Timor-Leste President: only filipinos can bring peace for RP

www.zhenmei.blogspot.com, 15 January 2009


By Debbie A. Uy
Published in The Mindanao Insider, Jan. 15, 2009, H
Timor-Leste President and 1996 Nobel Laureate for Peace Jose Ramos-Horta stressed the importance of dialogue, non-violence, and development in solving conflict and attaining peace in a talk in Davao City Wednesday (January 14).

Ramos-Horta was here on a lecture-visit coordinated by Bridges: Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace and the Bangkok-based International Peace Foundation as part of a program to bring Nobel Laureates to the Philippines. Ramos-Horta talked about “Is Lasting Peace an Attainable Dream?” to a packed Finster Hall auditorium at the Ateneo de Davao University.

“So many deep-rooted conflicts come out of prejudices, fear, and ignorance, and I wonder if peace is an attainable dream. Yes, it is in Timor-Leste, and we are realizing it,” said Ramos-Horta, who was elected President of the southeast Asian country in May 2007. Timor-Leste gained sovereignty from Indonesia in 2002 after 24 years of occupation where over 200,000 East Timorese died from Indonesian military onslaught between 1976 and 1981.

Ramos-Horta emphasized dialogue as an essential part to achieving peace. “If Filipinos all believe and have a vision in this great country of yours, (despite) a lot of betrayed dreams but still a lot of hopes, and believe that violence is futile, that it hasn’t led closer to a solution, then step back and talk,” he told the crowd of students, academe, government representatives, peace advocates, and media.

Ramos-Horta expressed willingness to help in the Mindanao peace process if invited by the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels. “If I am asked to help in resolving a dispute, in my conscience I cannot say no,” he said. “But the extent of my involvement, that is to be debated.”

At the same time, he said that no international mediator can bring peace for Filipinos.

“It is incumbent upon each of us that no outside intermediaries can find peace for Filipinos,” said Ramos-Horta. Others may provide advice, but only Filipinos themselves can achieve that peace.

“If leaders, state actors and non-state actors are not sincerely committed and have the interest that the country is at peace, if we are not committed to step back into humility, reflect on how (the situation) began, if we don’t do that, lasting peace will not be realized,” he said.

Various sectors of the community must be consulted through an integrated approach to address alienation and marginalization of groups, he said.


The Nobel Peace Laureate also said peace cannot be achieved through violence.

“In Timor-Leste, an Indonesian civilian was never deliberately touched by resistance… I would never want to be part of a so-called cause or ideology that uses violence. It’s self-defeating. Where are your morals? How can you promise your people a culture of peace through violent means?” Ramos-Horta said.

“If Timor-Leste had gone for extreme violence, we wouldn’t be free today. That is my message to anyone wanting peace. That through terrorism, kidnapping, you won’t go anywhere.”

Asked later on the stalled talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and their pre-condition to lay down arms, Ramos-Horta said, “I always prefer to use the expression, ‘Let’s talk without preconditions.’ The outcome might be disarmament or demilitarization. Let’s talk, and while we talk, no killings, no ambush.”

Development, self-determination

Ramos-Horta admitted that one must also be practical while talking peace.

“We cannot talk peace without tackling poverty, without government changing priorities,” he said.

He sees the problem in Mindanao not one of ideology or religion but “of equal opportunity, pride, dignity, inclusion, and more humane approach to win over those who feel left out.”

He also said, “Self-determination in UN charter and international law does not necessarily equate to independence or statehood. It means free choice in regard to a future status… Change the situation on the ground, the conditions that give rise to people’s anger, if you want to hold your country together.”

Praise for Filipinos

Ramos-Horta came to the Philippines to talk but said he was the one who had much to learn from the country.

He praised Filipinos, whom he described as “brilliant, resourceful, and creative.”

“It is this resilience, creativity, stubbornness, independence of mind that made the Filipinos the first country to free itself from dictatorship,” he said.

He thanked former president Cory Aquino and slain leader Ninoy Aquino for “inspiring us 20 years ago that change is possible.” To the audience, he said, “Don’t underestimate the hope you created in us that change is possible.”

Ramos-Horta said peace is not an abstract concept. To a rebel years ago who told him that he didn’t care about his wife and family but cared about the people, Ramos-Horta said: “Anyone who doesn’t care about his wife and immediate family doesn’t care about an abstract concept of people.”

Catholic country

Timor-Leste has a population of one million, less than that of Davao City, but with a land area six times the size. It was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century and is one of only two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia, aside from the Philippines.

Ramos-Horta was born in 1949 in Dili, the capital of East Timor, to a Timorese mother and a Portuguese father. A moderate in the emerging Timorese nationalist leadership, he was appointed Foreign Minister in the “Democratic Republic of East Timor” government proclaimed by the pro-independence parties in November 1975 at the age of 25. He left East Timor to plead the Timorese case before the United Nations, three days before the Indonesian troops invaded Timor.

In the 24-year occupation of East Timor, Ramos-Horta was the international voice of the Timorese people. In exile from his country from 1975 to 1999, he was the Permanent Representative to the United Nations for the Timorese independence movement.

In 1996 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Bishop Carlos Belo, the religious leader of East Timor, “to honour their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people”.

In 1999, under the umbrella of the United Nations, East Timor held a referendum allowing the Timorese to vote on independence. When the referendum results showed more than 85% favoring independence, Indonesia-backed militia were unleashed across the country. They killed thousands in the streets, displaced hundreds of thousands and burned 85% of the buildings in the country.

After the entry of a UN peacekeeping force, he returned to his homeland to help rebuild the country, serving as Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, and now President.

Posted by Debbie Uy at 7:28 PM