The Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network (AusTimorFN) has welcomed His Excellency Abel Guterres following his appointment as the new Timor-Leste Ambassador to Australia. Former Australian resident and long-time Timor-Leste activist, H.E. Guterres was welcomed at a dinner hosted by the AusTimorFN at the Zen Yai restaurant in Canberra on Tuesday 1 June.

AbelGuterres-1AusTimorFN convenor Rae Kingsbury opened the dinner by saying she was very pleased to welcome back her good friend H.E. Guterres. She said it was especially pleasing to see him return to Australia in his new and well deserved role.

Ms Kingsbury and H.E. Guterres together founded the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship groups in 2000. The Friendship groups network now spans more than 50 relationships between local communities in Australia and Timor-Leste. Building on a decade of cooperation, a number of Friendship groups are now planning their next 10 years of cooperative community development.

Speaking to the dinner, Professor Damien Kingsbury noted that all present had a strong friendship with H.E. Guterres. He said that friendship between Australia and Timor-Leste was at the core of the bilateral relationship. He noted that the real strength of the friendship lay in the bonding between the communities of both countries, especially since Timor-Leste voted for independence in 1999.

Professor Kingsbury said that despite occasional ups and downs in the relationship, its enduring friendship would continue to underwrite a long-term positive relationship between the governments of the two countries and especially between the people of the two countries.

In his reply, H.E. Guterres thanked AusTimorFN for hosting the dinner and welcoming him back to Australia. He said that friendship between Australia and Timor-Leste was critical to the future of both countries, and that the community to community relationships continued to give real substance to the more formal diplomatic relationship.

H.E. Guterres also warmly welcomed Timor-Leste’s other friends to the dinner, including the Portuguese Ambassador, H.E. Rui Quartin-Santos and his wife Snr Ana Carlota Meirelles do Canto e Castro, the Brazilian Ambassador H.E. Fernando de Mello Barreto, the Philippines Ambassador, H.E. Ernesto H de Leon, and the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s senior foreign policy advisor, Philip Green.

In particular, H.E. Guterres noted the long-standing contribution of H.E. Quartin-Santos to Timor-Leste, since 1976 working with President Jose Ramos-Horta during his long years of exile.

He also noted the invaluable contributions of lawyer Bernard Collaery, who during the occupation advocated on behalf of Timor-Leste and was legal advisor to the CNRT in the critical period up until formal independence in 2002.

Also acknowledged by H.E. Guterres for their friendship to Timor-Leste were former advisor to then Foreign Minister and later Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, Janelle Saffin, MP, Senator Julian McGauran, who was a notable supporter of Timor-Leste at a time when his own party position was in favour of Indonesian occupation, and Australian Capital Territory Deputy Chief Minister, Ms Pam Davoren, Timor-Leste Charge d’Affaires Jorge Camoes, Dr George and Barbara Preston and other guests.

H.E. Guterres said he would convene a further dinner of friends of Timor-Leste in 12 months’ time and until then that he looked forward to working closely with his and Timor-Leste’s friends.

Rae Merlyn Kingsbury, AusTimorFN national convenor.


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