13th Anniversary of Referendum Day

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Bandeira Nasional Timor-Leste

On this 13th Anniversary of Referendum Day, Fundasaun Mahein (FM) recalls that 30 August of 1999 was very different from 30 August 2012. In 1999, Timorese citizens felt scared yet emerged, motivated to vote. In 2012, Timorese conducted three peaceful elections, proclaimed by the government of Timor-Leste and the international community as democratically accomplished.

However, alongside these triumphs, in 2012 Timor-Leste still experienced violence and unrest – most notably following the coalition announcement earlier this summer. The past several months have also brought fatal and near-fatal attacks against journalists and F-FDTL members. They have brought F-FDTL attacks against the community and the PNTL killing of a student. People have violently destroyed public facilities and private property, including cars and houses.

Therefore, today we must take the time to reflect upon ourselves and our actions. We must ask “are we truly disciplined in running our country?”
The honest answer is most likely, “No”. In the years since the restoration of independence, we have lacked discipline in running our country. We have lacked discipline in following our laws. We have lacked discipline in managing our money.

Timor-Leste has a lot of money! Why is there such high unemployment that our youth cannot find jobs? Why is there such terrible road conditions that we cannot reliably get from one district to another (or even within Dili, one part of the city to another)? Why are our educational and medical buildings crumbling and unable to support basic services? Why are the police and military still not disciplined to high professional conduct – do we need to give more training and capacity to the police and military? Why do we have the money but cannot manage to accomplish these things?

This is because money alone cannot fix Timor-Leste’s problems. Money must be combined with discipline – the discipline to fight corruption, the discipline to do the best for the people of Timor rather than for oneself. Here, FM would like to call on every citizen to think critically about their own behavior and decisions. FM would particularly like to call upon the elites of Timor-Leste to obey the rule of law, not the rule of deals. If we become more disciplined as a nation, development will occur faster and everybody will benefit more quickly from a richer nation.

This 13th anniversary should be about the people who supported the independence but still continue suffer all of these issues – unemployment, poor infrastructure, poor training. These people suffer without receiving justice for the atrocities committed during the Indonesian occupation. Meanwhile, those who committed the atrocities are coming back to Timor-Leste and gaining positions of power. The Timorese citizens feel abandoned by their government. They are becoming discontent. Discontentment will cause instability and huge problems for the government of Timor-Leste. We must ease the suffering, the discontent, and the instability. We must provide justice for all past victims – from 1975, 1999, to 2006 crisis and to today. We must become more disciplined in running our country and managing our money.

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