Thank you, Dean Feinstein.
It is an honor to be here this afternoon to introduce today’s speaker in the School of Global and International Studies’ “Distinguished Diplomat Speaker Series,” His Excellency Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
On behalf of Indiana University, I want to also extend a welcome to Minister Coelho, Ambassador Alves, Ms. Exposto of the Maritime Boundary Office, and all of the members of the delegation from Timor-Leste. We are very pleased to have you with us.
Brief background on Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste achieved independence on May 20, 2002, becoming the first new country of the new millennium. Later that year, it became the 191st member state of the United Nations.
The people of Timor-Leste had voted for independence a number of years earlier, in 1999, when a U.N.-run popular consultation gave them the historic opportunity to choose between “special autonomy” within Indonesia and independence. Following that referendum, the region experienced brutal violence, with pro-Indonesian militias attacking citizens. A special United Nations force was deployed, under a command structure headed by Timor-Leste’s close neighbor, Australia—and led by Australian troops—to restore peace and security. Shortly thereafter, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor was deployed as an integrated, multidimensional peacekeeping operation, fully responsible for the administration of East Timor during its transition to independence. This was considered the most radical “state-building” exercise in U.N. history, and is overwhelmingly considered to have been a successful mission. Our distinguished speaker worked closely with the U.N. Transitional Administration.
This success, of course, came on the heels of four decades of unrest in East Timor. In 1960, the U.N. General Assembly placed East Timor on its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, as it had been colonized by Portugal for three centuries. In 1975, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, known as FRETILIN, declared the country’s independence. Civil war broke out between those who favored independence and those who favored integration with Indonesia. Portugal subsequently withdrew, and the Indonesian military intervened and occupied East Timor as its 27th province.
But, as the World Bank has noted, Timor-Leste’s social and economic development over the last decade have been nothing short of remarkable. Citing its own 2011 World Development Report, the World Bank noted that on average, post-conflict countries take between 15 and 30 years—a full generation—to transition out of fragility and build resilience. Timor-Leste has done so in just a decade. The country is considered among Southeast Asia’s most democratic nations, with multiple political parties and having held two presidential and legislative elections, all considered free and fair by international observers. Timor-Leste hopes to gain admission to ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, by next year.
Introducing Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo
Our distinguished guest, Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo, was inaugurated as prime minister of Timor-Leste in February 2015.
Prime Minister Araújo is a physician, who received his training in the medical school of Sultan Agung University and at Udayana University—both in Indonesia. He later went on to earn a Master of Public Health degree at Otago University in New Zealand.
As a young man, Prime Minister Araújo and his family took refuge from the occupying forces in districts of the country that were controlled by FRETILIN. As an undergraduate student in Central Java, he continued his activities as an active member of the resistance, supplying information on the occupation to the Timorese diaspora and acting as a courier for secret documents and packages. As a medical student, he joined Timor-Leste’s National Student Resistance, and supported the group’s communications efforts.
Prime Minister Araújo has served the government of Timor-Leste in a number of different capacities. From 2001 to 2007, he served as minister of health. In 2006, he was given additional responsibilities as the deputy prime minister of social affairs. From 2007 to 2012, he was appointed to the Council of State, which was then the top state advisory body to the president of the republic. He continued to serve in the health sector as an advisor to the ministry of health and later served as senior advisor to the ministry of finance.
In his inaugural address, Prime Minister Araújo laid out several key themes for his government, including continued efforts at decentralizing the government, developing infrastructure, improving health care and access to education, alleviating poverty, and maintaining and sustaining Timor-Leste’s petroleum sector. He also outlined the need for continuing positive foreign relations, particularly with Australia, Indonesia, and Portugal.
Just this past Saturday, Prime Minister Araújo addressed the United Nations General Assembly. In his remarks, he discussed many of these goals, which are closely connected with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which Timor-Leste has fully endorsed.
In his remarks before the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Araújo said “Timor-Leste can serve as an example and a source of hope as a country that emerged from a conflict situation and became a peaceful country, with security and stability, where all benefit from the dividends of peace.”1
We are greatly honored to have him with us today.
Please join me in welcoming His Excellency Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
- “Timor-Leste Knows ‘All Too Well’ Price of War, Prime Minister Says at UN.” UN News Centre, September 24, 2016, Web, Accessed September 24, 2016, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55093#.V-mECLWxwUK.