Subject: Taur Matan Ruak: Speech at Falintil transition ceremony

FALINTIL Commander in Chief

Address of Commander TAUR MATAN RUAK, Commander in Chief and Chief of Staff of FALINTIL On the occasion of the Transition Ceremony from FALINTIL To the Defence of East Timor

Aileu, 1st February 2001


President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão,

Sérgio Vieira de Mello, Transitional Administrator,

Reverend Bishop D. Ximenes Belo,

Lieutenant-General Boonsrang Niumpradiit, Commander of the Peace Keeping Forces,

Members of the National Council,

Members of the Transitional Cabinet,

Senhora Maria Paixão, Administrator of Aileu District,

Members of the Leadership of CNRT/CN and the Political Parties,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

People of Aileu,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Valiant Commanders and soldiers of the glorious FALINTIL,

Permit my first words to be a special salute to President Xanana Gusmão. With us you lived through the most difficult period in our history. Just the same as all of the FALINTIL soldiers here today, you were a participant in and a witness to the heroism of FALINTIL and, just like us, you are well aware of the decisive role played by FALINTIL, in the victory attained by the People of East Timor.

Permit me to elaborate a little about the reason for this ceremony. In guaranteeing the victory of the People of Timor, FALINTIL paved the way for this new phase. It is this phase that we initiate with this ceremony today: the formation of the new Defence Force.

Yes, it is a new Defence Force because, it’s structure, doctrine, training, operational methods, conditions and philosophy will be distinct from those of FALINTIL, however, the seed from which this new Force is germiniated is FALINTIL’s. The recruitment for the first ETDF contingent was completed exclusively within FALINTIL ranks. Therefore we are guaranteeing the continuity of the spirit of FALINTIL, the legacy of its history, its symbolism and its bond with the People of East Timor.

The mission of ETDF is to guarantee the defence of our Homeland, of the new sovereign state of Timor, fully respecting the new democratic institutions and the political representatives democratically elected by our People.

This is the reason why I state: there is no vacuum! Certain fears have been introduced that present this transition as the “death” of FALINTIL. The introduction of these fears aims to destabilise the situation and create confusion amongst our People by impressing upon them the idea that they are loosing one of their principal historical references.

There has been alot of discussion about the name of the new Defence Force. The name that has been adopted the East Timor Defence Force is, obviously a transitional one. The Armed Forces of East Timor, to be instituted on the day of the independence of our country will adopt the name and acronym, decided up by the democratically elected political representatives and the institutions that will be created.

I affirm once again: there will be no destabilising campaign that will annul the institution that is FALINTIL and its identity, that will erase the role that FALINTIL played in the history of our Homeland or destroy the relationship, forged in their joint actions and suffering, that it has with the People. Our People know in their hearts the integrity of the sons and daughters of East Timor who fought within the ranks of FALINTIL!

This is an historical day because it is without precedent: it is the very first time in history the armed wing of a liberation movement has became the raison d’etre for a mobilisation of the international community. Significant in this mobilisation are the studies by King’s College in the U.K., the Institute of Defence and Military Studies in Portugal and the holding of an international donors conference to support the establishment of a national defence force. It is just of us today to remember that the donor’s conference decided to allocate distinct support to the defence force, independent of the donations made to the trust funds of East Timor. In doing so, the international community unequivocally expressed its trust and respect of FALINTIL.

The establishment of a new East Timor Defence Force does not mean the automatic integration of all FALINTIL soldiers. The selection process took into consideration not only the needs of the new force, but also the personal wishes of many of the soldiers. The FALINTIL Command, the World Bank, the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) and USAID jointly devised the FALINTIL Reinsertion Assistance Program to help FALINTIL soldiers begin their new lives. The heroic soldiers, who are about to begin new lives, would have done so from nothing. Many have lived the last 24 years away from their families or lost their families; they could not study or get any kind of training that would allow them today to resume civilian lives; they never had a job or an income that would now enable them to restart their lives. Their heroism, their dedication and commitment, their sacrifice to such long and difficult years cannot be ignored. No matter how much this Program may offer them it will always be small compared to their importance to our Homeland and the People.

There is another group of people we must acknowledge today: the widows and the orphans and all those who have been handicapped by the war. We do not yet have any organised programs to support these groups but we are making every effort to create the dignified support that they deserve. However we wish to clearly state: you will not be forgotten, because to forget you would be to forget our martyrs and heroes!

I now wish to address all those, both Commanders and Soldiers, who have been selected to begin the training. I know personally that many of you wanted so much to return home and resume your civilian lives. After so many years of sacrifice we ask you to continue to give up what is an individual right of each one of you: the right to live in harmony and peace with your most loved ones.

We know it will not be easy for you to commence upon this new phase. Once again you have been called upon to perform your duty to your Homeland. Yet you will continue because you are conscious that your mission has not yet ended: The stabilisation of our country is not yet guaranteed and the threats to our homeland continue. This situation demands that we perform the supreme duty to defend our country and our People, to enable the establishment of the new nation and the sovereign state of East Timor. This cannot be considered the exclusive responsibility of the international community. As Timorese this is first and foremost our responsibility.

I wish to express to all of you who have accepted to remain in the Force to once again demonstrate the FALINTIL motto of Homeland and People, and that it is still our motto, the motto of each and every one of you.

In the same spirit that we consider our mission is not yet ended, and that we must continue to fulfil it with the same spirit of discipline and responsibility that characterised FALINTIL, we also wish to address a word to our President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. You took upon yourself the Command of our Struggle after the murder of so many of our dear brothers and sisters, of the whole leadership. Together we struggled and suffered, together we lived through the tears of victory and defeats, together we taught and learnt and together we tasted final victory. We often discussed the future of our Homeland once it was freed. We made plans, we expressed our wishes and dreams... and we made an oath. We swore loyalty to our People, to our Homeland, and to the reason why we struggled, we swore that we would begin an internal process in each of us that would ensure we did not develop ambitions for personal power once freedom began calling us toward new responsibilities. Only we know the true meaning of that oath, the unbreakable bond that we created between us.

On behalf of FALINTIL, of all its Command and its Soldiers, I solemnly affirm that our sacred oath continues and will continue to be respected. However, we have been called upon to continue our mission even if it means taking up new positions and responsibilities. We feel that our Homeland still needs us! Our People and all of us in FALINTIL know our President and you, President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, also know each and every one of us. In the near future Timor will have to choose its head of State. Our Homeland still needs Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão; our People still need the leadership, the vision... the affection of our Maun Boot!*

In finishing I wish to convey our gratitude to all those who made this day possible. To UNTAET and the donor countries for the resources and specialised support they have provided and will continue to provide to the East Timor Defence Forces. Currently Australia and Portugal are the main donors and to them our sincere gratitude for taking up such a huge responsibility and thereby demonstrating your trust in us. An acknowledgment is also due to the Command of the Peace Keeping Force and the United Nation Military Observer Group and the Office for the Development of the Defence Force, in particular to Mr Cady.

During the difficult years, the years of enormous suffering FALINTIL survived and played their historic role, despite international isolation. The Church of East Timor understood our mission in a clear and unequivocal way. We wish to pay special tribute here today to Bishop D. Martinho da Costa Lopes for the courage and strength with which he always defended our Homeland and identity. To our Reverend Bishops of Timor, D. Carlos Ximenes Belo and D. Basílio do Nascimento, to all the clergy and nuns of East Timor, we pay our respect and express our sincere and heartfelt gratitude for the numerous times you took us in and cared for our wounded, for the strength and encouragement you gave with the warm words of comfort you expressed in moments of our greatest grief and suffering.

Our final words are reserved to express our deepest and most respectful tribute to the People of East Timor: for their determination and their steadfastness which motivated us; for the love that you always gave in feeding us, nursing us and encouraging us; for the heroism in resisting which inspired us; and for teaching us to be humble and to fulfil our duty to defend our Homeland.

Together we liberated our Homeland; together we will defend our Homeland!

For the future, Viva the Defence Force of East Timor!

Viva FALINTIL! Taur Matan Ruak

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