26 December 2008

2004 National Dialogue on Justice - Speech by President Xanana Gusmao

Opening address by H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste On the occasion of the 3rd National Dialogue

Dili, 5th March, 2004


Excellency, President of the National Parliament,
Excellency, Prime Minister,
Excellency, President of the Court of Appeal,
Excellency, Prosecutor-General,
Excellencies, Ministers of State,
Excellency, Minister for Justice,

Distinguished Members of the National Parliament,
Distinguished Members of Government,

Distinguished Forum Participants,

It was with great pleasure that the Presidency of the Republic undertook, at the request of the Government, the preparations for this Forum to debate the Judicial System.

And it is also with great pleasure that I welcome you all here today to this Forum. Your presence here reveals our collective concern for issues of national interest and dimension.

Justice is an issue of the State. The State should be the watchdog to ensure that Justice is well enforced. Justice is more than just punishing; it is to serve. Justice punishes law offenders in order to serve society. Justice punishes individuals who violate the interests of society, and thus, serves the people.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that we all know a little of the major difficulties that the Courts are facing.

However, I should say that little is known of the existence or of the lack of conditions in infrastructure, transportation and equipment, which would have been the basic support for the Justice sector to function adequately. The District Court of Suai functions in Dili and this fact alone reveals a need.

I believe that we all have a vague idea of the problems related to the backlog of cases that continue to stack in the courts; of the problems related to the methodology applied in trials, which involve prosecutors, public defenders, judges and lawyers; trials which sometimes emphasize the need for mentoring, supervision and discipline.

Sometimes we hear of illegal detentions and of complaints about the way the Courts are managed and administered. We hear also of existing or lack of relations between the various instances of the Justice sector.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we all know, I have always called attention to the state of justice in Timor-Leste.

Perhaps there are some who may think that I always purposely make reference to justice, merely because I have nothing else to do, and that it is my job to direct criticism at other institutions. The truth is that the issue of Justice is serious! Very serious! It is a serious issue as the Courts constitute the fourth pillar of sovereignty of the Democratic State. It is a serious issue, because if Justice does not function, all the efforts to establish a democratic system in Timor-Leste will fail. The system can only be democratic when justice is applied responsibly and professionally!

Nowadays, the issue of the independence of the Courts is often raised, as if this were the only way to guarantee good justice in Timor-Leste! The independence of the Courts is merely one aspect, because it does not absolutely mean that the agents of Justice do not have, like any one of us, the added responsibilities in building the State.

The State belongs to us all, and we all have to care for this State!

The professionalism of the protagonists of Justice is the most important aspect, a sine que non condition for justice to serve Justice. And so that there is professionalism, ethics are also important components. But the conscience of responsibility is fundamental.

There are also the duties of citizenship, from which the agents of Justice should not think they are exempt. If justice were to be applied merely for gains, then Timor-Leste would be a shelter for mafias and for the corrupt.

It is for this reason that the agents of Justice should be evaluated in the performance of their functions and obligations, so that society can respect justice and believe that justice does exist in the Democratic State of

Ladies and gentlemen,

For the next two and half days, we will debate on "What kind of Justice do we want for Timor-Leste"? How do we implement it, nurture it, strengthen it will be the questions that emerge.

I hope that the discussions are guided by common sense and by a profound notion of citizenship and responsibility. It is not worth preparing ourselves only to point the finger. It is more worthwhile to diagnose the illnesses that we have in our bodies, in the Justice sector as the Judicial System of independent Timor-Leste. It is more worthwhile to detect the contagious dangers that the illnesses can provoke in society and in the whole State.

We are here to contribute and participate, because we are here to build. Justice is a serious issue; Justice is an issue of the State and not of the individual. The building of the Rule of Law demands that all of us, as citizens, undertake this.

I wish you all success, because from here we are sending a message to our People that they can count on us, their sons and daughters, to serve better each time.

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