Timor-Leste: 22 Years Of Independence : Learning From The Past, Looking Forward To A Better And Brighter Future

Timor Post - General · Opinion
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Fr. Ajinho Soares, SVD (Timorense) Tagaytay City, Philippines

By: Fr. Ajinho Soares, SVD (Timorense) Tagaytay City, Philippines

Timor-Leste’s stage above the vortex of the earth recorded a series of events that were both proud, amazing, and disappointing. These various events organize the journey of Timor-Leste, which has now entered its 22nd year of independence. An age of general understanding leads to personal development.

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Success in fighting for independence in the era of integration is a matter of pride and success for the entire people of Timor-Leste to enjoy independence and freedom to organize their lives for the better. However, is it true that the people of Timor-Leste have enjoyed and experienced prosperity in life after successfully fighting for independence in this era of integration? which was full of many challenges and obstacles, but the reality proves that the land of Timor-Leste is now in two positions.

On the one hand, Timor-Leste today has shown its face as a new country in the Southeast Asia region that is fully sovereign with the name of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (RDTL), which is inhabited, educated, cultured, and humane.

Timor-Leste has created a government institution, the presidency, to support community development. In this case, it is certainly easier for the community to access national development compared to before, when they were still under the shackles of colonialism.

In the field of infrastructure development, for example, entering the 22nd anniversary of independence this year, the Timor-Leste government has attempted to build roads from each district city to the capital city of Dili (national roads). This development has made it possible to support the economy of the entire community of Timor-Leste, namely by making it easier for local communities to market all their agricultural products to the capital city of Dili.

On the other hand, schools have been built in almost all corners of Timor Leste, starting from elementary schools, junior high schools, general or vocational high schools, and a number of universities in Timor Leste. In short, the people of Timor-Leste have and are enjoying the world of education, even though they still experience problems related to Portuguese, which is used as an academic language. Even though there are obstacles in the Portuguese language, so far, the schooling tradition in Timor Leste has enabled all Timor Leste people to have access to education.

Likewise, in the field of lighting or electricity, almost all corners of Timor-Leste now experience and enjoy 24-hour lighting. These things have enabled all Timor Leste people to experience and feel this atmosphere of independence. But it cannot be avoided that, on the other hand, post-independence, Timor-Leste is still lamenting its downturn situation, which can be said to be very worrying.

Timor-Leste is still trying to cross the chasm of political crisis in government, namely between people’s officials or rulers, the gap of national insecurity, the gap of poverty, the gap of corruption, the gap of social injustice, the gap of indifference to people’s health, and the gap of primitive culture.

The country of Timor-Leste is experiencing and facing this situation of decline because society, especially the top leaders of the Timor-Leste people, are still patterned towards individual struggles that are oriented towards personal interests. The element of private ownership is still dominant. As a result, what is fought for and what is attempted is only for one’s own interests.

Until now, all policies, regulations, and provisions relating to the livelihoods of many people have always been determined by the government. What is determined is what must be carried out by all components of society.

As a result, many small communities are generally weak in education, poor, and are in the most basic structures of government without being based on any definite knowledge, just following what is dictated from above (take it for granted). This phenomenon leads to a development process that does not bring significant results. Here, policymakers (government) continue to maintain the deductive (top-down) approach that has been applied from generation to generation.

Apar from that, the government should open a new strategy, namely an inductive approach (from bottom to top). This means that the needs and demands of the people must be the basis for making certain policies or decisions because the essence of government is to support the happiness and welfare of the people at large.

Now days, the reality shows that the meaning of the struggle for independence and the values of the struggle for independence itself have now faded and are no longer lived by the people, especially the people’s top leaders.

For this reason, as a citizen of Timor Leste, the author is also concerned and invites all Timor-Leste people today to look back, become aware and explore the historical meaning of Timor Leste’s struggle for independence in the era of integration as well as the basic values behind that struggle for independence, the values such as: Nationalism, Unity, Solidarity, and Perseverance, and then living them in order to be able to resolve existing internal problems, in order to organize the lives of the people of Timor-Leste today for the better, namely prioritizing what the nation hopes for, vision and mission of progress and shared prosperity (social welfare).

On that basis, the appropriate attitude is “learning to move forward in history with your face turned to the past, your back turned to the future.” This attitude suggests that past history is not closed in the past but has relevance for humans in constructing present and future history. In this case, it would be good for the entire community, especially political figures and high-ranking people of Timor Leste, to live up to the call of the Indonesian proclaimer, Ir. Soekarno Hatta is the “red coat,” which means never forget or abandon history.

To build a new Timor-Leste, the people of Timor Leste must unite again so that together they can restore the country of Timor-Leste, which has been devastated by past acts of violence. For this reason, people do not need to differentiate between political backgrounds (the ideologies of various political parties in Timor Leste, for example, CNRT, FRETILIN, PD, KHUNTO, PLP), but see it with common sense as the beginning of a democratic process.

Differences of opinion must be appreciated and respected both individually and in groups because everyone has the right to express their opinion. The land of Timor Leste belongs to all people, both people from East Timor-Leste and people from the West; therefore, those who have made mistakes that have caused injustice, lack of freedom, and inconvenience to the community must have a big heart to admit mistakes and apologize to the entire people of Timor Leste.

Admitting mistakes and offering an apology does not mean ignoring the law and the courts. Those who have made mistakes during post-independence must be brought to justice. This is done for the sake of upholding the supremacy of law and justice for all the people of Timor-Leste today. Trying those who are guilty does not mean revenge, but solely for the sake of justice, which must be preserved. Upholding justice and law means upholding human values.

Looking further at the reality of life in Timor-Leste society today, the author proposes several things: politicians and high-ranking people of Timor-Leste should adhere to the meaning of the struggle for independence and live up to the basic values of the struggle for independence in Timor-Leste in the era of integration, just as ancient Greek historians viewed history as a teacher.

This appears most transparently in the saying, which reads, “Historia Vitae Magistra”. That means forgetting past history is a misfortune. Walter Benyamin (1892–1940), philosopher and literary critic of the Frankfurt School, stated that “regarding past history, humans tend to suffer from amnesia (a disease of forgetting).” As Herry Timu elaborated in his article entitled Finding a Political Reform Agenda in the Light of Amnestic Solidarity, to avoid this disease of forgetting, a movement emerged called amnestic solidarity, namely solidarity by means of remembrance (Greek: anamnesis).

Therefore, the appropriate attitude is: “We learn to move forward in history with our faces turned to the past and our backs turned to the future.” This attitude suggests that past history is not closed in the past but has relevance for humans in constructing present and future history. “We study history to be wise first,” said John Secley. In this way, the author believes that political figures or high-ranking state officials can build this new country better so that the people of Timor-Leste today can truly feel this independence.

Now it is also seen that the development approach pursued by the Timor-Leste government should be people-based, in the sense of looking closely at what the people’s needs are, rather than being the master of formulating policies that rely on reasoning power, which ultimately does not match the people’s needs and expectations.

Apart from that, the world of education in Timor-Leste prioritizes output over employment. As a result, many graduates are unemployed due to a lack of job opportunities. Employment is the duty and responsibility of the government and other social institutions.

Timor-Leste government programs in the economic, social, and cultural fields have not yet received a positive response. Many people see that government programs are more prevalent and give the impression that they benefit certain individuals while ignoring other people. In an effort to eradicate poverty in Timor-Leste, political figures and leaders of the people of Timor Leste should look closely at the complaints and needs of the community.

The future development of the country of Timor-Leste is the duty and responsibility of all Timor-Leste citizens. Every person is required to be creative to develop Timor-Leste’s nature. The land of Timor-Leste is rich in all aspects but poor in utilization. Therefore, as citizens of Timor Leste, we should agree to build Timor-Leste into a just and prosperous country and prioritize common interests over personal or group interests.

Efforts to develop Timor-Leste are not too late. This young age of independence, namely 22 years, invites us to see what opportunities Timor-Leste has in the future. In the end, the struggle to achieve independence did not become a false hope that killed creativity but received a process of meaning that led to Timor-Leste, which is actually an independent and fully sovereign country.

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