The diplomatic ties between Timor-Leste and the United States received a boost with the recent announcement by the Timor-Leste Embassy in Washington DC of Judge Phillip Rapoza’s appointment as the nation’s inaugural Honorary Consul for the New England region.
Judge Rapoza’s credentials were officially accepted by the U.S. Department of State, solidifying his appointment. Since gaining independence in 2002, Timor-Leste has actively pursued closer diplomatic, social, cultural, educational, and economic ties with the U.S., and this appointment represents a significant step forward in that endeavor.
Judge Rapoza didn’t just reside in Timor-Leste for two years; he actively served as an international judge on critical UN-backed tribunals tackling serious crimes. His dedication didn’t wane after his stay. He consistently championed Timor-Leste’s justice system, making frequent visits to advocate for the rule of law.
Recognizing Rapoza’s dedication, Prime Minister Gusmão nominated him as Honorary Consul. The Prime Minister highlighted Rapoza’s passion, professionalism, and qualifications as ideal assets for representing Timor-Leste in New England. He specifically commended Rapoza’s integrity and untiring commitment to the well-being of the Timorese people.
Rapoza, a retired Portuguese-American Jurist, brings a wealth of legal expertise to his new role. As the former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court until his 2015 retirement, he boasts over two decades of distinguished legal experience.
Born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Rapoza’s academic background shines with degrees from Yale and Cornell. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Yale College and a Doctor of Law degree from Cornell Law School. His early career saw him serving as an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk and Bristol County District before transitioning to criminal defense law in Fall River and New Bedford.
In 1992, Rapoza was appointed as a judge to the Fall River District Court, where he served for four years before being elevated to the Superior Court. His judicial career continued to flourish with his 1998 appointment to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, culminating in his 2006 role as Chief Justice. He retired from the judiciary in 2015, leaving behind a legacy of esteemed service.
Judge Rapoza regards Timor-Leste as a second home and approaches his new role as Honorary Consul with great responsibility. He commits to actively fostering social, cultural, educational, and economic relations with the United States through collaboration with various entities. Highlighting Timor-Leste as a model of stability and democratic governance, Rapoza sees his appointment as a crucial step in strengthening ties between the two nations, emphasizing its value as a significant public service.
The Embassy under the leadership of Charge D’Affaires, Mr. Antonito de Araujo emphatically stated in a press release that the “appointment of Judge Rapoza as Honorary Consul in the United States is a significant step to strengthen ties between Timor-Leste and the United States and constitutes a valuable public service to both nations”.