UN Resident Coordinator's speech at the opening of a memorial for all those who died in the service of the UN in Timor-Leste

UN Resident Coordinator's speech at the opening of a memorial for all those who died in the service of the UN in Timor-Leste

Speech by Mr Roy Trivedy

Resident Coordinator of United Nations in Timor-Leste

UN House, August 29, 2019



Tomorrow at Tasi Tolu Timor-Leste marks the 20th anniversary of the Popular Consultation - a special time for Timor-Leste which will celebrate that important achievement which came after the long struggle for self determination.

I am pleased that we can be joined today by so many who served the people of Timor-Leste in difficult and often painful quest. These are people who never lost sight of the light which came slowly, like the morning dawn rising over these hills here at Dili.

We will remember today many people who cannot be with us - those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We also remember colleagues and friends, and people from other countries who lost their lives while serving Timor-Leste in the past 20 years.

Today we unveil a simple plaque which reminds us of the sacrifices made by those working for a better world for all through the United Nations family.

Nearly 50 United Nations staff, including 15 Timorese UN people, died in the past 20 years.

People like Ana Lemos, a mother, a wife, an independence activist who worked as a UNAMET polling officer in 1999. She was kidnapped and murdered without ever being able to celebrate with her family and friends what she had been fighting for.

13 other UNAMET staff from Timor-Leste were killed in that difficult period and one died of a heart attack on 14 September at the UNAMET compound.

In West Timor three staff of the UNHCR were killed by militants. These were peaceful, unarmed humanitarians who gave their lives trying to help those who had lost everything.We remember too the five Korean peacekeepers who died, swept away by a flash flood in Oecussie. 

And we think of the people who died of illness while far away from their homes and loved ones.

Today is an opportunity too, to recall another human rights champion and head of UNTAET the late Sergio Vieira de Mello who led the transition of East Timor to democracy and long-term stability, but who died on 19 August 2003 along with 22 colleagues when the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was attacked.

In many countries around the world thousands of women and men are working tirelessly to promote peace and provide assistance to many of the world’s most vulnerable people. Every year the UN family, together with other humanitarian partners, loses humanitarian and development workers, diplomats and peace keepers who are killed on duty.  

Our deepest condolences go to all the families and loved ones who also suffer these losses. We acknowledge the grief of the families of our Timorese staff are present here today with us.

The former Secretary General the late Kofi Annan, who played a key role in ensuring that the referendum in 1999 took place, said at Tasi Tolu on 20th May 2002, as he prepared for the hand over responsibility for governance to Timorese leaders – ‘’we are also remembering those who are no longer with us. It is their day too.’’

The plaque we unveil today ensures we will always continue honour these memories.

The memorial plaque inspired by the words of the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 

As I look around today I see many inspiring colleagues and friends. I see some of the older faces – Timorese leaders, former UNAMET staff who have returned to the country after nearly 20 years. I see many of the UN’s partners in Timor-Leste, and colleagues currently serving at the UN in Timor-Leste who have given valuable and faithful service.

I am aware that every person here has their own personal stories that they can share of service and leadership for a greater cause.  

The term ‘’service’’ is epitomised by Ian Martin who has served a distinguished and very long career in support of the UN and human rights everywhere – Europe, Africa, Asia and of course here in Timor-Leste.

Ian was Head of UNAMET which in its initial period was besieged by militants, and which despite all of the challenges stayed beyond reasonable limits, before being temporarily evacuated.

He brought his team back,  and with humility and a strong commitment to human rights, oversaw the progress towards independence day, 2002.  Ian’s is a life-time of service in the field of human rights, peace and development.

Ian and two other UN diplomats, Tamrat Samuel and Francesc Vendrell, will this week be honoured with the Order of Liberty Award, by the Portuguese President.

Francesc Vendrell ​​is considered to be the United Nations official who has been following the issue of Timor-Leste for the longest time. He  played an important role in the production of the eight General Assembly resolutions on Timor-Leste, passed between 1976 and 1982, at which point the issue was gradually disappearing from the attention of the community of nations.

Tamrat Samuel, for his part, was,  between 1992 and 2000 the UN Secretary-General's focal point for the “Question of Timor-Leste” and was involved in the lengthy negotiations between Portugal and Indonesia that culminated in the May 5 agreement of 1999, which allowed popular consultation 20 years ago.

This week Ian Martin attended a meeting of the regular human rights group here in this room behind me, contributing his thoughts from experience and commitment. For many years people at UN House have been having these types of meetings in what we call Conference room A and Conference Room D.

Today we rename those two of our Meeting Rooms after people who have been part of the heroic struggle in Timor-Leste. We canvassed the UN team for ideas and have decided to name Conference Room D after the late Ana Lemos. 

And conference Room A will from now be named after a man who played a key role in helping self- determination and independence in Timor-Leste, Mr Kofi Annan.

Kofi Annan, Ana Lemos, Ian Martin, Francesc Vendrell, Tamrat Samuel and Sergio Vieira de Mello are people whose selflessness, whose personal sacrifices and dedication continues to inspire us all as we create opportunities for peace, eradicate poverty and serve the cause of sustainable equitable development.

These are the people who were at the dawn of a  new era in  Timor-Leste, waiting to be warmed by the sunlight over the hills.

I will leave you with a final message: as a younger man studying in England I was aware of my Indian and African roots and the anti-colonial struggles in many parts of globe, the importance of fighting oppression, of solidarity and for standing up for the values of justice and liberty.

I was drawn then to the works of the Black South African activist Steve Biko who was murdered by police in 1977, when he was 30 years old.

Steve Biko’s words helped shape my  personal outlook and political beliefs. They also played a key role in helping me  decide what I wanted to contribute in life.

He wrote words as relevant to us now, as they were then: “We have set out on a quest for a true humanity, and somewhere on a distant horizon we can see the glittering prize.”

I end today by urging all of you, to keep your eyes on the glittering prize of peace and prosperity.


Obrigado barak


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