17th anniversary of the Naval Component of the FALINTIL-FDTL

by Mídia PR Posted on


Speech by His Excellency
the President of the Republic, Dr. Francisco Guterres Lú Olo at the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the Naval Component of the FALINTIL-FDTL

Hera Naval Base, 12 January 2019
Mr General Chief of Staff of the FALINTIL-FDTL, Major General Lere Anan Timur
Naval Component Commander, Frigate Captain Adão Brito

We celebrate today the 17th anniversary of the Naval Component of the FALINTIL–Timor-Leste Defence Force, a day of great significance for all who serve Timor-Leste by defending its interests at sea. It is also an important day for us all, citizens of this Country, and for all those who helped us look at the Sea as a national and strategic goal, as one of our national priorities.

On this occasion, as President of the Republic and Supreme Commander, I want to acknowledge the effort and dedication of those who serve Timor-Leste in the Naval Component and of all friendly countries that have been contributing to the establishment and growth of this Component over the past seventeen years.

It wasn’t and it still isn’t easy to transform guerrilla fighters, used to the fight for survival, into a conventional Armed Force – much less transform them into qualified sailors to serve at sea. However, although
Timor-Leste doesn’t have a long sea tradition, we have managed to achieve a certain degree of success in facing the challenge of changing mentalities.

Distinguished guests,
It was by sea that Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, and European merchants reached Timor-Leste, attracted by sandalwood which grew abundantly on the island.
The sea allowed access to Timor-Leste and took sandalwood – a natural resource treasured in India, China, and Europe – to the international markets.

Today, it’s seldom noted that the Sea is part of Timor-Leste, it’s part of us. In terms of geography, we are used to people saying that Timor-Leste is a small country — which is incorrect, because our current continental shelf is quite extensive. The strategic geographic position of Timor-Leste continues to be an undeniable and permanent resource, because to the position itself, but also because to the valuable mineral resources in the bottom of its sea
With a coastline extending for 700 kilometres and a Maritime Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles, our country has a vast area of fishery resources. Studies conducted at Timor-Leste’s coral reef acknowledge the existence of more than one thousand fishes and four hundred coral species, which is why it is known as a centre of a great tropical marine biodiversity.

The State of Timor-Leste must therefore protect the sea and create the conditions for the sea to start playing an important role in the country’s social-economic development, particularly in the life of the coastal communities.

Servicemen in the Naval Component,
Celebrating the Naval Component Day is also an act of affirmation of the strategic importance of the sea. This is one of the main challenges for our country: the way we face our relation with the sea.

The failure to exercise our sovereignty in Timorese waters was always a problem. It is therefore essential to ensure the effective occupation of the spaces under national sovereignty and jurisdiction, preventing voids that others will tend to fill.

Timor-Leste, as an independent and sovereign state with extensive access and exposure to the sea, can’t afford to ignore that space – or the threats that come with it, including piracy, the transport of hazardous materials, pollution, illegal exploration of resources, trafficking of all types, terrorism, illegal immigration, and others.
And the Naval Component exists to serve the interests and rights of Timor-Leste.

That was the strategic decision made by the Timorese leadership in 2002, to create a Naval Component of the Timor-Leste Defence Force adjusted to the size of the country, taking into consideration the nature of the security challenges and the need to control the borders and maritime resources.

This objective benefited greatly from the assistance of our strategic partners: first Portugal, with the transfer of two patrol boats and training of their crews; and later China, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and the United States.

Experience and technology are essential tools for those who operate at sea. Therefore the Naval Component must contribute with its experience, knowledge, and means to the surveillance and patrolling of the vast maritime areas under national sovereignty and jurisdiction.

The presence of the Naval Component at sea is pivotal to Timor-Leste’s security and offshore activity. Despite the operational constraints in terms of maintenance and conditions on law, its naval units played an important role in intercepting vessels engaged in illegal activities, in apprehending illegal vessels and in conducting search and rescue operations.

I would like to point out that the Naval Component managed to save 23 people, including women and children, when the vessel in which they sailed began experiencing engine trouble between Baucau and Wetar Islands, Indonesia.

This is the reason why we must improve maintenance on land of the naval fleet and continue to increase our capacity to monitor and surveil the maritime areas under national sovereignty and jurisdiction.

This great challenge requires the State to give due priority to the sea, safeguarding its good governance.

Naval forces are expensive, but they are a necessary investment. If they are not well maintained, they quickly disappear. We cannot afford the luxury of duplicating means, which is why it’s important to have adequate financing to invest in the Naval Component in vessels that are flexible and multifunctional, capable of performing a wide range of missions, and to carry out all maintenance operations required to ensure operational readiness of those means.

In this context of limited resources, it becomes urgent to create a National Maritime Authority System model adapted to the reality of Timor-Leste that ensures the participation of all civilian, military and police, public and private entities and institutions that can contribute to maritime safety.

In this regard, national legislation has been bolstering the dual-use model, in which the Naval Component performs the typical military duties in parallel with non-military tasks related to maritime security and the exercise of public authority at sea.

Servicemen in the Naval Component,
You are the true heirs of those who fought and died on the battlefield to defend our Country.

After a long and gruelling struggle for independence of Timor-Leste, the Timorese people again have reasons to be proud, as the sovereignty over our territory and the State’s authority at sea are recognized, peacefully and under international law, with the definitive demarcation of our maritime border with Australia. This treaty paves the way for Timor-Leste and Indonesia to negotiate the maritime and land borders, so that we may definitively safeguard our sovereignty as an independent state.

Now that the issue of consolidation of the maritime border with Australia is settled, I believe it’s in the interest of Timor-Leste to join the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Programme, through the donation in 2023 of two patrol boats to increase our capacity to monitor our borders and surveil our territorial waters.

Servicemen in the Naval Component,
At today’s event, I would also like to draw the attention of the military to the importance of taking care of nature so that we can continue to live in a healthy environment. Environmental protection is one of the commitments I undertook on the occasion of my swearing-in as President of the Republic.

We will symbolically plant today ten trees that, in a couple of years, will protect the environment in this area. Between today and tomorrow you will plant here or in your yards the remaining two hundred trees provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I call on you to provide all the care needed for their survival and for them to bring the expected benefits in a near future.

Servicemen in the Naval Component,
I acknowledge that there is still a long way to go in the development of the Navy we need and strive for.

It is therefore with hope for the future that your Supreme Commander calls on you to continue serving the Homeland, as you have always done during our fight for national liberation.
Thank you!