Proclamation of Independence Square, 3 March 2020

The first Veterans’ Day celebration was held in 2017 and hosted by the then President of the Republic, General Taur Matan Ruak. This is the third time I preside over this day of such historic importance to all national liberation Veterans and Combatants of the Armed, Clandestine, and Diplomatic/External Fronts, their families, the Timorese people, and the entire country.

Yesterday’s seminar, held within the scope of the programme of the Veterans’ Day commemoration, led the participants in a discussion of the ‘memory of 1974–1999 for present and future generations.

It is important to remember the 1974–1999 period. Our history about the national liberation struggle started in 1974, inspired by our ancestors’ isolated struggle against Portuguese colonialism and by the work of a small, clandestine group of nationalists to consolidate a national consciousness, prior to 25 April 1974.

The 1974–1999 period was characterised by acts of violence, torture, genocide, and ethnocide committed by the occupying forces. But it was also during this period that we strengthened our courage and our determination to continue fighting until the victory. The war ended in 1999, in 2002 we restored our independence proclaimed in November 28, 1975.

Dear veterans,

Guests,

Beloved people of Timor-Leste,

Today, on Veterans’ Day, we stand before symbols that represent the way we organised ourselves as nationalist combatants. The flag and these symbols represent different forms of organisation at a time of affirmation of our nationalism and national unity. I recall the intervention of the FRETILIN and the FALINTIL as the political and armed components of our national liberation struggle. I also recall the new organisation model of our national liberation struggle:

– Revolutionary Council of National Resistance (CRRN), a non-partisan national body created on 3 March 1981 and renamed National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM) in 1988 and, subsequently, National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in 1998, with the participation of all nationalist organisations, including the UDT, a political party established in 1974.

Displaying these historic symbols at this event helps reignite the memory of the past and shows young generations how the guerrilla fighters’ generation organised itself and organised the people until the referendum of 1999. The Referendum was a political act through which the People of Timor-Leste courageously assumed the end of the war with the victory if Independence.

Dear veterans,

Guests,

Beloved people of Timor-Leste,

The National Liberation Combatants of the Three Fronts held their first national congress in December 2019 to elect the members of the central bodies of the National Liberation Combatants’ Council (CCLN). This initiative represented a major step towards our organisation at the national level, under the auspices of a single entity. The CCLN will help the state empower former combatants through the implementation of a policy that defends their interests and, at the same time, promotes self-sufficiency.

At that first congress, I expressed my unconditional support to the government’s initiative of creating a Veterans’ Fund as a source of collective financing to address the current needs of combatants and maybe help their children and grandchildren. I know that the acting Minister and State Secretary for Affairs of the National Liberation Combatants, Mr ‘Oan Soru’, has been working to establish the legal basis for the creation of this fund. This means that a decree-law needs to be approved, defining a policy that regulates the management of this fund and clearly identifies the entity responsible for its management, the place where the fund is to be held, the method of payment, the amount collected from each contributor, how to earn a return, how to award the benefits and in which circumstances, and which types of benefits are to be awarded to the children and grandchildren of the former combatants.

I also want to state here that the Veteran’s Organizations need to have a headquarters where the National Liberation Combatants Council can function. I have already addressed the Prime Minister on this matter and he assured me that he would address this situation.

I take this opportunity, Veterans’ Day, to call on the National Liberation Combatants’ Council to do three things:

  1. Quickly record the history of each of the combatants who are still alive, because we have already lost so many since our independence. The death of a combatant represents the loss of a part of our collective history.
  2. Help educate our citizens to respect the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and strengthen the values and principles of the national liberation struggle.
  3. Help the government quickly develop our heritage tourism.

Dear veterans,

Guests,

Beloved people of Timor-Leste,

Today, on this site of great historic significance, I ask every one of us to bow to the memory of our heroes and martyrs, men and women. It is a very long list, so I will name only a few: President Nicolau Lobato, Rosa Muki, Borja da Costa, Maria Tapó, Vicente Sa’he, Soimali, Maria Goretti Joaquim, Hodu Ran Kadalak, Sabalae, David Alex, and Nino Konis Santana.

On behalf of the People and the State of Timor-Leste, I salute all grieving families, whose beloved relatives fell during our national liberation struggle.

I want to extend a special thanks to the founders of our movement for independence and national unity who are still among us – Mr Mari Alkatiri and Mr Ramos-Horta – as well as to the leader responsible for the reorganisation of the national liberation struggle in 1981, the commander of the FALINTIL, Mr Xanana Gusmão. Xanana Gusmão.

To the national liberation combatants, men and women, known and unknown, I also express the profound recognition of the state for their contribution through their actions, whether big or small, whether in the Armed Front, the Clandestine Front, or the Diplomatic/External Front.

I am thankful for the international solidarity we received from Portugal, Mozambique, Angola, and other former Portuguese colonies in Africa, from some governments, political parties, non-governmental organisations, and citizens from around the world.

It was thanks to everyone’s contribution that we achieved our Independence.

Together, we will continue to fight for a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. In our free and independent Timor-Leste.

Long live international solidarity!

Happy Veterans’ Day!

Long live the People of Timor-Leste!

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