(en) Jose Ramos Horta

Tue, 11 Feb 1997 00:52:34 GMT

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The joint 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jose Ramos Horta, spoke to a large and diverse gathering in Adelaide, Australia last Friday (7/2/97) night. This was just one of his many appearances on an Australia-wide tour during which Horta has made clear the total lack of moral backbone of Australia's leaders since the Indonesian invasion of Timor in 1975.

On being introduced to the large crowd that had gathered in the Maughan Church, Horta was greeted by a long and hearty standing ovation given to him by an emotional crowd. Horta dedicated his Nobel Prize to the people of Timor and the now imprisoned Xanana Gusmao, who he considered to have been a person much more worthy of the Prize, describing his success as a very pleasant suprise and praising his fellow Laureate Bishop Bello.

While most of the crowd was undoubtedly aware of the history of Indonesia's invasion of Timor, Horta gave a brief history of both his and Timor's struggle against the deadly combination of the Indonesian dictatorship's armed forces and the world's apathy. The duplicity of the United Nation's Security Council and the cynicism of the world's leaders was made clear by Horta, who pointed out that the suggested peace plan suggested by the Timorese for many years was the blueprint for the Israeli/Palestine agreement brokered last year.

Australian governments since 1975 came under fire for their involvement with the Indonesian regime. Successive Australia governments have done little to change Indonesian minds about Timor and have provided military assistance to the Indonesian Army which has continued to kill numerous Timorese. Horta ridiculed this close connection, arguing that Australia should start training militias from Burma, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya and other such regimes as these were the same kinds of government as that in Indonesia. In line with this argument, Horta made it clear that the struggle for democracy in Indonesia was undoubtedly linked to the fate of Timor.

Horta seemed hopeful that continued actions by Australians against the Indonesian government's actions and the Autralian government's acquiesence to these actions would bring the freedom of Timor. However, Horta's optimism was tempered by the his recognition of the poor situation of Aborigines in Australia and the Australia government's refusal to sign a European Trade Agreement which included a Human Rights clause. Ramos asked all present to continue to push for Timor's freedom which was symbolic of the struggle for democracy throughout the world against corporations and government.

While it was sometimes hard to hear what he was saying, the group I was with was impressed by Horta's speech. This dry report, constructed solely by memory cannot convey the emotion felt by the crowd, which gave Horta another standing ovation at the end of his speech. One could not fail to moved when a Adelaide Timorese woman thanked Horta and everyone present for struggling to free Timor, her spontaneous cry of "Viva Timor" brought smiles to the faces of all present.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to some very dodgy characters, but I came away from Jose Ramos Horta's speech that it the 1996 Prize had gone to a decent human being whom one could respect.

Darren Jones History University Of Adelaide


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