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First Lady calls on Alkatiri to respond to L-7

Radio Australia - August 6, 2004

East Timor's first lady, Kirsty Sword Gusmao has called on the Alkatiri government to listen to the needs and demands of rebel Cornelio Gama or L-7. The disgruntled war veteran recently lead a demonstration in Dili in which 26 people were arrested after riot police fired tear gas to break up the protest

Presenter/Interviewer: Claudette Werden

Speakers: Kirsty Sword Gusmao, East Timor's first lady, wife of President Xanana Gusmao

Gusmao: "I can understand the position of those former veterans, you know they previously were very clear about who the enemy was, it was the Indonesian military. They had a role as heroes in fighting against that enemy. Nowadays who are they? You know they haven't been given any special recognition from government, they're not clear about what their role is in determining the future of their country. So I think it's very understandable that they are feeling marginalised now and disgruntled with the government and expressing that through demonstrations."

Werden: Well what do you think the government should do with people like L-7?

Gusmao: "I think it's really important that the government sit down and listen to what they're saying and really make a special effort to respond in some way, either with training or employment opportunities for these people, not just because they have the potential to disrupt stability in the future, but because they really are genuinely deserving of attention and special support."

Werden: Kirsty you said earlier in the week that East Timor shouldn't have to beg in connection with the Timor Gap treaty. What did you mean by that?

Gusmao: " Just that I think that it's not befitting a nation that fought courageously and with determination for 24 years against tremendous odds and without any external help for their independence, to now be in a position to be beggar if you like rather than prosperous in our own right as a sovereign nation."

"I feel sad seeing that scenario and I think the Timorese are an extremely proud and dignified people and I'd like to see the country be able to progress on its own terms, you know not as a fully aid-dependent nation as it is at the present time."

Werden: In your opinion what is the stumbling block? Is the Australian government being too greedy?

Gusmao: "I think it does come down to a question of greed and I don't think that the position that's been taken by the Australian negotiating side in any way reflects public sentiment in Australia, in my last three tours here of Australia I haven't met a single Australian who has said to me I don't agree with you, I think we need access to those resources."

"I think it's just so clear, Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, a recent UNDP human development report, which was published puts Australia at number three on the human development index after Norway and Sweden, and East Timor at 155. That's not to say that East Timor is basing its claim on superior need as Alexander Downer would have us believe. It is based on established principles of international law.

And East Timor is saying if Australia would allow a third party neutral arbitor to come in and to tell us that we actually don't have a claim to any more of the resources in the Timor Sea we will accept that. But of course Australia has effectively removed the umpire from the playing field by withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on this issue."

Werden: Ok if the Australian government has withdrawn from the international court, who would you recommend as the third party?

Gusmao: "Well I think it's not too late to actually restore the previous arrangement and actually invite the Court of Justice to intervene on the matter. I know that East Timor has sort of put forward the idea that perhaps another country in the region such as New Zealand might play that role. I think it'd be far preferable that it was a body such as the International Court of Justice that was playing a role in this matter, given their experience and the fact that they really represent I guess those principles of international law that I referred to earlier."