Falintil Day celebrated with close neighbour

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Jessica O'Brien (author), LEUT Jessica O'Brien (photographer)

Location(s): Dili, Timore Leste

Members of the F-FDTL march at Taci Tolu (Three Seas) for the 40th anniversary of FALANTIL Day. (photo: Leut Jessica O'Brien)
Members of the F-FDTL march at Taci Tolu (Three Seas) for the 40th anniversary of FALANTIL Day.

HMAS Huon has made her second visit in 12 months to close neighbour, East Timor, continuing to strengthen the relationship between the Australian Defence Force and the Timor-Leste Defence Force.

This visit coincided with a special event for the Timorese people – the 40th anniversary of Falintil Day. Falintil, the genesis of the current Defence Force, was an armed guerilla resistance force formed in 1975.  Over 25 years they used guerilla tactics to fight the occupying Indonesian Military, eventually gaining independence in 1999.   The current President of Timor Leste, Taur Matan Ruak, was the last Commander of Falintil.  The modern nation's conventional Defence Force, Falintil - Forca de Defensa de Timor Leste, includes the Falintil name out of respect to those who fought for independence.

Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, and 25 members of Huon showed their support at Taci Tolu (Three Seas) where an impressive parade and medal ceremony was conducted.  These celebrations were close to the heart of Commanding Officer Huon, Commander Richard Caton, who served in Dili in 1999 as part of Australian Clearance Diving Team Four assiting in the evacuation of Australian and United Nations personnel and then deployed as part of INTERFET Forces.  With a long association with East Timor, Commander Caton returned to Dili with a posting to the Australian Embassy between 2005 and 2007, in which he witnessed a further period of great turmoil in East Timor, leading to the eventual return of Australian peacekeeping forces as part of Operation ASTUTE in May 2006.

“Every time I have returned to Timor since the end of my posting in 2007, I have seen great development and the impressive building of a modern nation,” Commander Caton said

“I am always welcomed by Timorese friends and East Timor holds a special place in my heart.”

Following the Falintil Day Parade, Huon hosted Vice Admiral Griggs and the local Defence Attache, Colonel Luke Foster for afternoon tea.  

Vice Admiral Griggs highlighted to the crew the importance of Defence diplomacy and of Huon's presence.  During the visit, Vice Admiral Griggs took the opportunity to present the Australian Defence Medal to Able Seaman Lubomir Vitek, recognising four years of service in the Royal Australian Navy.

During the visit, Huon hosted an official reception and conducted a Ceremonial Sunset.  Special guests included, the President of the Committe for Security and Defence, Mr David Ximenes, a founding member of Falintil in 1975,  Timor Leste Defence Force members, officials from the Portuguese and Philippine Navies, Australian Federal Police and Australian Defence Force personnel posted to Timor-Leste.

Master of Ceremonies was Sub Lieutenant Thomas Sharp who proudly presided over the event.

“It was an honour to represent the Australian Defence Force in East Timor,” Sub Lieutenant Sharp said

"I have enjoyed meeting members of other defence forces and exploring what Timor has to offer.”