Speech by out-going President of the Republic, Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1996), Dili, 19th May 2012
Maun Bot Taur Matan Ruak,
Lasama, Xanana, Cláudio Ximenes,
Luolo, Mari, Lere:
This is my last speech as President of this sacred land of a brave people. But it is not a good-bye speech. I am not going to go away for another 24 years as when I left our beloved country on 4th December 1975.
I never thought then, neither did you, that it would take almost a quarter of a century for us to regain our land and freedom before I would return home.
We walked the long walk in the wilderness of international indifference and abandonment, we crossed the desert of oppression and fear.
We climbed the mountains, crossed the ravines, valleys, forests, rivers, of this majestic Island given to us by the Almighty and legated by our ancestors who first settled here 40,000 years ago.
Ramelau, Matebian and Kablaki are silent witnesses to all that happened here over hundreds of years, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.
We rose from the dead, survived our wars and paid for our sins. But many, too many, are gone for ever, human beings killed by human beings, brothers killed by brothers.
Many of our brave and beloved ones are gone. They are in another world. And in that other world, led by Nicolau Lobato, Francisco Xavier Amaral (Avo Xavi), Vicente Sahe, Mau Lear, Nino Konis Santana, João Carrascalão, they are looking down and after us, caring for our well-being and safety.
God created Man and gave us the ability to adapt and evolve over thousands of years; we mutated from the savages of the caves into intelligent beings posessing ever increasing knowdlege and feelings. Yet human beings have shown to be capable of doing harm with extraordinary savagery to other human beings, animals and nature.
In this country we are an example of the all too common human frailty and evil.
In 2006 our country was engulfed in anarchy, law and order had dissipated as our police and defence forces imploded.
More than 150,000 people had been displaced. Our people were dispirited, lost respect and faith in the State and leaders.
The Church was the shelter and saviour, providing relative safety to the tens of thousands of women and children who fled their homes, shared with them their roof and meager food.
But the last 10 years have not only being years of conflicts. We can be proud of our achievements in many areas, namely in education and health sectors. Today, our country is at peace, our people have renewed hopes, their lives improving.
Among our many achievements, one that is of great value, is the reconciliation among the divided Timorese family. Our Maun Bot Xanana who led us to freedom when all seemed lost, has led this unique reconciliation process with courage, determination and compassion. I am proud of being part of a society that has shown a great heart in resisting the temptation to exercise revenge in the name of justice.
In victory be magnanimous, never seek to humiliate the adversary; if he is on his knees hold his hands and plead with him to rise up, embrace him; walk halfway and meet the vanquished ones, embrace them, invite them to join in a new enterprise of peace, a new future for all. This has been my belief and in many ways this has been our practice since independence.
I am saddened that we have not passed an Amnesty Law that would have enabled the too many brothers and sisters still abroad to return home.
I am also unhappy that we did not follow up on the Truth and Frienship Commission with a Law that would have taken off the List of Indicted persons those Timorese and Indonesian citizens accused by the UN Serious Crimes Panel set up in Timor-Leste by the UN Transition Administration in 2000.
I have often said, and I repeat again tonight, there is no greater justice than freedom and in 1999 Indonesia and the international community sanctioned the freedom for which we fought and died. This greater justice, our freedom and dignity, should prevail over the justice of the victors over the vanquished.
We have built a unique relationship with Indonesia and Portugal as well as with all others who at one time in recent history were on the other side.
To our friends, the Presidents of Indonesia and Portugal, Excellencies Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyno and Prof. Anibal Cavaco Silva I extend on behalf of all of us our enduring gratitude and friendship.
To all our neighbours and friends from
- the solidarity movement who were with us in our darkest years,
- the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), represented here by His Excellency the President of Indonesia,
- Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, represented here by the President of Tuvalu and Governor-Generals of Australia and New Zealand,
- Northeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan,
- Africa represented here by the Foreign Minister of South Africa,
- Europe, represented here by the President of Portugal and the EU Commissioner for Development,
- the US,
- Brasil and others from Latin America
- and the United Nations represented here by the Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping and our sister Ameerah Haq who soon will leave us for even greater missions to all go our deepest respect and gratitude for being with us for the last 10 years and for being here tonight.
But tonight as we celebrate this great day in our history, we cannot forget a lost friend – Sergio Vieira De Mello – killed by extremists in Iraq. Sergio was here, his fiancee-partner Carolina Larriera was here with him, with us, this evening 10 years ago. Under the leadership of Secretary-General Kofi Annan Sergio worked with us from the end of 1999 till 19th May 2002 in trying to put together a minimally functioning State.
Carolina flew in from Buenos Aires to be here tonight. She survived the Baghdad terrorist bombing in 2003. Here, tonight, I bow to Sergio’s memory and will award him posthumous the Order of Timor Leste. His loving mother, Dona Gilda De Mello, now over 90 years of age, lives still in Rio, and will receive the award in Sergio’s name.
Last but not least, Maun Bot President Taur Matan Ruak,
You were born in Mount Matebian and lived on the edges of extreme poverty and between life and death. Your beloved mother died in 1987 and her body and soul still wander in that majestic and magic mountains. Your father was beaten to death in 1997 – just few months before justice and freedom arrived.
Mount Matebian where tens of thousands of souls are living gave you the inner strengnth that sustained you through poverty and war. The same wisdom and strength of our ancestors and heroes will inspire and sustain you in the days and years to come as you guide this nation into the future that begins in few minutes.
For five years you were my loyal Army General Chief of Staff, standing behind the Supreme Commander in good and bad times.
At the stroke of midnight, as you are sworn in as our duly elected President, I will stand behind you, never too far away – and with God’s blessing your term of office will always be good times as the bad times should never return to this land and our peoples homes.
Together with Maun Bot Xanana, Lasama, Cláudio Ximenes, Lu-O’lo, Alkatiri, Lere, Lugo, Rogério, Abílio, we will guide our people into greater achievements.
To your wife Isabel, your beautiful children, Lola, Quesa and Tamarisa, sisters and brothers, I say, thank you for letting your husband, father and brother serve the people.
Over the ages God The Almighty and The Merciful tested our faith and made us endure our own Stations of the Cross. And time and again, at each station and fall we rose up, stronger and with deeper faith.
God The Almighty and The Merciful will bless us tonight for the years to come, and bless our kind friends who crossed lands, oceans and heavens to be with us.