08 January 2009

East Timor President comes to Davao City to talk peace

East Timor President comes to Davao City to talk peace MindaNews Thursday, 08 January 2009 01:19 - DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 January) – “Is Lasting Peace an Attainable Dream?” will be the title of an open-to-general-public lecture that will feature Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Laureate for Peace, at the Ateneo de Davao University’s Finster Hall auditorium on January 14.

The Lecture-Visit is “part of a program to bring Nobel Laureates to the Philippines, coordinated by Bridges: Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace and International Peace Foundation based in Bangkok, Thailand,” a press statement from the Ateneo said.

José Ramos Horta studied Public International Law at the Hague Academy of International Law and at Antioch University where he completed a Master of Arts degree in Peace Studies. He was trained in Human Rights Law at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg and attended Post-Graduate courses in American Foreign Policy at Columbia University in New York. He is a Senior Associate Member of the University of Oxford's St Antony's College.

Also dubbed a “Patron of the International Peace Foundation,” Ramos-Horta was born in Dili, the capital of East Timor, to a Timorese mother and a Portuguese father who had been exiled to what was then Portuguese Timor by the Salazar dictatorship. He was educated in a Catholic mission in the small village of Soibada. Of his 11 brothers and sisters, four were allegedly killed during the struggle between Fretilin and Indonesian military.

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.

He arrived in New York to address the UN Security Council and urged them to take action in the face of the Indonesian military onslaught which would result in over 200,000 East Timorese deaths between 1976 and 1981.

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. The youngest UN diplomat in history and an international human rights figure, he is one of the three central figures in the country's struggle for independence.

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".

A portion of the funds received from the Nobel Prize were used to establish the José Ramos-Horta Microcredit Fund for the Poor, which is in full operation today, with a payback rate of 97%.

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.

Working closely with the UN and Sergio Vierra de Mello, the head of the UN Administration in East Timor until 2002, he helped bring about peaceful elections of the country's President and Parliament, who in turn drafted the country's constitution.

After serving seven years as the new country's Minister of Foreign Affairs, he stepped in the shoes of Prime Minister and immediately set about restoring calm to the country when turmoil and civil war threatened the new country.

Before his appointment as Prime Minister, Ramos-Horta was considered a possible candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as United Nations Secretary-General.

He dropped the bid to serve as East Timor's Prime Minister but has indicated that he might run for the UN position at some time in the future. In May 2007 Jose Ramos-Horta was elected President of Timor Leste.

The January 14 forum is open to the general public and admission is free.

For reserved seats, please contact Venus Rosello or Bong Eliab at (82) 221.2411 local 8201 or send an e-mail to pres@addu.edu.phThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ; or fax to (82) 226.4116 or send SMS to 0929-882-2444. (MindaNews)

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