The Flag of Timor-Leste flies proudly before 200,000 people on Anzac day.

The following is a copy of the Media Release issued by the  Spokesperson for the Sixth Constitutional Government of Timor-Leste, Minister of State Agio Pereira on 1 May 2015.

Images have been added by CCLN Media.

On Saturday the 25th of April a group of Timorese veterans lead by H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Major General Lere Anan Timur and Mr. Antiono Gomes da Costa [Ma’Huno] marched before 200,000 people at the Anzac day march in Sydney, Australia. Also marching were Mr. Vasco da Gama [Criado], Mr. Gil da Costa Monteiro [Oan Soro] and Mr. Cesar dos Santos da Silva [Merak] along with several other veterans of the Timorese struggle for independence who had been based in Sydney during the visit. 

At the same time in the capital cities of all Australian states and territories seven other delegations of esteemed veterans were marching, heads held high, proudly flying the flag of Timor-Leste. 

Anzac day was especially significant this year as it marked the 100-year anniversary of the landing of Australian troops on Gallipoli in World War I.

Marches on the 25th of April capped off several days of commemorations, meetings and presentations across Australia attended by the delegations. Reflecting on their experiences veterans considered the visit had achieved it’s three principal goals: to build on the friendship of Timor’s veterans with the veteran community of Australia, to learn about models for veteran service and to offer respects to the servicemen and women of Australia.

Last year Australia’s eminent veterans group, the Returned and Services League [RSL] resolved in the New South Wales State Council to invite Timor-Leste veterans ‘participate as fellow veterans and allies in the 2015 ANZAC Day March and other commemoration services in Sydney’. At a farewell dinner in Sydney on Sunday the State President of the RSL [NSW Branch], Mr. Rod White, declared that it had been a privilege for their organization to work with the veterans of Timor-Leste and he emphasized that the strengthened bonds of friendship between the two veterans communities were part of what would be “an enduring relationship.”  

Similar sentiments were echoed in other farewell gatherings across the country.

Speakers in Australia consistently referred to the connection between the two veteran communities as having its foundation in the strong relationship forged between Australian soldiers and the Timorese people in the Second World War. Many made mention of the “Debt of Honor” they feel as a result of this relationship, recognizing both the extraordinary value of the Timorese assistance and also its brutal consequences.

 The trip to Australia is part of a series of visits between the two countries.  Australian veterans and officials of the RSL met with their Timorese counterparts in Dili last year. Timor-Leste has invited representatives of the RSL to attend the 40th anniversary of FALINTIL on the 20th of August 2015 and the newly declared National Veterans Day on the 3rd of March 2016. 

Veterans took away many ideas from their Australian experience that may be used to assist in the development of the new Council of the Combatants of National Liberation [CCNL] and other veteran activities. These included ideas on how to tell the story of the struggle for future generations, how to honor the fallen ones and how to best serve those remaining. The veterans particularly appreciated the large numbers of school students that were participating in the Australian ceremonies and the use of personal stories of individual servicemen and women to connect with the younger generations. 

Spokesperson for the Government, Minister of State Agio Pereira noted “the relationship between the veterans communities of Australia and Timor-Leste is a shining example of what can be achieved in a spirit of friendship and respect. Timor-Leste is deeply appreciative of the way this ‘enduring partnership’ is developing to the benefit of all.” ENDS

A pdf version of the release is available here.

Wednesday 22 April 2015 Canberra

The Veterans activated in Australia’s National Capital

The arrival at Canberra airport was characterized by hugs and handshakes as the Canberra based delegation and Major General Lere Anan Timur met the incoming travelling delegation. Plenty of old friends here reconnecting with the Canberra contingent kitted out in their warm winter clothing. A brisk 15 degrees with light winds outside the terminal meant we were experiencing unusually cool temperatures for most visitors from Timor-Leste!

First port of call after settling into the hotel was a meeting at the National Headquarters of the Returned Services League with the Deputy National President Mr. Terry Meeham, National CEO Ms. Sam Jakeman and NSW CEO Mr. Chris Perrin. These three made the delegation feel so much at home at RSL headquarters with their warm welcome, setting the tone for a highly productive meeting with a lot of interaction amongst all participating.

The National RSL expressed their support of the Timor-Leste veterans in their action to set up an umbrella structure to serve the needs of their fellow veterans. They also expressed their confidence in Chris Perrin of the NSW Branch as the main focal point in the cooperation between the Australian and Timor-Leste group. Chris who has already built a relationship with several of the veterans over the last 12 months spoke from the heart about the honour it was for him to visit Timor-Leste last year and to pay his respects at the memorials in and around Dili.

This was a meeting of friends and quickly became very open and constructive with questions on structure, funding and particular ideas for Timor-Leste.  The translations of former CAC Commissioner Aderito de Jesus were quick and the meeting fell into a good rhythm. After an exchange of gifts and afternoon tea all of the delegation were so much at home they did not want to leave the RSLs National HQ. This speaks very highly of the rapport that has been established between the RSL and the Timor-Leste Veterans over the last 12 months.

But the delegation did have to leave because Timor-Leste was due to lay a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony occurring at the Australian War Memorial at sunset. What a touching and informative time this was. The Veterans were particularly impressed by the large number of school children gathered at the Memorial and participating in the service. Also they appreciated the way the personal story told of a lost Australian sailor, Able Seaman Arthur Charles Webb, connected with people during the short ceremony. After the story, and the placing of wreaths by the Webb family, Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão and Major General Lere Anan Timur carried a large wreath on behalf of Timor-Leste to the foot of the Pool of Reflection, placing it with great care as a tribute to all of the Australians lost at war. Their manner showed great respect and dignity, the sincerity behind this gesture of Timor-Leste was clearly understood by the crowd gathered.

The first day in the national capital finished with a small reception near the War Memorial hosted by the RSL where Minister Gusmão spoke briefly about the aims of the visit to Australia. This was a fitting end to the day amongst friends.

...ooOOOoo...

Tuesday 21 April 2015 Melbourne

A busy day in Melbourne.

An early start today with the travelling delegation leaving the hotel in Perth at 4:30am to cross the big island of Australia, destination: Melbourne.

The first official appointment was the participation of all the Timor-Leste veterans in a Ray of Light Ceremony at the Shrine of Remembrance. The entire group including the Melbourne based delegation and the travelling delegation including Minister Gusmão and Minister Isabel Guterres were warmly welcomed by senior officials of the Victorian RSL.

The Shrine is a very grand building in the centre of the city of Melbourne. On behalf of the Veterans of Timor-Leste a wreath was placed during the ceremony in which Timor-Leste was respected by the playing of the national anthem, a moving gesture appreciated by the delegation.

 

Underneath the Shrine is a Museum depicting Australia’s involvement in war and in peacekeeping operations. The group was given an escorted tour of the many exhibits which included uniforms and weapons, letters, interactive displays, photos, art and much more. There was discussion amongst the Veterans about how to use some of these ideas in Timor-Leste to explain and remember the Resistance Struggle to the younger generation of Timorese.

Whilst Minister Gusmão, with son Dani and Ambassador Guterres, visited Government House to meet with Victorian Governor H.E. Alex Chernov, the rest of the delegation, led by Timor-Leste’s Minister of Social Solidarity Isabel Guterres, met with the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Victoria. They discussed how the State of Victoria responds to the needs of their veterans – an interaction providing more “food for thought” as Timorese veterans consider better ways to care for those in Timor-Leste. 

The day ended with all members of the delegation attending a very busy reception, held annually by the Victorian RSL and featuring high profile guest including the Governor of Vitoria and the Premier Daniel Andrews. One room with several hundred guests all standing. This was a loud and slightly overwhelming environment for the visitors, but ably assisted by Minister Guterres acting as translator and facilitator, they were able to have good conversations with fellow guests.

When the Official Part of the evening began special mention was made several times of the Timor-Leste delegation of Veterans and a presentation was made to the group on behalf of the Victorian RSL.

Between the long early morning flight and the events of today all delegates were ready to rest by the time the bus returned all to the hotel. But all agreed it had been a day to remember and one that was a good one for Timor-Leste.

...ooOOOoo...

Monday 20th April 2015 Perth

A moving day in Perth with ANZAC commemorations and a Community gathering.

Today was a beautiful day in Perth in many ways. The delegation spent the morning preparing for the week ahead and in the afternoon travelled to Kings Park for the evening commemoration events.

Set on a hill overlooking the City of Perth, the Kings Park was a green oasis, with its grand WWI ANZAC monument bathed in the gentle light of the setting sun. Hundreds of people gathered in the amphitheater surrounding the pool of reflection and eternal flame to watch the Sunset Service. The Timorese veterans were given pride of place and felt welcomed by the senior members of the Western Australian RSL.  

On behalf of the Veterans of Timor-Leste, H.E. Xanana Gusmão spoke and presented a wreath. In his short speech the Minister noted that the Timorese owed their freedom to the Timorese veterans and paid respects to the ANZACs. He reflected on the bonds of friendship that had emerged from the assistance Timorese gave to the Australian Commandoes of the 2/2 in World War II. With the families of the fallen signaling their solidarity he said:  

We must never forget the brutality, the despair and the mad violence of war and its impact on soldiers and their families.  It is only through remembering that we can hope to value the sacrifices of the fallen and understand the importance of peace.  

After taking time to talk to the people gathered and farewell the RSL leadership, under fading light the group made their way to a smaller ceremony commemorating the men of the 2/2 Commandoes and their Timorese helpers.

This event was by the side of the road in Kings Park, close to the monument of the 2/2 Commandoes - a more intimate setting under the trees and with crackling gum leaves underfoot. Now dark and still, with the presence of the Timorese veterans, Keith Mortimer Hayes, a surviving commando of the 1942 deployment in Timor, and many of the families of those who had served in Timor, this was a particularly moving ceremony. 

Speaking from behind a tais covered lectern Jenny Behan, the President of the 2/2 Commandoes Association, spoke tenderly of the experience of her father in Timor during the Second World War, his deep respect and appreciation for the Timorese and the life long friendship that grew out of that difficult time.

Minister Gusmão, speaking by lamplight and clearly touched by the friends gathered, spoke from the heart as a veteran amongst fellow veterans. He emphasized that after all they had seen veterans must be “Ambassadors of Peace”. Wreaths were placed at the foot of the 2/2 Monument including one placed by Minister Gusmão on behalf of the Veterans of Timor-Leste.

After a long farewell the delegation travelled back to their hotel for a Meeting with members of the Timorese Community living in Perth. Many attended this relaxed meeting with a lot of interaction [and photos] with the Veterans. Ines Almedia, Liaison Officer for Veterans Affairs for the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste spoke about the purpose of the trip and expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to work with the Veterans. Minister Gusmão spoke for over an hour with the group, weaving a colorful story with threads of history and humor and encouraging all to support and work together for Timor-Leste.

With a 4:00am call for the flight to Melbourne on Tuesday morning most of the delegation tried to get a few hours sleep before day 2.