Dili: Among those present at the inauguration ceremony of East Timor’s new president, José Ramos-Horta, was a 10-year-old Indian climate activist.
Licypriya Kangujam was invited as a special guest of honor for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s inauguration on Thursday, a day before Asia’s youngest country marks the 20th anniversary of its independence. She gives an inspiring inaugural speech during the inauguration of the President of East Timor gathered by thousands of people with all the deputies of the National Parliament and more than 400 foreign dignitaries.
She was just the foreign guest to deliver a speech to the deputies of the National Parliament of East Timor during the President’s inauguration ceremony. Licypriya also met with President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo and revolutionary leader and founding president Xanana Gusmao on the sidelines of the ceremony. She also paid a courtesy visit to East Timorese Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak.
Kaagujam has brought Manipuri’s unique art form “Shumang Leela” to the world stage. She says, “Manipur has a unique art form called shumang leela and it connects the people of Manipur and East Timor through a shumang leela called ‘Gusmao ge Khudol’ or ‘The Gift of Xanana Gusmao’ in English. It is based on the freedom struggle of East Timor. Anyone who watched this piece, everyone will come out in tears. Every Timorese must watch this play,” she said.
East Timor, formerly known as Timor-Leste, was colonized by Portugal in the 18th century and remained under its control until 1975. When the Portuguese withdrew, troops from Indonesia invaded and annexed the island nation as the 27th province.
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A UN-sponsored referendum for freedom in 1999 and an abrupt retreat by Indonesian forces saw the nation of 1.3 million emerge as a republic three years later.
Kangujam, who is the founder of environmental organization The Child Movement, told Al Jazeera she was “very surprised” when she first received the invitation to attend the high-profile event.
“Usually, at such important events, only foreign presidents and prime ministers are invited as special guests. I think this invitation is very special and has a great message about how small island countries like East Timor are threatened by climate change,” she said.
“The inclusion of climate activists in all areas and decision-making processes is very important.”
The child activist said her visit would strengthen relations between India and East Timor.
Kangujam was born in the village of Bashikhong, near Imphal, in the state of Manipur, northeast India. When she was five, her family moved to Bhubaneswar in the coastal state of Odisha, where Cyclone Titli in 2018 and Cyclone Fani in 2019 killed hundreds and destroyed homes.
At the age of nine, Kangujam moved to Noida, on the outskirts of the Indian capital New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, where she lives with her mother and a younger sister.
The fifth-year student says the climate crisis in Odisha and pollution problems in New Delhi have left a deep impression on her and turned her into one of the youngest climate activists in the world.
The young activist says she was alone when she started her movement in 2018. “But today I have the love and support of thousands of people around the world.”
Several foreign dignitaries attend the inauguration ceremony of Ramos-Horta, including the President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo, the Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau Gomes Nabiam, the Governor General of Australia David Hurley, etc. Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi was also present along with over 400 foreign dignitaries.
US President Joe Biden has also sent a presidential delegation to the country, according to a statement from the White House.
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Ramos-Horta, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in East Timor, won a landslide victory in the presidential election last month.
The Nobel laureate previously served as president from 2007 to 2012 and was also the country’s first prime minister.
East Timor is highly vulnerable to climate change, with rising sea levels, frequent floods, cyclones, droughts, landslides and soil erosion.
Last year, Tropical Cyclone Seroja killed dozens of people in the country while 7,000 were displaced.
During her visit to East Timor, Kangujam was invited by various civil society organizations in the country for a program of interaction with children and young people. She also led a climate strike in the streets of East Timor with hundreds of young people to send a strong message about the threat of climate change to the world.
“I listened to their stories and I will also tell the world about the issues they are facing. We talked about long-term peace and development and how we can fight climate change together,” he said. she told the media.
“My voice has represented the unheard voices of millions of people around the world and also for the countless voiceless animals.”
The President of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Jose Ramos Horta, also launched a foundation in her name called the “Licypriya Foundation” on Saturday.