The president of the republic decided to have an early election in May 2018 which resulted in the AMP coalition leading with 34 seats. Taur Matan Ruak was appointed as prime minister by AMP president Xanana Gusmao. Later on, president Francisco Guterres Lu Olo refused to swear in nine ministers, most of them from the CNRT. This has worsen the political impasse and recently Xanana Gusmao's CNRT parliament bench abstained when parliament voted on the state budget for 2020.
As the political and economic crisis drags on, I thought to myself, there is so much bad and depressing news out there! Are there any positive elements in the midst of this ongoing political and economic crisis?
One of the major positive elements was pointed out by His Excellency Dr. Jose Ramos Horta earlier this week when he stated that the people of Timor-Leste have demonstrated tremendous maturity throughout this long-drawn crisis.
Over the last 10 years, the people of Timor-Leste have indeed matured. Most of them now watch the political dramas from the sidelines without getting emotionally charged. They refuse to get drawn in by the political drama despite many of them having different political ideologies and allegiances. I was wondering to myself, what if this similar political crisis unfolded 15 years ago?
It could well be that there would have been violence and civil unrest. Today, most Timorese understand that it’s a few leaders who cannot come to agreement and but there is no reason for the population generally to get involved and fight one another. That is political maturity.
Perhaps the fact that 97% of the population is Roman Catholic has played a role in maintaining the unity of the nation despite the disunity of the leaders. Perhaps most of the citizens have just become tired and cynical of the political situation. I sense that many adopt a que sera sera, whatever will be will be attitude. I frequently hear the common folk in the streets say that whatever they do, they can’t change the political situation, so they just get on with their daily lives. Being resigned and feeling helpless is not great; but it’s still better than violence caused by ideological differences.
Another major positive aspect is that the younger generation still holds the 1975 generation of leaders in high regard despite the public spat that is ongoing between them. The younger generation leaders are not trying to rise and cause a political coup. They still respect the wisdom of the elders. They still hold out hope that the founding fathers of the country will indeed lead them toward a more prosperous country. They still hold out hope that this is a small glitch that will eventually be fixed. This healthy respect for the current generation of leaders and wisely staying out of the political spat demonstrates the patience and character of the coming generation of leaders. There is much wisdom in being patient and respectful.
My personal observation is also that the current leaders are careful and measured in their speeches or just keep silent. No one is making inflammatory speeches or is overtly critical of one another. This makes it very possible for a peaceful resolution to the crisis as it appears that none of the leaders really want to fiercely confront one another. Perhaps it also indicates a healthy underlying respect that they might have for one another despite the disagreements.
Here’s another positive aspect. Despite this political crisis having a negative impact on the economy, I still see investors staying put. I noted that Mr. Jape Kong Su made a statement that Timor Plaza will not be terminating any employees despite the ongoing crisis. I see that the big companies are all still staying put in the country. I noted that Batik Air indicated their interest in flying to Dili as early as next month. The construction of the Hilton hotel continues at a steady pace. The Pelican Paradise Group has stated that they remain fully committed to implementing their major investment project and they will get it underway this year as soon as all the paperwork is completed with the government of Timor-Leste. Trade Invest Timor-Leste continues to receive enquiries from many interested investors.
Although I am aware that many small businesses are struggling, it is still a good sign that the big major long-term investors continue to have faith in the fundamentals of the nation. Perhaps they too see the potential of Timor-Leste growing rapidly once the political crisis is resolved.
Another remarkable insight I would like to share with you is that the country is still running! There is still electricity. There is enough food. Roads are ever improving. Salaries are being paid. Inflation is under control. Flights are continuing.
Most importantly, people still have hope. The darkest hour of Timor-Leste will come when people have given up hope. That is when we will see real darkness descend on to the country. That is when we will see each for his own. I sense the people are frustrated but they still hold out hope and continue to believe that things will eventually work out fine.
I think the negatives of this long drawn political and economic crisis have been well expounded on by many parties. My hope is that this article can provide some encouragement that Timor-Leste has some strong positive fundamentals.
Yet, as a concerned Timorese, my plea to the political leaders and those in the corridors of power, is to put the national interest of the country at the forefront of all decision making. Despite the positive aspects outlined above, we would be naïve to think that the patience of the people, investors, development partners and goodwill of others will last forever. Once people, investors and our partners lose hope and patience, things could change dramatically for the worse fairly quickly. Let’s not treat people for fools. It’s time to move forward for the sake of this beloved nation!