Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Timor-Leste president-elect Jose Ramos-Horta said he would work closely with the Catholic Church and acknowledged the important role of various parties, including religious leaders, in jointly finding solutions to the country's problems.
He made the comments during a meeting with priests at the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Timorese Bishops' Conference (CET) on April 27, part of a series of courtesy visits following his election victory on April 19.
Ramos-Horta told the priests that the commission would be his partner in dealing with issues related to "justice, human and social rights, education and national development."
The commission's role was very important "in strengthening democracy and national unity and contributing to good governance in the future, state news agency Tatoli reported him as saying.
CET spokesman Father Julio Crispim welcomed the president-elect's promise and hoped he would "carry out his duties with full responsibility."
"We want him to be a head of state for all Timorese ... to promote a national dialogue that can bring solutions to problems facing the country," he said.
Earlier in the day Ramos-Horta also met with President Francisco "Lu-Olo" Guterres, whom he defeated in the election.
In their first post-election meeting, he said he would encourage national dialogue involving all political parties, national figures, including Guterres, as well as religious leaders to promote democracy, peace and stability.
"National dialogue is important to accelerate our economic development. The reason is that Timor-Leste will face big challenges in various fields over the next five years, especially in the economic sector," he said.
"If there is a humanitarian, economic and sociopolitical crisis, then it is part of the responsibility of the president to mobilize the government, parliament and the international community to respond to the crisis."
Ramos-Horta, who won the election by a landslide with 62.1 percent of the vote, beating Guterres' 37.9 percent, will be sworn in on May 20, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the restoration of independence.
He is faced with serious problems including poverty, unemployment and poor education.
The Catholic-majority country – 98 percent of its 1.3 million total population – is one of the poorest countries in the world with an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) per capita amounting to around US$1,560 in 2019, according to the World Bank. It also ranks 141 among 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index for 2020.
In 2020, the unemployment rate stood at about 5.1 percent, according to government data.
Meanwhile, the last national census in 2015 revealed that only 5.3 percent of the population aged 15 and over completed their university studies.