On August 15, 2016, the International School Network visited the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to interview the Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Filomeno Aleixo da Cruz.
Education and Women (Kate)
In 2008, law number 14, 28 was passed which set the guidelines to develop the education system of East Timor. This became a representation to orient and regulate education in a legal framework. Being the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Asia Pacific, education was placed as the top priority of the government reforms. Its main aim was to equip future labor force with enough skills and knowledge to overcome high productivity and competitiveness. Although only catholic schools existed before the war, public schools started to form. The national university of East Timor, known as the “major institution of higher education” was also established in the year 2000.
When asked about how gender equality plays a role in East Timor, H.E. Mr. Filomeno Aleixo da Cruz stated that gender balance is exactly what the East Timorese government is currently focusing on. Over the numerous chaotic transitions, colonization by Portuguese and invasion by Indonesians, women were placed in weak positions of the society. Political participation and contribution to the nation’s economy were supported largely by men.
The establishment of the new constitution, helped by UN Women and other organizations who support the empowerment of women, gave opportunities for women to build social status. Currently, 30 percent of the ministers and secretaries in the national parliament are women. H.E. Mr. Filomeno Aleixo da Cruz emphasized that “we need to continue to improve the equality, the percent is assured” referring to the amendments on the electoral laws which states that one-third of the members of parliament must be women candidates. Through such efforts, according to the UN Women, East Timor now holds the highest percentage of women parliament members in the Asia Pacific region.
H.E. Mr. Filomeno Aleixo da Cruz explained to us that his dream and goal is to serve other people. H.E. Mr. Aleixo believes expressed his passion being the East Timorese ambassador to Japan, where he is able to fulfill his aspirations to work for the betterment and interest of both countries. He explained that he is glad to be in a place where he is close both to the Japanese government and imperial palace. As the East Timorese Ambassador to Japan, H.E. Mr. Aleixo’s goal is to secure and strengthen the relations between East Timor and Japan.
H.E. Mr. Aleixo explained that unity is a very important value in East Timor. He explains that unity is the key strength of a country, especially in East Timor, where the country is working towards further development. H.E. Mr. Aleixo commented that development even after colonization is the phase of the “hardest struggle”. He hopes that the country can utilize the advantages of unity to “reframe” the country to face new challenges and bring accomplishments that suits national interests.
H.E. Mr. Aleixo emphasized the power of reconciliation and forgiveness after war. He believes that reconciliation and honest dialogue are important tools to overcome challenges. He explained to us that openness towards one another and maintaining a proper cultural and individual behavior will be important for world peace. H.E. Mr. Aleixo believes that because we are all human beings, we have the power to talk to each other and find solutions to global problems.
H.E. Mr. Aleixo described globalization as being a paradigm that will refurbish the world. He mentioned that globalization must be used as a tool for interaction that contributes to the betterment of humankind. He hopes that one day it can serve people in “every corner of the world”.
When he came to Japan, H.E. Mr. Aleixo explained that he found a country with a high standard of life. He admires that in Japan the quality of not only products but also of human resources are important and focused. H.E. Mr. Aleixo found that Japan is a very friendly place, and believes that Japan and East Timor make an amicable “match” who can work together to reach accomplishments to support both countries’ interests.
H.E. Mr. Aleixo’s expressed his admiration for Japan, as he described the country to have “hard working people”. His message towards Japanese students is to “nourish yourself”, “serve people”, “share values” with “people of the world”, and “fight for excellence, always”.
Geography and Tourism (Kurumi)
As H.E. Mr. Aleixo mentioned, East Timor is “a half island country” with the presence of different languages and ethnic groups, as well as picturesque sites including beaches and its very own sea. Mount Ramelau is the highest mountain in the country and is “the symbol for highness”. The highness of the mountain could be superimposed to the highness of say, a position of a significant leader of a key political party. Additionally, H.E. Mr. Aleixo stated that nature is a part of the East Timorese lifestyle and nature is “always with” the people, who had protected the nation for independence. The pristine nature being the major attractiveness of East Timor, the nation is a “green country” that needs special attention for the preservation of its nature. There are numerous special economic zones (SEZs) created and the nation’s key policy has been to protect the environment “hand-in-hand with the government and local businesses”.
H.E. Mr. Aleixo also revealed that East Timor “suffers the impact of climate change”. He observed that previously, East Timor had two seasons (rainy and dry) but now, there has been a lot of rain. H.E. Mr. Aleixo is concerned about this issue and “hopes the country can do more to better improve [the environment] for all of us”.
East Timor and Japan (Kurumi)
H.E. Mr. Aleixo stated that East Timor and Japan have been maintaining a “strong relationship” from World War II. Although the occupation period was not as extensive, he mentioned that there are still Japanese influences seen today such as the use of katana (a type of Japanese sword) in East Timor. H.E. Mr. Aleixo feels that the Japanese people have affected the identity of the East Timorese people, as well as the nation itself. Furthermore, as both nations are part of the East Asian region, he believes that “this relationship should be nourished” and the geographical proximity is something that “ties us”. He commented that he would like to use these positive qualities “to bring strength and prosperity” to East Timor and hopefully “grow together”. Moreover, H.E. Mr. Aleixo is a firm believer of the power of “dialogue”. Thus, he hopes to utilize “dialogue as a tool to overcome differences and problematic issues”.
Regarding the recent relations between East Timor and Japan, H.E. Mr. Aleixo revealed that East Timor is currently working out a “strategic development plan”. He wishes to increase cooperation with “big friends like Japan” and hopes to fulfill the goal to become a high mid-income country by the year 2030. He expressed that Japan plays a vital role for building infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and human capacity. Also, H.E. Mr. Aleixo desires for East Timorese athletes to be officially a part of the Olympic Games in 2020.Through the interview, it was revealed that East Timor and Japan shared similar qualities that promises an even closer friendship in the future. ‘Timor Lorosa’e’, which is another title for East Timor contains the meaning of “the land of the rising sun” with ‘Lorosa’e’ meaning “rising sun”.
According to H.E. Mr. Aleixo, the name derived from the perspective of the Portuguese from which the sun rises. The name, however, holds a hidden message of a country looking to find itself and grow towards maturity. Similarly, Japan is often referred to as “the land of the rising sun” as well ever since Prince Shōtoku described the nation in this way. H.E. Mr. Aleixo expressed that in addition to the fact that our countries “share the same motto”, the East Timorese and Japanese people experience the “same vibrant life”. He mentioned that both East Timor and Japan have had “a lot of suffering” throughout our histories and have always struggled to acquire “peace”. The East Timorese people have fought for independence for centuries and have also suffered from a war that lasted 24 years. Japan has also experienced the taste of destruction and horror during World War II. Yet, as H.E. Mr. Aleixo states, both nations have the potential and ability to “rise up” after a “hard experience”.
Madoka Nishina 12th Saint Maur International School
Kate Shimizu 12th Seisen International School
Kurumi Onishi 11th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 6th Saint Maur International School