Press Releases

    21 May 2002

    "The United Nations Will Stay ... Your Friends Will Continue to Help", Says Secretary-General in Salute to Independent East Timor

    NEW YORK, 20 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the speech by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, delivered in Dili, East Timor, on the occasion of East Timor's accession to independence, 19 May 2002:

    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, 45 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 to you.

    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 the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (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 them and 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 all of you 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 united. 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.

    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 fulfil 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!]

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