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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1755 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

Timor. According to reports, she will spend three hours at the celebrations in Dili before returning to Indonesia.

Another good sign for East Timor is that donor countries have pledged to provide a further $720 million, which will bring the pledged amount towards the first three years of independence up to $880 million.

May the aspirations of Timor Loro Sae be fulfilled and may God keep the Timorese in the palm of his hand. Bravo, Timor Loro Sae, bravo!

MS GALLAGHER (5.23): It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to offer our support and our solidarity to a democratic, independent and free East Timor. The election of a new democratic president, Xanana Gusmao, is a huge vote of support for the independence movement and for the reconstruction of East Timor society after 25 years of brutal and illegal occupation. The election of a parliament with diverse representation is testament to a vibrant and bold new democratic nation willing to look to the future.

After years of struggle, Indonesia finally agreed in 1999 to let the East Timorese choose between independence and local autonomy. Bloodshed and violence became political tools for those who wanted to see independence quashed. But when the referendum showed overwhelming support for independence, international intervention became necessary as a peacekeeping force halted the mayhem and paved the way for a United Nations administration, which has been extremely active and busy in getting East Timor back on its feet.

Today East Timor is free. It has a president, a parliament and a growing and vibrant civil society. An embryonic court system is being established with eight East Timorese law graduates appointed to the Dili District Court. But the people of East Timor still need our help. Timor can be expected to be reliant on outside help for many years, since its infrastructure has been destroyed and it is drought prone. It faces the challenge of repatriating a large refugee population, bringing about reconciliation and defending itself against the threat of renewed violence.

The leadership of the independence movement deserves our praise for the way in which they have promoted reconciliation and allowed old differences and conflicts to be buried in the interests of rebuilding the country. President Gusmao has stated in the past his deep commitment to this process, saying:

Regardless of past political positions, all citizens are called upon to embrace the need for harmony and to show forgiveness and tolerance towards their brothers for the sake of our national interests. The difficulties endured to this day cannot remain a permanent shadow obstructing our future.

Our nation will be greater if each and every one of us is able to forgive, including those who have committed the most reprehensible acts. In such an exulting time, each of us is called upon to overcome differences and bury hatred. Let's embrace each other and join hands in an unbreakable chain of brotherhood and love. For Timor's future to be one of joy and prosperity, we must be united around our nation.

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