Extracts from an interview with Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, SDB, Bishop of Dili Diocese and Nobel Peace Laureate.

Cidadaun, No. 10, October 2001

Translated by Jose Estevao Soares, Interim Office, CRTR

What is your opinion about reconciliation?

Many people talk about reconciliation but unfortunately we do not have comprehensive, complete justice yet.  A commission, which in Portuguese we call Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliação, similar to the South Africa’s, is being established.  My hope is that all political parties and sections of society will have enough humility to cooperate with that Commission.    


Some political leaders propose general amnesty, but the people want something different.

They should listen to the people!  Because the voices coming loudly from the ground are demanding justice.  They don’t understand amnesty or its purpose.  If there’s amnesty, who should offer it?  If its given, some will try and take the law into their own hands.  Amnesty will never work. So justice and truth must be upheld.  If someone has done wrong, that’s wrong.  If someone has not done wrong, then he has nothing to answer for.


Should reconciliation and justice go together?

For me reconciliation and justice are like a double-sided coin.  Reconciliation with justice, justice with reconciliation.  Justice without reconciliation is not complete.  Neither is it humane.  On the other hand, reconciliation without justice will not resolve the problem.


Is this related to the promotion of democracy in East Timor?

Definitely.  Democracy demands being open to everyone, respecting everyone.  But it also demands law.  The idea getting around that the advent of democracy means one has the right to do whatever one likes, is not democracy.  In Portuguese we say “libertinagem,” nonsense!


It's also as though democracy just means attacking each other and competing with each other?

That’s fine…there’s a new process underway which accommodates political squabbling but the politicians should always bear in mind that we are all East Timorese and we are all people of faith.  Even when they argue, they should respect the other person and the other person’s opinion.  It is really important that they should sit together searching for the best way to reach consensus about resolving problems.  This way of doing things must begin in the circle of the family, consistent with our tradition.  There will always be quarrels, and if we are engaged in politics, we have to quarrel.  But we have to know whom we are quarrelling for.  Are we quarrelling for the sake of the people or for for those on top?  If they can listen to the voices coming from the ground, I am sure they will never quarrel.  Maybe those who are quarrelling have not been to the interior, to the villages.  Maybe, they just stay  in the city, in Dili, in the district centres, listening only to the aspirations of their own circle.  East Timor is bigger than that.

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