Address by:
H. E. Dr. Mari Alkatiri
Prime Minister
of the
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

58th Session of the General Assembly
(29th September 2003)

United Nations
New York

Your Excellency, Mr. Julian Hunte, President of the General Assembly,



First of all, allow me to congratulate Your Excellency Mr. Julian Robert Hunte for your election to preside over the work of this session of the General Assembly. We are confident that you will use, with success, all your experience and wisdom to conduct the work of this august assembly. I would like to guarantee all the support and cooperation of my delegation and to wish you success in your task.

I would also like to congratulate former President, His Honorable Jan Kavan for the exceptional way in which he presided over the work of the 57th Session. We are particularly grateful to Mr. Kavan for having honored us with two visits to our country. On the first occasion, for the ceremony for the transfer of sovereignty on 20th May 2002, and the second, in August 2003.

I speak today with a mixture of happiness and sorrow. Happiness, to address you for the first time in this august plenary in the capacity of Prime Minister of my young country, after more than two decades in search of understanding and support for the cause of my people, many times lobbying for support in the corridors of this building. But I am also deeply saddened for having lost, just over a month ago, an old friend - Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello - an innocent victim of intolerance, extremism and terrorism.

Our people cried over his death. And here, once again, I would like to pay tribute to his memory and reiterate our deep solidarity with his family, friends and colleagues. I would also like to pay tribute to all those who served for the United Nations who lost their lives in Baghdad, and other turbulent regions of the world.

It was under the guidance of Secretary-General H. E. Kofi Annan and represented in Timor-Leste by Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, that exactly one year ago, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became the 191st member of this Organization. The President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, H. E. Xanana Gusmao and I bore witness to this historic act.

Since that date, our country has experienced significant progress in the consolidation of our nascent democracy.

My government has presided over the strengthening of the national cohesion and has given priority to the unequivocal affirmation of the Republic as a democratic State and founded on the rule of law by taking normative measures in governance to implement the provisions of a modern Constitution drafted by the Timorese and adopted by an assembly democratically elected by the people.

Open Governance is one of the programs of my Government.

Based on the principles of good governance, of inclusion, participation of the individual and collective responsibility, open governance was initiated in January of this year. It consists of bringing the government to the people in the remote areas of the country, to hear first hand, their priorities, problems and needs as well as to clarify to the people, the national development plan, the Government program, available resources and the challenges ahead. Also, it aims to instill in the population, greater responsibility and to make them better understand the necessity for their participation in the reconstruction of the country, vis a vis the execution of the national plan, the method of achieving the objectives of economic growth and of the reduction and eradication of poverty.

In relation to the legislative process, we have prioritized the adoption of laws for the foundation of the State, above all, to avoid taking discretionary and subjective measures which are without any legal foundation. On many occasions, we were faced with the need to adopt regulations in the everyday economy and the process of administration.

Hence, more than thirty decrees and laws were respectively adopted by the Government for approval by the National Parliament. Over twenty have been promulgated by the President of the Republic and have entered into force, gradually filling the legal vacuum in Timor-Leste.

In this manner, we will create an institutional culture of democracy, giving basis to a democratic State founded on the rule of law and the principle of good governance.

However, the challenges are enormous.

Of the 900 schools destroyed in 1999, around 700 were rehabilitated and more than thirty new schools have been constructed. Despite this, 25% of our children continue without access to education. Our people have asked for more schools and better teachers.,: Many of the 65 sub-districts demand the opening of schools at the secondary level. Others ask for agricultural, technical or vocational schools. All to have been done yesterday, not tomorrow or later.

In the tertiary sector, we have a national university with more than 7000 students. Hundreds of candidates are frustrated that their expectations to graduate from the national university have not been met. We now have a proliferation of institutions for higher learning without the official recognition of the Government. To deal with this situation, the Government assumed the responsibility of preparing rules with the view to regulating tertiary education by defining the parameters for their creation and existence.

In health, similar challenges are being faced. Much of the infrastructure has been rehabilitated and many others constructed. But the people want more assistance and means of support. They ask for more doctors, more nurses, more midwives, more ambulances and health centers closer to their villages. The national health policy was adopted by the Government and is being implemented with a sense of responsibility and with clear knowledge of the priorities and limitations.

We hope soon to be able to reduce the difficulties in this area with the cooperation of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Cuba in the provision of doctors to operate in the rural areas.

In agriculture, more than 60% of the irrigation system has been repaired and new systems have been built. It is important now to assist farmers in the best
methods of use for their systems and to make them responsible for the maintenance of these systems while the remainder is being repaired.

In infrastructure, in general, the repairs and maintenance have been slow and difficult. There are 6000 kilometers of roads to be rehabilitated and maintained. Our people demand the opening of many others. Equally, many bridges are to be reconstructed, completed or constructed. We propose to have the most vital parts of these infrastructures to be ready for use by the end of 2005, this includes all national roads and bridges which will make travel on these roads viable all year round.

On the other hand, we have the problem of electricity, a sector which is in deficit. The systems for the production of electricity have been re-established in all districts and in 55 of the 65 sub districts. Dili, the capital, benefits from the supply of power 24 hours. In the meantime, it is the policy of my Government to identify and develop alternative sources of energy that are more accessible and sustainable. Currently, we are conducting a feasibility study of the same resources, in particular, in the area of hydropower.

The access to and the consumption on running water is considerably limited. Above all, it is undeniable that the number of people with access to running water is increasing daily more so than during the period of 1999.

In the area of telecommunications, we have in process the implementation of an ambitious project overseen by Timor-Leste Telecom through a concession in the build-operate-transfer system.

At the end of this year, all district capitals will have at their disposal, fixed telephones and mobile telephones for their communications whether for domestic or international purposes. Efforts are being made to develop another telecommunications system capable of reaching the remotest villages of the country. With the completion and the installation of the telecommunications system, we will equally create the technical conditions for the development of television and radio, delivering the best service in the media sector, which is free, vibrant and responsible.

Mr. President,

The process of reconstruction has evolved in an environment of peace and stability. However, I acknowledge that that the key areas to guarantee the sustainability and credibility of the entire process like the judicial system, defense and security, still require substantial assistance and support for some time.

In other sectors of administration, it is necessary to have qualified people to assist in the development of the capacity of the Timorese, in particular, in the consolidation of the financial and banking systems, border control, legislative drafting and in the definition of the national policy, the promotion of investment and in the transfer of technologies.

With this in mind, I would like to reiterate that to guarantee the sustainability of the whole process and to satisfy the two great expectations;

- Those of our people, for peace, democracy and development and those of the international community to continue to promote Timor-Leste as a success story, we must not forget to say:

I. To our people, which we have been doing, to be more patient but above all, demand for their participation and responsibility.

II. To the international community, we ask for consistency, continued dynamic partnership and support.

Ill. To this General Assembly, in particular, we ask that you endorse the Economic and Social Council's decision to include Timor-Leste in the list of Least Developed Countries.

Consistent with our history for the struggle for human dignity, my country ratified a number of important international human rights treaties. Among them, the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Apart from these treaties previously mentioned, we have also ratified others equally important, like the Treaty on the Non¬Proliferation of Nuclear Arms, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development and Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and Their Destruction, the Convention on the Prohibition for the Use, Stockpiling and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

We are conscious that the ratification of these international instruments creates legal obligations and the Timorese State will do its utmost to implement these instruments.

With regard to external relations, we continue to develop ties of friendship and cooperation with our neighbors, namely, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand and in particular, with our two closest neighbors, Indonesia and Australia.

As Prime Minister, I have made official or working visits to Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal and the People's Republic of China.

At the beginning of this month, a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Commission Indonesia-Timor-Lease was held with positive outcomes and with a view to solving a number of residual issues derived from the recent past, as well as a new cooperation in the areas of commerce, investment, development, education, health and security. We hope to finalize the demarcation of our land boundary this year in order to commence negotiations on our maritime boundaries. The boundaries, whether land or sea, define the territory of a country. Within a territory, one can exercise powers of sovereignty or jurisdiction. For this reason, having as our neighbors, two big and friendly countries - Indonesia and Australia, Timor-Leste hopes to see its borders with both countries demarcated and/or delimited by the end of my Government's mandate. In order for all the resources that belong to the people of Timor-Leste can be exploited in a way that is free and sovereign for the benefit of the present and future generation of Timorese.

Mr. President,


The relationship between Timor-Leste and its neighbors is developing in a constructive and dynamic manner whether at the bilateral, trilateral or multilateral level.

The second trilateral ministerial meeting between Timor-Leste, Australia and Indonesia was held at the end of August in Adelaide, Australia, at which the respective ministers for Foreign Affairs, explored ideas with a view to strengthening the trilateral relations.

Recently, on the 27th of September, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of seven countries, of the Southwest Pacific Dialogue, of which Timor-Leste is a member, met in New York on the margins of the General Assembly.

Timor-Leste enjoys special observer status in the Pacific Forum and has participated as a guest in ASEAN.

Timor-Leste is a full member of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, the African Caribbean and Pacific-European Union, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, and various specialized United Nations agencies.

The fight against terrorism, organized crime, traffic in humans, drugs and the traffic in illegal arms is on the top of the agenda, regionally and in Timor-Leste. We shall make all efforts to contribute to the eradication of these ills which are becoming more an epidemic with the development of new technology.

Timor-Leste is a country in Southeast Asia and, at the same time, linked to the Pacific, by geography, history and culture. Our people are proud to be part of this great geographical region of Asia and Oceania, rich in history, culture and civilization, comprising more than one fifth of humanity. We are deeply grateful to all our Asian brothers, namely, Japan, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, Philippines, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, who have responded without failure, to our appeal for assistance in a major or modest scale, depending on the capacity and experience of each country.

I have just concluded a visit to the People's Republic of China. And within weeks, we will receive, in my country, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir Mohammed. In December, we will be honored with a visit from the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand.

We continue to strengthen our relations with other countries in Southeast Asia, in particular, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

We regret that the process of dialogue and national reconciliation in Myanmar is at a standstill. Timor-Leste associates itself with the concerns and disappointments of our friends in ASEAN and we join our voice with the international community to appeal for the immediate release of Mrs. Daw Aung Suw Kji, and all those others detained, and for the resumption of talks, reconciliation and democratization.

My Government takes note of the commitments undertaken by General Khin Nyuit, Prime Minister of the Union of Myanmar in his speech of 30th August 2003. We shall not ignore or belittle these undertakings which point to the road towards the reconvening of a National Convention, the drafting of a constitution and the realization of free elections for the national legislature (Pyithu Hluttawa).

All parties involved must have the courage to make the necessary concessions with the view to a national reconciliation.

We would like to express our deep concern in relation to the abandonment of the Non-Proliferation Treaty on the part of North Korea and by its stated intention to produce nuclear weapons. North Korea has as its neighbors, three countries, which over the years have demonstrated friendship and solidarity. None of these three countries presents any threat to its security and sovereignty, thus not justifying, the production of nuclear weapons. The world must move towards a global agreement for the destruction of nuclear weapons and not for the increase, proliferation, manufacture and use of these weapons.

The real security of North Korea, resides in a policy of friendship and cooperation with its immediate neighbors, in economic development, with dynamic commercial relations with the rest of the world, which will result in a reduction of expenditure in defense and increased investment on economic and social development for the well-being of its people.

Mr. President,

Timor-Leste is a small country with a small population. Nonetheless, it remains touched by two oceans and linked to two continents.
Historically, we were for five centuries, the only Portuguese colony in the region, and during a quarter of a century, a territory occupied by Indonesia.

More than 90% of the population of my country is Catholic, as well as two minority religions, Protestant and Islam.

History determined our difference. Geography conferred on us a condition for converging and relating. We remain different and within this difference, we find our identity and sense of openness and tolerance. We know that we have something to give but also, much to receive.

I'm a Muslim, of Arabic descent and I'm the Prime Minister of a country with a Catholic majority. Our tiny Muslim community lives in peace and tranquility integrated into the society in general without losing our identity and without feeling alienated or discriminated. The Timorese Catholic leadership has been exemplary in preaching respect and tolerance in relation to all religious faiths, constantly searching for dialogue and collaboration, participation and mutual

My country does not intend to offer itself as the example or model for tolerance, mutual respect and co-existence between the religions.

I speak of our experience only to say that in this world of hate and violence, intolerance and extremism, there are some oases of tolerance, peace and tranquility which deserve to be the source of our new energy.

Fanatics and extremists have always existed over the centuries and no region in the world or civilization can claim exclusivity to virtue and truth. In this globalized world, there is no place for racial, cultural and much less religious superiority. Extremists and terrorists have existed throughout history. The fundamental difference is that the terrorists of today benefit from globalization and make use of modern technology as a means of achieving their own objectives.

It is absolute rhetoric and unacceptable to define different civilizations and religions as a target. The fundamental reason for violence in this world is the inequality in development and more so, the injustice of the international economic order.

The target of these extremists and Islamic terrorists is not the west, its culture and dominant religions. It should be stated that the west is a target as a consequence of the global order.

We witness a new reality. The agenda of the extremists is primarily the toppling of the moderate and elite regimes, and the imposition of theocratic systems in which the universal values substantiated by a democratic State is put into question and considered contrary to their views. It would be the return to the middle Ages, with the Islamic extremists determining the destiny of their citizens.

The fight against extremism, fanaticism and terrorism must be done on all fronts. One of these is the military front, but this must be seriously thought through and executed, always with much prudence and clarity. The other is the political, economic and social front.

The fight against poverty and exclusion must be integrated in our global strategy in the war against terrorism. Necessary is the intensification of dialogue between the religions and civilizations. But this dialogue must not limit itself to the big summits of leaders, which sometimes are removed from the reality of each country or region.

The dialogue must, above all, be at the level of the small communities, schools and universities, a process which must be for the long term, to eliminate myths, falsehoods, taboos and misconceptions which change the true character of the people and the religion. We must also have the courage to question old paradigms.

My Government congratulates the people of Iraq for the end of one of the bloodiest dictatorships in our history. The people of Timor-Leste know too well the significance of dictatorships. To be free of it, we sacrificed hundreds of thousands of our children in an unequal struggle for decades.

During our struggle for independence and democracy, we always believed that our efforts should be focused towards the re-establishment of international legality in our country and demanding the responsibility of the United Nations and the international community to respect the Charter and United Nations resolutions on Timor-Leste.

My Government defends that the central role of the United Nations must be respected by all countries, in particular those with the means and resources available to strengthen the role of our organization.

Concerning the situation in Iraq, it is urgent for the re-establishment of the international legality in that country, the only legitimate road to promote the act for the transfer of sovereignty to the people of Iraq is through the handing over of powers to their democratically elected representatives.

In the process of transition and reconstruction in Iraq, we believe that the Arab League must be a privileged partner of the United Nations. Being a regional organization representing more than 200 million people professing mostly the same religion, speaking the same language, and being of the same cultural and historical origin, it must not be ignored nor bypassed when its own interests and that of the region are at stake.

My country is a good example of a partnership which can develop when the United Nations and its obvious natural role in the solving of conflicts and the mobilization of international consensus, is recognized.

In my country, the Special Representative of the Secretary- General, our brother, Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, is Asian and Hindu. His Deputy is also Asian of Japanese nationality of Buddhist faith. The commander of the peacekeeping force, General Khaiiuddin Mat Yusos of Malaysia, is a Muslim.

The United Nations peacekeepers in my country have served or are serving contingents from Jordan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Philippines and Singapore. They have served with professionalism and dedication, side by side with contingents from other nationalities like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Portugal, Brazil, Chile, Kenya, and Mozambique.

Each process is unique and has its own dimensions and characteristics but our positive experience is possible in other places and can serve as a reference point in Iraq.

I must make mention here of two issues related to the Middle East. Firstly, Palestine. We express our deep disappointment that the process has regressed and at the escalation of violence in that part of the world. We feel encouraged by the presentation of the "Road Map" and we hope that this "Road Map" can assist in accelerating the process to peace.

We would like to reiterate our support for the "road map" and reaffirm our position of the right of the people of Palestine to self determination and independence and the establishment of an independent and sovereign State.

We appeal to all parties of this bloody conflict to observe a cessation of all types of violence, to resume dialogue, and to respect with vigor, the road map agreed with the Quartet.

With respect to Western Sahara, the Arabic and Muslim people of the former Spanish territory of Western Sahara continue to wait with patience, for the realization of the referendum for self determination as agreed to by all parties in 1994.

We appeal to this General Assembly, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Security Council, the Arab League and the African Union, to encourage both parties to return to direct dialogue with a view to establishing a definitive date for the realization of the referendum for self determination in the territory of Western Sahara.

My Government is closely following the situation in Guinea-Bissau. While deploring the occurrence of a military coup that toppled the elected President, we are relieved that there was no loss of blood and life.

My government supports the holding of new elections with a view to the restoration of a constitutional democratic order, and if possible, within the framework of the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), to gather the necessary support to bring peace, stable government and economic recovery.

We regret the breakdown in talks at the last round of the World Trade Organization in Cancun. The industrialized nations must understand that the international and commercial systems must be corrected.

It is neither ethical nor moral that the rich countries preach democracy and human rights and the dogma of a free market when at the same time they practice protectionist policies which condemn hundreds of millions of human beings to perpetual poverty and dependency.

It is less ethical when they intend to teach the rules of the free market yet at the same time subsidize with billions of dollars, their farmers, making the products of our countries which has a greater comparative advantage, each time, less competitive.

None of the member countries of the G-8 and only four of the Western European countries has met the appeal of the United Nations to the rich countries to dedicate at least 0.7% of their GDP to assist in development. Others are decreasing this assistance reducing it a meaningless percentage of their GDP.

If we are attentive to the fact that the total ODA is merely US $50 billion and that the rich nations spend around $300 billion in subsidies for their farmers and livestock breeders, we ask, "How can they speak about a free market and the millennium development goals, the reduction of poverty, education and health for all, when they continue to subsidize their agricultural products where ours are capable of having comparative advantages and being more competitive?"

Timor-Leste has benefited from international solidarity and we are grateful for this. But we must not remain silent to the injustices and anti-economic policies which impoverish the rest of the world. We appeal for re-negotiation and debt relief for the poor and indebted countries, but we also defend that debt relief must be proportional to the measures taken by each country in adopting strategies for sustainable development focusing on the eradication of poverty with increases in expenditure in public health, education, reduction of expenditure in military, strengthening of democratic institutions, promotion of human rights, independence of the judiciary. These are conditions which are indispensable for
peace and prosperity.

In conclusion, Mr. President, Excellencies,

I would like to touch on the theme of the reform of the United Nations. The creation of this institution was the result of a collective experience of our humanity, victim of the largest scourge in our history. We congratulate the creators for their vision but we are conscious that the institution reflects the reality of that period. With merely 51 members in 1945 and viewed at that time as a club for the rich and powerful, a "white man's club", the United Nations today is a real global institution with 191 members.

The recent experience of Iraq provoked a new debate on the necessity for the structural reform of our institution beginning with the Security Council which more and more is being called on to provide opinions and intervene in many regions of the world. We support the increase in the number of permanent members of the Security Council to reflect the actual demographic reality and the new equilibrium in the world. In the minds and in the mouths of many, a few questions are frequently being asked, for example "Is it just that the Western Group has three permanent seats in the Security Council, Asia has only one, Africa and Latin America has none? Is it possible that India, the largest democracy in the world with more than one billion inhabitants, does not have the same status as others? Is it possible that Brazil, the 9th economy in the world, the biggest in Latin America, crossroads of the races and civilizations, and Iberian/ Latin American, African and indigenous people do not have status as a permanent member of the Security Council?" Throughout its history, Brazil showed prudence and balance in the conduct of its external politics, an active and constructive engagement in the regional and international stage and always a voice of moderation and dialogue.

There are certain procedures which may be understandable in the period of the Cold War. But today it must give way to the principles of democratic decision making that are acceptable and universally practiced.

We also support that the duration of the mandate of each of the non- permanent members must be reduced to between six months and one year. This will give opportunity to the 191 members of our organization to serve in this organ. Besides, a reduction of the period will allow those less privileged to feel the desire to invest their human and financial resources to serve in the Security Council.

The reform and democratization of a number of organs of our organization is necessary and urgent. The errors and failures of the past whereby the Security Council was powerless and indifferent to human tragedies should compel us to have the courage to accept a fair share of the decision making which affect us all.

Let the big, rich and powerful know that humility is the greatest virtue. Leadership means to know how to dialogue, persuade, construct alliances, and consensus. The challenges are ahead. The threats are many. We have the resources of 191 countries represented in this huge organization. To respond to these challenges and threats, we must unite; build bridges of consensus and active cooperation.

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Allow me to conclude by saying that the future belongs to the optimists. We are here today because we are in favor of optimism. That is why, the struggle must continue.

Thank you.