29 January 2009

East Timor Foreign Affairs Minister Speech on Australia Day 2009


H.E Ambassador Peter Heyward

Special Representative of the Secretary General, Dr. Atul Khare

Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, Dr. Finn Reske-Nielsen

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Members of the Australian Defence and Police Forces serving in Timor-Leste,

Excellentisimos Senhores e Senhoras,

Mau-Alin sira,

G'day mate.

It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be representing Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on this, the biggest day of celebration, on Australia's calendar.

As I understand it, on Australia Day Australians come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's the day to reflect on what the nation has achieved and what Australians can be proud of in their great nation.

In his address to the nation, the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said:

"[Australia's] history as a nation is one of resilience - to confront obstacles and see a way through, to emerge stronger and more determined.

From the struggle of Indigenous Australians for recognition and respect;

From the courage of our diggers in Gallipoli, on the Western Front, at Kokoda, in Timor Leste and in Afghanistan"

We acknowledge and give thanks for the ongoing support that Australia provides in assisting the Government and people of Timor-Leste to confront the obstacles and challenges WE face.

And I believe we are making real progress and together demonstrating resoluteness in providing a better Timor-Leste for all its citizens and future generations.

For us, it is a day to reflect on the special bond of friendship and cooperation that we have with one of our closest neighbours. A bond that stretches as far back as the few hundred Australians, known as Sparrow Force, stationed in Timor-Leste during the Second World War through INTERFET to the Australian men and women serving in our country today as part of the International Military and Police Force. We thank these brave service men and women for their contribution to peace and stability in our land.

Significantly, this will also be the year in which we will host a High Level Summit in Timor-Leste bringing together the Heads of Government of Australia, Indonesia and Portugal. This initiative is driven by a desire to improve the level and quality of collaboration and cooperation of aid efforts and to see more concrete results in Timor-Leste, and I would like to acknowledge the Prime Minister of Australia's initiative in co-sponsoring such a bold and important initiative.

The bond between our Governments and people grow with the passing of each Australia Day. The people to people relations – from villages in Timor-Leste to Local Councils in Australia through the Friendship and Sister Cities Program, through to the many high level visits, Prime Ministerial, Ministerial and visits such as the recent Australian Governor General's and our own President's State visit to Australia scheduled for next month, as well as the warm relationship between our two Prime Ministers and my own frequent interactions with Minister Smith, are some tangible outcomes of the deepening and strengthening of our relationship.

Timorese will always remember Australians by remembering YOU. Those that have come to our shores in the spirit of camaraderie to provide security for our citizens and to help in many ways for the future benefit of this nation. For this, we thank you.

I sincerely wish you all a very Happy Australia Day.


In closing, it is with great honor, my privilege to offer a toast to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the Commonwealth of Australia, to the Government, and the people of Australia.

DANILO AFONSO-HENRIQUES Senior Executive Officer Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Democratic Republic of TIMOR-LESTE

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