Baucau, July 12th, 2021 – His Excellency the Prime Minister, Taur Matan Ruak, in his speech at the laying of the foundation stone of the rehabilitation of Baucau Airport, expressed pride that this rehabilitation could finally be effectively achieved, through a cooperation project with the United States of America, after a long period of several years of discussions and analysis, which began with the Pacific Command, in 2008, in Hawaii, United States of America.
“The discussion of this project took a long time; from the time I was a General. I held two or three discussions with the Pacific Commander, in Hawaii, and when I left, my successor, Mr. General Lere, continued. The first idea was a support to make a survey for the creation of the Timor-Leste Air Force, and this was a very important step. I am very happy that this project is coming to fruition. Mr. Ambassador, imagine, I was still a General when the first discussions took place, in 2008. After that, I left the General position, became President of the Republic and today I am Prime Minister, and almost at the end of my mandate, this project is finally happening. I am therefore very proud to finally be able to participate in this ceremony to lay the foundation stone,” said the Chief Executive in his speech.
Thus, taking this opportunity, the Head of Government thanked the Ambassador of the United States of America, Mr. Kevin Blackstone, and the U.S. Government, for this real and effective cooperation. He also added that this partnership is a privilege for Timor-Leste, as a small country in the world, because it is not easy for the US to partner with small countries, but because Timor-Leste and the U.S. share the same principles of democracy, good governance, and human rights, it was possible to carry out this partnership project.
“We thank Mr. Ambassador and the U.S. Government because we will finally be able to operationalize the rehabilitation of our airport. As a Prime Minister and former General, I very much appreciate this partnership and cooperation with the U.S. It is a great privilege because not all small countries have the privilege to partner with the U.S.,” the Head of Government noted.
The Head of Government explained that, after the rehabilitation, Baucau Airport will be used by the F-FDTL Air Component, and in the future, it will be used as a multi-purpose airport, for large aircraft that cannot land at Dili airport.
The former F-FDTL Chief of Staff and current Prime Minister also took the opportunity to deny some information that suggested that the Government had handed the Baucau Airport to the United States, to be used as a military base.
“There is much false information spreading that the US is going to build a military base here. I was military for many years, so was General Lere. I don’t need Baucau to be a military base. And the United States, as the leading military power in the world, also does not need Baucau as a military base. Some elements in civil society, probably without knowledge, are saying that Baucau will be a military base, but the military does not need that. (…) If the United States intends to come to bomb, they don’t need to land here. So, some people, who have no notion, it would be better if they talked about something else because this is false. […] A few days ago, the Vice Minister for the Interior told me, the Prime Minister intends to go to Baucau, but the CPD-RDTL group has been mobilized to hold a demonstration. (‘ ) I told them that it would be better if they went to the vegetable garden […]. Lere and I will not sell Timor. On the contrary! To think that the two of us are selling Timor to the United States is a bit silly”, said the Prime Minister.
On this occasion, the Head of Government asked the Baucau Municipal Authority to give maximum support to the rehabilitation of the airport.
And finally, he asked the Minister of Transport and Communications, José Agostinho, and the Aviation Authority to facilitate the rehabilitation operationalization process, according to the aviation rules in force in Timor-Leste.
This rehabilitation project is funded by the US Department of Defence with an amount of US$ 10.7 million, with the objective of improving the F-FDTL’s capacity in the area of security, humanitarian support, and response to natural disasters. In early October of this year, a joint F-FDTL Engineering team and the US military will conduct a minor rehabilitation of the Baucau Airfield, repairing the perimeter fence and building warehouses for the equipment that the F-FDTL will use for operations and maintenance of its air component.
The ceremony to lay the foundation stone took place 2 weeks after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Timor-Leste and the U.S. Government, on June 28th, officializing the joint commitment to rehabilitate some parts of the Baucau Aerodrome and jointly hold discussions, in good faith, to support the civil aviation sector in Timor-Leste.
The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Transport and Communications, José Agostinho, the Vice-Minister of the Interior, António Armindo, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Julião da Silva, the F-FDTL Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Lere Anan Timur, the wife of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Isabel da Costa Ferreira, the wife of the US Ambassador, the Baucau Municipal Authority and other guests.