Timor-Leste’s former resistance leader and the nation’s first president Xanana Gusmao has delivered the 2015 ST Lee Lecture at the ANU, and urged the world to do more for the world’s two billion poor.
Mr Gusmao was his country’s first president in 2002, after a 24-year struggle against Indonesian occupation. He also served seven and half years as prime minister, and is now Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment.
He used the public lecture to draw a direct link between poverty and ongoing conflicts in fragile states.
“It is a paradox that while we enjoy an increasingly globalised and interconnected world, the same trends also deliver directly to the world’s poor a constant reminder of a global inequality that is unprecedented in recent time,” Mr Gusmao said.
Mr Gusmao said the United Nations Millennium Development Goals had done little to help many of the world’s poorest people who live in conflict areas.
“There are still two billion people who are living in poverty in fragile and conflict-affected nations, which will not achieve even a single Millennium Development Goal. Timor Leste is unfortunately one of those nations,” he said.
“The main reason, I believe, the Millennium Development goals failed the poorest and most fragile nations in the world is because the goals did not acknowledge the link between poverty, fragility and conflict.
“In the first years of independence, Timor Leste struggled to break out of a cycle of conflict and violence. Fragility and violence destroyed the development progress we had made.”
Mr Gusmao was a central figure in Timor Leste’s quest for independence, spending years hiding out in the jungle before he was captured in Dili in 1992. He spent seven years in an Indonesian prison, where he learned the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“During our occupation we were at the mercy of the politics of the Cold War,” he said.
“From our experience of occupation, we also learned the value of forgiveness.
“I realised the Indonesian people were also suffering under the dictatorship, and that many supported the Timorese cause.
“Our reconciliation with Indonesia gives me confidence that in our region and across the world, the most intractable conflicts can lead to peace.”