Gleno, 20 May 2016 :
Your Excellencies. Distinguished guests.
People of Timor-Leste.
I salute the people of Ermera, the municipality that hosts this year’s official commemoration of the anniversary of the Restoration of Independence.
I salute the Timorese people throughout the country and those who live in distant lands. Thousands of brothers and sisters in the diaspora have our land in mind on this day of celebration, even if they cannot be with us.
I salute all our guests and especially welcome those who crossed oceans and continents to share in our joy on this day.
The anniversary of the Restoration of Independence is a day of celebration, because we commemorate our freedom as a nation and the successes that we achieved over these 14 years of independence.
The 20th of May is also an occasion for us to reflect on the path we made since the Restoration of Independence and on our participation in the construction of the country, for the realisation of our dreams as a nation and as citizens in search of a better life.
We won the fight and achieved independence because for 24 years we continued to believe, made sacrifices, and stand united.
The Timorese people were forced to pick up weapons but our Resistance was always a struggle for peace, against all forms of violence.
This sentiment against violence and the fight to uphold the respect of our dignity as a people were understood by millions of people. The Timorese struggle for peace earned friends and inspired the solidarity of activists throughout the world.
Like in previous years, on this anniversary I express, on behalf of our people, our gratitude to several friends who were supportive of the cause of freedom for our people and who stood out through their actions.
I decorated 25 individuals – from Timor-Leste and other countries, including Mozambique, Portugal, England, United States, Indonesia, and Australia. Some were decorated posthumously. Others cannot be with us for health reasons.
I would like to mention, in particular, the decoration awarded to late president Samora Machel of Mozambique. I pay my heartfelt tribute to his memory.
Samora Machel was a combatant for dignity on multiple fronts: on the liberation of his country; on his unwavering solidarity with the struggle for liberation of our people; and on the frontline of the fight against Apartheid and racism.
Because of his humanism and solidarity the memory of this son of Mozambique became a treasure of the overall struggle for the emancipation of humanity. Our brother Samora’s death deprived us of his wisdom and company prematurely.
Later this year I expect to personally award the Order of Timor-Leste to another freedom fighter: the former president Jorge Sampaio of Portugal.
In 1999 when we opened our window to freedom, the presidency and the government of Portugal were headed by freedom activists, friends of the Timorese cause, like Jorge Sampaio (and António Guterres), whose actions were important contributions to Humanity and the dignity of the Timorese people.
Among the decorated today, seven are personalities from Timor-Leste – from the academia and civil society organisations, including the Church: Father Locatelli, from the Don Bosco College of Fatumaca; Father Leão, from Saint Joseph’s School in Dili; Father João Felgueiras and Father José Martins, from the Community of the Friends of Jesus.
As tireless educators of successive generations of Timorese and by preserving our national identity and promoting the country’s cultural development the actions the activities of these priests marked our society. They have been living in Timor for the past 50 or 60 years: they all decided to make Timor-Leste their home.
Also decorated were Professor DR. Antero da Silva; Ms Manuela Leong, from Timorese NGO ACbit; and Mr Xisto Martins, from RAEBIA.
To them, I send a warm embrace and my best wishes for their work, especially in the field of Human Rights.
From Portugal, I decorated six individuals: with us today are Vice-Admiral António Silva Ribeiro, Mr Carlos de Lemos, Mr Luís Represas, and Dr. Patrícia Gaspar. They all had, at various times, delicate missions related to our country.
I recall the support of Vice Admiral António Silva Ribeiro in the procurement of communication equipment, during the occupation, for use by the FALINTIL in the mountains. Pedro Klamar Fuik served as liaison between Vice Admiral Silva Ribeiro and the combatants.
The music of Luís Represas travelled the world. It represented an extraordinary call to action – his poetry a warning cry that condensed the emotional support that our people received from millions of Portuguese at a time of national emergency.
We also decorated another distinguished Mozambican, the current Executive Secretary of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP). He is now a comrade-in-arms in our endeavour to expand the universal values that are the foundation of the CPLP.
With great satisfaction I also decorated seven individuals and organisations from Australia, including Tasmania.
I am referring to Senator Bob Brown, Bob Hanney, Chris Elenor, Jean McLean, the Honourable Doctor Meredith Burgmann, the Hobart East Timor Committee, represented here by Julian Stanley, and Kevin Sherlock, posthumouly.
These men and women with a long history of solidarity with the Timorese people are symbol and remind us of the strong, fraternal solidarity offered to us by millions of Australian brother and sisters throughout Australia.
During the years when Timor was living under the weight of occupation and war, Australians welcomed Timorese refugees with open arms; collected funds for the Resistance; drew attention to our struggle; and courageously wielded the values of decency and humanity in international relations.
My heartfelt thanks to all for their dedication to Timor-Leste.
Allow me today to share a word about one Australian in particular, the late Kevin Sherlock: he fell in love with Timor. He expressed his dedication by gathering and organising an important collection of documents about our people, our culture, and our history.
Kevin’s expression of love for our culture and our reality should be seen as an example to us the Timorese as it remids us the importance of memorialisation in the preservation and transmission of values and traditions and of events that, in many cases, helped us become an independent nation.
Kyrsty Gusmão received today the decoration that I bestowed on her a year ago, which hadn’t yet been delivered. Our sister Kyrsty learned to love Timor and worked towards our freedom, before and after the Restoration of Independence.
She continues to work, with determination, in the development of the role of women and civil society in our country.
On my behalf and on behalf of the Timorese people, thank you. My warmest embrace to everyone who, near and far, in every continent, helped and are still helping Timor-Leste affirm and consolidate itself.
Our capacity as a people, which was expressed during the struggle, has continued to be proven after the Restoration of Independence.
Over the last 14 years, we consolidated institutions and the ability to exercise the national sovereignty.
We made the internal and external reconciliation. We consolidated peace. We have been establishing Timor-Leste, increasingly, as a society built on stability and mutual respect where the Timorese people live, and work in peace.
We built a democracy with high turnouts at elections and where all our citizens vote freely.
We built the rule of law: all citizens are equal before the law and the state ensures the independence of judges and courts.
In our country, the law protects the journalists’ right to inform and the citizens’ right to be informed.
Press freedom in Timor-Leste has been successively acknowledged internationally as being among the countries with the best practices within ASEAN and beyond among countries in Asia and the world.
We live in a country where law ensures and protects the dignity of citizens and Human Rights for the first time in our history.
The Timorese people have reasons to be proud of what have been achieved in the first fourteen years of independence. We have not been alone while doing this.
In the State-building process we had the support of strong, successful partnerships with the United Nations and the support of many friendly countries and specialised UN agencies. These partnerships have been essential to our successes and are highly valued by our people.
I thank our development partners for their support to our work towards social and economic progress and the consolidation of our institutions.
We are achieving a successful and harmonious integration of our country in the community of nations, both at the regional and the international level.
The process of peace and reconciliation forged new neighbourly and friendship relations with Indonesia. Our two countries now have intensive, positive and mutually advantageous cooperation at both the bilateral and multilateral levels. We have jointly promoted the increase of family, cultural and economic ties between the Timorese and Indonesian peoples.
The good working relationship between the governments of Timor-Leste and Indonesia has resulted in progresses on a lot of dossiers.
I was especially pleased to learn about the progress made in the identification of persons displaced to Indonesia during the war. Seventeen Timorese who had been missing for a long time were able to come back this year and visited their families. The first group of Timorese people in these circumstances returned to Timor-Leste, for the first time, in 2015. This process of identification and family reunions represents the start of the implementation of one of the recommendations made by the Commission on Truth and Friendship.
The progress on this dossier results from the cooperation between the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice of Timor-Leste and the National Commission on Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM) of Indonesia, with the participation of Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), an organisation that has also partnered with ACbit. This cooperation is a reflection of President Joko Widodo administration and our government’s policies and deserves to be highlighted and praised.
The relations of cooperation and friendship with Australia are also extensive, despite important unresolved issues regarding the definition of the maritime borders between our two countries.
Our governments maintain important relations of bilateral and multilateral cooperation and the Timorese people are genuinely appreciative of Australia’s assistance.
The Timorese and Australian peoples maintain extensive exchanges at every level. Millions of Australians continue to bear testimony to their generosity and sincere friendship towards Timor-Leste and I am thankful to them.
Today, Timor-Leste, Australia, and Indonesia are partners who actively contribute to an atmosphere of trust and stability, which is essential to the development of the region and its peoples.
Let us not allow the issue of the borders in the Timor Sea continue to be postponed and affect the relations developed by our peoples since at least the time when we fought together in World War II and in other key moments of the past 70 years.
The consolidation of the State of Timor-Leste is a legitimate aspiration and seen as such by the international community. The demarcation of borders is an important step in this process, supported by the law and the best practices of the community of nations.
This aspiration is well understood by many Australian brothers, including in Australian bodies of sovereignty and civil society.
On my behalf and on behalf of the Timorese people, I express my heartfelt appreciation for the solidarity and support that so many thousands of Australians have extended to us on the matter of the demarcation of our shared border.
I call on the Australian government to meet the natural and legitimate aspirations of Timor-Leste and open negotiations on the demarcation of the maritime borders between two neighbours who care for each other.
Negotiations like these take time. But countries that respect each other and cooperate extensively must show the will to take the necessary steps, as quickly as possible, to bolster this process and contribute to the strengthening of present and future bilateral relations.
The Timorese people look forward to positive actions by the government of Australia.
On the Timorese side, the direction of this matter was entrusted to our brother Xanana Gusmão. He has the capabilities required and I trust that he will be able to obtain the results for which the country yearns.
Farther within our region, we have continued to strengthen relations of friendship with all neighbouring ASEAN countries.
The stabilising and pacifying action developed by this organisation coincides with our own view on international relations. Since its formation, ASEAN has been an important factor of peace and stability and has contributed to make Southeast Asia safer, develop the cooperation between its member states and facilitate their development. Even at a time of decline in economic activity at the international level, the ASEAN countries are among those with the highest growth rates, with the corresponding relative prosperity for their peoples.
Timor-Leste is already closely cooperating with ASEAN. We are involved in processes initiated by the organisation aimed at strengthening regional security and others. Our country is looking forward to becoming a full member of ASEAN.
Within Asia we maintain strong relations of cooperation and friendship also with Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the People’s Republic of China, among others.
Farther out, we have strong partnerships and excellent relations with the United States and the European Union as well as with European powers at the bilateral level including Portugal. All these countries are partners that have offered us continued and reliable support to the development effort that we have been undertaking since 2002. Their support is very appreciated by our people.
This year concludes the 2014–2016 biennial during which Timor-Leste holds for the first time the presidency of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP).
Our pro tempore presidency of the CPLP brings me particular satisfaction as it illustrates how far our country travelled in a short time – from an occupied, resisting territory to a credible and responsible state, fully integrated in the community of nations and seeking ways to strengthen the security and well-being of its people.
We want to continue deepening the contributions of Timor-Leste to the stability, peace and development within our region and beyond, whenever our participation is helpful as happened earlier in Guinea-Bissau and through the participation of Falintil-FDTL and PNTL personnel in United Nations peacekeeping mission.
People of Timor-Leste,
This Restoration of Independence anniversary speech is the last one that I will address you as President of the Republic.
From the start of my term in office, I have been performing my duties with two basic objectives: bring State and citizens closer together and strengthen the country’s stability. I remain faithful to this programme.
The closeness between the citizens and the State is essential to strengthen national unity. It is also essential to promote the participation of the citizens and the communities in the solution of their own problems.
The State has a truly important role in the solution of the problems related to the Nation’s development.
But if the State fails to listen to its citizens, if it does not promote the citizen’s participation in every sucos and hamlets’ development projects we won’t be able to achieve productive and effective local development.
As we celebrate 14 years since the Restoration of Independence, the country – all of us – continue to face challenges which can only be overcome through effective and decisive policies.
The biggest challenge, the father of all other challenges, continues to be the need to transform the petroleum-based economy, in which we still live, into a diversified and sustainable economy to overcome poverty.
Timor-Leste needs to expand the national productive sector, valuing more our land’s wealth and the work of farmers and other Timorese workers.
Overcoming this challenge, as I have often said, also requires overcoming the challenge of providing effective high-quality public services by the State.
To attract investors and higher-quality investments to the economy of Timor-Leste we need better public services.
Economic development requires peace and stability. Entrepreneurs and society in general want stability, peace, and trust to be able to invest, produce, export, and reinvest more profits into the country’s economy.
Just as I see the very real progresses achieveded in these 14 years, I also see challenges ahead, which are real tests to our maturity.
The rule of law, with the need of respect for the law, respect for all bodies of sovereignty, the independence of courts and judges, and so on, involve challenges. This is quite natural.
In the case of Timor-Leste our own Constitution sets us challenges.
The challenges and difficulties we face are not the first, and they will not be the last. It is proper of men – and women – to face challenges. What speaks to our maturity is the way we respond to the challenges.
The rule of law, the laws themselves, are not a complication created by lawyers.
The rule of law is a mechanism to protect the citizens, and defend the institutions and peace in our society.
The citizens, the bodies of sovereignty, the leaders, all must respect the law, because without respect for rules, there can be no discipline, and without discipline, there can be no peace or stability.
The country needs stability and great examples of respect for the law. This will transmit confidence to households and other economic stakeholders and is advantageous for the country’s development and indeed Timor-Leste’s prestige in the international community.
The Timorese have always fought for the right to dialogue. We always held dialogue with everyone willing, even with adversaries, in the search for peace and security.
We are certainly capable of dialogue in good faith within ourselves, to find fair solutions and overcome the challenges of the present.
The challenges that truly require the attention and commitment of all in the country are the eradication of poverty, the economic development, and the search for prosperity and a better tomorrow for our children.
These challenges must unite us all, and they are much more important than the differences of opinion that naturally exist among us.
As a citizen and as the President of the Republic, I have faced many challenges and witnessed many events in our history – as have you all, my brothers and sisters.
We have all faced difficult challenges in our land.
And today I tell you: I have confidence in the maturity of our people.
I believe in the capacity of the Timorese people to continue to build a better and more secure country for us and for our children.
As President of the Republic and as a citizen, I will continue to be on your side, so that we may strengthen our sovereignty and together build a better country.
May God’s help be with us and continue to bless our land.
Long live Timor-Leste.