BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home    June news

"We can now say that we have achieved the structural transformation of FALINTIL into a Defence Force as conceptualised last year.
From yesterday’s guerrilla army based and inspired by the commitment and determination of our People and on the courage and patriotism of its members who fought with conviction for the liberation of our Homeland, we are now in the process of shaping a conventional force." Brigadier General Taur Matan Ruak
See also: BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports

East Timor Defence Force


Dili, 25 June 2001

Mr. Sérgio Vieira de Mello,
Mr. Jean-Christien Cady
Distinguished Representatives of Donor Countries,
Distinguished Members of the Transitional Cabinet,
Distinguished Members of the National Council,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Dear Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Dili!

It is an immense pleasure for us to welcome for the second time representatives of the friendly countries that are contributing to the structuring, development and equipping of the East Timor Defence Force.

It is an equally great pleasure to state that we have honoured the commitments made in November last year during the First Donors Conference.

We can now say that we have achieved the structural transformation of FALINTIL into a Defence Force as conceptualised last year.
From yesterday’s guerrilla army based and inspired by the commitment and determination of our People and on the courage and patriotism of its members who fought with conviction for the liberation of our Homeland, we are now in the process of shaping a conventional force.

The principles that guided FALINTIL in its historic and patriotic mission continue and will continue to be valid guidelines for the Defence Force: To Serve the People, to Serve our Homeland, with Discipline.

I wish to address a particular word on the way our population understood the transformation of our glorious FALINTIL into a Defence Force. When the process was initiated the population felt that one of the major symbols of the Resistance was being eliminated from our History. Today, the population knows that History can not be eliminated or re-written and that in this new political context ETDF stands for one more step towards the building of the new Nation of East Timor.

Four days ago we experienced another historic landmark in this process with the holding of the ceremony of the first group of ETDF graduates. I doubt that this achievement would have been possible within such a short period of time - less than a year has elapsed from making the decision to set up the Defence Force to the graduation of the group who finished the first basic training course - had it not been for the experience shared by the graduates of a past struggle, of discipline and the committed conviction of a just Cause. The role played by the Portuguese trainers was crucial and we wish to seize this opportunity to express our gratitude to Portugal for this valuable assistance.

The next basic training course will commence in less than a month along with the advanced individual training for the first group of graduates.  This will happen simultaneously with the transfer of the Training School from Aileu to Metinaro. Allow me to use this opportunity to express our profound gratitude to Australia for the commitment and extraordinary work to enable this to happen.
Besides the training activity and the building of the facilities in Metinaro, the ETDF Command has been closely working with several international advisors in developing the functional and legislative structure for the Defence Force, namely the detailed personnel, financial and logistics policies and procedures.

In November last year we also committed ourselves to selecting the future soldiers of the new Defence Force, to train them and stand up the first ETDF battalion until the end of this year. It is my pleasure to inform that planning is underway to recruit the next 130 recruits and we certainly hope to meet the deadline.

The period ahead of us will be focused on continuing the development of skills and expertise of ETDF members. Learning and training are on going processes and we count on you to assist us in carrying them out. We are holding this conference today, to debate aspects regarding specific assistance to ensure the structuring and functional aspects of ETDF. Soon, after the declaration of independence, we will also develop the bilateral relationship with you on different issues. ETDF will, first and foremost, seek to supplement its national mission - to contribute to the maintenance of stability and Peace in East Timor - with the relationship to be established with its counterpart institutions in the region and in the world.

In looking around this room it is easy to note that the representatives from our region to this Conference are somewhat visible. We feel proud and pleased that our brothers from this region have responded positively to our appeal. We deem the friendly and respectful relationship with our neighbours as particularly important. We warmly express our gratitude to Australia - with the irreplaceable contribution given by INTERFET led by General Peter Cosgrove and the on-going unwavering commitment to PKF -, Japan, Korea - which I had the pleasure to visit recently -, Malaysia, New Zealand - with the contribution given by General Lou Gardiner, currently leading UNMOG -, the Philippines - with the contribution given by General Jaime de los Santos -, Singapore and Thailand - with the contribution given by one of its sons, General Boomsrang Niumpradit, currently commanding PKF.  We wish to reaffirm ETDF’s commitment to work together with you towards the goal of Peace in our region. Do count on us!

According to previous and often repeated statements made by the political leaders of my country, East Timor will be the future youngest ASEAN Member State. In this context, we will develop our relationship with all its member states, including those not present today and with China, in the context of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Although absent today, we are certain that one day, in a not too distant future, we will also have our Indonesian brothers participating. The recent message that the Chief of TNI, Admiral Widodo, addressed me is proof of their willingness to develop good neighbourly relations.

We also wish to welcome the presence of two friendly European countries:

Portugal and the United Kingdom. Portugal colonised East Timor. United Kingdom is Portugal’s oldest ally. Today, they are allies in their assistance to East Timor. The United Kingdom provided a most valuable and determining contribution with the King’s College Study - Thank you Nikki for the marvellous work done by the team you co-ordinated; Portugal has moved from a position of colonising power which it managed to overcome and is today not just an ally of East Timor but a close friend. It is probably a unique case in the history of Peoples: a nation-wide mobilisation of a People towards the struggle of their brothers and sisters in East Timor. We wish to continue sharing this historic period of building our State with the People, Government and institutions of the State of Portugal.
We also wish to express our gratitude to Portugal for their role in the setting up of the ETDF naval component.

From the American continent we welcome two friendly countries. Just as the European representation, you are represented by two distinct cultures:

Anglo-Saxon and Latin; you also represent the cultural miscegenation of today’s East Timor daily life. The USA and Brazil have contributed in a very specific and fraternal manner in the whole ETDF development process.  We count on your continued knowledge and pragmatism in the future.

The first participation ever of East Timor in the Meeting of Ministers for Defence of CPLP (Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries), recently held in Brasilia, was a moment of sharing and exchange of ideas and views between brothers. With words, specific actions and affection, our Brazilian brothers reaffirmed their commitment and support to the process in East Timor. The increasing participation of Brazil in all fields of development in our country is proof of Brazil’s devotedness to our Cause.

We regret that not all our African friends were able to respond in time to our invitation to attend this Conference. Geographic distance undoubtedly prevailed in this case. However, I can not but make a very special reference to the three delegations we wished to have with us: Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. South Africa and its experience of peaceful democratisation certainly has a lot to give and debate with us. Its experience is most valuable to our State building process in stability and Peace. Angola and Mozambique are two countries that we will always keep in our hearts. We know they are with us as they have always been since day one of our struggle. The Peoples, governments and State institutions of both countries kept the East Timorese alive in every international forum and provided enormous support to our brothers in the diplomatic front for over 24 years and have gone even further by conveying the spirit and principles of our struggle to the youngest generations of both countries. Our Kanimambo to Angola and Moçambique!

With your permission, I wish to address a very special greeting to the Brother People of Mozambique for, today, 25 June, they are celebrating the 26th Anniversary of their Independence. Congratulations!
Given the generous time and adequate resources provided by all of you - Defence Donor countries - East Timor will have a respected and credible Defence Force.
To achieve this goal, there are three particular areas that must be highlighted and need your assistance:
a)      training of our members;
b)      equipment; and,
c)      on-going specialist international assistance in fields to be agreed.

Such are the immediate priorities that ETDF will need to achieve in a sustained manner. Until then, ETDF will need your assistance.
The building of the emerging State of East Timor and the numerous issues still to resolve and overcome arising from the political process initiated with the outcome of the 1999 Referendum lead me to reiterate the appeal made by our Brother Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, before the UN Security Council, on 18 May: “ ... because we know that you are engaged in making East Timor a success case, I urge the Council members to keep the Peace Keeping Mission in our country. We understand that a Mission such as this one would have to be downsized after independence is declared. “ On behalf of ETDF, I wish to state that we will do our utmost to gradually prepare our members to fully take up the tasks currently performed by the Peace Keeping Forces.

I also wish to put before you, as well as to the friendly countries which could not attend this conference, the principles that will guide the development of the East Timor Defence Force:

1 - as a result from of the establishment of the Rule of Law in East Timor, the Force will submit itself to the democratically elected political power;

2 - in abidance with the principles that rule such a State, ETDF will develop into a professional and non-partisan force;

3 - the nature of its mission to deter and resist foreign aggression, will impede its involvement in any action of a police nature. The future Constitution of East Timor will enshrine the circumstance under which ETDF will be called to intervene;

4 - ETDF firmly believes that the defence of the State of East Timor, in its broadest sense, will be developed as part and as a supplement to the diplomatic action and within the broader context of the development of the country.

Thank You!

See also:

Feb 1 Taur Matan Ruak: Speech at Falintil transition ceremony  Speech added Feb 3
"Our final words are reserved to express our deepest and most respectful tribute to the People of East Timor: for their determination and their steadfastness which motivated us; for the love that you always gave in feeding us, nursing us and encouraging us; for the heroism in resisting which inspired us; and for teaching us to be humble and to fulfil our duty to defend our Homeland." Commander Taur Matan Ruak, FALINTIL (The Armed Forces for National Liberation of East Timor)

BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports

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