Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão’s message for National Veterans Day, March 3rd, 2024

Prime Minister

Ninth Constitutional Government


 Dili, March 2nd, 2024

Press Release

Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão’s message for National Veterans Day, March 3rd, 2024

I address all the comrades-in-arms before whom I bow, the veterans and fighters of the National Liberation, whom I respect immensely, all the older men and women, whom I call Living Heroes, and all our young people throughout Timor-Leste.

I want to congratulate the Organising Committee, which comprises Veterans, for organising this event to celebrate this important day in Timor-Leste’s history: March 3rd.

I know that if we had not had the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, we would have celebrated the fortieth anniversary of March 3rd, a moment when, while we were in the woods, we carried out an important activity that allowed us to continue the fight against the enemy. And we are celebrating on this date because the activity I am talking about occurred on March 3rd, 1981.

However, that anniversary has already passed, so this year, we are celebrating 43 years since the guerrillas came together in Laline to decide on reorganising the resistance against the occupiers. However, that anniversary has already passed, so this year, we are celebrating 43 years since the guerrillas came together in Laline to decide on reorganising the resistance against the occupiers.

Dear friends,

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to discuss this briefly, especially so that young people can better understand the importance of March 3rd.

Part I- in September 1975, Indonesian soldiers began to invade Timor-Leste’s territory, entering the border and occupying the areas of Maliana, Balibó and Batugadé, and approaching the Loes River.

Then, on December 7th, 1975, Indonesia decided, with the support of its allies, to invade the city of Dili, using paratroopers, and then tried to move on to other towns.

Part II — The population of all regions of Timor-Leste sought refuge in the mountains. After a meeting in Soibada in May 1976, it was decided that the population should organise itself into Support Bases. This led to the creation of military sectors: South Border, North Border, North Centre, South Centre, East Centre, and East Point so that the FALINTIL Companies could try to protect the population when they were attacked by the enemy.

From July 1977, the enemy carried out massive operations, known as ‘Siege and Annihilation Campaigns’, attacking sector by sector. Initially, they began in the South Border Sector, moving on to the North Border Sector. Having defeated this sector, they moved on to the North Centre, South Centre and East Centre. Finally, in 1979, the operations extended to the East Point Sector, culminating in the fall of Matebian’s bases in November of that year. In all sectors, the leadership of the struggle (members of the Fretilin Central Committee – CCF and the commanders) either died or surrendered. Likewise, the forces and the population in general were also forced to surrender.

So, you could say that we had lost the war.

Part III – In 1980, from the East Point region, guerrillas were sent to the other sectors to find out who had survived, what forces remained and what the population conditions were.

This action led to the following results: of the Fretilin Central Committee, only two members survived in East Point. As for FALINTIL, of the more than 30,000 weapons in 1977, only around 500 remained, many in poor condition, and there was no ammunition.

After analysing the war situation in detail throughout 1980, trying to understand why we were losing the war, what causes from a political and military point of view were contributing to this major defeat, and what the population wanted, the Conference for the Reorganisation of the Resistance was held in Laline in March 1981, with objective measures that could respond to this challenging situation.

On March 3rd, 1981, critical Resolutions were issued to think broadly about our ability to continue the war, how we could organise ourselves to be better prepared to fight the enemy and how to mobilise all Timorese to participate in the war or the Resistance against the Invaders.


Part IV –The important measures that came out of that Conference were the following:

a)    To establish a National Unit so as not to force the Timorese to join Fretilin because in the Support Bases, the best Commanders and the best-prepared cadres had been killed for not cooperating with them;

b)   Those who wanted independence for Timor Lorosa’e could participate in any situation according to their ability;

c)    Organising the Resistance on Three Fronts: 1) Armed Front, in the bush, with the FALINTIL; 2) Political Front, a Clandestine Organisation, which began to develop through the Youth Organisations; 3) Diplomatic Front, through which friends who were abroad, continued to raise the problem of Timor-Leste in International Organisations, such as the UN and others, and which was eventually handed over to Fellow Fighter, Ramos-Horta;

d)   In 1983, during the “ceasefire” period, and after a meeting with Colonel Purwanto, a document containing strategic ideas for resolving the war was delivered to President Soeharto. We had proposed a Negotiated Solution, which required the participation of the UN, Portugal, Indonesia, and the entire International Community. The proposed solution was a REFERENDUM, asking the Timorese whether they wanted integration or independence;

e)    i) All this with the idea that we didn’t have the capacity to fight the enemy of our country because we didn’t have weapons or ammunition; on the other hand, the enemy couldn’t win this war either because all the people had already shown that they could suffer all kinds of sacrifices, but they weren’t going to abandon the Dream of their ancestors regarding independence;

f)     We had to wait for SIXTEEN YEARS. This long period served to show that the Maubere people were courageous. They do not give up under any circumstances, despite many difficulties, despite receiving threats, punishments, and death. Most importantly, the Maubere people are very consistent with their Dream of Independence, a dream that we know has been with them since their ancestors.

This is a Brief History so that we can celebrate March 3rd with the confidence that when we want to achieve something good, we must be consistent in our principles and our obligations towards our beloved country and our National Heroes.


Thank You Very Much, and Big Hugs to everyone.