For Immediate Publication
Dili, Timor-Leste – 04-08-2016- Participants of ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) have stated their appreciation to the process of democracy building in Timor-Leste and freedom of expression in the country as there is open space for people to discuss and even criticize the Government because it is considered to be a contribution to the development.
The participants also expressed their feelings of having dialog with Prime Minister of Timor-Leste during yesterday’s conference, saying it was the first ever moment that they had an open dialog with a head of Government in ASEAN Civil Society’s conference.
Amir Abd Hadi, a young activist from Malaysia said he was very pleased with the presentation of Prime Minister Rui Maria Araujo as the message transmitted was clear and was direct for regional participants to absorb and learn something new from the South East Asia’s newest country, Timor-Leste.
“The presentation is good, direct, the message is clear. If you want to compare it with Malaysia, there is a lot difference. Our government did not respect the civil society; they do not want to cooperate. They do not want to be criticized, but here in Timor-Leste the Government wants to cooperate with civil society,” Hadi said.
However, He called on civil society organizations in the country to separate themselves from political influences to remain independent and should continue to control and criticize the Government’s future unfair and unbeneficial policies.
“I think civil society should separate themselves from the Government to stay independent and more independent, because if more cooperate with the Government, soon or later you will lose your independence. But, I like the Government here is open and is good, but the civil society should remain critical,” he said.
It is better for countries in South East Asia to learn from Timor-Leste’s democracy as it is good example, he adds.
Dato’ M Ramachelvam, Chairperson of Council Member of Malaysia said Prime Minister Araujo had given excellent presentation as he touched on pertinent points of the role of civil society in the promotion of human rights in the ASEAN Community to champion the role of civil society in nation building.
“I feel that Timor-Leste with its experience of dealing with civil society is positive role model compared to many other countries in ASEAN,” he said.
Mr. Ramachelvam also appreciated the position taken by leadership of Timor-Leste as it was role model for other countries in South East Asia because space for freedom of expression in ASEAN States became restrictive.
“Timor-Leste is role model for ASEAN. If one sees today in ASEAN, the space for civil society and space for freedom is becoming restrictive. And Timor-Leste’s Government policy of having freedom of speech and freedom of information, guaranteeing fundamental freedom is something positive if compared to ASEAN,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese exiled Activist, Tuan Tram said it was great speech and presentation by Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Araujo because it was about the role of civil society in the country’s development and the application of principles of democracy.
“I think is great because he wants to hear what people want to say. So, I think that is great. Timor-Leste is the champion of freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of the press and the Government is willing to listen to the demand of the public. So I can say that Timor-Leste is a new nation, but it is advanced because and abides by the principles that declared by the United Nations,” he said.
The August Forum is the largest ever staged in Dili with more than 800 people scheduled to attend .400 of the participants are coming from ASEAN states.
ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) marks a new history in this region by holding it in Timor Leste. The ACSC/APF 2016 will not take place in Lao PDR, due to concerns over possible restrictions and limited freedom of expression on key issues of concerns of ASEAN which are inconsistent with the agreed ACSC/APF’s modality of engagement.
Timor-Leste, a country in Southeast Asia, since its independence, has repeatedly put in its motion to be included in ASEAN. Although ASEAN has not taken any position to ratify the membership of this newly independent country, after a long and thorough process of consideration, we ASEAN Civil Society organizations agreed to organize the ACSC/APF 2016 in Timor-Leste as our show of solidarity.
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