Bangkok, May 20 (EFE).- Timor-Leste on Friday was celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence, achieved after almost a quarter of a century of violent military occupation by Indonesia and more than 400 years of Portuguese colonization.
The capital, Dili, hosted a military parade Friday to celebrate this anniversary, the day after veteran politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta swore his position as president of the country after winning the elections last month.
Among foreign attendees was Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and delegations from Singapore, Japan, Sierra Leone, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, among others.
In a speech Thursday night, Ramos-Horta highlighted the country’s unity in its struggle to achieve independence in 2002 and thanked the international community for its solidarity so Timor could achieve its right to self-determination.
“We live in an imperfect but peaceful democracy, without any kind of political, ethnic and religious violence. We live in brotherhood and peace,” according to the local agency Tatoli.
This young nation has financed 80 percent of its public spending in the last two decades thanks to oil and gas and has achieved remarkable political stability and normalized relations with Indonesia.
However, the current reserves are running out and the country suffers from poverty and the underdevelopment of its economy.
Timor-Leste, colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, declared its independence from the Portuguese metropolis on Nov. 28, 1975, but the following month it was invaded by Indonesian forces, who stayed until 1999.
The brutal occupation provoked a guerrilla movement and a conflict that caused between 90,000 and 200,000 deaths, according to data from the Timorese Truth Commission, including four of the 11 brothers and sisters of Ramos-Horta himself.
International pressure, including Ramos-Horta’s diplomatic work abroad in those years, led Indonesia to allow a referendum in 1999 under a UN mandate.
This was also made possible by the 1998 resignation of Indonesian President Suharto, ending 32 years of authoritarian rule.
Following the overwhelming victory for independence in the referendum, Timor-Leste was able to declare its independence on May 20, 2002.
Although it has experienced moments of instability, the young nation of some 1.3 million people has achieved remarkable political stability and aspires to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year.
The association, founded in 1967, comprises Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. EFE