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Peace Nobel Prize Winner Shot in His Stomach
by Alexandra Pereira
2008-02-12 09:49:55
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The shaky democracy of East Timor as an independent country has been hit again by a new threat this Monday, when the Peace Nobel Prize Winner and President Ramos-Horta was shot in his back, hand and stomach while returning from his early morning jogging, during an attack to his residence, and 45 minutes shortly before the prime-minister Xanana Gusmão was also the victim of an ambush when driving from his home located in a small village in the mountains, 30 minutes outside Díli, to the capital (his vehicle was completely destroyed, another vehicle was lost and two of his security guards disappeared).

While Xanana Gusmão was under intense fire by a group of rebels and could escape miraculously but headed to Díli using public transport (his wife Kirsty Sword-Gusmão was still home alone with their children in the village, and just three guards to protect them, when the group of the rebel Gastão Salsinha vanished on the mountains), José Ramos-Horta was informed that his residence had been attacked during his morning jogging by a faction of military rebels under the orders of the Army Ex-Commander Alfredo Reinado, who was a fugitive during the last couple of years because of a detention mandate related with his crimes and armed disobedience (trial had been postponed last January to April), and ended up shot dead by the presidential guards on this Monday’s assault. A guard of Horta was also killed by the rebels.

Ramos-Horta headed the place and was shot next to the walls of the presidential property. He was submitted to a stomach surgery in Australian headquarters in Díli and then transferred to the Royal Hospital of Darwin, Australia, in a severe condition, where we was submitted to a second surgery because of a bullet which hit his stomach and lodged in one of his lungs, as well as put under an induced coma state by the doctors who assisted him.

Meanwhile, Xanana Gusmão declared an exception state in the country for 48 hours and the order for the citizens to remain at home. He declared after an emergency meeting with his advisers and the UN officials that “The State was attacked. I consider this an attempt of coup d’état perpetrated by Reinado, which failed”. He also sustained that the attacks meant to “paralyse the government and stimulate instability” again in the region. Canberra announced it was sending an extra 200 peace soldiers and 50 policemen, and New Zealand has 200 more available to send.

Peace Nobel Prize Winner

José Ramos-Horta (58), the son of a Timorese mother and a Portuguese father who was exiled in East-Timor, developed his career as a journalist, politician and jurist specialized in International and Peace Law both in the Netherlands and the United States. He became better known as the spokesperson of the Timorese resistance in the exile (1975-1999) and the Fretilin permanent representative in the UN, denouncing the violence perpetrated by Indonesia during the occupation of the territory.

Due to his political pro-independence activities during the Portuguese Salazar regime, he was exiled for one year in Mozambique (1970-1971) and, at the age of just 25, he was a minister of Foreign Affairs in the self-proclaimed independent government of East-Timor, after the Portuguese 1974 red carnations revolution. Ramos-Horta went on what he didn’t know would become a one-way trip to the UN in New York to expose the Timor case just 3 days before the Indonesian occupation in 1975, and would live for many years abroad, in a constant fight to denounce the crimes in his country and bring them to the spotlight for the international community to see, worry about and finally intervene.

As incomprehensibly as shamefully (and specially for the Portuguese, 25 years after the badly guided decolonization process – almost an escape process in some areas –, when everybody in Portugal assumed, wanted and, more than that, demanded Timor independent), East Timor would remain for the United Nations as a Portuguese not-decolonized territory (and for Indonesia as its 27th province…) until August 1999, when 80% of the Timorese population chose independence, in a referendum organized by the UN after negotiations between Portugal and Indonesia, and put under the same UN protection until May 2002.

This referendum was the result of a growing and very strong civil movement which, in Portugal since the 1974 revolution, and then for years more and more sympathetic with Ramos-Horta fight abroad and Xanana Gusmão and his heroic resistance commanders sending constant appeals to the international community from their refuges on the Timorese mountains, begun to press the international community and the Portuguese institutions in special to join the fight more actively, and in particular the then-Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Barroso (nowadays more known as the European Commission President).

The Timorese cause finally achieved proper international recognition when in October 1996 Ramos-Horta, together with the bishop Ximenes Belo (who had been demanding a referendum at least since the eighties and defending young students, many times giving them shelter in his own home) were “ex-aequo” awarded with the Peace Nobel Prize. Xanana Gusmão, the historic resistance leader captured and condemned by the Indonesian to perpetual prison in 1992 (and brutally raped in prison) because of his increasing international media visibility and massacre denouncing campaigns, was left aside due to his activities as a Falintil commander (armed resistance). But then in April 1997 Nelson Mandela visited Xanana Gusmão, the charismatic Falintil commander who’s also a talented writer, painter and jurist, in prison and met Ximenes Belo, giving more and more visibility to the independence process.

A Bloody History

Since Timor’s occupation in 1975, Indonesia and General Suharto government followed a genocide policy, resulting in a long massacre of the Timorese people, with hundreds of villages destroyed and tons of napalm used against the Timorese resistance. In November 1991, the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre (John Pilger cites a total 400 dead and missing, and many more persecuted and/or wounded) was filmed by the British Max Stahl and witnessed by two other foreign journalists: the horror images somehow got to Australia and were spread and shown across the world for the first time.

I actually got in contact with several resistance members and East-Timorese exiled in Portugal, many as students, including several survivors of the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre, such as Zito Soares and the young Domingos Sarmento, who became horrendously known as the shot teenager screaming and running on foreground in Stahl’s images, who’s shocking agony was transmitted and denounced to the whole world and became a symbol of the Timorese people martyrdom.

Domingos had a both humble and noble character, and was looked as a hero survivor, with admiration and great respect, by many colleagues, including of course myself. While Zito studied International Relations and Foreign Affairs, Domingos studied Psychology and short after Xanana Gusmão would join as our Law colleague from jail, in Jakarta, the other side of the world, when they allowed him to study there and exams were specially sent from our University to his prison. While in prison, Xanana would also meet his amazing current wife and mother of three, the Australian Kirsty Sword. Domingos later went back to Timor and in 2002 he became part of the staff of the cabinet of the first President of East-Timor – Alexandre (Xanana) Gusmão.

I grew up, like most Portuguese of my age, listening to touching appeals of the mythic Falintil commanders on TV and radio, sent abroad by almost magic means from their hiding places on the distant Asian mountains, like Xanana, Matan Ruak, Konis Santana, Leri or Ma Huno. Each one of them was as heroic, noble and visionary as a Che Guevara for us (they were part of a 24-year, almost impossible resistance, and they won their cause!) and, ever since a time when we weren’t enough old to understand the political implications of it all, we would be in grief for the loss of each one of those heroes. They were teaching a dignity lesson to us as we grew.

From university time, I remember clearly that the group of exiled Timorese students spent most of their free time and weekends sitting on a chair circle at the students’ association bar, discussing their lives and, more commonly, political problems and the future of their country. There were both men and women, some with traditional fabric scarves, though as the men were passionate political debaters, the women were usually silent and observant. I remember it very clearly. It was always a perfect circle, everyone sitting around, no empty chair. Nobody would mess.

They wouldn’t drink like most of the other people – students, non-students and semi-students… – in the bar, in part because of cultural reasons, I believe, and in part because of financial problems. The women would sing. There was always someone with a guitar on that group and sometimes they would sing to help spend the rainy afternoons and feel even more united. The beautiful tetum songs and the debate would be mutually inspired. I wish women would sing now in Timor, to inspire peace and stability.

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Alexandra Pereira2008-02-13 04:22:20
PS - Both Ramos-Horta and Gusmão have been amazingly conciliating and clever national figures. As Horta had an unvaluable diplomatic and peace-promoting role, Gusmão always believed much in the power of the media abroad, democracy and peace as well, and could unite and get respected by the entire resistance, which in its late years became a devastated survival force, trying to stop indonesians from doing massacres in Timor's villages and desperately sending clandestine messages overseas. They survived in the most awful conditions, saw their families killed and raped, hundreds of villages burnt, and were tortured themselves. Nevertheless, Falintil always obeyed to Gusmão's wise peace and tranquility appeals and behaved exemplary, for instance during the referendum process. Even if post-referendum indonesia-sponsored militias would smash their people again.

Alexandra Pereira2008-02-13 05:41:56
"ANDREW DENTON: I'm amazed that considering the brutality of what the Indonesian army did in East Timor to your people that you could have restrained yourself from killing their soldiers when you had the opportunity. How can you do that?

XANANA GUSMAO: We didn't fight against the soldiers. We were fighting against the regime. The regime that sent the soldiers to kill us, to fight us. In many, many other occasions, even in the operations...we captured weapons, captured Indonesian soldiers alive and we sent back. You surrendered, go back home and tell the Indonesian people that you are not our enemy. Our enemy is the policy of coming here, staying here and being our colonisers."
This is what makes one remarkable. Complete interview with Xanana-Kirsty here:


Alexandra Pereira2008-02-14 01:53:12
''Nowhere have I seen greater care, greater respect, greater love for the dead than in East Timor. They grieve for the people they love who die, not less than the people in the West, but more.'' Max Stahl

"[In 2004, Max Stahl] has decided to pioneer a media development project, funded by the Finnish and German governments, to use previously unedited video footage of the Dili massacre to initiate discussion among the East Timorese with the help of local journalists and community radio stations."

AP2008-02-14 01:58:02
ANDREW DENTON: It was slightly more than just human rights work. I mean, as you said, it was clandestine, and there is a fairly famous incident where you helped smuggle 11 East Timorese men to safety in a foreign consulate in the middle of Jakarta. How do you do that?
KIRSTY SWORD GUSMAO: Basically these seven young men, actually, came to me and explained to me how they were on the run from the Indonesian military and feared for their lives because of their pro-independence activities. And I helped them to get into the Finnish and the Swedish embassies which were in a block of, you know, company buildings in the centre of Jakarta. I and some friends of mine, you know, cased the place out for a couple of weeks beforehand to work out how we were actually going to perform this feat.
ANDREW DENTON: As any humanitarian worker would.
KIRSTY SWORD GUSMAO: Yeah. And basically managed to get them in. I had to sort of dress up to look like an executive who belonged in that kind of environment and, you know, walked in with four of them up to one level where the Finnish embassy was and the other three went with my friend and colleague.
ANDREW DENTON: How did you explain who the four men were?
KIRSTY SWORD GUSMAO: Well, we were actually stopped as we were going up on to the third floor by one of the security guards on the ground floor and because I'd done my homework I actually had the name card of one of the companies, I think it was Revlon, up on, you know, the fifth floor and I managed to flash that to explain why it was that we were going up in the lift, and that seemed to satisfy the security guard.

AP2008-02-14 02:00:30
ANDREW DENTON: What, you said these four men needed Revlon cosmetics?
KIRSTY SWORD GUSMAO: I can't remember how I explained it.
ANDREW DENTON: Was that a nervous moment?
KIRSTY SWORD GUSMAO: It certainly was, yeah, yeah, extremely nervous. But I felt that I had a duty to help these young men. There weren't too many other foreigners resident in Jakarta at the time, who were prepared to really take the risks involved, to, you know, guarantee these guys a safe passage out of the country.
ANDREW DENTON: And it was risk. Jose Ramos-Horta, your foreign minister, has said that the risk to you shouldn't be underestimated. That had you been caught you would almost certainly have been murdered.

yamina2008-11-17 18:22:39
it is a stupide prize you give it to who ie with amerika

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