SPEECH AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE NOEFEFAN BRIDGE IN OÉ-CUSSE
Speech by His Excellency the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Dr. Francisco Guterres Lú Olo
Oé-Cusse, 10 June 2017.
Mr President of the National Parliament,
Mr President of the Authority for the Special Autonomous Region of Oé-Cusse (RAEOA),
Members of Parliament,
Members of Government,
Most Reverend Bishop and representatives of religious denominations,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Maubere and Buibere!
The history of Timor-Leste begins in Lifau, located in today’s Special Autonomous Region of Oé-Cusse.
After the official proclamation of the referendum results, in 1999, Oé-Cusse suffered a tragic level of devastation unparalleled in the country. This part of our nation was scorched.
From the ashes, we rose as a country and took the reins of our destiny. But Oé- Cusse remained at the periphery unjustly so despite deserving special treatment in the constitution of our republic.
We must therefore do justice to our history. That is why we are here today. Oé- Cusse deserves our attention. We are here to put right a wrong. In 2014, we brought Oé-Cusse to the national political agenda. Since then, Oé-Cusse is no longer an enclave, it is no longer isolated. We embraced Oé-Cusse as an integral part of our territory.
Oé-Cusse gave us an opportunity to gain a new way of thinking about development. It was not without reason that Oé-Cusse was chosen as a Special Social Market Economy Zone (ZEESM).
In addition to its status as an enclave, Oé-Cusse had natural conditions that hampered development. Abundant rainfall caused floods and separated the populations. It was necessary to find practical solutions for these problems that combine with the traditional, centuries-old isolation of the enclave.
To break the isolation of Oé-Cusse, we prioritised the means of transport ensuring speed and mobility. Mobility is an indispensable condition for citizenship. To modernise Oé-Cusse while reinforcing citizenship meant investing in mobility. There was a need for specific elements: a boat, a plane, and a bridge.
It is therefore with great pleasure and the deepest satisfaction that I join the inauguration of the largest bridge built to date in Timor-Leste the Noefefan bridge, with a span of approximately 400 metres. This bridge is, undoubtedly, a solid and singularly beautiful basic infrastructure, which in itself already represents a return of the capital invested in it.
What we have here is a product that will forever demonstrate that the capital withdrawn from the Petroleum Fund was not spent lightly. A total of 17 million dollars were invested here. In each stone, each piece of metal and in any and all materials used to build this bridge that ensures a safe connection for the people of the Oé-Cusse Ambeno enclave.
This bridge a high-quality work embellishes the landscape and fills us with a sense of how perennial we are. It was built to serve those who need it for many years to come.
The Tono river used to isolate populations. But from now on, thanks to this bridge, it will become a connecting point between the populations. The Noefefan bridge, solid and elegant, has definitively broken the isolation of the populations, who for decades suffered from isolation during the rainy season. More than 3,600 resident families who lived in isolation in the coastal area of the sucos of Bene-Ufe, Usitaco, Suni-Ufe, Taiboco, and part of the suco of Lifau can now cross this bridge to access the basic services provided by the Timorese State, such as the referral hospital and secondary education.
The State also gains easier access to the communities of those sucos and ability to deliver essential services in the areas of health, education, water and sanitation, and electricity distribution.
In short, each of the citizens, each of the families from the surrounding areas will have greater access to the services and facilities are being organised and improved in the region, by private initiative or through public funding. The exchange between the populations of Pante Macassar and Nitibe, and between them and the populations of the Special Autonomous Region of Oé-Cusse Ambeno will progressively increase.
A considerable amount of the General State Budget was spent here, but for a useful purpose: to increase mobility to ultimately serve the Timorese citizens. Each of the direct and indirect beneficiaries will feel the positive effects that a basic infrastructure such as this will have on their daily lives. The approximately 3,000 rice farmers who cultivate more than 1,000 hectares near the Tono river can attest to it. They now can have better and faster access to the Pante Macassar market and to the Oé-Cusse harbour to ensure the distribution of their product. This bridge gives them the incentive to increase production in the coming years. This bridge gives them the confidence in a better future for their children.
Two in every 10 citizens who reside in the region will regularly use this bridge.
The Noefefan bridge is therefore another symbol of the growing exercise of citizenship by the populations of Oé-Cusse in our independent Timor-Leste.
The Noefefan bridge is not an isolated initiative of the Authority for the Special Autonomous Region of Oé-Cusse. The Noefefan bridge is the result of a new philosophy. The Noefefan bridge is an integral part of a new development model whose implementation, in 2014, deliberately selected the region of Oé- Cusse. An area of 107 hectares in Pante Macassar, in the south of Oé-Cusse, was chosen as a Special Social Market Economy Zone (ZEESM). It is in this area that we have been focussing tremendous efforts for the construction of basic infrastructure, necessary to attract national and foreign investors, create jobs, and accelerate sustainable economic growth, while simultaneously ensuring social development.
The social market economy proposed for this area seeks global, inclusive, innovative, creative, and sustainable development centred on the human factor. All development plans and processes are subject to this factor. This new philosophy envisions the participation of the families in the generation of income.
Mechanisms will be created to ensure that the Timorese families can also invest in the businesses, can become partners or make a profit from their own investment and from it derive a continuing source of income to sustain their present and future needs. Training has been a continuing activity because the empowerment of human resources is a guarantee for the success of this model.
I must highlight the important role played by Mr Mari Alkatiri in the conceptualisation and implementation of this new development model in Oé- Cusse.
This is a model with unique management and monitoring characteristics; a model that, in my view, has already started to demonstrate its success.
It is only but fair to make a special reference to the role played by the V Constitutional Government led by His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão who did not spare efforts to make this collective dream come true.
Dr. Mari Alkatiri and our brother Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão are the main foundation of this collective project.
The Oé-Cusse ZEESM may therefore be a reference to other development hubs to be established throughout the territory of Timor-Leste, in the medium and long terms.
I’m convinced that Timor-Leste chose the right path towards integrated and sustainable socio-economic development.
This model and its implementation in Oé-Cusse allow our country a greater connection to our neighbours, especially eastern Indonesia and northern Australia. I’m convinced that everyone wins with this type of approach.
Life has taught us that every initiative has pros and cons. Every coin has two sides. I’m convinced that Mr Alkatiri and those responsible for the Special Autonomous Region of Oé-Cusse Ambeno will be able to find the best solutions for our citizens in Oé-Cusse.
The result before us is an indicator that shows our ability to find more and better solutions in the future!
Congratulations to Oé-Cusse!
Congratulations to Timor-Leste!
I wish you success!
Thank you for your attention!