East Timor president seeks agricultural, security support

"There is no short cut to peace," Ramos-Horta tells Peres, who comments that Horta represents highest order of morality.

east timor 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
east timor 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
He had been wanting to come to Israel for a long time, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor and a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, told President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi on Monday.
The two men previously met at the United Nations just before East Timor gained independence in 2002.
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Ramos-Horta, 61, and his entourage flew from East Timor to Singapore and from there to Bangkok to catch a flight to Israel.
Ramos-Horta said that he had first become aware of Israel and the Jewish people as a teenager in the 1960s when he read Exodus.
After that, he read many books about the history and fight for survival of the Jewish people, and of the persecution, discrimination and abuse to which Jews had been subjected.
To him, Peres represents “the best of the Jewish people.”
Ramos-Horta lauded Peres’ compassion and his permanent quest for peace.
He said he had come to Israel to seek support for agricultural self-sufficiency, food security and maritime security.
Fortunately, East Timor does not suffer conventional security threats, he said, “but we have to be prepared for piracy on the high seas.”
While keen to enhance relations with Israel, he admitted that the fruits of friendship would be a one-way street because there is very little that East Timor can do that will benefit Israel.
This didn’t seem to bother Peres, who pledged: “Whatever we can do for you, we will do gladly and full-heartedly.”
Later in the day, Ramos-Horta was at the Hebrew University’s Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations to speak on “Peace-Building, State-Building and Reconciliation: Experience and Perspectives.”
He had touched briefly on this at the luncheon at Beit Hanassi, when he said: “We have reconciled with all those who have occupied us, and today we have exemplary relations with Indonesia.”
These state-to-state and people- to-people relations have resulted in Indonesia being East Timor’s strongest advocate in its efforts to join ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations).
“There is no short cut to peace,” Ramos-Horta said.
“There is a long, tortuous road.
Only those who have dreams, vision and determination can attain peace.”
Ramos-Horta’s visit to the region includes meetings with the leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
His message to both Israelis and Palestinians is identical.
“Palestinians and Israelis, without lectures from the outside, must be able to find a way to live together in this crowded region,” he said Located in Southeast Asia, East Timor was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century and decolonized in 1975, when East Timor gained independence.
A few months later, East Timor was invaded and annexed by Indonesia, which for 24 years regarded it as a 27th province. Following United Nations intervention, Indonesia relinquished control of East Timor, but the country did not officially regain its independence until May 20, 2002.
Its population is slightly in excess of a million people. East Timor and the Philippines are the only predominantly Catholic countries in Asia.
On completing his law studies in the United States, Ramos- Horta returned home and became a political activist dedicated to restoring his country’s independence. In 1970, when his political activities put his life at risk, he fled to Mozambique.
Two years later, he was back in East Timor where he was among the founders of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, or Fretilin.
During the brief period of East Timor’s independence in 1975, Fretilin was the ruling party and Ramos-Horta was named foreign minister. His career as such was cut short nine days later with the Indonesian invasion. His life was in peril yet again, and exile was once more a temporary salvation.
During the 24 years of Indonesian occupation, Ramos-Horta served as East Timor’s spokesman-in-exile and de facto ambassador to the UN. He frequently spoke out against human rights violations by the Indonesians and formulated a peace plan that he was convinced would bring an end to violence in his country, where a brutal civil war turned what was basically a natural paradise into a hellhole.
The money that he received with the Nobel Prize in 1996 was channeled into a program called Microcredit for the Poor.
Three years later, when the UN established a Transition Administration in East Timor, Ramos-Horta allowed himself to go home.
In 2006, he became prime minister, and survived an assassination attempt, being was shot at and wounded near his home. In 2007, he was elected the second president of the country.
Peres described him as “a man of courage who brought independence and peace to his land at a high cost.”
Later at a state luncheon that he hosted in honor of Ramos- Horta, Peres said of him that he represented the highest order of morality.