Speaking of his “teenage country,” the prime minister of Timor-Leste Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo shared the growing pains and highlights of his nation during an address sponsored by the IU School of Global and International Studies. Araújo spoke before more than a hundred in the Grand Foyer of the IU Auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 28. IU President Michael McRobbie him and SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein convened questions and answers for the prime minister following his speech.
Timor-Leste is a nation just 14 years old, occupying half the island of Timor, north of Australia and south of Indonesia. Araújo himself was part of the revolutionary movement that sought to oust the rule of Indonesia, finally accomplished with United Nations sponsorship in 2002. Indonesia occupied Timor-Leste for 25 years, a rule that came after centuries of Portuguese colonization. He took office in February of 2015.
Addressing the Indiana University audience, Araújo did not dwell on that past, saying the country needs to move from being a post-conflict state. "We want to move past the things that have been done to us and focus on the development of our future," the prime minister said. While in the U.S., Araújo spoke at other universities including Brown and Harvard, and addressed the United Nations General Assembly four days before visiting IU. "I'm here to rekindle the connection between this country and Timor Leste," he told the Bloomington audience.
To that end, Araújo emphasized the importance of U.S. partners as his country builds upon its young democracy. He said developing relationships with institutions like SGIS and IU is vital to Timor-Leste’s success. “I think it would be good to find ways to bridge the gap of knowledge,” Araújo said in answering a question from a student from his country who asked about how more from his country might come to study at IU.
An important matter for Araújo has been settling disputed land and maritime boundaries with Indonesia and Australia. A United Nations panel of conciliators has just taken up the case of maritime disputes between Timor-Leste and Australia in the East Timor Sea.
Araújo addressed those concerns, saying he was relying upon the understanding of the U.S. and other partners in resolving the matter. “We are fully conscious that disputes should be resolved on the basis of international law,” he said.
It is among the growing paints Araújo said his young country must face. Moving forward, he said he hoped strong partnerships would enable his country to gain strength.
“We are 14 years old,” he said, “and working hard to reach adulthood in the next couple of years.”