Ramos-Horta: Help, yes, but not mediate

www.inquirer.net, 15 January 2009


Veronica Uy

MANILA, Philippines—Nobel Peace Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta said he could “help in many ways” in resolving the decades-old secessionist conflict in Mindanao even as he admitted he could not mediate.

"As human beings, each of use that you ask is interested to help...but I am very ignorant of the complexity of the problem (in Mindanao),” he told Thursday's Bridges forum entitled, "Is long lasting peace an attainable dream?"

But he said he was ready to listen. “I can help in many ways but not necessarily mediate."

Earlier reports said the president of Timor Leste expressed willingness to mediate in the stalled Mindanao peace process if both the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front asked him to.

In jest the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner announced before the audience in the Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium in De La Salle University: "I am happy to mediate between Ateneo and La Salle."

On conflicts across the globe, Ramos-Horta said he has become more skeptical to the possibility of peace.

"But who knows? Maybe in 50 years, in 100 years, in 1,000 years? But a review and a revisit of the history of the world, especially just after World War II, only an extraordinarily optimistic person will say that peace can be achieved throughout the world," he said.

Ramos-Horta said the continued conflict in various parts of the world -- in Gaza, Somalia, Sudan, and Burma/Myanmar -- is "an indictment of all of us." He admitted that the resolution of political conflicts is easier than those of the psychological and cultural kind.

"Political negotiation for peace is possible, but healing wounds of the heart and soul is a much more complex process...We can resolve political disputes, but deep divisions in the heart, these will take time," he said.

"Do not disregard what goes on in the mind and psyche of the people in conflict, especially those who have experienced years of abuse and humiliation, and traumatized by violence. We should treat them with appropriate understanding," he added.

The solution, he said, lies not in the use of force, but in ensuring that people's basic human rights are respected.

"No amount of force can solve the basic problem of daily survival," he said.

Ramos-Horta also said some "simple-minded journalists" contribute to the non-resolution of conflicts by not accurately reporting the facts.

"Each of us must take responsibility to create the conditions for peace... by putting the building blocks of peace block by block," he said.