Vancouver – East Timor resistance spokesman Jose Ramos-Horta has a good sense of humanity. When Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas was hospitalized in the Medistra Hospital in Jakarta in 1994, Ramos-Horta managed to send a facsimile.
He sent the facsimile to the hospital and addressed it to the room where Alatas, the man who spearheaded the Indonesian side of the debate on East Timor, was staying. Ramos-Horta politely wished that Alatas get well soon.
In an exclusive interview with MateBEAN on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vancouver, the Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate spoke about several issues.
Q: You claim to be a representative to Xanana Gusmao. How do you keep in touch with Xanana in the Cipinang prison in Jakarta?
A: I have no direct contact with Xanana Gusmao. I just read occasional statements or interviews that he makes. As far as the situation in East Timor is concerned, there are an abundance of sources including from Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo whom I consider to be the most trusted sources of information in East Timor. I believe in whatever Bishop Belo says. I have almost a blind faith toward him because of his courage and because he always speaks the truth. He never hides the truth and never exaggerates the problem in East Timor. And I always keep in touch with him. Recently in our meeting in Austria, I was very impressed by his courage in denouncing the situation in East Timor.
I also get information from Nino Konis Santana and varied sources on the ground, including the church. I can form a reasonably clear picture of the situation in East Timor.
Q: The Indonesian military just recently alleged that you are involved in the production of bombs in Demak to spread terror. Can you clarify that?
A: They accuse me of everything, from demonstrations in Dili, demonstrations in Baucau, demonstrations in Tokyo, in Vancouver... Jose Ramos-Horta is always in charge. It's a total fabrication.
Regarding the group responsible for the bomb-making, the irony is, they alwaysattacked me in the past. I have a whole collection of press releases that this group put out through their crazy representative Dr. Azancot Menezes. For the past five or six years, they have issued many statements attacking me. From accusing me of betraying Xanana, that I am the one who told the Indonesians where Xanana was, to that I have embezzled funds.
You know, a few years ago there was an controversy with Xanana's ex-wife, Emilia Gusmao. I received order from Xanana that a US$100,000 was to be used in Washington to support our lobbying effort. And that was what I decided to do. But his wife did not agree with it and said it should be sent to the guerillas. I refused, not because I did not want to support the guerillas. If I could send a helicopter to Konis Santana, I would send it. This group used this as an excuse to accuse me of embezzlement.
Q: You're also criticized to rely more on foreigners rather than the East Timorese?
A: It's again false! Look how many people are working with me right now? There is one French person. We need a person with multilingual skills, a perfect command of English, French and Portuguese, which she has. But at the same time, I have trained many East Timorese for diplomatic work like Constantino Pinto, Jose Amorim Dias, Abe Barreto. Many of them are in Australia, Europe and I am the one who initiated the East Timor Human Rights Center in Melbourne. The majority are East Timorese, some working and some on training. Many East Timorese have also attended diplomacy workshops to learn how to do international lobbying. So in terms of working with me, there are probably 20 to 30 East Timorese people working full time and only one who is not from East Timor. Of course, I work with many foreigners who are in the solidarity movement. They're outstanding people whom I respect and trust for their commitment and generosity in giving their time. They're Australians, Asians, Americans, Canadians and Europeans. We have a long standing solidarity movement all over the world.
Q: How do you see Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, your main opponent, who is widely considered to be a brilliant diplomat?
A: I do not know whether he's a brilliant diplomat or not. My observation is not complete. But what I can say is that I have a lot of respect for him. He seemed to be a very decent human being. Other people who have met him and have respect for him told me that he's a very decent human being and does not agree with the army's policy in East Timor. Sometimes he is very frustrated, angry with the way the army behaves in East Timor.
According to the agreement between Kofi Annan and the Security Council and the African group, Kofi Annan is said to serve only one term. The next would be the turn of Asia. Of course, I don't agree with that because the U.N. Charter on it does not exist. But there has been an established tradition that the Secretary General serves for around 10 years.
There's no limit to the term but a practice has already been established. Kofi Annan is serving five years. However, if they all agree that it should be the turn of Asia, it's a justified shame that Ali Alatas cannot take the position because of the regime's stand on East Timor. If it was not for the regime's stand on East Timor, I would enthusiastically endorse Ali Alatas for Secretary General because he would do a good job.
Q: How about people like George Aditjondro? An Indonesian who openly takes your side.
A: I have known George since 1974. He's the first Indonesian who I have met sympathetic to the people of East Timor's right to self determination. When I visited Indonesia in June 1974 to meet with [Foreign Minister] Adam Malik, George was a journalist for TEMPO magazine. If you see an June 1979 issue of TEMPO, you will see my picture on the front cover. George explained to me at the time why I was on the cover. Instead of Unitaria Democratia de Timor (UDT) or Apodeti leaders, the editorial board of TEMPO decided that I should appear on the cover because my group, Asociao Socialista Democratia de Timor (ASDT) wanted independence. Which was consistent with the spirit of decolonisation, at the time. UDT was seen as being a step backwards as it represented neo-colonialism as they wanted to stay with Portugal and Apodeti was seen as being even worse as it was a new wave of colonialism. Apodeti wanted to integrate with Indonesia.
Q: What about TEMPO chief editor Goenawan Mohamad? What's his role?
A: Goenawan Mohamad, I didn't know him then. But I heard about him years later. He is probably one of the most respected Indonesian journalists internationally. I was happy to meet him. I'm a former journalist myself. People like Goenawan Mohamad, George Aditjondro and Muchtar Pakpahan are fighting in an extremely difficult situation. One day they will be remembered by history as the pioneer of the democracy movement. Their contribution is an valuable one. I know how difficult it is for Indonesians to speak out and support the East Timor struggle. Many years ago in 1981 I wrote a letter to Adnan Buyung Nasution. I had heard a lot about Buyung's stand on human rights issues. So I wrote; even if the Indonesian Intellectuals, academics and journalists do not support the East Timorese people's struggle for self determination, they still have a moral obligation to speak out about the gross human rights violations in East Timor. You cannot remain silent.