EMBASSY OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF TIMOR-LESTE
Washington, D.C. December 14th. 2010
H.E. Constâncio Pinto, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
to the United States of America
on the Occasion of the Celebration of the 35th Anniversary
of the Independence.
The Honorable Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall the United States Chief of Protocol, and Mr. Marshall,
The Honorable Mr. Joseph Yun, Deputy Assistant Secretary of East Asia and Pacific Affairs of the Department of State,
The Honorable Representative Tony Cabral and Mrs. Cabral,
Members of the United States Congressional Staff,
Distinguished Ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
My wife and I, together with all the staff of the Embassy, would like to express our profound gratitude and thank all of you for honoring us with your presence tonight. Your presence is greatly appreciated.
As we all know, it was with great sadness that we heard the passing of the Honorable Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, a brilliant diplomat and a staunched peace negotiator. Ambassador Holbrooke is a personal friend of His Excellency President José Ramos-Horta and a friend of Timor-Leste. His legacy as human rights champion and peace maker inspired people around the world including Timor-Leste.
Please, join me for one minute silence in honor of the legacy of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
One minute silence begins
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tonight, we are gathering at this illustrious club, of which I am proud to be a member, to celebrate the 35th (Thirty Fifth) Anniversary of Independence of Timor-Leste from Portugal. Thirty-five years ago, I was a 12 year old boy and witnessed the Portuguese flag being lowered for the last time and the flag of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste being hoisted.
It was a moment of great joy and pride to witness the birth of a nation that was independent and sovereign; a people that were free and able to set a new course that would determine their future destiny.
However, our joyous moment turned to sadness and anguish when, a week after the Declaration of Independence, the Armed Forces of Indonesia, with the Cold War as its backdrop, intervened in the process and occupied my country for 24 years. Twenty-four years that brought great hardship and despair for the people of Timor-Leste and Indonesia. We lost our joyous moment but we kept alive our hope and pride.
We regained our independence in 2002 and immediately set about rebuilding our country from the ashes of past violence; laying the foundations of a functioning democratic state, healing the wounds and reconciling our divided communities. We normalized relations with past external foes and now enjoy friendships that are hugely beneficial to all.
In the eight years since independence, and in spite of the overwhelming challenges facing us, we have navigated out of storms of instability to a new period of peace, stability and economic growth.
In the last three years, Timor-Leste has made remarkable progress: it has robust economic growth of 12%; poverty levels have decreased by as much as 9%; infant mortality rate has been reduced dramatically; school enrolment has increased from 65% in 2007 to 83% in 2010. Adult illiteracy is being gradually eliminated and we anticipate that within two to three years Timor-Leste will be completely free of illiteracy. The Human Development Index (HDI) report of 2010, ranked Timor-Leste 120th out of 169. This constituted a rise of 11 places on the previous year. Timor-Leste now ranks in the medium human development category.
My government is also pleased to note that the Extractive Industries Transparency Institute (EITI) in its latest report of 1st July 2010 gave Timor-Leste the number one spot in Asia and number three in the world for sound, transparent, and effective management of our oil and gas revenues.
In the area of human rights, we have ratified all core International Human Rights Treaties and we put more emphasis on women’s rights. More women are now holding Cabinet level positions in the Government and 30% of seats in our National Parliament are held by women.
Timor-Leste today joins the international community and the United States in particular, in celebrating common values of democracy, freedom and prosperity. These common values and shared goals have cemented a strong partnership between Timor-Leste and the United States of America of which we are all so proud.
Relations between Timor-Leste and the United States have always been exceptional. The United States remains one of the Timor-Leste’s biggest development partners. My government is grateful that the United States continues to provide Timor-Leste with invaluable support, not only financial assistance, but also urgently needed capacity building that enables us to further consolidate our institutions and promote economic growth. On the other hand, Timor-Leste is and continues to be a valuable partner of the United States in advancing our common goals whether it is at bilateral or multilateral level.
To conclude, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Timor-Leste would not have been able to achieve the progress we have witnessed today without the understanding of our friends and partners. Therefore, on behalf of my people and the Government of Timor-Leste, I would like to thank the international community for the unwavering support provided to us in our years of need.
We are particularly grateful to Australia and New Zealand, our reliable friends and neighbors, who, since 2006, at the height of the security crisis in Timor-Leste, provided security assistance that helped restore peace and order in the country. We are also grateful to Malaysia and Portugal who promptly accepted our plea for help and who, since 2006, continue to deploy Special Forces as part of the United Nations police mission in Timor-Leste.
Our immediate neighbor Indonesia has extended us a hand of friendship and solidarity since our separation in 1999, showing great maturity that is surely the hallmark of a great nation. Indonesian leaders and people have taken steps to assist us in many ways including in ensuring security and stability in our common border.
Much have been achieved in the last 8 years, however, there are still many challenges ahead of us. But we remain resolute in our determination to overcome them and to live up to the expectations of our people and lead them towards a peaceful and prosperous future.
Finally, as we are entering the holiday season, my wife joins me in wishing all of you and your family Merry Christmas and a Blessed Holiday Season.
May I now invite you to join me in drinking a toast to the good health and long life of President Barack Obama and First Lady, the happiness and well being of the people of this beautiful country and to continued cordial relations between Timor-Leste and the United States of America.