Speech by Estanislau da Silva, FRETILIN Member of Parliament, and FRETILIN representative to Conference on the Right of the People of Western Sahara.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Organizing Committee of this Conference for inviting us here,
I would like also to thank the Government of Algeria for the hospitality we have been given to attend this International Conference, and
I would like also to commend both the Government and Algerian People for continuing support to the People of Western Sahara
We have recently celebrated in Timor-Leste, on 30 of August 2010, the 11 the anniversary of the referendum, through which the people of Timor-Leste voted overwhelmingly for independence, delivering thereby an end to 24 yeas Indonesia’s occupation of the country. In the meantime, we also celebrated on 20 May the 8th anniversary of restoration of our independence, unilaterally proclaimed by FRETILIN on 28 November 1975.
Therefore, it's both a matter of sadness and a matter of honor to be with you here today.
It's a matter of sadness because 2010 is the 50th anniversary of UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples, yet one of the world's last colonies is still being occupied by a state that itself was once colonized.
It's a matter of honor because East Timor and Western Sahara were both abandoned by their former colonial occupiers and occupied after by neighboring states, and the people of East Timor have always supported the right of the people of Western Sahara to determine their own future.
When His Excellency Jose Ramos-Horta accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 along with Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, he mentioned Western Sahara four times in his acceptance speech.
While we East Timorese have regained our independence, Western Sahara is still fighting for its independence. But we follow your situation with attention and sympathy. And, In the meantime, we have in Timor-Leste an Embassy and a resident Ambassador based in Dili.
We read with concern the report by Human Rights Watch two years ago (2008), which documented how "Morocco uses a combination of repressive laws, police violence, and unfair trials to punish Saharawis who advocate peacefully in favor of independence or full self-determination". The same thing had been said about Suharto-era Indonesia when we East Timorese advocated peacefully in favor of self-determination.
Human Rights Watch concluded that "Moroccan authorities consider all opposition to their rule of the disputed territory as illegal attacks on Morocco's "territorial integrity," and use this as a basis to ban or disperse peaceful demonstrations and to deny legal recognition to human rights organizations."
I would like to read to you something from the Final Report of our Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation:
"The diplomacy of the East Timorese resistance was the most important factor in achieving self-determination. The Resistance maintained its commitment in the face of extraordinary challenges including political differences, resource constraints, isolation and overwhelming odds, both inside and outside Timor-Leste. The diplomacy of the resistance was ultimately successful because it focused on internationally agreed principles, eschewed ideology and violence, was open to the contribution of all East Timorese, and made maximum use of the international system, media and civil society networks. As a human rights and moral (rather than ideological) issue, the question of Timor-Leste gained international legitimacy and support at the expense of Indonesia whose case rested on force and had no basis in international law or morality."
You may be assured that we East Timorese support your right to self-determination. We were extremely concerned last year when we received news that Ms Aminatou Haidar, went on hunger strike in the terminal of Lanzarote airport in protest at her illegal expulsion from her home in Western Sahara.
However, drawing on our own struggle for freedom, we believed that the episode indicated how a younger generations of Saharawis have continued to resort to peaceful resistance in order to raise the awareness of the international community. Indeed, in the case of Ms Haidar, we could see how her hunger strike resulted in proposals to include human rights monitoring in the prerogatives of MINURSO (UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara). Although the resolution was vetoed, there is no doubt that continued use of peaceful nonviolent action will have an effect.
We commend Frente Polisario for never engaging in terrorism, even during the years of guerrilla warfare against Moroccan occupation forces between 1975 and 1991. The Frente Polisario has observed a ceasefire ever since, despite Morocco breaking its promise to allow for a UN-sponsored referendum.
Polisario's proposal sensibly commits it to accepting the results of a referendum whatever it is. If a free and fair referendum resulted in an autonomy agreement over independence, then that too would constitute a legitimate act of self-determination. Outstanding UN Security Council resolutions explicitly call for such a referendum. Unfortunately, Morocco has explicitly ruled out "the possibility for the independence option to be submitted" in any referendum.
Meanwhile, Christopher Ross letter addressed to the Group of Friends of Sahara namely EU, France, Spain, United Kindong and Russia, said that in the long run the status quo in the negotiations is unacceptable and it may brings serious risk to the stability of the region. Ross underline the facts of raising extremism and criminal activities which may lead to military and paramilitary adventures in the event of continuing failure of diplomatic negotiation. In addition he stressed that credibility of UN missions could be at risk as well.
Therefore Morocco’s rejection for the independence option to be included in any referendum, would mean that the international community would be endorsing the expansion of a country's territory by military force, thereby violating international law and the UN Charter.
We East Timorese are all too familiar with attempts to do just that, and we therefore support the international legal consensus, namely that articulated in a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark 1975 decision by the International Court of Justice upholding the right of the country's inhabitants to self-determination.