Dili, 20 May 2002


Newly independent East Timor swore in its first government and held an inaugural session of Parliament this morning just hours after more than 120,000 people celebrated the birth of the nation at a massive ceremony on the outskirts of Dili.

The government, composed primarily of the same cabinet members that comprised the pre-independence Council of Ministers, was officially inaugurated this morning by President Xanana Gusmão.

The ceremony was attended by some 300 dignitaries including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and former US President Bill Clinton.

After the inauguration, an independence parade that included members of the East Timor Defence Force and Police Service and ex-Falintil soldiers passed in front of the government building.

East Timor’s Parliament then held its first session at which President Gusmão presented Annan with a request from East Timor to join the United Nations.

“I will be honoured to pass on your request to the General Assembly,” Annan told the Parliament. “Having seen the extraordinary support you received from so many nations around the world at last night’s festivities, I do not anticipate any obstacle to your membership.”

Later in the morning Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri and Australian Prime Minister John Howard signed the Timor Gap Treaty which is slated to bring East Timor significant oil and gas revenue in the years to come.

This afternoon East Timor formally requested entry into the Community of Portuguese Speaking Nations (CPLP) with its final acceptance to be announced at the next summit in Brazil in July.

The CPLP meeting was attended by Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, and other senior representatives of Portuguese speaking countries.

Before departing East Timor this afternoon Kofi Annan visited and dedicated the renovated UN House in Dili, where he reiterated that the UN remains committed to promoting development and alleviating poverty in an independent East Timor.

Following are the transcripts of the UN Secretary-General’s speech at last night’s independence celebrations and his two speeches in Dili earlier today.


Mr. President-Elect,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

This will not be a long speech. It cannot be. For in just a few minutes, I must stop as we reach midnight on 19 May. With the start of 20 May, you will step into a new era in your history, as an independent nation. I am deeply honoured and moved to be with you at this moment.

With the new day comes a new beginning for East Timor. Your identity as an independent people will be recognized by the whole world. I still recall the day, forty-five years ago, when my own country Ghana attained its independence. Tonight, I am as excited as I was then.

At this moment, we honour every citizen of East Timor who persisted in the struggle for independence. We also remember the many who are no longer with us – but who dreamed of this moment. It is their day, too.

I salute you – people of East Timor – for the courage and perseverance you have shown. Yours has not been an easy path to independence. You should be very proud of your achievement. That a small nation is able to inspire the world and be the focus of our attention is the highest tribute that I can pay.

I am also deeply proud of the partnership between you – the people of East Timor – and us, the United Nations. Together, we have laid the foundations for a prosperous and democratic future.

While your determination ensured the success of your cause, you have also been helped by friends from all over the world. For the past two-and-a-half years, a global alliance of nations has come together to make this day possible.

This transitional period has been truly unique. Never before has the world united with such firm resolve to help one small nation establish itself.

Never before has the United Nations been asked to administer a territory on its way to independence. My colleagues in UNTAET – led by my Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello -- carried out this noble mission with courage and imagination. I am proud of them, and grateful to all of you for the way you have worked with them. Your independence day is a day of pride for all of us.

As you now set out to shape your own destiny, you will face trials and challenges. Independence is not an end. It is the beginning of self-rule, which requires compromise, discipline, unity and resolve. While you have succeeded in one challenge – winning your independence – this only paves the way for many more.

Those who are privileged to lead you will have to strive constantly to reduce poverty, disease, and inequality; to provide education and good governance for all; and to uphold the rule of law.

And all of you who are privileged to be citizens of the new state will have to work hard for your nation, for yourselves, and for your friends and neighbours.

Controlling your own fate requires discipline and toil. Citizenship is hard work. It means that you all must contribute your energies and ideas to the building of your nation, just as you did during your struggle for freedom.

Above all, you must remain unified. Unity does not mean that only one set of beliefs is allowed, or that only one answer exists. It means celebrating a variety of views and ideas – all of which can help build a diverse and creative society.

My friends,

Let me assure you that independence will not mean the end of the world’s commitment to you. The United Nations will stay. Your friends around the world will continue to help. We will all work together to ensure that the first years of independence are years of stability and progress.

I have no doubt that you will fufill your new roles – as citizens of East Timor and of the world – with spirit and great success.

I wish you a bright and secure future.


[Congratulations, good luck, and thank you very much. Long live East Timor!]


Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this resolution. I will be honoured to pass on your request to the Security Council, which I am sure will recommend it unanimously to the General Assembly. Membership of the United Nations is open to any country that accepts the obligations specified in the organization’s Charter and supports its mission. Having seen the extraordinary support you received from so many nations around the world at last night’s festivities, I do not anticipate any obstacle to your membership.

Apart from the member states you have many other friends who have worked with you, who are here with you today…all these people look forward to working with you when you join.

Today, the membership of the United Nations stands at 189 nations, large and small, rich and poor. On the floor of the General Assembly of the United Nations they are all equal. Indeed, I have long believed that distinction and greatness in the family of nations is not a question of size or power. It is rather a question of good global citizenship and the contribution each nation can make to the future of our planet.

You will join an Organization where nations strive to maintain international peace and security; to develop friendly relations based on respect for equal rights and self-determination of peoples; to promote the economic, social and cultural achievement of peoples; and to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. I look forward to the day later this year when East Timor will be formally admitted as a member of the United Nations.

Thank you very much.


It is with great pleasure that I join you today to open the UN House in Dili. We are here today to celebrate the beginning of a new era for East Timor. A great deal of work has been done – by the East Timorese and by us – to prepare for this day. However, now that independence is achieved, the challenge of nation-building remains.

I am pleased to be able to say that the UN family is fully committed to assisting East Timor as it embarks on its new course as an independent country. The new mission, UNMISET, will focus its efforts on consolidating a stable environment. The UN agencies will play their role, alongside the bilateral donors, in promoting development and alleviating poverty. So Mr. Sharma [the SRSG of UNMISET], you have a lot to do!

I have long believed that by gathering UN offices under one roof, we will be able to improve the coordination and effectiveness of our work. Of course, coordination goes

beyond the physical fact of sharing premises. I want, therefore, to say a special word of thanks to the UN Country Team for preparing a UN Development Assistance Framework which provides a common strategy for all the agencies working to help the people of East Timor.

Finally, let me say that our ability to work in a unified and coherent manner can set an important example for the people of East Timor themselves, as they strive to work in a united manner to build a stable and prosperous society.

I am proud to declare the UN House in East Timor officially open and wish you the best of luck.

Thank you very much.