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By Sandra Sokial

KOTA KINABALU, April 2

For Timor Leste Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, it is not a question whether the country will become a full-fledged member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), but rather when it will happen.

Expressing confidence in Timor Leste joining Asean in the future, he said being a member would offer them the ticket to further progress and develop like other Asean countries.

“We are aware of our limitations and of the challenges imposed on us to become an asset to Asean.

“However, being the youngest and poorest country in the region, Timor-Leste sees membership in Asean as a way to multiply opportunities for its own development.

“Ultimately, this will benefit both the member countries and the community as a whole,” he said in his address when accepting his conferment of the Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations by the Sabah head of state-cum-Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) chancellor Tun Juhar Mahiruddin today.

Timor-Leste submitted its formal membership request to join Asean on March 4, 2011, the year when Indonesia took on the chair of Asean and it was accepted at the 19th summit of the organisation.

Earlier, Gusmao received a courtesy call from Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the Magellan Sutera Harbour and Spa prior to the event at the university.

He later witnessed the signing of memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Timor-Leste and Malaysia to create core experts in the field of oil and gas.

The signing between the republic’s Education Ministry and Malaysia’s UMS will allow 30 Timor-Leste students to study in the oil and gas field.

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