Timor president points EDSA I as lesson of peace

www.cbcpnews.com, 16 January 2009


Timor president points EDSA I as lesson of peace

MANILA, January 16, 2009—Nobel Peace Laureate and Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta paid tribute to Filipinos for the inspiration they got from the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Speaking to a crowd of educators, students and civil society leaders in a forum sponsored by the International Peace Foundation, Professor Ramos-Horta said he met then Philippine opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. in the United States and was impressed of his warmth.

“I did not volunteer to mediate, as a Christian and as a human being, if I am asked I will find I a way to help but I am very ignorant of the complexities of the problems in Mindanao and all I can do is read and listen… not necessarily being a mediator,” the East Timor chief executive said.

If one’s to listen to the Dalai Lama, peace is an attainable dream. I am more realistic. As we revisit the world history, just after World War II, one has to be extraordinarily optimistic for one to believe peace can be attained.

“We had the most vicious conflict from Vietnam to Laos to Cambodia all in the name of an ideology as others from another continent came and found it was their noble mission to prevent the spread of Communism and dropped bombs more than those dropped in World War II,” he said. After sometime, he said the Khmer Rouge took over and more died all in the name of “ideology.”

He said World War II began in civilized Europe and East Timor did not escape World War II.

“We were occupied by Portugal for a long time and in the intermission, we were occupied by Japan for four years and then Indonesia came in,” the Nobel Peace laureate said.

He explained the conflict in the Balkans happened and saw the partition of what was the former Yugoslavia.

“Of course, there were extraordinary events with the introduction of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (60 years ago) where there was a debate in Asia whether Human Rights was application to everyone,” the academic-turned-chief executive said.

“It only illustrates the complexity of problems being faced by the world today, most recently Gaza, Somalia, Sudan, Burma/Myanmar, it is possible for peace to reign in specific countries. If peace could not be attained, it is an indictment of all of us.

“Reason prevailed in Indonesia with the change of leadership there, change that were brought about by both the people of Indonesia and Timor Leste. We did not march to Dili with weapons,” he added.

He said it is important for leaders to have “compassion more than brains because with more PhDs in our midst could lead us to catastrophe.”

He said whenever someone would show up in East Timor with a PhD and five to ten years experience at Wall Street, “I tell him to leave the country.”

“Another requirement for leadership is humility because when we don’t have good sentiments to listen, to understand the other side and when I talk to them individually, there are no differences but when you try to get them to work together pride and recollections of what happened in the past come into the picture,”

One has to have greater patience.

He thanked President GMA who in the last years presided over strengthening the relationship between our two countries.

“In 2002-2003, I argued that we consider the Philippines a major country for our students because of so many similarities and the quality of education. Today, we invest seriously in education, receiving at least 100 students in the fields of Science and Technology,” Mr. Ramos-Horta said.

“I don’t know how many are in La Salle I think most of them are at Ateneo,” he said eliciting laughter from the audience. He said they are being charged minimally.

Australia is one of the richest countries in the world and “gave us ten scholars.” He said he argued with then Prime Minister John Howard but today they have 30 scholars in vocational schools.

He said the richest country in the world, America gave them six scholarships.

“Cuba, one of the poorest in the world offered 800 scholars studying Medicine in Cuba with 98% of the tuition fees shouldered by the host country,” he added. He said they only provide $ 50 a month pocket money.

There are 300 Cuban doctors in East Timor and some 150 medical students studying under the Cubans.

Mr. Ramos-Horta said they now have a surplus of $ 4 billion from oil last year. (Melo M. Acuna)