06 September 2009

East Timor leader rejects criticism

BBC Page last updated at 08:13 GMT, Saturday, 29 August 2009 09:13 UK E Timor leader rejects criticism - The president says the real failure is the pervasive poverty in East Timor

The president of East Timor has dismissed a report by Amnesty International that the government had failed to deliver justice to citizens.

This weekend, East Timor marks the 10th anniversary of a vote in favour of independence from Indonesia.

In the run-up to the vote, pro-Indonesian militia went on the rampage. Hundreds of people were killed.

President Jose Ramos-Horta dismissed the criticisms but said his government had failed to deliver prosperity.

Call for tribunal

East Timor, Indonesia and the UN had let down the people of East Timor, said Amnesty International.

Little has been done to punish the perpetrators of violence 10 years ago, it said.

Amnesty called for the United Nations Security Council to set up an international criminal tribunal that should have the power to mete out sentences to perpetrators.

Hundreds of people were killed and injured in violence around the poll

But East Timor's president, who won an election in 2007, dismissed the report.

"I know what suffering is," Jose Ramos-Horta said.

"I don't need lectures from experts in human rights sitting on the 38th floor of the UN building in New York. The greatest act of justice is that we are free," President Ramos-Horta told the BBC.

"If we are going to indict Indonesians why should we not indict US officials who for 24 years supplied weapons to the Indonesian regime," he said.

East Timor remains one of the poorest countries in Asia, in spite of the fact that it has huge oil and gas reserves, says the BBC's Karishma Vaswani. The majority of the people live on less than a dollar a day.

This, President Ramos-Horta said, is the real failure of the past 10 years.

"Where we have failed and when I say we, I mean East Timorese leaders but also the international community, is that 10 years after [the] referendum and eight years after independence, there is widespread poverty even though the international community says it has spent billions of dollars on East Timor. I don't see it," he said.

"Maybe they have spent it on themselves but they haven't spent it on the country."
Image added by ETLJB: Portrait of East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta

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