Ramos-Horta Inaugural Speech: English Text

May 20, 2022 | Presidency


Presidente do Parlamento Nacional;


Presidente do Tribunal de Recurso;

Procurador Geral da República;


Presidente de Portugal, Prof. Dr. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa;

Governador-Geral da Austrália, David Hurley; Primeiro-Ministro da Guiné-Bissau, Eng. Nuno Nabian; Prof. Dr. Mohammad Mahfud MD, Ministro Coordenador Assuntos Políticos, Justiça e Segurança da República da Indonésia;

Dr. Delfim Santiago das Neves, Presidente da Assembleia Nacional de São Tome e Príncipe;

Dra. Edite Estrela, Vice-Presidente da Assembleia da República de Portugal;

Dra. Arminda Salsiah Alisjahbanu, Secretária Executiva UN-ESCAP, enviado especial do Secretário Geral da ONU;

Dr. Mohamad Maliki Osman, Ministro no Gabinete do Primeiro Ministro, Segundo Ministro Estrangeiro e Educação de Singapura;

Dr. Miyake Shingo, Vice-Ministro Parlamentar do Ministério Negócios de Estrangeiros, enviado especial do Primeiro Ministro do Japão;

Dra. Filomena Goncalves, Ministra da Presidência do Conselho de Ministros de Cabo Verde;

Dra. Ana Pires Brito, Ministra Plenipotenciária representante do Governo de Cabo Verde,

Dr. Zacarias da Costa Albano, Secretário Executivo da CPLP;

Dr. Francis Musthapa Kai Kai, Presidente de G7+

Dr. Ekkaphab Panthavong, Adjunto Secretário Geral da ASEAN;

Dra. Alice P. Albright, Chief Executive Officer of The Millennium Challenge Cooperation;

Embaixador Daniel António Rosa, enviado especial do Presidente da República de Angola;

Embaixador Aldemo Serafim Garcia Júnior, enviado especial do Governo de Brasil;

Excelências ex-titulares de Órgãos de Soberania

Maun Bot Xanana Ex-PR;

Dr. Vicente Guterres Ex-PPN;

Dr. Adérito Hugo Ex-PPN;

Dr. Arão Noé Ex-PPN;

Dr. Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri Ex-PM;

Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo Ex-PM;

Eng. Estanislau da Silva Ex-PM;


Chefe do Estado-Maior-General das F-FDTL, Maior. Gen. Domingos Raul “Falur Rate Laek”;

Comandante-Geral da PNTL, Faustino da Costa; Ex-Chefe de Estado-Maior-General das F-FDTL, Gen. Lere Anan Timur;

Excelências, Amigos, Povo Amado

On this night of celebration from Tasi-Tolu I send you all my warm embrace.

Today, we return to this sacred ground, consecrated with the historic Mass celebrated on 12 October 1998 by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, to witness yet another solemn act that reaffirms the vitality of our young democracy. Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations beloved people of Timor-Leste.

To all the friends who, despite the distance and their intense professional schedules, kindly came to honour the solemn commitment I have just made today, bearing witness to your solidarity and friendship, I express my deep appreciation.

Allow me to pay remembrance and bow with nostalgia to the memories of my father Francisco and my mother Natalina, my hero. To my brothers Nuno and Gui and sister Mariazinha, martyrs of the struggle for our great Nation’s Independence. I thank my son, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nephews, great-nephews, cousins, and all other family members and friends around the world for your endless, countless, and permanent presence in good times and in times of pain.

I bow in heartfelt tribute to all Timorese who lost their lives, as well as those who still live with the pain of remembering their parents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, nephews and grandchildren, cousins and friends lost during the tragic conflict period. I bow before the memory of the eternally missed Nicolau Lobato, founder and organiser of the glorious FALINTIL, whose teachings and his splendid example have inspired and continue to inspire generations of Timorese people.

I bow before the memory of the young martyrs of the 12th of November.

I reverently remember Dom Martinho da Costa Lopes, Dom Ricardo da Silva, Dom Basílio do Nascimento, Fr. João De Deus, and other priests and nuns who left us after a lifetime at the service of God and His people.

I remember with deep respect and nostalgia Mário Carrascalão, João Carrascalão, Manuel Carrascalão, Fernando Lasama Araujo, Ma’huno Bulere KARATHAYANO, and all the other Timorese and foreign friends who left us.

I well remember Max Stahl who recently left the people of Timor-Leste in mourning and who is part of our country’s historical memory for his invaluable contribution in mobilising the world’s consciences to support the fight for national independence.


Distinguished guests,

Thank you all for being here or following from a distance today when I am inaugurated for the second time as President of the Democratic Republic ofTimor- Leste.

I thank Dr. Francisco Guterres Lu-Ólo and the other presidential candidates for their contribution to the enrichment of the national debate and the consolidation of our democracy.

To Mr. outgoing President Lu-Olo, to his esteemed wife Cidália and their children, offer you my sincere best wishes in the knowledge that you will continue to serve noble causes, to serve the people, and to serve the Nation. I know that I will always be able to count on your wise advice.

I also want to express my gratitude to the CNRT Party and its members, and to all other political parties, in particular to the activists who supported me during this campaign. My candidacy was undoubtedly a National campaign, supported by many civic movements, political parties, associations and groups, students and academics, who joined this cause.

With emotional gratitude I remember the thousands of people with whom I had the opportunity to live with during the many years of my visits with communities across the country, and who overwhelmed me with words of trust and affection.

At all times, I undertake to be the President for all Timorese, without hesitation, doubt or subterfuge. I don’t just represent those who voted for me, I do represent all Timorese People who share my love for our land, for our culture, for our history.

I am committed to defending, complying with and enforcing the Constitution of the Republic as a permanent and attentive guardian of the Fundamental Law and its values, values that reflect the Nation we have chosen to be.

Distinguished Guests, Beloved People,

I am honoured to be sworn in on an anniversary full of significance for our national history. Twenty years on from the Restoration of our Independence, it is important to remember the extraordinary example of unity and communion of the Timorese People and their leaders during the period of the struggle for Independence.

Today more than ever, we must be fully aware that only in unity will we be able to achieve the development goals that we propose.

I pay tribute to Xanana Gusmão, successor of Francisco Xavier do Amaral and Nicolau Lobato, for his intelligence and tenacity in mobilising the people, in the reconstruction and reorganisation of FALINTIL, creating conditions that culminated in the Popular Consultation of August 30, 1999

I salute Commander Taur Matan Ruak who led the transformation of the guerrillas from the National Resistance to the Armed Forces in fulfilling the mission of defending national sovereignty.

I salute Lieutenant General Lere Anan Timur who has led the most recent transition of the F-FDTL to a new generation of senior officers. Of this new generation represented by the new CEMG Lieutenant-Gen. Falur Rate Laek, Major-Gen. and Deputy CEMGFA Calisto Coliati and Commodore Pedro Klamar Fuik, the country and the F-FDTL expect the continuation of the modernisation of the Defence Forces and their constant adaptation to the new challenges which we must always know how to anticipate.


Distinguished Guests,

I want to express our deepest gratitude to all our friends in different nations for their generous solidarity. They walked with our people from the long years of darkness until we reached the summit of Mount Ramelau, as an independent and peaceful country. They gave us a hand when everything was dark, they gave us food when we were hungry, they gave us a drink when we were thirsty. The People of Timor-Leste will never forget.


Distinguished guests,

Timor-Leste favours international understanding based on cooperation and interdependence so that together we can face our common challenges together: promoting peace and reconciliation, the preservation of Earth as humanity’s common home, halting climate change and preserving mother nature, eradicate child slavery and extreme poverty. These must be the guiding values of our international relations.

Timor-Leste is today an oasis of peace and solidarity. In order to achieve lasting peace, guided by Maun Bot Xanana in harmony with the entire national leadership, we deliberately opted for national reconciliation and the rejection of the retributive justice of the victors.

We live in an imperfect but peaceful democracy, with no record of any kind of political, ethnic or religious violence. The various predominant religions in our country live together in a spirit of full fraternity.

From this oasis of tranquillity, I reaffirm my commitment to the fight for peace and human fraternity at national, regional and international level, regardless of ideologies, religion or social organisation.

It is within the framework of multilateralism and the promotion of respect and friendship between sovereign countries that I propose the development of Timor- Leste’s foreign policy.

The UN, which played a central role in building the State of Timor-Leste, continues to be the concrete expression of solidarity and international cooperation, without which the humanitarian situation in many parts of the world would be substantially worsened with tens of millions of human beings condemned to extreme poverty and hunger, deprived of protection, victims of the multiple violent conflicts that continue to occur in the world.

The images of horror and suffering that come to us from the war in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen, deeply disturb us not only because of the suffering of innocent people, but also because of the evident absence of world leadership and the paralysis of multilateral mechanisms for prevention and conflict mediation.



Portugal, a country with which we have centuries old ties and with the deepest affection, is among us today represented by its immensely popular President of the Republic, Prof. Dr. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Thank you for coming this far. Portugal has been a true friend. Supportive, generous and persistent, in all the difficult moments of our country. Eternal friendship and gratitude, My Friend President Marcelo.

I express our heartfelt recognition for the invaluable solidarity of the CPLP countries represented here by Portugal, Guinea-Bissau with the presence of PM Nuno Nabian, and by Brazil, through the Special Envoy of President Bolsonaro and Ambassador Adelmo Garcia. We also note the presence of the esteemed Secretary General of the CPLP, Dr. Zacarias Albano da Costa.

Despite our recognized fragility and limitations, Timor- Leste has sought to actively participate in the regional and international institutions of which it is a part.

We will continue to actively explore innovative ways to strengthen our participation in the CPLP and the g7+, the latter an initiative of Timor-Leste, which is now internationally recognised.

I greet the Minister of Planning and Economy of Sierra Leone, President-in-Office of the g7+, and esteemed Dr. Francis KAI-KAI, and the Secretary General, Dr. Helder da Costa.

In this troubling period in Europe as a result of the tragedy of the war in Ukraine, I sympathise with all the friends of the great House of Europe, Europe with a long history of solidarity and partnership with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

I salute President Emmanuel Macron of France for his courage and determination in pursuing dialogue with President Putin to end the war in Ukraine and avoid the worst that could still come.

I have always advocated and continue to advocate that our relations with the Republic of Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and the Southeast Asian countries geographically close to Timor-Leste must be at the top of our national agenda. We must explore effective ways of greater economic and commercial integration, of greater cooperation in the areas of defence and security, namely maritime security.

We should encourage sub-regional cooperation with the eastern Indonesian provinces, in particular Nusa Tenggara Timur, and with the Northern Territory of Australia and Western Australia, above all, in promoting the development of trade and the mobility of people and products through maritime and air connectivity. .

I salute the wise leadership of Maun Bot Xanana and his entire team of the Maritime and Land Boundaries Office for the effort, intelligence, and dedication that resulted in the establishment of the international treaty that confirms the median line in the Timor Sea as a permanent maritime border between Australia and Timor-Leste. Equal recognition is due to the Australian side led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, for her sincerity and determination in resolving the dispute that affected relations between bothcountries.

ASEAN has been, since its establishment in 1967, a fundamental pillar of prosperity and stability in our region, as well as a successful model for multilateral organisations in the international order. Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN is a national strategic objective that I have personally advocated for since 1974 during a historic meeting, in Jakarta, with the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adam Malik.

I thank the Asian Development Bank and the European Union, the Secretariat and ASEAN member countries, for all their support in the accession preparation process. I also congratulate the Timorese coordinating team, which has shown great competence and dedication.

I salute ASEAN’s leadership in dialogue and mediation efforts to end the extreme violence against the people of Myanmar.

Japan has been a generous partner to our country.We are grateful for Japan’s support in particular in the infrastructure sector and in the construction of the new air terminal at Dili airport. For many decades Japan has been one of the great pillars of multilateralism with its diplomatic and financial support to the specialised agencies, programs and funds of the United Nations.

Timor-Leste and the Republic of Korea share very similar historical experiences and the Korean people and government have been our country’s generous partners. The opening of the Republic of Korea’s labour market to Timor-Leste workers is deeply appreciated, and I am pleased to note the extremely positive reception that Korean society has given to our Timorese workers. I hope to see the quota of Timorese workers significantly increased.I affirm here all our solidarity with the Republic of Korea in the face of the insecurity and tension on the Korean Peninsula andwe support all initiatives of dialogue and thede-escalation of tensions in that region.

As a global power, permanent member of the UN Security Council, the People’s Republic of China has an increased responsibility in promoting and defending dialogue for the preservation of regional and global peace. Peace will only be real and lasting when it is achieved through dialogue and mutual respect, in which neither party feels coerced and humiliated.

It is our intention to expand bilateral cooperation with China, especially in the areas of sustainable and organic agriculture, small industries, trade, new technologies, renewable energy, connectivity, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and urban and rural infrastructure.

The United States of America has continuously contributed to the construction of the State of Timor- Leste. It is my intention to continue to foster this special relationship. More specifically, I emphasise the importance of the Millennium Challenge Corporation programs; I express my appreciation to the US Navy Seabees who have been operating in Timor-Leste for over 10 years in partnership with the F-FDTL; and we want to see the resumption of US Peace Corps programs in the areas of teaching English and supporting rural development projects.



In 1999/2000 the city of Dili was reduced to ruins, rubble. The country’s economic and commercial activities were practically non-existent. Money did not circulate in most of the country. There was no electricity in most of the capital and it was non-existent in the rest of the territory. In 2002, the year of the Restoration of Independence, we had only twenty Timorese doctors, a single hospital in the capital and higher education was limited to a single national university.

After 20 years, the changes and progress in Timor- Leste deserves to be celebrated, because it is frankly outstanding. Some simple indicators unequivocally reflect the profound change that the Restoration of Independence brought to our country. In 1999, the average life expectancy was 58 years old. In 2020 it was 70 years old. Currently, the production and distribution of electricity reaches around 96.1%% of households across the country.

The national infrastructure network is in the process of rapid development and modernisation, serving as an engine for economic and commercial activities throughout the country, with Japan and the Asian Development Bank playing a very important role in this.

Fulfilling the promise that the late historic leader, Fidel Castro, made to President Xanana Gusmão in 2003 at a meeting on the sidelines of the Summit of Non- Aligned Movements in Kuala Lumpur, Cuba contributed to the training of one thousand and one hundred national doctors who are currently working in our country’s 13 municipalities. We are infinitely grateful to the Cuban people.

Today we have a public National University (UNTL) and more than 16 accredited private universities and higher institutes, with more than 60 thousand students enrolled.

Hundreds of young people have had the opportunity to benefit from scholarships that allowed them to access the best universities in the region, Europe and the USA.

Despite this very encouraging progress, the truth is that we continue to face major challenges in numerous important sectors: agriculture and food production; food security and nutrition; health; clean water and sanitation; pre-school education and technical- professional training; and finally job creation.

In 2020-2021 we were severely affected by natural disasters and a prolonged political crisis, with multiple economic and financial impact, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic prevention measures, necessary to protect society, accentuated the fall of our economy.

Our consciences demand that we do everything to eliminate malnutrition, reduce extreme poverty (which affects 40% of our population), social exclusion, and fight corruption.

No group in our society should be excluded, in particular newborns, children, mothers, young people, and the elderly. And we must look at our children and siblings with disabilities not as a burden to society and the State, but as a force that we must embrace and provide them with material means they need so that they can contribute even more actively to the life of the country.

Likewise, there will be no room in our society for discrimination and exclusion of the sons and daughters of the LGBT Rainbow community. All are children of God and children of the Nation who contribute with intelligence and total devotion to peace, security and community well-being.

It is critical that national leadership be able to forge, over the next five to ten years, a national consensus around 5 urgent national causes:

1. Education and Health

Two paramount national priorities that deserve to see their strategic importance reflected in the Government’s budget and in the quality of those responsible for the sector.

We are a nation whose population is very young, and our young people are at the heart of our vision of progress and modernisation. As I will work with our leaders from all sectors of government and society to address these national priorities I call on all of us to keep the needs and dreams of our young people at the forefront of our minds and hold them firmly in our hearts. Their aspirations should guide our implementation of these urgent priorities.

It is through our Investment in our young people, the future of Timor-Leste, that we can guarantee for our all communities development, stability, and the unity of our Nation.

2. Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition and Drinking Water

The successive food crises that periodically affect the world should have already provoked a deep reflection and quick decisions on the extreme importance of greater investment in this sector, in order to achieve total sovereignty.

I will propose the creation of a Coffee Fund which will aim to protect the quality and price of coffee against fluctuations in the international market; invest in the expansion of organic Arabica coffee production areas; to support in parallel other crop farming, small animal husbandry, and aqua-culture that guarantees food security in the coffee regions; and promotes the development of tourism in our expansive coffee regions.

Prolonged droughts, unprecedented increases in maximum temperatures, and a global shortage of fresh water will render vast regions of the globe totally unproductive and uninhabitable.

Timor-Leste suffers from precarious fresh water reserves, making it urgent to invest in rainwater capture and conservation, as well as in new desalination technologies.

3. Transparency in the State

We must intensify investment in the professionalisation and digitisation of Public Administration, impose depoliticisation, the application of the constitutional principles of transparency and responsibility, as a way of consolidating the legitimacy of the acts of public managers.

4. F-FDTL and PNTL

The F-FDTL and PNTL have travelled a long way. Notable progress has been made in its professionalisation and operation. In this sector, I am grateful for the invaluable support provided by Portugal and Australia. With Australia and the Republic of Indonesia, we must promote the conclusion of maritime security agreements as a way of preventing and combating illegal activities in the Timor Sea.

5. Oé-cusse Ambeno, Cova Lima and Bobonaro

We must continue to pursue the development strategy of the Autonomous Region of Oé-Cusse Ambeno, especially in the areas of health, education, food production, and the promotion of free trade with neighbouring Indonesian provinces.

Likewise,I will do everything I can to actively promote the development of the entire border region, from the south coast to Mota Ain, investing, through public, private and international investments, in education and health, agriculture, livestock and infrastructure.

Distinguished guests,

Beloved people,

We are a dynamic democracy, but still vulnerable. Protecting our young democracy is the first priority of the President of the Republic. This will also be the case during my term of office, in the spirit of the widest possible unity, being aware of the forces that seek to exploit our vulnerabilities.

Sovereign bodies, in their reciprocal relations and in the exercise of their functions, must scrupulously observe the principle of separation of powers, yet interdependency, established in the Constitution; ensuring solidarity between State institutions and promoting permanent dialogue between political actors.

As President, I am committed to doing everything I can to safeguard the values enshrined in our Constitution, to protect freedom of thought, belief, expression and pluralism of opinion; for the struggle for more social justice; and for the defence of values that are linked to our national identity and that are rooted in heroism, in the magical-imaginary, in simplicity, humility, generosity, openness, in the pursuit of inclusion, and in the unshakable faith of the Timorese People.

Furthermore, I want to mobilise the genuine goodwill of all Timorese, calling for all of us, in the next five years, to join efforts in a spirit of unity and inclusion, in the construction of the country for which so many fought and gave their lives for; a State of Democratic Law, respecting popular sovereignty, the separation and interdependence of powers and the rights, freedoms and guarantees of all citizens.

Today I assume the presidential functions with the same spirit and the same conviction with which I have carried out all the missions that have been entrusted to me until today: a servant of the public cause, a servant of the people of Timor-Leste.

May God and our Ancestors guide me.


photo REUTERS/Lirio da Fonseca/File Photo