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East Timor Seeks Help From International Agencies


The President of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, is in Geneva to seek assistance from United Nations agencies for his impoverished country. The president says East Timor has put the bitterness of its war for independence from Indonesia behind it and is looking forward to a brighter social and economic future.

This first showing of the film A Hero's Journey, traces the development of Xanana Gusmao from guerrilla fighter to president of East Timor. The film explores the potential power of forgiveness to resolve conflict.

Mr. Gusmao is often called the Nelson Mandela of East Asia. In that spirit, he says only through forgiveness and reconciliation can East Timor put an end to the suffering of the past and look toward the future. He says pursuing vengeance or demanding justice will not solve anything.

"We are trying to tell the international community that justice is justice. That now it is better to look at ourselves as Timorese and say that the better justice we can give to the people will be a good governance, a good and clean governance, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expression," said Mr. Gusmao.

East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia in 1999 after a long bloody struggle that left tens of thousands of people dead and homeless.

In 1983, the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council postponed debate on independence for East Timor. Mr. Gusmao says the U.N. Human Rights Commission was the only forum that supported the rebel cause for independence.

"It used to remind the international community about our right of freedom, our right to be independent," he added. "That is why this is the first time that I come here, taking with me sentiments of gratitude from our people."

East Timor is the poorest country in East Asia and one of the 10 poorest in the world. The Timorese president says he also has come to Geneva seeking economic and development assistance from U.N. agencies such as the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development or UNCTAD and the International Labor Organization.

"We are trying to invite some technical agencies like UNCTAD to send a mission to look at the opportunities to help us," he noted. "Now we are in the stage of starting to look at how to develop our country in native agriculture, in small …enterprise."

East Timor shares oil resources with Australia that lie between the two countries. President Gusmao says East Timor sent its first shipment of oil to Japan two months ago. He says he believes within five years, the country will be able to use the revenue from oil sales to begin essential projects for economic development.

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