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Culture and Tradition


M.Olandina I.C. Alves

East Timorese Women Against Violence (ET-WAVE)


We often hear the words CULTURE and TRADITION being spoken.  Culture and tradition are often used to justify violence towards others. In fact, many of us do not actually know or understand about CULTURE and TRADITION.


I would like to thank the organising committee for the opportunity to speak, and also to thank those participants who have come from the districts to attend this conference.


I have been invited by the organising committee today to present a paper about CULTURE and TRADITION, in the context of the theme of this conference - Sustainable Development.


The time that is available is very limited, so I cannot cover everything in detail about CULTURE and TRADITION now. Thus I do not want to talk from a paper here today because that will not be useful. I would only like to remind everyone in this room, the organising committee, the participants and the speakers, that if we talk about development in East Timor we must not forget that development of our nation is occurring now, and that is why we are all here. Do not let the East Timorese people once again become spectators in our own country. Do not think that what is being done for the East Timorese is the best for the East Timorese people.  It is still assumed that the East Timorese people cannot do anything. We have to put an end to all such assumptions, only then can we speak fervently about development.  Even that is not enough if the people of East Timor themselves are not involved in development that is actually for them.


It is important to remember that East Timorese people have our own culture and traditions, distinct from the cultures of other peoples.


For 450 years the Portuguese colonised East Timor, bringing their customs with them. During that time, East Timorese people endured the imposed culture as if it was their own. Then the Indonesians came with their culture. East Timorese people were forced to not only follow but also to acknowledge Indonesian culture as their own. Even more devastating, there were some East Timorese people who complied with the assertion that the two cultures were one; that we had returned to the earth mother after such a long time being separated by colonisers. Such people forgot that the Indonesians were also colonisers, differing only by the colour of their skin.  More saddening still, development was only for the benefit of Indonesians; they never consulted the East Timorese people, and never invited us to work together with them in our own country.


Now everything has changed, and the time has arrived for Timorese people to be included in the planning and development of our beloved East Timor.  Our own CULTURE and TRADITION will no longer be ignored.


As a message to all participants, let us delve into and study in more detail our CULTURE and TRADITION so that other people will not say again that we do not have our own CULTURE and TRADITION.  And more importantly, other people and the world must know and recognise that we have our own CULTURE and TRADITION.  Now that we are an independent nation, anyone who comes here is obliged to respect our CULTURE and TRADITION.