Full text of the speech by United Nations in Timor-Leste Resident Coordinator Roy Trivedy
At the memorial ceremony to commemorate the UN staff who died during the Popular Consultation August 30, 1999
14th August, 2019
Gleno - Let me first say that today on this solemn occasion we are honoured to be joined by the families and friends of those UN staff who in 1999 made the ultimate sacrifice in the spirit of the United Nations, striving to do their best to make this world a better place.
The history of the struggle for self-determination by people from all over the world is rarely free of conflict and bloodshed. Some people enter the struggle voluntarily, based on their principles and beliefs; others are drawn into the conflict around them, as part of their families and communities, often making no personal decisions to participate except to support others. And others join the fight out of a sense of duty and solidarity to their fellow human beings.
The staff of the UN who died while serving this country did not join the UN to be heroes, but in dying while striving to do their best for others, they enshrine the best in us all.
Today as members of the family of the United Nations we look back at 1999 and try to recall what the expectations of the people of Timor-Leste would have been when they applied for roles at UNAMET, Interfet and in the election teams.
Were they filled with joy at the prospect of being part of the machinery for delivering self- determination?
Did they feel a sense of pride when they became the newest members of the professional, impartial, global workforce of the United Nations?
Did they even have time to stop and think about what they might achieve in those hectic weeks between May 5, when Indonesia and Portugal agreed to the Popular Consultation and August 30 when half a million East Timorese voted?
Or were they just doing their jobs and earning an income so they could feed their families?
I suspect for Ana Lemos who had a long history of pro-independence activism , who was a well-known Leader of the OMT, the Women’s Movement, that she was also fired by the promise of a just and equal society for her country and for her children.
These are Honorable intentions cut short by the terrible violence perpetrated on them. The man who was leading UNAMET in 1999, Ian Martin, would have been advised of each and every death of UN staff and contractors, and guided the memorial services at the time.
Ian is visiting Timor-Leste again later this month. He will be the Personal Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations at the anniversary events on August 30 at Tasi Tolu. At the time and after investigating the dreadful violence he said that there can be no doubt that the killings were ‘’planned, premeditated, evil.’’ We must remind those who feel that power grows out of the barrel of a gun and at the end of a knife, that they are wrong. The most powerful force on earth, is the power of love, the power of the human spirit.
Today we honor the sacrifice of these 15 Timorese men and women, fathers and mothers, sisters and friends, by giving life to the mission and the values of the United Nations.
In two weeks, we will have another event at which we will commemorate the lives of all the people who have served the United Nations in any capacity in Timor-Leste in the past 20 years. We will do so under the blue flag of the United Nations. It is a flag that represents the highest values of mankind and reminds us all of us about the work of the UN family - we can teach children, feed families, heal a community and move a country to a better place inch by inch, step by step.
To Ana Lemos who is buried here and to all the people who died serving the United Nations in Timor-Leste may I say, You are not Forgotten, Rest in Peace.