Ian Martin addresses Parliament of Timor-Leste

Ian Martin addresses Parliament of Timor-Leste

Ian Martin addresses Parliament of Timor-Leste on the 20th anniversary of the Popular Consultation in Timor-Leste

Speech by Ian Martin

Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres and former head of UNAMET




President of the National Parliament of Timor-Leste, Araão Noé da Costa Amaral

President of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal, Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, em representing the the President of the Republic of Portugal

The Honourable Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai

Prime Minister, General Taur Matan Ruak

President of the Court of Appeal, Dr. Deolindo dos Santos

Former Presidents of the Republic, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão and Dr. José Ramos-Horta

Former Prime Minister, Dr. Mari Alkatiri

Members of Government

Members of Parliament

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests


People of Timor-Leste,


It is a great privilege for me to represent the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Popular Consultation, including before the National Parliament today. You know how important was his personal role as Prime Minister of Portugal in 1999 and for many years before that, and you can count on his strong commitment as head of the UN to maintaining its support to Timor-Leste today.

I must begin by remembering with you those who are sadly no longer with us: Secretary-General Kofi Annan; his Personal Representative for East Timor, Jamsheed Marker; and Sérgio Vieira de Mello, Special Representative and head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor, UNTAET. You have honoured and mourned each of them in turn.

Happily two people are here today whose outstanding contribution to the UN’s role in East Timor can still be honoured in person: Francesc Vendrell, Deputy Personal Representative for East Timor in 1999, who had worked with the highest principle for your self-determination during preceding decades; along with his close collaborator, Tamrat Samuel, who came to Dili as UN observer at the trial of Xanana Gusmão in 1993, and carried out his testimony to the world.

Allow me also to regard myself as representing all those who have served the United Nations here in Timor-Leste over the past twenty years and those who do so now. This includes UNTAET and the succeeding peace operations, as well as the agencies, funds and programmes which continue to support Timor-Leste, represented here by the UN Resident Coordinator, Roy Trivedy. And in particular I can speak for the staff of the United Nations Mission in East Timor, UNAMET. Some of the international staff members who came from all around the world in 1999 have returned to join the anniversary celebrations, and to meet again with our national staff.

International staff of UNAMET who have worked in missions in other countries will tell you that UNAMET was an exceptional mission. Sometimes it seemed an impossible mission, to organize the ballot in only three months, in difficult terrain, and amidst many threats and much actual violence. But what made it exceptional was the closeness of our personnel in all the sub-districts to the Timorese people and their courage.  And we could never have carried out our mission without our Timorese staff: they were the ones who faced the greatest threats, during the Popular Consultation and even more after the ballot, when they were targeted in the violence that followed.

I ask you to recognize the Timorese staff of UNAMET as among your national heroes and heroines. And to remember especially today, as the UN did yesterday, the fourteen of our staff who were killed or disappeared.

But it was not UNAMET that brought independence to Timor-Leste. We only implemented a process of self-determination for which so many had struggled for so long. The first words to me of Xanana Gusmão when I met him in his prison house in Jakarta on my way to raise the UN flag in Dili were: “We have been waiting for the United Nations for 24 years.” The member states of the UN were not allowed to forget East Timor’s right to self-determination because of the strength and sacrifice of Timorese inside and outside East Timor – of those who became fighters and those who became diplomats, of the clandestine movement and students, of men and women, young and old – who kept up the struggle under remarkable leaders. Crucial too was the support for that struggle of international civil society, which reached its highest moment in 1999.

It is a great pleasure to return to a country at peace, and in friendship with its neighbours. The spirit of 1999 was an extraordinary unity of purpose among those who overcame previous divisions to make real East Timor’s claim to self-determination. I hope this celebration will help that spirit to be understood by generations too young to have experienced it directly, and that independent Timor-Leste will draw upon that spirit as it meets its current and future challenges.



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