S'pore & Timor-Leste were friends even before Timor-Leste became independent: Maliki Osman

Both countries share a warm and longstanding relationship.

Kayla Wong | May 20, 2022, 04:05 PM

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Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman was in Timor-Leste from May 17 to 20.

He was in the country to attend the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Jose Ramos-Horta, and the 20th anniversary of the Restoration of Independence of Timor-Leste, according to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Southeast Asian country.

Previously, President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated Ramos-Horta, who is also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, following his victory in the election in April.

Friendship dates back to before Timor-Leste's independence

In a Friday (May 20) Facebook post, Maliki said both countries have "a warm and longstanding relationship" and that their friendship dates back to even before Timor-Leste's independence.

Besides meeting Timor-Leste leaders during his visit, Maliki attended a dinner hosted by outgoing President Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo, and called on President-elect Ramos-Horta. In addition, he met with the country's Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Armindo Maia, and his counterpart Adaljiza Magno.

They reaffirmed the excellent state of relations between Singapore and Timor-Leste and noted the good trade and investment flows between both countries.

Maliki told the Timorese leaders that the Singapore government remains committed to supporting Timor-Leste’s development journey and that they hope to welcome more Timorese officials to participate in the Singapore Cooperation Programme.

Singapore first sent combat peacekeepers to Timor-Leste in 2001

Singapore contributed an augmented platoon of 70 combat peacekeepers to East Timor, as it was known then, in May 2001, marking the first time the nation did so under United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, according to the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Singapore has been involved in peacekeeping operations in the country since September 1999.

At its peak, the SAF commitment included a company of peacekeepers, a heli-detachment, and senior officers in the UNMISET Peacekeeping Force Headquarters in the capital city of Dili, including the Force Commander, Major-General Tan Huck Gim, according to Mindef.

Following the 1999 national referendum where the people of East Timor voted overwhelmingly for independence from Indonesia, anti-independence militants launched attacks on Timorese, killing thousands of them.

An Australian-led multinational peacekeeping force then intervened to restore order.

The former Portuguese colony finally achieved formal independence on May 20, 2002, making it the youngest country in Southeast Asia.

Singapore is still assisting with capacity-building efforts in the country today.

Top image via Maliki Osman/Facebook