STATEMENT BY THE LEADER OF THE FRETILIN PARLIAMENTARY GOUP: EXTRAORDINARY PLENARY FOR THE CELEBRATION OF
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
12 December 2011
Mr. President of the Republic,
Mr. President of the National Parliament,
Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations,
Invited guests, People of Timor-Leste.
Today we commemorate international human rights day, a day of great importance to the whole world, just as it is for the people of Timor-Leste, to reaffirm our belief in human dignity and fundamental human rights, to renew our commitment to increase social progress and improve the quality of life of all our people in an environment of greater peace for all our people.
In Timor-Leste we celebrate International Human Rights Day in a situation where 75% of our people live in poverty and deprivation, according to the observations in the recent report by the Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
This situation compels us to evaluate how we as a nation state are implementing or realizing human rights especially economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to food security, the right to work, the right to education, the right access health services, etc, that according to the principal human rights conventions that have been ratified by our nation state, are now the obligation and responsibility of the State of Timor-Leste to deliver.
Despite the development that has occurred over the last ten years, and in the last four years Timor-Leste has undertaken a great deal of public investment totaling more than USD$3.5 billion, but that has not resulted in any significant change for living standards during this time. In the agricultural sector in the rural areas, where the majority of our people live, many of our people do not have food security and go hungry, they do not have access to clean water, and approximately 58% of our people suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Poverty is widespread throughout our country, and 90% of our youth between the ages of 15-34 years of age are unemployed and without a means of livelihoods. The living conditions of our rural population are worse of all, because public infrastructure is in poor condition, their means of access to information and communication is extremely limited, and the whole economic development is centered in Dili, never reaching the grassroots communities.
The so called “double digit” economic growth or much touted development, has not resulted in an improved standard of living or employment creation for our people, but it has instead created social and economic inequality, has provoked corruption to flourish in the state’s institutions. So, only a few people have enjoyed a good life during the last 10 years since the restoration of independence, but with our peoples’ common wealth, whilst the majority of the people of Timor-Leste continue to suffer in poverty and deprivation, denied the right to an adequate standard of living or dignity of life.
On the 9th of December last, we celebrated International Anti Corruption day, but we did so with uneasy feelings, because according to the recently released Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Timor-Leste’s ranking has deteriorated direly to 143rd place from 183 countries, placing us on the same footing as Togo, Uganda, Nigeria and others, placing Timor-Leste in the group os nations highly at risk of corruption.
Though there are those amongst us who do not want to accept this reality we face, because it is like a bitter quinine pill that we have to swallow in order to cure us of this illness, cure us of the disease of corruption that is bringing such negative consequences and denying our people of their right to a better life.
To quote the words of the President of the Republic who expressed his concern with regard to the prevalence of corruption in our country, during the celebrations of the International Human Rights Day at the Dili Convention Centre, that, “Timor-Leste as a new nation, for just over ten years, should be ‘super clean’ nation and a ‘model’ in the fight against corruption.”
To conclude, we want to take this opportunity to congratulate those who have been honoured today by the President of the Republic with the Sergio Vieira De Melo Human Rights Prize. We anticipate that together we will respect and guarantee human rights, and the fundamental rights of all of our citizens, not just make empty promises in political speeches or write nice laws, but we have to make it a reality in the everyday lives of our citizens.