01 December 2017

Speech by President Lu-Olo on the Celebration of the 42nd Anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence

Suai, 28 November 2017


Mr Aniceto Guterres, President of the National Parliament
Dr. Deolindo dos Santos, President of the Court of Appeal
Mr Prime Minister, Dr Mari Alkatiri, living pioneer of our Republic
Members of all bodies of sovereignty Most Reverend Bishops of Timor-Leste Representatives of all religious denominations present
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps Distinguished guests
Beloved people of Timor-Leste

On this joyous occasion, when we  as a free and sovereign people  proudly celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence, I first salute all sons and daughters of Timor-Leste, from Oecusse to the eastern end, from the southern coast to the northern coast and Ataúro. I salute also all our brothers and sisters who live, work, and study in faraway lands.

Independence is an achievement of which al of us, as citizens of this country, are proud and my thoughts are with all brothers and sisters  throughout the country and around the world.

I bow my head in memory of the heroes and martyrs of 1975 and those who sacrificed themselves, gave their lives and suffered during the 24 years of the struggle. I bow my head in memory of the beloved Nicolau Lobato, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, Nino Konis Santana, and the entire leadership of the struggle. I salute the greatness of character of all leaders of 1975, including my dear brothers Mari Alkatiri and José Ramos-Horta, who God willed to remain by our side, helping us guide and drive the country forward.

Complying with the instructions of Nicolau Lobato and later my dear brother Xanana Gusmão, these leaders  Mari Alkatiri and José Ramos Horta  worked on the External Front and held high the name of Timor-Leste, of the Timorese people, and of the combatants on the Home Front, breaking our isolation during the liberation struggle. Today as in the past these three prominent leaders continue to put their reputation, their competence, and their abilities and experience at the service of peace, stability, and development.

I salute the children of Suai who with courage, self-sacrifice and love for the community and country made valuable contributions to our independence. On this anniversary, the country pays special tribute to the nationalist spirit of the children of Suai. I bow my head in memory of the victims of the brutal September 1999 massacre which bereaved this land as it bereaved all Timorese nationalists. I extend my deepest condolences and solidarity to the widows and orphans and all bereft families.

During the 24 years of the struggle there were massacres, deaths and pain throughout the country. The state recognises with admiration and respect the sacrifice made by all martyrs and heroes. I bow my head once again in memory of all who  throughout the country  gave their lives in defence of the dignity and liberty of our homeland.

Brothers and sisters!

The Proclamation of Independence by the FRETILIN, on 28 November 1975, was widely supported by the sons and daughters of Timor-Leste. The late Nicolau Lobato was organiser and leader for the Timorese nation. He was one of the founding fathers of the country, a strategist and thinker who interpreted the conditions of the struggle and reflected on the priorities of the Timorese nationalists so that we could achieve victory. For all this, Nicolau Lobato was truly the father of modern Timorese nationalism. His example and life lessons continued to guide the leaders of the resistance, even after his physical demise.

With the Proclamation of Independence, the FRETILIN Central Committee started an unstoppable process that continues to this day and which all good-willed and kind-hearted Timorese people joined.

Although decimated by the occupiers the heroes of 1975 were succeeded by new, highly-capable leaders who kept the resistance alive and proved right our dearly departed Nicolau when he said that to resist is to win. From the heart, I salute my brother Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão who brilliantly succeeded Nicolau Lobato. I also salute Ma’ Huno Bulekerk Karataiano and Nino Konis Santana. And my brother Taur Matan Ruak, who succeeded him in the command of the FALINTIL in our homeland.

The process initiated with the Proclamation of 28 November 1975 enabled the people to take charge of our own future.

After a long struggle and terrible sacrifices we won  because the resistance was able to survive united with the people. Without unity between the leaders, unity between the combatants and between the combatants and the people it would not have been possible to get to victory.

Uniting around strategic objectives is a permanent challenge in any process of national liberation or affirmation of sovereignty. In truth we are at peace  but we fight new battles to build a developed country and a better life for all Timorese people, based on principles and values without which the strategic objectives cannot be met.

To secure independence and respect for human dignity, to eradicate poverty and build a stronger homeland and better living conditions was always the nationalists' goal. The struggle continues to reach these goals.

Our dream of a happier, more prosperous country is now closer because the sons and daughters of Timor-Leste hold in their own hands the reins of government. We must put power to good use. We must use power well to implement the solutions that the people need  based on principles and values, with honesty and competence.

So far, independence has enabled us to do work we can be proud of. In 2001 and 2002, democratically elected representatives of the people approved and put in place a constitution that respects the dignity and the human rights of our citizens. The Constitution establishes a political system that gives free expression to the democratic choice of the people as well as the mechanisms for accountability of all bodies of the state.

The Constitution grants the President of the Republic the power to interpret the election results, after hearing the political parties represented in parliament, and nominate the Prime Minister1. It also bestows upon the President of the Republic the duty to assess the circumstances of the functioning of the institutions2. The constitutional framework must be cherished and respected by us all.

In the felicitous words of a Portuguese constitutional law expert3, in democratic states 'the Constitution charts a path and identifies, with ample breadth, a collective destiny'.

It is important that we all, without exception, exercise restraint and respect while invoking the Constitution, to protect and defend it as the road map for the state and the people towards that collective destiny of our homeland.

As the basic law that unites us, the Constitution should not be invoked lightly at one's convenience and must never be used as an instrument of divisiveness.

As far as I see it, the attempt to interpret the Constitution according to personal interests is pernicious as it embodies standards, values, principles and goals that must be pursued and upheld by us all.

I understand such attempts, but as President of the Republic my understanding of the Constitution’s meaning is based on these legal assumptions and the best practices for interpretation.

When I took office as Head of State, I swore to abide by and uphold the Constitution. And to uphold the Constitution, I must interpret its articles in the service of the national interest, not of any party, whether in government or in the opposition.

The Constitution is a complete text. And the application of particular articles on the political system must be combined with remaining articles in the Constitution, which refer to national development, protection of the underprivileged, fight against poverty and others. That is what I have been doing. That is what I will continue to do.

1 Article 106 of the Constitution of the DRTL.

2 Pursuant to Article 86 and others.

3 Pedro Bacelar de Vasconcelos, Jornal de Notícias, 8 November 2017.

The functioning of the political system in Timor-Leste has been acknowledged as exemplary by independent international observers. In additional to the political system, since our independence we have also built a state apparatus that provides public services, including education, health, safety for our citizens, and some strategic infrastructures, essential to achieve development projects.

We approved and implemented solidarity policies to help vulnerable groups, thereby contributing to the respect and elevation of their dignity.

Despite the successes, we must acknowledge that the quality of the services of the state is still insufficient in some sectors. In others we must create new services with strategic importance to development such as access to clean water and basic sanitation for all Timorese people throughout the country, among others.

Independence gave us the instruments to lead and implement the solutions that the country needs. We must use these instruments and work hard to solve problems  with open hearts and in the spirit of service for the common good. The answer to these challenges is in our own hands. We must put the power we hold to good use.

One measure of our independence’s success and of the political maturity of our leaders and people is the success of the peace and reconciliation process both at the national and the international levels.

Without stability there is no development; and our people throughout the country have shown their strong desire for peace, working every day to strengthen stability and promote national development.

At international level, we enjoy solid relations of friendship and cooperation with all neighbouring countries  especially Indonesia and Australia, our closest neighbours. We strengthened relations with all countries in Southeast Asia and with the Pacific Islands Forum. Timor-Leste continues to prepare for joining ASEAN.

Our country is a committed and active party to important regional processes  from environmental including the fight against human trafficking, and others. We are determined to strengthen our contribution to regional development at every level.

Timor-Leste has developed relations of friendship and cooperation with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand; and, in other continents, with the United States, the European Union, and many European powers at the bilateral level.

We are members of CPLP, the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries, which we had the honour to preside, with great success, in the 20142016 biennium. Alongside the deepening of our regional integration, this connection to the CPLP is important to the affirmation and strengthening of the national identity, independence, and sovereignty of Timor-Leste. Our country and people's connection to the CPLP arises from history and culture and the universal values we share. As time went by those values and culture interactions were incorporated into our national identity.

The Portuguese language is an important element but it is only part of the threads that weave our identity. Without identity, there is no sovereignty. Therefore, investing in the quality of the Portuguese language in our country is also an investment in the strengthening of national identity and in consolidating our own sovereignty.

For the Portuguese language along with Tetum to become a tool for the strengthening of our identity we must use instruments that ensure their expansion. It is therefore important to ensure their use in public administration and in schools, because they are the official languages of Timor-Leste.

In regard to education, the state must provide better school materials and teaching conditions, throughout the country, to support the commitment and the work carried out by the teachers who, along with the parents, are responsible for our children's learning and character development process.


Ladies and gentlemen Beloved people of Timor-Leste!

In these 15 years since the Restoration of Independence, we built a state apparatus out of literally nothing. We must now urgently commit to the improvement of the performance of the state in various sectors. Diversifying the economy and making better use of the country's wealth are national priorities that require the increase of the level of qualification of our human resources  and the increase of our investment in the education and vocational training system.

Directly linked to the education sector are the access the clean water and basic sanitation.

These services, along with those in the health sector, have an essential strategic impact on the goal of eradicating poverty and turning Timor-Leste into an upper-middle income country by 2030, when the basic needs of the population will have been met. These are national objectives, according to the Strategic Development Plan we approved, and also according to the Sustainable Development Goals that the country is committed to meet by 2030. But our performance in the pursuit of these objectives is still insufficient.

In reality, for our plans to be successful, we need to tackle the challenge of improving the quality of public services with determination, competence, and humility.

With the consolidation of peace and stability, our priority is the development of a sustainable economy, to make better use of national wealth and reduce our dependence on oil revenues.

The development of a sustainable economy includes the promotion and increase of production for farmers, who are the majority of the population.

Developing the economy means improving the quality and the quantity of agricultural production, both for internal consumption and for exportation.

If we meet this goal, the household income of farmers will increase, and so will the overall volume of the national economy.

In regard to export-oriented agriculture, there are conditions to invest in the increase of  production and quality of high-value products, such as coffee, cocoa, vanilla, and others.

The modernisation of agriculture will allow the increase of farmers' income and the improvement of their families' well-being in a few short years.

At the same time, tourism is the economic sector that can grow the fastest. The beauty of our coral reefs and seas, our country's beaches and mountains, and the pristine environment of our municipalities are advantages we have over other tourism destinations, disfigured by the overflow of tourists.

We must invest especially in the development of heritage tourism  a sector that represents a competitive advantage when compared to other tourism hubs in the region.

Investment in these sectors can quickly improve living conditions and help create jobs in the municipalities.

One of the toughest challenges faced by the country is, in fact, the creation of jobs. Strengthening of the areas of agriculture, tourism, and housing can leverage the generation of jobs.

However, the generation of jobs requires access to research and science, to technological updates, and to the business world for our younger generations, in a context of great competitiveness  both in the region and in the world.

Other sectors need stable policies, like the development of the housing sector. We must improve access to housing for our younger generations. I speak of policies aimed at the development of the economy; these policies are also the application of the principles enshrined in the Constitution of the DRTL. These priorities are a reflection of the articles of our Constitution and, in my opinion, are important aspects of the Constitution that all policy-makers must take into account.

In these 15 years since the Restoration of Independence, we built a state apparatus protection to security and the fight against organised crime in the region,

Ladies and gentlemen,
Beloved people of Timor-Leste!

The application of the Constitution indicated, through several articles, that the state must create the conditions required for the well-being of all citizens, so that all may have a better life.

When we speak about the Constitution, we must also speak about this duty. The victory of the resistance and our independence placed in all our hands  including the President of the Republic, members of parliament, party leaders, and Government  the instruments to address the needs of the people. The challenge is using those powers well, serving the nationalist spirit that took hold in the heart of the Timorese people in 1975 and grew during the struggle. What did we win our independence for? To put the people at the centre of our priorities and in the heart of the state.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Beloved people of Timor-Leste!

When I speak about the challenges, and also about the positive results achieved since the independence, I must thank the help we have received from our development partners, including their support of our economic diversification policies and the work of consolidation of our institutions.

Working alongside the United Nations and our development partners has been invaluable to the results obtained. The citizens prize the help that friendly countries and UN agencies have been providing. To our partners, I express my recognition and my wishes that we may continue to deepen mutually advantageous partnerships. Development cooperation has contributed to the improvement of living conditions and helped the region become more prosperous, with more well-being and security for the populations involved.

My fellow countrymen

Courage and the nationalist spirit, even in the face of mortal danger, have already brought to our land the sweet fruit of freedom, respect for human dignity and human rights, and enabled us to take hold of the reins that may lead us to a better life.

The brothers and sisters who, in 1975, dared to rise and hold the dignity of the Timorese people high, gave voice to the aspirations of the humble, suffering people of this beloved land.

We must honour the aspirations of the people  and the citizens' desire for a better future, a better life  in a better country. The work of the state must be more balanced and made with greater justice. I call on us all to not disappoint the aspirations  or waste the opportunity  of the people with useless struggles that bring no benefit to the people. I call for unity on behalf of common goals, but with principles and values! It is the true legacy that Nicolau dos Reis Lobato and Nino Konis Santana left behind for us to strengthen our independence whose 42nd anniversary we celebrate today.

As President of the Republic, I respect everyone  citizens, political parties, civil society organisations  but my actions and initiatives are only in service of the people and of the respect for the Constitution.

You can count on me to work alongside you and show the world that the priority of the State of Timor-Leste is the creation of more wellbeing, the improvement of living conditions, and the elevation of our people.

Long live the Timorese people.
Long live the free, prosperous, and independent Timor-Leste.

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