One of the biggest risks facing Timor-Leste as a country currently is that corruption practices are starting to happen everywhere in East Timorese society. Corruption is currently being carried out by ordinary people, vendors, and government officials, or through maladministration in education institutions, and the public and private sectors.
People are committing corruption in different ways and committing different types of corruption.
Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index, considers Timor-Leste as a country that must act now to stem the flow of corruption. In 2013, the country ranked 118th on the Index, from the 172 countries surveyed by TI.
The implementation of government programs in Timor-Leste faces significant corruption problems. This leads to challenges and obstacles to social and economic development that will result in bringing difficulties to people’s lives. It has the potential to pollute our country’s dignity and undermine the moral integrity of good governance in a political context.
But a big factor that contributes to corrupt practices is from ourselves: the times where we are greedy to achieve a better life quickly without putting in the hard effort, or where basic education in the home does not translate to living with honesty and dignity, or where we seek opportunity through weakness in morality.
After the Anti-Corruption Commission was established, senior management made the conscious decision to expand the mandated missions of corruption prevention and investigations to also include two additional missions: education and research. CAC has put its attention on education because we think it is important to call upon every the conscience of every East Timorese through seminars that gather community leaders, veterans, women’s organization, youth groups, political parties, educators, students and religious workers.
But we mustn’t seek to only prevent corruption now; we also need to look to the future.
This is why we are conducting awareness seminars for the younger generation. They are the future of the country, so we must focus on strengthening their moral character through education, modifying the youth mentality to anticipate and prevent corruption from occurring.
These character expectations can be integrated in education curriculum or inserted into extracurricular programs. To meet that objective, CAC has established valuable collaborative relationships with schools and universities to execute our education outreach programs. This is best shown through our work with universities.
Why focus on educating university students?
Put simply, the contributions of university students in the past, the present and in the future will always lead to a better life for Timor-Leste’s people.
In the 1970s, university students played a vital role in the past in liberating Timor-Leste from colonialism and foreign military oppression. And although today Timor-Leste is an independent country, we are still calling upon the contributions of university students.
The fight of the present is the fight to eradicate corruption.
We are hoping that university students can become the agents of change and transformation; an anti-corruption movement that acts as an example to the broader community by implementing the values of anti-corruption in their daily lives.
Through their actions – like the Movement of University Students against Corruption – students can show how attitudes grounded in honesty, integrity and responsibility trumps the older generational acceptance of a corrupt attitude.
A stronger Timor-Leste will be supported by generation that is actively detecting and not giving any inch of opportunity to acts like corruption, collusion and nepotism. That is why we are going into universities and holding workshops, like the one we did in April for over 200 Economics students at UNTL.
Although eradicating corruption is important this is not the only goal, the new generation’s hearts and minds must advocate for integrity. With integrity, all East Timorese can make our country stronger and live up to the dreams of those Freedom Fighters who died for us during our liberation; An independent Timor-Leste free from the shackles of corruption.
Whether Timor-Leste can liberate people from the pressures and intimidation of corruption will become a determining factor in its prosperity. But how can CAC help people, and how can society help itself? CAC can educate teachers, community leaders, veterans, and particularly students as the next generation. Over time, it will be shown that CAC’s current civic education program will be an effective tool in the fight against corruption.
And for society, people must support a culture of ‘saying no to corruption’ from home to school. Eradicating corruption cannot be done through law enforcement only and by sending those that are corrupt to jail. It also requires the use of information and knowledge, paired with the use of the power of our younger generations – such as the university movement – a reminder to Timorese leaders of why we must fight corruption (*)