The National Veterans Day celebrations

The National Veterans Day celebrations took place in Dili, on March 2nd and 3rd.

The seminar that opened the National Veterans Day celebrations was attended by the President of the Republic, Francisco Guterres Lú Olo, the Prime Minister, Marí Alkatiri, the former Vice Chief of Staff of FALINTIL and the Former President of the Republic, Taur Matan Ruak, and the Secretary of State for Veterans, André da Costa Belo (L4).

The President of the Republic stated in his speech that “the Timorese people showed the ability to carry the values of the past to build their identity as a nation,” while also remembering that in the modern world, “in the daily basis of a free and safe society, like ours, it is easy to forget that we are free  because the heroes, the veterans, all the resistance and the whole people put the values of the nation and our culture above any personal interest, serving the country above everything else. A truth that must never be forgotten if we really want to develop this nation and move this country onwards” And he ended his speech by chanting to the veterans of the armed, diplomatic and clandestine fronts that defeated the Indonesian occupying forces.

Taur Matan Ruak presented the theme “Spirit and Values of the Resistance in the State Consolidation and the Dignifying of the Veterans, Combatants and their Winding Generations”. He said that “there’s no value in life without humanism, solidarity, courage, determination, and compassion towards others, values in which the former guerrilla believed and that allowed to overcome the giant neighbor”, while pointing out that “everyone has the responsibility to keep these values within their families, their country and pass them on to future generations.”

The Prime Minister in his presentation on “The National Strategy for Social Protection and Veterans Economy Sustainability” spoke about the best way “to fit the veterans in the national development process, making them active participants in the political, social and economic development of the country.” To this end, the Prime Minister said that the State should establish institutions that fit the veterans in the development process”, and therefore, becomes crucial the creation of the Veterans Council. Marí Alkatiri also added that “the Government is collaborating with the relevant authorities in order to ensure that all technical issues of the Decree-Law are resolved and the legislation is promulgated as soon as possible.”

The celebrations continued on the afternoon of March 2nd with the celebration of Mass in the Cathedral of Dili, and the visit to the Garden of Heroes in Metinaro.

On Saturday, March 3rd, the National Veterans Day celebrations continued with the launching ceremony of the new “Proclamation of Independence Plaza”, next to the Government Palace, chaired by the Prime Minister.

In his speech, Marí Alkatiri, summarized the events leading up to the Independence Day, stating that it was held “to tell the world that the purpose of the Timorese people was to defend their land and their right to independence. The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste was born to shout out loud to the world that we are ready to die, but we want our independence. This is what history means, this is what memory means, this is what reality means”.

The Prime Minister further stated he was happy that due recognition was given to the 3rd of March whilst the National Veterans Day, the date of the first national conference of FRETILIN, the creation of the National Council of Timorese Resistance and the election of Xanana Gusmão as the Political Commissioner of FRETILIN and Commander of FALINTIL.

Marí Alkatiri concluded by recalling the words of Nicolau Lobato on 20th of May of 1978, “we are a small and week people, but we know, we can and we must win”, adding “we have already won”.

The ceremonies proceeded, being chaired by the President of Republic, Francisco Guterres Lú Olo, with the hoisting of the FALINTIL flag and of the national flag.  Before the speech of the President of the Republic, the minutes and the opening speech of the first national conference of FRETILIN were read by the President of the Homage Commission, Virgílio Smith.

In her speech, Inês Almeida, the President of the Management Board of the National Center Chega!, paid tribute to Natalina Felipe Ramos-Horta, for her actions in the fight for the national liberation, stating that “her courage and persistence will remain in everyone’s memory”. Inês Almeida further stated that the National Center Chega! vision is to preserve the past memory as a key lesson to Timorese people and to all humankind in peace strengthening.

The President of the Republic stated in his speech that the “Proclamation of Independence Plaza is a symbol which will tell everyone – veterans and new generations – the message that the independence proclamation in 1975 was the decisive statement, at national and international level, that it would be a matter of time till the Timorese took control of their own future.”

Lú-Olo further asked the veterans to “use the new National Council to promote and develop a work dedicated to the now free nation so that it conveys the resistance values to the new generations, and these understand the work spirit for the benefit of the community and the nation”, and he ended remembering that “the recognition the nation gives to the veterans, leads to a great responsibility of the former combatants before the nation”.

At the end of the ceremony at the Government Palace, the veterans marched to the Convention Center in Dili, where the celebrations ended with a party in honor of the veterans.