NEW YORK, 20 MAY 2002
STATEMENT BY HE Mr. FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA, AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL
Let me start by thanking you, Mr. President, for organizing this Security Council meeting, to celebrate the independence of East Timor. I also wish to say how honored we are for your presence among us today.
The European Union Presidency already made a statement to which I fully subscribe. But, more than ever, I think you will understand my country has something of its own to say on this occasion.
I could not fail to start by remembering that today my country closes an important chapter of its History. The last territory of what was once called the Portuguese colonial empire exerted today the right of self-determination and affirmed its independence.
The de-colonization process, which this Portuguese generation started and concluded, could not have ended better – with the creation of the democratic nation of
We are known to be a country very proud of its History; indeed we are, and I must tell you that we feel proud we were able, to a certain extent, to contribute to the event we are celebrating today.
For more than forty years, this Organization, the United Nations, paid a special attention to the overseas territories under Portuguese administration. Five of them acquired their sovereign status in 1975.
For reasons History already took note of, East Timor did not have the chance to accede to its independence in the same year. Only the immense suffering of East Timorese people, for many years forgotten by great part of the international community, was able to maintain alive their hope to build their own country. They are the real heroes of our times, those who died for the freedom of their country, those who fought in appalling conditions, and in almost complete isolation. They also need to be remembered here today.
In the last years we witnessed an increased movement in favor of the rights of East Timor. But how many raised their voices for the rights of the East Timorese between 1975 and the Santa Cruz events, in 1991? Where was the international community then?
Today it is a day of joy, a day to congratulate the East Timorese for their courage, for their stubbornness, for their fabulous capacity to live for the future, after all they went through in the past.
I wanted to mention that past today, not to exploit any political argument, but to call your collective attention to the fact that the international community still has a special duty to the East Timorese. A duty brought on because of what the international community did not do to support them when they needed, for the terrible silence which contributed to their missed chances, in those long years when the realpolitik took over.
The work the United Nations did more recently in favor of East Timor, under the very able guidance of the Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, must be highly praised on this date. The United Nations were able to reconcile the East Timorese with the international community, and this must be said here loudly. The United Nations also must be very proud of this moment.
But today is only the first day of the rest of East Timor’s History. The international community needs to understand that the United Nations helped to give birth to a country which, for the time being, will be one of the poorest nations in the world. The world needs to know that East Timor is far from being a stable nation, with all the necessary means to face the future.
Last Friday, this Council approved the mandate for a new mission to East Timor, the UNMISET, which will try to provide assistance and security to the new country, in the first months of its life. We very much hope that future decisions related to the level of assistance to be given to East Timor will continue to be based in realistic assessments of the concrete needs of the new country. I am sure that the new Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma, will not fail to provide to this Council with accurate information in this regard.
It should be noted that East Timor has today a Constitutional law in which Human Rights, gender rights, and the internal division of power are formally protected.
It is our duty, our common duty, to provide the means for the East Timorese leadership – for Xanana Gusmao, for Marii Alkatiri, for Francisco Guterres, for Jose Ramos Horta – to put fully into practice that Constitutional Law. They need to rebuild a country where the young generations may feel they have the necessary opportunities, where the refugees may find a place to live and reintegrate, where the former guerrilla members may receive collective recognition for what they did in restoring their national project.
It is also our duty to be attentive to the need to help them to protect the full sovereignty of the country - and its capacity to affirm it in every moment, without any ambiguity or limitation - to support the establishment and consolidation of its new network of external relations and to facilitate its complete integration in regional and international structures.
The creation of the eighth nation having the Portuguese as its official language is a moment of pride for my country and, I am sure, for the other Portuguese speaking countries. All of them, with no hesitation, always sided with East Timor in its long fight for freedom.
Just a few hours ago, a Portuguese ambassador presented his credentials to President Xanana Gusmao. A bilateral program of cooperation was already signed between our two Governments. From our side, we are prepared to give the new East Timor authorities all possible support in their difficult tasks ahead. And we will be looking forward for the date we will be receiving East Timor, in this house, as the first nation of the XXI st. century.
“Viva Timor Leste”.
Thank you, Mr. President.