The Guardian May 22, 2002


Democratic Republic of East Timor

On May 20, 2002 East Timor was officially declared an independent state, 
the Democratic Republic of East Timor. The United Nations flag was lowered 
and the red, gold and black flag of the new nation hoisted on the 
flagpole.

United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan transferred authority to the 
new institutions of the Democratic Republic of East Timor and paid tribute 
to the heroic people of East Timor who fought for such a long time and 
triumphed against terrible odds.

"Today, the world welcomed East Timor into the family of nations  a 
historic moment for East Timor and for the United Nations", Kofi Annan 
said.

"A proud and resilient people will realise a dream common to all peoples: 
to live as free men and women under a government of their own choosing. The 
pride of East Timorese on that night will also be the pride of the 
international community and of the UN.

"Rarely has the world come together with such unity, resolve and speed to 
secure a people's self-determination. Credit for this should go first and 
foremost to the East Timorese people, who have shown courage and 
perseverance in rebuilding their country.

"They have met every challenge that has confronted them and unfailingly 
demonstrated their commitment to democracy", said Mr Annan.

The Independence Day truly belonged to the people who have sacrificed so 
much for their freedom. An estimated 100,000 people took part in 
celebrations.

"Today you are witnesses of the aspirations for peace of a whole people. 
Today you are witnesses of the resolve to build democratic foundations of 
development for the entirety of the Timorese society ", said incoming 
President Xanana Gusmao.

"And today you are witnesses of the hope of a future based on the active 
and permanent struggle against poverty in all its forms."

The crowd warmly welcomed Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri and 
President Gusmao made an appeal for peaceful relations between Indonesia 
and East Timor.

"I believe, Mrs President, that Indonesia and East Timor will be able to 
prove to the world ... that whenever there is political will on the part of 
the leaders of society in general, peace can be built on solid foundations 
throughout the world", Mr Gusmao said.

The Australian Prime Minister was among the foreign dignitaries at the 
celebrations. He was welcomed by the East Timorese officials but there was 
not a very warm welcome from the crowd.

"Australia stop stealing Timor oil", read one of the placards demonstrators 
waved.

While East Timor is one of the poorest countries at present, it has huge 
gas and oil resources  provided it is not robbed of these by Australian, 
US and other corporate interests.

A treaty was to have been signed between Australia and Timor on gas and oil 
revenues

The key problem between Australia and East Timor is the amount of royalties 
East Timor would receive from the Greater Sunrise gas field.

Australia had unilaterally withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the 
International Court of Justice for the arbitration of maritime boundaries 
under the treaty.

East Timor would receive only 18 per cent of the royalties from Greater 
Sunrise.

Mr Howard stated that Australia's position was "consistent with our 
rights", whereas East Timor's Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri stated that 
Australia had committed "an unfriendly act".

East Timor has achieved a tremendous victory for its territorial 
independence.

To be truly independent, it faces the difficult but uplifting task of 
freeing its people of poverty, and seeing them educated and healthy.

The new leaders, together with their people, face many challenges and 
pressures from the warriors of the "global market".

Mr Howard has already advocated that East Timor should embrace pro-business 
policies and global market economics.

The declaration of the state of the Democratic Republic of East Timor is an 
important step towards freedom and independence.

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