normalcy. In the next months we will continue to depend on their generous help to consolidate the peace in our country. I ask the representatives of the four countries here today to transmit to their respective governments and to their people our deepest appreciation.

I also wish to express our deep appreciation for the moral, political and humanitarian support throughout this crisis, given by the Government and the people of the Republic of Indonesia. During this period Indoneisa had also suffered tragedy as a result of natural disasters and despite their own tragedy, they did not forget the people of Timor-Leste and sent humanitarian aid in the way of food, that contributed to the alleviation of suffering.

I owe a very special thank you to H.E. President Susilo Bambang Yudyhono and my Foreign Affairs counterpart H.E. Hassan Wirayuda for their constant support and friendship. A mark of the friendship that our countries enjoy, is the fact that I received a communication that President Susilo is going to ring me immediately after my swearing in. I have to say thanks also to the way the Indonesian Forces stationed on the border behave and maintain order. By next month I hope to finalise the demarcation of the land border, and implement the long awaited border pass regime, which will further strengthen our family, community, social and economic relationships.

To the Secretary General of the United Nations and to all the United Nations Agencies, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and International Monetary Fund, I want to express our appreciation for your generous support. The ADB has continued with some infrastructure works in some parts of the country.

I wish to state my profound gratitude to the friendly countries that promptly contributed financially or in goods to help our people, via bilateral or through agencies.

The humanitarian agencies and national and international NGOs have responded promptly to our needs in close cooperation with the Timorese Government, thus averting a humanitarian catastrophe.

Timorese health workers and foreigners of many nationalities, namely Cuban and Chinese doctors, remained in country, in their posts during the crisis. Staff and technicians in the electricty, port, airport, border police, and thousands of public servants and teachers in the remaining twleve Districts did not abandon their posts. In te middle of this crisis, many thousands of Timorese, members of F-FDTL, PNTL,public servants, teachers, doctors, nurses, ordinary workers, priests and nuns revealed their patriotism. Many international staff also remained at work refusing to abandon the country.

I cannot finish without referring to the crucial role of the religous orders, priests and nuns in opening their doors and their hearts to tens of thousands of their brothers and sisters. The servants of the Church once again displayed their humanity to afford the same to those in need.

I cannot forget the tireless work and dedication of our friends Sukehiro Hasegawa and Anis Bajwa who were always at their posts during the crisis. To all the personnel of UNOTIL our eternal gratitude.

The president of the European Commission promptly sent a Special Envoy and is going to elevate the level of representation in Timor-Leste to that of Embassay.

Last week we received in our country a delegation of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) led by Foreign Affairs Minister of Sao Tomé Principe. In the preceding weeks before, we received a visit from our friends the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence of Australia, the Minister for Defence of New Zealand and the Chief of Defence Forces and other dignitaries of Malaysia.

In conclusion, until some weeks ago friends and supporters made me believe and wanted me to believe that I could occupy the 38th floor of United Nations Head Quarters. Some friendly governments believed in my elgibility. I have got another mission here. I would never be a good United Nations Secretary General if I was not a good Timorese first and a good Timorese must be in this country with his people in their moments of crisis. Perhaps then in 2012. Now the world has to wait as I have more pressing needs to attend to in Timor-Leste.- ENDS.

For further information please contact:

Assessor de Imprensa/Media Advisor
Cabinet Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
Tel: +670 729 7099