JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: HIS LIFE, NOBEL PRIZE AND NEAR ASSASSINATION

JOSE RAMOS-HORTA

Jose Ramos-Horta was regarded as the foreign-minister-in-exile of East Timor during the Suharto years and the foreign minister for real after East Timor became independent in 2002. In 1996 he was awarded the Noel Peace Prize in 1996 along with Bishop Belo. He was appointed prime minister of East Timor in 2006 and was elected president in elections in 2007. In 2008 he survived an assassination attempt.

Associated Press reported: “Ramos Horta kicked off his long, political career when he was just 27, joining a short-lived East Timorese government as external affairs minister after the half-island gained independence from Portugal. Days later – on Dec. 7, 1975 – Indonesian troops invaded. Ramos Horta fled to New York, where he became the resistance movement's permanent representative to the United Nations, lobbying governments for the next two decades to endorse independence for his tiny nation. He and his fellow countryman, Bishop Carlos Belo, were rewarded for their efforts in 1996 with a Nobel Peace Prize. Three years later, his people voted in a U.N.-managed referendum for independence, triggering a rampage by Indonesian soldiers and proxy militias who killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed much of the infrastructure. After a brief period under U.N. administration, a new nation was born. Ramos Horta served first as foreign minister. He then shepherded East Timor through turbulent and often violent times as prime minister, and in 2007 he became president. [Source: Associated Press, March 19, 2012]

Conan Elphicke of ATC 80 wrote: Ramos-Horta is by nature a jovial and hospitable man, given to suavity and bow-ties, and his answers are characteristically measured and thoughtful. He has given up his life and privacy and sometimes even his safety to do the work he does, but what makes him all the more interesting is that he openly admits he resents it. Horta appears distinct from someone like Xanana Gusmao, who seems to be much more the archetypal national hero-a Mandela figure. Ramos-Horta has always been more low key, less of a personality; his job has not been to lead and inspire but to advocate, represent and campaign. He is a much more "ordinary" man, but one who is characterized by dogged determination, a keen mind, stoicism and a seemingly limitless capacity for self-sacrifice. [Source: Conan Elphicke, ATC 80, solidarity-us.org, May-June 1999]

Joel Rubin wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “ At times, it seems Jose Ramos-Horta thinks he can solve East Timor's problems one person at a time. Winding his way through the inhospitable mountains of his troubled nation recently, the new prime minister ordered his driver to stop. A frail, elderly man approached, bowing deeply. He asked for nothing, but Ramos-Horta pressed $10 into his bony hand. He turned to a group of women, and bought three heavy sacks of beans from them -- $60 worth. An hour farther down the washed-out road, Ramos-Horta gave the beans to a mother sitting in a thatched hut with her children and blind father. "It's incredible," the 56-year-old said in a deep baritone shot through with a strong Portuguese accent. "Look at these people, they are so poor and yet they ask so little. And even that little, we are not giving them." [Source: Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2006 |::|]

“But the man is also tired. He wishes East Timor didn't need him again. Twenty-four years in exile spent roaming the world's corridors of power trying to win freedom for his tiny nation have left him weary. What he wants now, he says, is to sleep late and pass lazy days at the beach. "I am scared by their trust. I know my weaknesses," said Ramos-Horta, who has never been accused of having a small ego. "They think I am a genius, they think I am a prophet, when I am really a sinful character. But somehow, because of the way I am, they trust me.... I feel the weight of the country on my shoulders, and how can I now say no to the common people?" |::|

See Separate Article JOSE RAMOS-HORTA AS PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER OF EAST TIMOR

Jose Ramos-Horta Is Appointed New Premier of East Timor

In July 2006, Nobel peace laureate José Ramos-Horta was named prime minister in a move designed to bring stability to East Timor after months of unrest. Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times, “President Xanana Gusmão selected Mr. Ramos-Horta to lead a new government after Mari Alkatiri was forced to resign as prime minister amid allegations that he had helped to organize and arm a civilian militia. Mr. Gusmão said he hoped Mr. Ramos-Horta, a close friend of his who enjoys popular support at home and is respected abroad, would "bring about the process of healing." In Dili, residents said they were relieved. "I guarantee Horta is the best we have," said Oldegar Massinga, who works for a United Nations agency, in a telephone interview. "Now he has to send the refugees back home and put a police post in every place in Dili." [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, July 9, 2006 |*|]

“The violence in the capital, Dili, spun out of control in May 2006 after 600 soldiers were dismissed from East Timor's army of 1,400. Battles between members of the army and the police spread into general gang warfare and looting, bringing the government to a standstill. The recent violence came after the United Nations and the World Bank had praised East Timor as a model example of a new nation. Several billion dollars in international aid was spent to help East Timor build its own army, police force and judicial system, and on the United Nations peacekeeping force that came to East Timor after a vote in favor of independence in 1999. |*|

“Mr. Ramos-Horta, 56, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 with the Roman Catholic bishop of Dili, Carlos Ximenes Belo. They were cited for their courage in resisting and campaigning against occupation by Indonesia, which invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975. While the bishop stayed in East Timor, Mr. Ramos-Horta traveled the world after the invasion, trying to raise awareness about the plight of his people. |*|

“Mr. Ramos-Horta has been critical of Mr. Alkatiri, the ousted prime minister, saying that he was almost certainly involved in arming a civilian militia. He also criticized the former prime minister's failure to organize public-works programs for the large numbers of unemployed young men in East Timor. While East Timor has one of the world's lowest per capita incomes, it possesses large oil deposits and has recently accrued more than $600 million in oil revenue that remains virtually untouched. Mr. Ramos-Horta said in a recent interview that it was imperative for a new government to provide employment programs.” |*|

Life of Jose Ramos-Horta

Ramos-Horta was born in a remote past of East Timor to a Portuguese father and East Timorese mother. He was exiled to Mozambique by Portuguese colonial authorities. He returned briefly to East Timor in 1975 when it was invaded by Indonesian troops but was forced to leave. After that he worked for the United Nations for 13 years. Ramos-Horta married divorced a woman from Mozambique and moved to Australia in 1989. As an exile he worked tirelessly to let the world know about the terrible injustice committed in East Timor.

Conan Elphicke of ATC 80 wrote: “Ramos-Horta grew up under the Portuguese, He was born on 26 December 1949, the son of a local woman and a Portuguese naval gunner exiled to the colony in 1937 for his part in a failed attempt to seize two frigates with which to fight the fascists in Spain. Jose received his basic education at a remote Catholic mission where he excelled and so became one of the few East Timorese to be sent to the high school in the capital Dili. Upon graduation, Ramos-Horta found work as a journalist, spending his spare time reading widely and brooding over the possibility of independence. [Source: Conan Elphicke, ATC 80, solidarity-us.org, May-June 1999 ^/^]

“While the Portuguese were indolent colonizers, the secret police nonetheless kept an effective check on dissent and so when an indiscreet remark by Ramos-Horta found its way to the authorities he lost his job and was exiled to Mozambique (another Portuguese colony) for three years. When he returned to Timor in early 1974 Ramos-Horta found sufficient like-minded individuals to co-found the Social Democratic Association of Timor (ASDT) which the following year became the popular pro-independence party Fretilin."My ideological influence at the time was Swedish social democracy, Willy Brandt and so on. But as the days and weeks evolved there was tremendous pressure from the Timorese university students in Portugal, who were all Maoist.” ^/^

"By September 1974 we changed into Fretilin-Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor . . . And idiots like myself were totally pushed aside by the hard-liners. [If Indonesia hadn't invaded] I would not have lasted long . . . I was accused of being an agent of Australian imperialism (those were the actual words), an agent of the CIA ...But I had retained a lot of support from within Fretilin, from the military side. People knew me, and they liked me; they knew my work. It was only that that saved me [from expulsion]." ^/^

Ramos-Horta Leave East Timor Days Before the Indonesian Invasion

Months before the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975, Conan Elphicke of ATC 80 wrote: “Ramos-Horta was studying at the Australian National University in Canberra at the time of the civil war, returning to be made Fretilin's Minister for Communications and External Affairs. As a result, he became the main contact point for foreign journalists including an Australian film crew, whom he drove to the town of Balibo to film Indonesian border incursions. Ramos-Horta left the town just hours before the Balibo Five were captured and executed by the Indonesian military.[Source: Conan Elphicke, ATC 80, solidarity-us.org, May-June 1999 ^/^]

“On 4 December, three days before the invasion, Ramos-Horta was selected by Fretilin's central committee as one of the few who should leave Timor and bring the country's plight to the attention of the world. "God, I tell you frankly, [I was] heavy hearted. Because all my family stayed behind-mother, brothers, sisters-stayed behind. I felt that I was fleeing . . . [However] my contribution, if I had stayed behind, would not have been within the armed resistance but would be to send information out of the country. ^/^

"That was my job; that was what I would do. Other than that I would be of no use whatsoever. And as time shows I was far more useful leaving than staying behind. If I had stayed behind we would have been essentially cut off completely." At the airport, one of his sisters rushed up and handed him a letter to their aunt in Lisbon. Says Ramos-Horta in his book Funu (War), "Fear was in her eyes; she knew the Indonesians were coming any day. In the letter, she expressed her hope that `Jose will get the United Nations to help us. He is going to talk to big powers. This is our only hope.'"^/^

“The day he arrived in New York, the invasion began. The Indonesians showed extraordinary callousness, killing thousands of civilians on the first day alone. Within hours, hundreds of Dili residents were lined up on the jetty and shot one at a time, their bodies dumped into the surf. In his novel Redundancy of Courage, Timothy Mo points out, however: "I think in the light of [Ramos-Horta's] later career as [Fretilin] torch-bearer and thorn in the [Indonesian] side where it mattered-abroad-they'd have traded each and every life they took on the water-front for his alone." ^/^

Ramos-Horta During the Indonesian Occupation of East Timor

Four of Ramos-Horta's nine brothers and sisters were among the 200,000 people who Amnesty International estimates were killed or died prematurely during the occupation. Ramos-Horta spent the period overseas, mostly in New York, Lisbon and Sydney, according to the Los Angeles Times, bouncing from Washington to New York to Geneva, lobbying world leaders to apply pressure on Indonesia. Joel Rubin wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “He is fond of telling stories from the old days: how he stumbled and slipped as he walked in snow for the first time on his way to address the U.N. General Assembly in New York; the day in 1993 when he sneaked into the bathrooms at the World Congress on Human Rights in Vienna to plaster the stalls with stickers reading, "Free Xanana, Boycott Bali"; and how he refused to buy more than one fork and plate when he rented an apartment in New York. "I wanted the illusion that I was in transit," he recalled. "I wanted to think that I would return home soon."[Source: Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2006]

Conan Elphicke of ATC 80 wrote: “Ramos-Horta based himself in a cheap, cockroach-infested apartment in the Bronx. At 25 he was probably the youngest foreign minister in the world, and the most cash-strapped. For the next ten years he would plod down to the UN in a persistent attempt to keep the issue of East Timor from vanishing into oblivion. [Source: Conan Elphicke, ATC 80, solidarity-us.org, May-June 1999 ^/^]

"It involved meeting with as many diplomatic missions as I could, from different regions of the world, particularly Africans and Latin Americans. The primary task is to show yourself, to be visible. By being visible you remind them of the existence of East Timor. Secondly, to provide them with information. and information was very, very hard to come by...People were more sympathetic to me than to the cause itself, in a sense. Because by then they knew me and they liked me. They were prepared to put up with me, listen to me, but I don't think they believed much in the cause itself, in the sense that for them it was a lost cause. A lot of them would vote with the resolutions because of me, not because they believed in the issue." ^/^

“Ramos-Horta has been heavily involved in the passing of a dozen United Nations resolutions on East Timor. Indonesia has not heeded one of them. In 1985, he commented, "It may not mean much to win enough votes for a resolution, but it would be an enormous setback if we didn't." To get the resolutions passed Ramos-Horta had to face not only widespread indifference but forms of corruption that ranged from individual delegates selling their vote for a few hundred dollars to the systematic application of pressure by powerful nations on lesser ones. Many Western countries were very much in support of the invasion. Indonesia was a significant trading partner and America, for instance, didn't want East Timor to become "Communist" any more than Indonesia did. And where there's fighting there's a market for arms. ^/^

“Ninety per cent of the weapons and equipment that the Indonesians use are American, including the low flying jets that blew apart Ramos-Horta's sister before his mother's eyes, and broke the back of Falantil in the late `70s. The people of East Timor have always been wholly expendable. "The UN is not the problem," says Ramos-Horta. "The problem is the countries that make the UN ineffective . . . Australia was one of them. Australian diplomats at the UN were really so unkind, so pro-Indonesia, such apologists of Indonesia, I tell you Australians were the only diplomats who went out of their way, individually, to actively lobby against us." ^/^

In the mid-eighties Ramos-Horta began spending more time away from the UN, lobbying governments and NGOs directly and raising awareness in whatever way presented itself. In the early nineties, he formulated a three-phase peace plan that became the template for further UN negotiations with Indonesia.

Jose Ramos-Horta After Winning the Nobel Prize

In 1996 Ramos-Horta was awarded the Noel Peace Prize in 1996 along with Bishop Belo. In its official announcement, the Nobel Committee expressed a desire to "honor their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people." After the announcement of the award, the Indonesian foreign minister said he was "astounded" and called Ramos-Horta a "political adventurist." The prize was worth $1.2 million.

Conan Elphicke of ATC 80 wrote: Ramos-Horta describes the Nobel Prize as "a blessing from God" and was quick to take advantage of the abundant diplomatic opportunities that came with it. The Prize of course opens important doors and since the award his capacity to raise awareness and apply pressure has dramatically improved.” In the 1990s “Ramos-Horta based himself in Lisbon and Sydney (despite being banned throughout the incumbency of the conservative Australian government of Malcolm Fraser). He works extraordinary hours and, though he hates to do so, travels constantly. "Yes, sometimes I feel like quitting, getting married, making lots of money, going to the Bahamas or Noosa Heads," he chuckles. "I want to be a private citizen...a writer. I want to write novels, not too serious books that only a few people would buy." [Source: Conan Elphicke, ATC 80, solidarity-us.org, May-June 1999 ^/^]

As East Timor independence approached, Horta said, "I hope it will be free, democratic, tolerant. Free of corruption . . . It will not be easy because Indonesia does not only kill people there, it has introduced a culture of corruption, of violence, of cheating . . . It's a nightmare. It's going to be a monumental task to heal the wounds....We have to do a lot of work to avoid violence. People are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry with the lack of progress in the talks, with the continued violence. Indonesia is arming [the civilian militias], as the South Africans did during the Apartheid regime, to sow violence, to justify their presence there. So it is quite a challenge just to avoid open warfare ...I have been sending messages to Timor saying `no violence, no violence.' I don't want to see one Indonesian or one collaborator harmed. [Civil war] will take place only if Indonesia foments it, which they are likely to do. But if they don't do it, I don't see why there would be civil war. An overwhelming majority of the people will vote for independence."

Ramos-Horta Shot in the Stomach During a 2008 Assassination Attempt

In February 2008, President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot in the stomach by renegade soldiers in an attack on his Dili residence. Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed in the attack. In April 2008, Gastao Salsinha, new leader of the rebel group that tried to assassinate the president, surrenders together with 12 of his men.

After the attack Jill Jolliffe wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, “East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta has had emergency surgery at an Australian military base in the capital, Dili, after being shot twice during an attack on his home by rebels, a presidential adviser said today. Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was shot and killed in the attack, said Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres and an army spokesman. The home of Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao was also shot at early today, a witness said, suggesting this was a half-baked coup attempt. [Source: Jill Jolliffe, Sydney Morning Herald, February 11, 2008 ><]

“The attack on Ramos-Horta was led by rebel troop leader Alfredo Reinado, who was shot and killed by presidential guards during the violence. “East Timor's Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa said Mr Ramos-Horta was stable after emergency surgery to "locate bullets". "One had hit him in the back and passed through to the stomach,'' he said. Mr Ramos-Horta's adviser, James Dunn, told ABC Radio: "My understanding is that he was shot twice in the stomach by Reinado's men, and then of course Horta's army of Timorese military guards returned the fire and according to some reports Reinado was killed.'' ><

The attack coincided with a rebel attack on the Dili home of East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unscathed. The attack was followed at 7.45am by gunfire against Mr Gusmao's home, neighbour Leandro Isa'ac said by telephone from Dili. Mr Gusmao and his Australian wife Kirsty Sword-Gusmao live at Balibar, in foothills south of Dili. "I heard the gunfire and alerted army commander Taur Matan Ruak, who also lives near here," Mr Isa'ac said. Mr Gusmao later told journalists the situation in East Timor was "under control'' after the assassinations attempts. ><

"President Ramos-Horta was shot in the stomach and is undergoing surgery at the heliport," Agusto Junior, a presidential adviser, told reporters earlier. East Timor's Deputy Prime Minister Jose Louis Guterres said: "He will survive, and this country will survive." He said two carloads of people went to the President's house at Areia Branca, two kilometres outside Dili about 6am and "assaulted him, but after rapid reaction by security, his attackers fled". Mr Ramos-Horta's next door neighbour, Luis Vieira, said he was woken at 6.50am (Timor time) by a 20-minute gun battle coming from the President's residence. ><

Ramos-Horta was airlifted to the Royal Darwin Hospital hours after the assassination attempt and stayed there until March 3, when he was moved to the nearby Darwin Private Hospital. The East Timorese government has imposed a curfew in Dili since the attack. On that same day, rebels ambushed a convoy carrying East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, but he escaped unharmed. [Source: AFP, Associated Press]

A state of emergency imposed following the attack on Ramos-Horta was lifted in late April 2008, although the state of alert was extended for another month in Ermera. Australia sent 200 troops to East Timor following the assassination attempt and withdrew them in April 2008. But more than 2,500 foreign troops and police remained in the country to help local security forces maintain stability.

Ramos-Horta Recalls the Attack, Thanks His Doctors and Blames the U.N.

In March 2008, AFP reported: “Emerging after five weeks in hospital in the northern Australian city of Darwin, Ramos-Horta offered an emotional thank-you to the medical staff who helped him survive the Feb. 11 attack. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was by turns sombre and jocular as he spoke to staff at the Royal Darwin Hospital, telling them: "I thank you for all your kindness." Looking drawn after weeks of treatment which included six operations and 10 days in a medically induced coma, Ramos-Horta rejected the offer of a wheelchair and walked gingerly to his meeting with about 25 doctors and nurses in the hospital's intensive care unit. [Source: AFP , March 30, 2008 <^> ]

“The 58-year-old said details of the morning he was attacked outside his home in Dili were seared into his memory. "I remember every detail from the moment I was shot -- I remember everything," he said. "The ambulance ... a very old battered ambulance. No paramedic. A Portuguese special police unit, GNR ... luckily it had a paramedic who jumped in the ambulance and gave me the first assistance. On the way to the heliport I fell off the chair a few times because there were no belts," Ramos-Horta said. "I remember even though I was bleeding I was holding on tight and I was telling the driver `Go slow!'" he said. "But maybe he was wise because it was only a matter of minutes for me to arrive there. And then I arrived here in your hands -- I thank all of you." <^>

“Ramos-Horta then fought back tears and put his hands to his face, appearing unable to speak for about 20 seconds. The East Timorese leader also managed to joke with staff, telling one doctor that he initially mistook him for a rock star because of his long hair and handing out Timor coffee with a playful warning about its "strong Viagra content." Outside the hospital, he told reporters: "My message to my people is please forgo violence and hatred with weapons, machetes, with arson -- we only destroy each other and the country." <^>

A few days earlier Ramos-Horta accused the United Nations of squandering an opportunity to catch the band of gunmen who shot him"I would say that the Australian-led forces could have promptly surrounded the entire town, closing all the exits, using helicopters, sending immediately elements to my house to get the information on the ground—they would have captured them within hours," Ramos-Horta told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television. "Because for many hours after the attack on my house, they were still in the hills around my house," he added. [Source: Rod McGuirk, Associated Press, March 27, 2008 *=*]

“Ramos-Horta also recalled seeing his attacker before being shot. "I looked at his eyes—not friendly—and he was determined to fire, that's why I turned and ran and I was hit," he said. Ramos-Horta said help was slow to arrive as he bled in the street outside his compound, and said he was told United Nations police obstructed people trying to rescue him. "I was shouting for an ambulance," he said. "My security people in the meantime had arrived, and it took so long for an ambulance to arrive." When it did come, there was no paramedic, and a Portuguese medic jumped on board. *=*

Gun Battles and Warnings During the Ramos-Horta Assassination Attempt

Lindsay Murdoch wrote in The Age, “Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was shot dead at least 30 minutes before East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta was attacked outside his house, military sources say. It is becoming clear Mr Ramos Horta showed enormous courage by walking back to the house after being told by at least two people it was under attack. One of them, sources say, was his 17-year-old niece Lily, who called him on his mobile telephone while he was walking along the beach with two security guards. There is speculation Mr Ramos Horta returned to the house despite the obvious danger because he was worried about Lily's safety. Lily was in the house as Reinado and his men disarmed security guards at the gate and stormed inside. [Source: Lindsay Murdoch, The Age, February 13, 2008 <<<]

“But a second team of Mr Ramos Horta's guards arrived an hour before they usually relieved the night guards, and saw Reinado in the house. One of them shot him in the face in a 20-minute gun battle. The other person to tell Mr Ramos Horta about the attack was a foreign diplomat who did not want to be identified. He was jogging along the beach when he heard and saw the gun battle at the house. The diplomat told Mr Ramos Horta about the attack, and offered him a lift in his car. He declined the lift, saying it would be OK. <<<

“But Mr Ramos Horta, who had met Reinado several times and believed he could be convinced to surrender, returned to the house on the side of a hill above Dili harbour. Reinado's men opened fire on him as he approached after walking up a steep incline from the beach, military sources say. One of Mr Ramos Horta's guards pushed in front of him as a human shield. He was shot and is in a serious condition. <<<

“Sources say that as Reinado's men fled in a vehicle Mr Ramos Horta staggered inside, bleeding profusely. But he made at least two telephone calls, one to the chief of East Timor's army, Brigadier-General Taur Matan Ruak. "I need your help," he told the general. The UN yesterday denied reports that Mr Ramos Horta lay bleeding for 30 minutes or even longer. Allison Cooper, the UN's spokeswoman in Dili, said two UN police units were sent to the house within a minute of receiving a call at 6.59am. The units arrived at the house at 7.18am, Ms Cooper said. Police took another three minutes to find Mr Ramos Horta, and two minutes later he was in an ambulance on his way to hospital.” <<<

Reinado and the East-West Tensions That Triggered the Military Mutinee

Ahmad Pathoni of Reuters wrote: The violence was triggered by the dismissal of 600 soldiers who complained that they had been discriminated against because they were from the western part of the country. The soldiers' sacking by the previous government prompted protests that degenerated into ethnic violence and fighting between factions in the security forces. Ethnic divisions and conflict in the security forces are in the spotlight again following the attack on President Jose Ramos-Horta by army renegade Alfredo Reinado and some of the sacked soldiers who joined his revolt against the government. [Source: Ahmad Pathoni of Reuters, February 19, 2008 ==]

“Reinado became a powerful symbol of East Timor's east-west divide after he deserted to join the sacked soldiers and launched an armed revolt against the government. Many in the west of the country saw him as a hero defending their rights and some politicians in the governing coalition also supported him. He escaped from jail in Dili in August 2006 and evaded a military operation by Australian troops to capture him in his jungle hideout, where he enjoyed protection from local people. ==

“The conflict in the predominantly Catholic nation is more complex than a divide between the east and west of the country, said Sophia Cason, an East Timor analyst for the International Crisis Group thinktank. "Within the east there are so many divisions between groups there. It's not like a cohesive east and a cohesive west," she said. She stressed the need for reform in security forces and for accountability for past crimes, saying that nobody had gone to jail for murders committed in 2006. "None of these has been dealt with effectively, so hopefully the recent incidents will renew focus on those issues," she said, adding that the government should also address poverty, improve education and create investment opportunities. ==

“Refugees in the Dili camp, who are from the east, said the death of Reinado did not mean the threat against them was over. "He may be dead but there are still others. As long as they are still around, we won't sleep well," said one man, who gave his name as Mariano. His friends nodded in agreement. Jose Luis de Oliveira, director of East Timor's leading human rights group Yayasan HAK, alleged that some opposition politicians were trying to sabotage efforts to resolve the refugee problems to maintain a situation of crisis even after the death of Reinado in the attack on the president's home last week. "People say once the Alfredo (Reinado) question is resolved, the refugee problem will be over, but as long as these politicians have not achieved their goals, they will continue to perpetuate the problem," he said, noting that flags of the opposition party, Fretilin, can be seen in most camps.” ==

Ramos-Horta Forgives Rebel Leader as His Attackers Are Arrested

A month after the attack, Ramos-Horta said forgave rebel leader Alfredo Reinado for staging a near-fatal attack on him. The Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Dr. Ramos-Horta has called on the East Timorese government to support the rebel leader's grieving family. Interim president Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo visited Dr Ramos-Horta at Royal Darwin Hospital. "The president also said that he forgives the deceased Alfredo Reinado Alves and asked the government to support Alfredo's family," Mr de Araujo said in a statement. [Source: Sydney Morning Herald, March 3, 2008]

In mid April 2008, Reuters reported: “Indonesia's president said that police have arrested three East Timorese in relation to attacks on East Timor's president and prime minister two months ago. Rebel soldiers in East Timor were blamed for the attacks, but Ramos Horta, said the investigation into the attacks found that the rebels had had contact with elements in Indonesia. Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia's police arrested three East Timorese soldiers, Egidio Lay Carvalho, Jose Gomes and Ismail Moniz Soares, who had entered Indonesia illegally. Yudhoyono added that East Timor should stop hinting that Indonesia was involved in the attacks as this could hurt relations between the two countries. "I also asked the government of Timor Leste to not issue statements which may seem like Indonesia is involved (in the attacks), because it can disrupt the good relationship," Yudhoyono said. [Source: Reuters, April 19, 2008]

Ten days later, the leader of a group that attacked Ramos-Horta surrendered with some of men. Tito Belo of Reuters wrote: “Gastao Salsinha and 12 of his men surrendered to Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres in a closed-door meeting at the government palace in the capital Dili, witnessed by other officials including Ramos-Horta. "As an individual I have no hatred against the one who shot me, I forgive him, but as the head of state he has to face court to explain it," added Ramos-Horta, who has previously singled out one of the fugitive rebels as being his shooter. "The people want to know who gave them the support of uniforms, weapons and bullets," added Ramos-Horta, who upset Jakarta by suggesting that elements from neighbouring Indonesia were behind the plot. During the surrender, the rebels handed over guns and other military equipment, including camouflage uniforms and grenades. [Source: Tito Belo, Reuters, April 29, 2008]

“Salsinha, who took command of the rebels after their leader, Alfredo Reinado, was killed in the February 11 attack, had been negotiating with authorities from a house in Ermera district, 75 km (47 miles) west of the capital. Salsinha told reporters that he and his men had "surrendered to justice not to the government". East Timor had issued arrest warrants for Salsinha, a former army lieutenant, and 22 others over the attacks. An army major said that two rebels remained in hiding.

March 2010, a court convicted Salsinha and other rebels over the 2008 assassination attempt, jailing them for up to 16 years. President Ramos-Horta later pardons them or commutes their sentences.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Northern Illinois University, Department of Anthropology and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, May 2005 Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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