On 12 May 2012, Timor-Leste celebrated its first decade as an independent democracy.

(Speech of Dr. José Ramos-Horta)

While having experienced significant “growing pains”, including civil violence in 2006, the resilience and determination of the Timorese people, under the governance of true statesmen, have created a vibrant model of what formerly oppressed people can become in the 21stcentury.

Some excerpts of a speech by President Ramos-Horta held on 28 November 2011:

“Our people, exercising their sovereign power to decide who should be their highest magistrates – President, Prime Minister, Deputies – will go to the polling stations in March and June 2012 to elect (or reelect) the President and a new Parliament”.

“After almost 10 years since the restoration of independence, I can say that I feel happy for what we have achieved”.

“Most economic and social indicators show significant improvements with extreme poverty declining by 9% since 2007; in the Health and Education sectors, with child, infant and maternal mortality levels halved since 2007; school enrollment jumped from 63% to 90% during the same period and we might be able to achieve 100% school enrollment by 2013. Adult illiteracy is projected to be eliminated by the end of 2013.

Earlier this year the WHO declared Timor-Leste a territory free of Leprosy for the first time in many centuries.

We have also successfully tackled one of the biggest challenges we faced in 2002 when assuming self-government: the almost non-existence of medical doctors and other health professionals in our country.

Nine years later, last week the first 54 Timorese students of Medicine of UNTL (National University of Timor-Leste) graduated as fully trained doctors, having done their 6-year degree in Timor-Leste...

By 2012 further 500 Timorese doctors will graduate from UNTL to work in the districts to improve healthcare for our children, our grandmothers and fathers across the country…

By 2016 1,000 doctors will have trained at UNTL and Timor-Leste will have one of the highest numbers of doctors per capital in the world and certainly the highest in Southeast Asia…

We should all feel proud for Timor-Leste’s new large Power Plant in Hera. Last night the first phase of this project started its electricity production. In 2012 the second phase will be ready in Betano. This energy project, the largest ever in Timor-Leste, will not only produce electricity for Dili and each district, but also for the entire country…

On the political front, we can be proud of our vibrant parliamentary democracy and of the fact that our National Parliament has an impressive representation of women.

In the 2012 legislative election I hope the women’s representation in our Parliament will increase from the current 29% share of the seats to at least 35%.

We have a free and irreverent media with 250 journalists working for four daily newspapers, four per week, two per month, 30 radios stations and two TV stations, one public, one private.

There are numerous Social Media outlets used by groups and individuals engaged in substantive discussion with intellectual rigor as there are demagogic and defamatory blogs leveling personal attacks on leaders and others.

And yet there was no attempt by the Government to silence its critics. Democracy bestows the right to a free speech for all – even to demagogues.

We have a vibrant democracy that derives also from the activity of a multitude of civil society groups, NGOs specializing in all areas that actively scrutinize every aspect of government policies and contribute to a peaceful and just society.

We have one of the most liberal and humanist constitutions in the world that prohibits life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Our Constitution enshrines the sanctity of human life and the essential goodness of human beings, as we believe that even the worst individual in society must be given a chance to redeem and serve the community…

Among all our strengths I cite our cultural diversity and fluency in mastering many languages. Timorese are counted among the most polyglot nations in the world.

We have an exemplary relationship with our closest neighbor [Indonesia] with whom we share centuries of history and a period of conflict that was extremely painful to our people. As we continue to heal the wounds of the past, remembering and honoring our martyrs, we have been able to live on, living the present and building a future without hatred…

Throughout my life I have always faced reality in a balanced way, no matter how harsh. This is also the way I look at our country after almost 10 years of self-government. Yes, we did make mistakes… but we are on the right path in building a better country and a better future for our children.

We have done more than many around us thought possible. We have done more than many countries have decades after their independence. We are on the right path.