Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta on Thursday talked about how arduous it is to get a seat in ASEAN and even said that entering heaven would be easier than getting full membership in the Southeast Asian grouping.
Timor Leste has been endeavoring to become an ASEAN member for years. Indonesia's close neighbor applied for full ASEAN membership in 2011. To date, the country still remains an observer.
"Sometimes as a human being, I feel frustrated. It seems like the road to heaven – to reach the perfection of heaven – is easier than to reach the gates of ASEAN," Ramos-Horta said when addressing a forum hosted by think-tank Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) in Jakarta.
"It seems as if to reach ASEAN, you have to fulfill all the criteria to enter heaven. And then the next step is ASEAN," Ramos-Horta said.
Getting ASEAN to embrace Timor Leste as its new member seems much more demanding than when Romania, Bulgaria, and other Eastern European countries joined the European Union, according to Ramos-Horta.
The newly sworn leader said that he had recently spoken with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo about Timor Leste's wish to join ASEAN when Indonesia chairs the bloc in 2023. Earlier this week, Jokowi welcomed Ramos-Horta at the Bogor Presidential Palace in West Java for a bilateral meeting.
"Of course, Indonesia, like many other countries, has been supportive of Timor-Leste's membership in ASEAN," Ramos-Horta said.
"We are part of Southeast Asia. We do not belong to any other regional organization. We have also made tremendous progress in the last ten years."