Ambassador Kathleen Fitzpatrick Remarks at the completion of the U.S. Navy Seabees 100th civil engineering project in Timor-Leste

My Respects to:

  • E. Jose Ramos Horta, Former President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
  • E. Dulce de Jesus Soares, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport (pending confirmation)
  • E. Filomeno da Paixão de Jesus, Minster of Defense and Acting Minister of Interior
  • F-FDTL Chief of Staff Colonel Calisto “Coliati” Santos Coli
  • EBC Fatumeta School Director Fernanda Caldeira Belo

Greetings everyone.

Thank you for joining us here to celebrate the completion of the U.S. Navy Seabees 100th civil engineering project in Timor-Leste.

I am so pleased to welcome our guests of honor, who have been strong supporters of the Seabees from the very beginning.

Dr. Ramos Horta has been an important supporter to Seabees for so many years. In fact when I arrived in Timor-Leste, coincidently I met Dr. Horta in the airport – and he told me to bring in more Seabees to Timor-Leste!

Minister Filomeno de Paixao visited and participated in many Seabees ceremony events. Minister Dulce de Jesus Soares has been collaborating with Seabees in their construction of school rooms and other facilities to support students and education in Timor-Leste.

I think their supports show the importance of Seabees works – and in fact when Seabees build something, this will be a high quality workmanship – built for long terms use.

This project is an exciting achievement. The Seabees have been active in Timor-Leste for just over 10 years-so 100 projects is quite an amazing accomplishment.

The American women and men of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five truly put their hearts and souls into this project.

They worked long hours to make sure this school was completed both safely and with excellence.

This is the third project that this group of Seabees have completed in their six-month deployment – now delayed by two months due to COVID.

The work of the U.S. Navy Seabees is just one of the many ways that the United States supports Timor-Leste, in both good and challenging times.

Since independence, the United States has provided over $500 million in cooperative projects that build a stronger, more self-reliant Timor-Leste.

We work through the many projects of our United States Agency for International Development, youth leadership development and educational exchange programs, the US Department of Agriculture’s Nutrition and Education project, grants to NGOs, and much more. We continue to work diligently to conclude a U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact with Timor-Leste.

And we have been here to support Timor-Leste in the COVID-19 challenge, with almost $2 million of direct assistance, as well as the assistance we provide to multinational organizations which also benefit Timor-Leste. For example, USAID in Washington provided $30 million to the World Food Programme for their humanitarian flights, which I understand will begin soon and include Timor-Leste. The U.S, has contributed over $4 billion worldwide in the fight against COVID-19.

All of these programs strengthen our relationship and partnership which will bring benefits to both our countries for years to come.

The construction of this school, as with all Seabee projects, improves the quality and safety of the school.

Even with their extended deployment and the unique challenges during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Seabees worked hard and kept their spirits high in order to provide Ensino Basico Central Fatumeta Pre-Secondary School with this new 2-room school.

In fact, this is the second Seabee project here. Just to your left (my right) you will see a beautiful 2-room classroom also built by NMCB-5 in July 2018. I have fond memories of joining that ceremony also. Together, these projects will benefit over 1,300 students.

As this group of amazing Seabees redeploys to their home, the next group, NMCB-3, will soon arrive.

They will start a new 3-room school in Baucau with an estimated cost of $350,000. They will also construct the new security perimeter fence in Baucau Airfield. U.S. Navy Seabee projects will continue to help improve educational facilities, health clinics, and other priorities throughout Timor-Leste.

So, we salute the Seabees and we celebrate their 100th project in Timor-Leste!

Thank you