www.bernama.com, 11 January 2009
By D. Arul Rajoo
BANGKOK, Jan 11 (Bernama) -- "Stop fighting violence with violence and engage Mahatma Gandhi's civil disobedience-style. You can paralyse the entire economy of Israel, and even get sympathy among Israeli people and millions around the world."
Timor Leste president and independence fighter Jose Ramos-Horta made this impassioned plea to the Palestinian people.
The 1996 Nobel Laureate for Peace said that after more than 50 years, Palestinians were still fighting for their own country because there was no calibre and peace-advocate freedom fighters like India's Gandhi or South Africa's Nelson Mandela emerging among them.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondent Club here as part of the International Peace Foundation's 'Bridges' series, Ramos-Horta said Hamas could not aspire to lead the state and the same time, continue with its basic instint of fighting violence with violence against a powerful enemy like Israel.
"If we in Timor Leste had engaged in discriminative violence against any seen enemy, including the Indonesian civil servants and the ordinary people, we wouldn't be free today,' said the former foreign minister, former prime minister and currently, president of the youngest independent country in the world.
Ramos-Horta, who founded the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor and served as the exiled spokesman for the East Timorese resistance to the Indonesian Government from 1975-1999, also cited experiences in several African countries which fought for independence or the Afro-Americans who did not engage in extremism in recent years to fight for their cause.
On the ongoing Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip that has so far, killed more than 800 civilians, he said, while it served Israel's interest to use force against Hamas, he did not agree with labelling Hamas as a terrorist group as they had mass support and even won the election sanctioned by the United Nations and the United States.
On Myanmar, Ramos-Horta said he was against sanction against the country and reiterated that any solution should take into account the status of the powerful military.
"A road map should have clear calendar and several steps towards the final outcome. But the privilege for military must remain as in Indonesia and Thailand...no elected government can survive without the backing of the military," he added.
Ramos-Horta, who survived an assasination attempt in February last year, also spoke about the progress made by his country, saying that it was having a 10 per cent growth but the oil revenue was expected to fall this year.
"We have programmes for the poor, where more than 70,000 handicapped, pensioners and widows are receiving US$20 a month, as well as government programmes of buying crops which generate local economy while peace and stability has returned," he said.
Among the challenges faced are human smuggling where foreigners from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka are using the country as a transit point to go to Australia and New Zealand, while illegal fishing abounded in its territory.