Home Semasa Timor-Leste greatly values Malaysia’s shared aspirations

Timor-Leste greatly values Malaysia’s shared aspirations

by Adrian David

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 DEC –  Timor-Leste highly values the bilateral economic ties and shared aspirations for regional security and development, with Malaysia.

Timor-Leste’s ambassador to Malaysia Joana Veneranda Amaral said the formalisation of these ties would be further bolstered with Timor-Leste’s accession to Asean in the future.

“Timor-Leste is currently working very hard to implement the ‘Asean Roadmap’ for Timor-Leste’s full membership in the regional coalition.

“Hopefully, Timor-Leste can become a full member of Asean during Malaysia’s Asean chairmanship in 2025,” she said at ‘Timor-Leste’s 48th Independence Day 2023’ reception at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang.

Present were guest-of-honour Malaysian Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu and Timor-Leste’s Vice-Prime Minister Datuk Seri Francisco Kalbuadi Lay, who is also its Coordinating Minister of Economics and Minister of Tourism and Environment, and dean of the diplomatic corps and Singapore High Commissioner Datuk Indera Vanu Gopala Menon.

Joana expressed the dream of her people and the political leaders to integrate into Asean to give a positive impact for Timor-Leste as the Southeast Asian region was more economically dynamic in the world.

She said that Timor-Leste had been an active contributor to the Asean region that is populated with 620 million people and a gross domestic product of over US$3 trillion.

“Becoming an Asean member will provide Timor-Leste a strong catalyst for growth among its businesses and entrepreneurs.

“Asean is the largest exporter to Timor-Leste, with Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as the leading nations.

“Singapore alone is the largest single investor with an investment of over U$D21 billion worth of projects.

“Indonesian companies have also invested over U$D1.2 billion in some 18 projects,” Joana revealed.

Joana added that the time was right for Timor-Leste to become an Asean member, so as to actively participate in various programmes in the region and reach its objectives.

“Timor-Leste is geographically located in Southeast Asia and recognised by all the Asean countries, with our embassies in each of them.

“We have also signed an agreement on ‘Amity and Cooperation’ along with numerous key initiatives and the Asean Charter,” said Joana.

Joana said Asean remained Timor-Leste’s largest export market and her country wanted to explore the opportunity for further cooperation.

Timor-Leste, she said, was a member of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries that includes Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Joana pointed out should Timor-Leste become an Asean member, it could play a lead role in decision-making on matters concerning conflicts among the G7-Plus grouping.

“Timor-Leste’s Asean membership will also reinforce Asean’s stand in Southeast Asian regional affairs, at a time of growing concerns around regional hegemony and multipolarity,” she said.

Asean was established in Bangkok, Thailand on Aug 8, 1967 by its founding fathers – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The other nations in the ten-member fold are Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Should it become a reality, Timor-Leste – which eventually gained independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002 – will become Asean’s 11th member.

Timor-Leste joined the Asean Regional Forum in 2005 and officially applied for Asean membership on March 4, 2011.

The 15,007sq km Timor-Leste, whose capital is Dili, comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse.

It is surrounded by Indonesia’s West Timor.

It was colonised in the 16th century and known as Portuguese Timor until Nov 28, 1975 when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) initially declared the territory’s independence.

Nine days later, it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia as its 27th province the following year.

The Indonesian occupation of East Timor was characterised by a violent, decades-long conflict between separatist groups (especially Fretilin) and the Indonesian military.

In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory.

Meanwhile, Joana emphasised Lay’s visit to Kuala Lumpur which demonstrated the importance of Timor-Leste’s relationship with Malaysia.

Lay’s delegation also included Timor-Leste’s dancers and traditional weavers, artists, students and their community in Malaysia.

“To commemorate our Independence Day, we have a cultural presentation from Timor-Leste to showcase our identity and origins, along with our traditional food,” said Joana.

On another note, Malaysia and Timor-Leste are looking forward to establishing direct flights connecting major destinations of both countries to boost tourism and promote cultural exchange.

Currently, there is no direct air connectivity between Kuala Lumpur and Timor-Leste’s capital Dili.

Malaysia’s Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and Lay held discussions on the air route issue and some tourism-related programmes, such as Muslim-friendly tourism.

Tiong said that both countries could find common ground of culture and language between their them and were taking serious measures to develop and attract more tourists from each other.

“The Muslim-friendly concept also will have wider coverage in tourism infrastructures, facilities, products and services.

“Malaysia also looks forward to supporting Timor-Leste in capacity-building and technical assistance programmes, including cultural heritage management,” Tiong said.

Malaysia as a member of the ‘Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage’, offers assistance in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and looks forward to deepening collaboration with Timor-Leste in both tourism and cultural spheres, contributing to the prosperity and unity of the Asean region.

Lay was on a four-day working visit to Malaysia from Dec 4, to further strengthen and enhance bilateral ties between both countries and demonstrate Malaysia’s support for Timor-Leste’s full membership in Asean.

Last year, total trade between Malaysia and Timor-Leste was RM384.48mil (US$90.2mil), which increased by 93.3 per cent compared to RM194.09mil (US$46.6mil) in 2021. – airtimes.my

#AirTimes #Malaysia #TimorLeste

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