Speech of the President of the Republic Dr. José Ramos-Horta
For Celebrations of the 48th. Anniversary of the creation of the Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor (FALINTIL)
20 August 2023
Your Excellency, Madam President of the National Parliament;
Your Excellency, Mr Prime Minister;
Your Excellency, Mr President of the Court of Appeal;
Your Excellency, Mr Former President of the Republic, Major General Taur
His Excellency, Mr. Former Prime Minister, Mr Mari Alkatiri;
Honourable Members of the National Parliament;
Honourable Members of the Government;
Honourable Attorney General of the Republic (PGR);
Honourable Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice (PDHJ);
Chief of General Staff of FALINTIL – Defence Forces of Timor-Leste (F-
Honourable Commander General of the National Police of Timor-Leste
Honourable Special Guests of the F-FDTL;
Honourable Members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Sirs and Gentlemen
Today, 20 August 2023, we celebrate the 48th. Anniversary of the creation of the Armed Forces for the National Liberation of Timor-Leste (FALINTIL),
remembering on the one hand the twenty-three years of struggle for national liberation, and on the other hand, twenty-three years of struggle for
peace, national development and the construction of the Democratic Rule of Law.
We pay tribute to the Martyrs and Heroes who with sacrifice, commitment and dedication shed their blood and offered their tears of sweat, for our
Honour also to the orphans, widows and widowers, parents and children, sisters and brothers who lost their loved ones so that the dream of free and
independent Timor-Leste could be a reality in our lives today.
We celebrate, in a solemn moment, with honours, medals and festivities, the glory of all those anonymous soldiers, sergeants and officers, who were at the forefront of the creation of the glorious FALINTIL, the seed of origin and transformation of the current Timor-Leste Defence Forces (F-FDTL), to
whom we entrust the mission of defending territorial integrity, national sovereignty, against any internal or external threat to our independence.
Unconventional threats that in times of peace, national development, regional integration in the ASEAN area and in the United Nations system,
are multiplying with new difficulties and challenges, on land, at sea and in the air.
Challenges that justify the debate on what the role of FALINTIL and the Defence Forces should be in these demanding times after the COVID-19
pandemic, with renewed risks to the independence, sovereignty and progress of States, not only from the threat of war, but which are increasingly manifested in multiple ways, using more technologically sophisticated instruments and mechanisms.
Of course, in peacetime the danger of war still exists. Examples of this are conflicts that have been going on for a long time, such as in Yemen or
Ukraine, but also the growing defence and security tensions that put conflicts between major powers in the Asia-Pacific region at the centre of attention.
Security risks that justified the signing by our Australian neighbours of the Agreement known as AUKUS with the United States of America (USA) and
the United Kingdom for the development of nuclear-powered submarines. This decision reopens the international debate on the need to denuclearise
the region and raises the question of what our position should be on the passage of these submarines through our territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Risks that certainly take into account the territorial disputes felt in the South China Seas by some member countries of the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organisation that recently admitted us as an Observer Member Country and for which we seek to fulfil a roadmap of conditions for the completion of our accession process.
Still regional and global risks of disorganised migratory flows, people smuggling and human trafficking, which plague our territorial waters and
exclusive economic zone.
Transnational crimes linked not only to illegal migration, but also to other related crimes such as illegal fishing, terrorism, piracy, smuggling of goods,
trafficking in arms or drugs, using increasingly advanced and complex technologies and equipment, often putting organised crime one step ahead
of the authorities simply by having access to large resources without any legal constraints.
An increasingly volatile, unstable and uncertain global world, where there is an unwelcome increase in multidimensional poverty, child hunger and
malnutrition, as we witness the growing pressure of inflated prices on consumer goods, with the associated increase in food insecurity.
A planet increasingly subject to intense atmospheric phenomena and natural disasters, caused not only by climate change but also by unregulated human action.
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is in this context of a progressively more globalised and interdependent world that the role attributed to the Armed Forces worldwide and to the F-FDTL in particular is renewed and updated, with the necessary adaptations to the needs and reality of the Timorese people.
A renewal that requires changing concepts and paradigms, bringing F-FDTL closer and closer to the people.
We visualise military personnel closer to the citizens who remind us of the health and education brigades that assisted displaced populations in the
mountains during the occupation.
Examples of military proximity are renewed today when the Armed Forces promote the construction or rehabilitation of educational or health establishments, in the context of Military Engineering, for example in collaboration with the Seabees of the United States of America (USA).
We visualise military personnel more active in society in times of natural disasters, with interventions in firefighting, in the rescue of victims of floods, landslides, high tides or cyclonic winds, in collaboration with the authorities that make up the Civil Protection System.
We see the Military more present in emergency situations, pandemic crises and other situations that put peace and internal security at risk, in collaboration with the competent authorities, the National Police of Timor-Leste and other security services within the integrated national defence and
But we also want military personnel who are better prepared, skilled, able and aware of the importance of the mission of the armed forces in promoting, maintaining and consolidating the peace and stability necessary for our process of economic and social development.
More prepared as we progressively invest in the development of new infrastructure, not only on land, but also in naval and air components.
Naval component that will soon have modern patrol boats, granted under the military cooperation with Australia, to reinforce the means of surveillance and control of our territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
An essential reinforcement to prevent and combat transnational crimes, in particular economic crimes linked to illegal fishing that plagues our seas,
with an estimated loss of over two hundred million dollars annually.
A control of waters under our jurisdiction, which must ensure the safety of the exploitation of oil, mineral, energy, biological and environmental
resources, especially as we move towards the development of onshore and offshore fields, with emphasis on the major Tasi Mane and Greater Sunrise project.
A maritime presence that we all want to be more robust and active in the defence of our sovereignty, capable of taking advantage of the recently
created National Maritime Authority, in the coordination and integration of efforts between the different authorities and operators at sea.
A commitment to the training of means and human resources in order to guarantee not only the safety of people and goods, but also the rescue and
assistance of boats, passengers and crew in distress, in cases of accidents and accidents on the high seas.
Investment in maritime defence and security also raises the question of the sustainability of infrastructures, equipment and materials, which require constant care in their proper use, conservation, maintenance and repair,
seeking not only to keep resources operational, but also to extend their lifespan beyond the established deadlines.
Challenges that require us to invest more and better in the military service support sections, not only with specialised civil engineering, mechanical,
carpentry, plumbing and electrical workshops, but also with high technological capabilities to meet the needs of increasingly technologically advanced equipment.
Demands for modernity that justify my call for the strengthening and deepening of strategic co-operations established at bilateral level on land,
at sea and in the air, with friendly countries such as Australia, China, the United States of America, Indonesia, Malaysia, or New Zealand or Portugal.
We are also investing in the development of the Air Component, as we promote the rehabilitation and renovation of Baucau International Airport,
providing the infrastructure with a military aerodrome equipped with the services and facilities required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
With the support of the North American Military cooperation, an intervention is being carried out to provide this airport infrastructure with a new
illuminated runway, with an adequate control tower and passenger terminal, duly supported by aircraft maintenance and fire services in cases of emergency associated with air operations.
New services that will certainly benefit the arrival of the first military “Cessna” model aircraft, awarded by the North American Military Cooperation, as the first equipment of the Timorese Air component.
Equipment that could also include a fleet of unmanned vehicles, known as “Drones”, for aerial patrols, especially of the national maritime territory.
I am convinced that little by little we will have installed capacities capable of promoting the control not only of our national airspace, but also prepared to integrate other national and international surveillance systems, within the commitments assumed with ASEAN and bilaterally with our neighbouring countries.
Area capacities that can be activated within the framework of contingency and emergency plans, to assist and rescue populations in need, in times of
calamity and natural disaster, as in the events that occurred in 2021, after the passage of Cyclone Seroja, which required the establishment of an air
bridge to send humanitarian and food support to affected and isolated populations due to bridge collapses and road destruction.
An emergency, which in the absence of the national air component, relied on the help of civilian helicopters hired by the Santos Oil Company and the
financial support of the Australian Government.
A situation that, compounding the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated our overdependence on external air resources
and the need for Timor-Leste to invest in this important sector, which is fundamental to the defence of our interests and the development of the
Ladies and Gentlemen
FALINTIL, which today celebrates its 48th anniversary, remains alive in the
hearts of men and in the memory of our former combatants, martyrs and heroes, to whom we pay public tribute. Anniversary, remain alive in the
hearts of men and in the memory of our former combatants, martyrs and heroes to whom we pay public homage.
Former combatants and family members who helped us build the Armed Forces and who now deserve our best attention, esteem and affection, for example through the provision of quality health and social security services, increasingly modern, integrated and inclusive.
Services that we want to be more sensitive to the special circumstances required of the military condition, according to the intense physical and
psychological wear and tear to which a military person is subjected throughout his professional career.
A wear and tear shared by other police, security and civil protection services, whose merit should be publicly recognised on festive days such
Sensitivity that we also visualise for health and social issues that justify the regular coming of military doctors and health professionals to our country,
including the visit of Hospital Boats of the North American (USA) military cooperation or the People’s Republic of China (PRC), benefiting not only military personnel and their families, but also thousands of citizens in all municipalities of the country and RAEOA.
Desired military co-operation in the health sector, which can be further developed through the construction of a hospital unit with a military
I know that the Chinese cooperation has expressed its commitment to support the construction of a Hospital of Solidarity between the Chinese and Timorese People, so I hope that this initiative of military cooperation between the F-FDTL and the Chinese Military Authorities can be materialised in the short or medium term, for the benefit of our citizens.
A hospital that could certainly contribute to strengthening the clinical offer, complementing the ongoing efforts of the Ministry of Health, to reduce the need for referrals abroad of hundreds of former combatants and Timorese citizens, who annually seek abroad services and health valences that do
not exist in our country.
Efforts in health care that we wish could be linked to other general social solidarity mechanisms and instruments, for example in the construction of
decent housing for retired and active military personnel, including basic electricity, water and sanitation services and access to social support
Collective efforts, provided to all Timorese citizens within the framework of general policies for the development of the country, but which continue to
gather a great deal of consensus especially for the situation of the Former National Liberation Combatants who were part of FALINTIL or who are still part of F-FDTL, and for this purpose successive governments have maintained the existence of a ministry specially dedicated to these issues. Efforts of a country that does not forget the services rendered by its military, women and men, members of FALINTIL or the current F-FDTL.
A country that values the military institution, invests in its development and encourages the participation of its structures and its members in missions of greater responsibility, internal and external, for peacekeeping or within the framework of international commitments undertaken within the
framework of the United Nations.
We therefore continue to count on all the military, women and men, squares, sergeants and officers, active, in the reserve or in retirement, former combatants or members of the F-FDTL, who today celebrate this historic day remembering the importance of the military and their families,
in the construction and development of a safe, modern, peaceful and prosperous country.
A country that needs your example of dedication, commitment, discipline and sacrifice, in order to win the struggle for national development, which we face together, pointing out as a common enemy the poverty, hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity of today.
Thank you very much!
May God bless us all!