Fragile countries like Timor-Leste are the main collateral victims of the climate impact of exploitation of the planet by the most powerful countries, but they also have to assume part of the responsibility, said the Timorese head of state.
“We and our sister nations of small developing and least developed states, of fragile states, are the main collateral victims of decades of exploitation, depredation and destruction by larger powers. But let’s be honest and don’t blame all the bigger and richer nations. We must also accept part of the blame,” said José Ramos-Horta on Wednesday night.
“We are the ones who burn our forests, cut down our trees out of extreme greed and to satisfy others, we are the ones who waste humanity’s most precious asset, drinking water”, said the Timorese President, considering it essential to adopt new attitudes and behaviors.
“We are the ones who carelessly dump plastic and other waste into rivers and seas. We in Timor-Leste, and hundreds of millions in the developing world, must stop finger-pointing and change our own behaviour, conserve energy, use less air conditioning, stop wasting public goods,” he said.
José Ramos-Horta was speaking at the reception offered to resident and non-resident ambassadors in Timor-Leste and heads of United Nations agencies, at the historic Lahane Palace, in Dili.
By defending a broad reforestation program, with trees in cities, towns and mountains, and fruit trees in schools and in all villages, Ramos-Horta considered that the Timorese should implement a “green and sustainable economy, centered on the people”, promoting “sustainable agriculture as a priority” in the country.
A “water policy, for the protection of water sources, generates new sources of water from the ground, from rain and from the sea”, he stressed.
A few months before the legislative elections, and on what he considered to be the country’s priorities, Ramos-Horta defended “a decent home for each vulnerable family, clean water for all, employment for young people, the elimination of extreme poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy ”, as well as a “quality basic education and professional education for all, including digital education, English language and other languages”.
“I see Timor-Leste as a nation of polyglots, with all Timorese in the future mastering our two official languages [Portuguese and Tetum], as well as Indonesian and English. And our youth must be motivated to learn Mandarin, Korean, Arabic, ”he said.
A vision that Timor-Leste wants to share with international partners to whom he appealed to join the Timorese in contributing to the development of a country that “is an oasis of tranquility”, he said.
Ramos-Horta highlighted the peace and harmony of Timor-Leste’s “exemplary relations” with its neighbours, the absence of motivated political violence or instances of religious and ethnic violence, as well as internationally recognized levels of freedom of the press.
“Our democracy is dynamic, but we still belong to the ‘fragile’ category. And by any definition we are still a less developed country,” he said.
“An obvious example of our fragility is best illustrated, ironically, by the excessive number of security agencies with overlapping functions, exacerbated by their flagrant disregard for clearly defined mandates. I had difficulties locating the number of civil and military security agencies or structures, all with firearms and all involved in essentially minor police matters,” he stated.
Regarding the legislative elections, scheduled for May and the date of which he is expected to announce later this month, Ramos-Horta said that he will ensure that “there will be no attempt to interfere by anyone”, asking the international community to implement observer missions.
Internally, he said that the Commission for Justice and Peace, of the Timorese Church, wants to have observers throughout the country, and “needs financial or other support”.
Without giving details, Ramos-Horta said that the 2022 presidential elections, in which he was elected, “were not free from political interference and manipulation”, noting that “many cases of blatant interference have been reported”.
“I intend to observe the parliamentary elections from hour to hour. In partnership with the National Election Commission, I will raise the red flag whenever we detect irregularities, ”he warned.
The Timorese President also reiterated the defense of the UN Charter, the promotion of the law of the sea, adding that the country “firmly rejects the militarization of the South China Sea”.
“We will adhere to any consensus position adopted by our common regional organization ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. Timor-Leste actively defends the centrality of ASEAN. In this regard, Timor-Leste fully supports ASEAN’s position on the military coup and the gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights against civilians and political opponents in Myanmar [formerly Burma]”, he said, stressing that Timor-Leste “demands the return of the constitutional regime”.
The head of state undertook to strengthen relations with various partners in the region, with India, where Timor-Leste will establish an embassy, and with Lusophone partners.
“Relations with Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries remain as strong as ever. I had the pleasure of having attended the inauguration of President [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] and I had the honor of traveling from Lisbon to Brazil with President Marcelo Ribeiro de Sousa”, he recalled.