José Ramous Horta the East Timor President, concession speech today is generous and bodes well for democracy in his country.
José’s commitment to his people through the long decades of Indonesian oppression and occupation of his land won a Nobel prise for him and fellow leader Xanana Gusmao.
José immensely appreciated the commitment from New Zealanders towards East Timor. His recognition of the three New Zealanders who have died over three decades; cameraman Gary Cunningham of the Bilbo five, Karmal Bamadhaj in 1991 whose story is told in the documentary Punitive Damage and Private Tim Manning who died in active service in East Timor in 2000, was expressed on the occasions he was our guest and was extremely moving. We talked about them and it was evident they were acknowledged in his prayers. We discussed José’s wish for an Operation Hope to be sent to East Timor in 1985, and further discussed the 1974 photos Canadian documentary maker Elaine Briere took months before independence of a arid poor land indicate the enormity of the task that East Timor faced as an emerging independent nation.
His appreciation towards the support given from a small number of New Zealanders through our military commitment are not only appreciated but he believes are necessary for the foreseeable future. Indonesia has not forgotten about East Timor and their continued occupation on East Papua, this makes East Timorians nervous and they wish for the Anzac forces to remain.
As president, José has survived an assassination attempt and used his diplomatic skills in managing relations with Australia and Indonesia to build a sustainable future for his people.
The independence struggle that José led internationally over the twenty five years was fought in any forum he could get to and in the lonely corridors of United Nations where he would badger any diplomat. His story has been told in the documentary’ The Diplomat’, where New Zealand has its own chapter. It was in Auckland 1999 at APEC that José was able to get Bill Clinton to lean enough on Indonesian president Abbas to concede independence for East Timor. José has never forgotten the support and generosity of New Zealanders over this time, and with the transition to a new leadership I hope as people we reinforce our commitment to the democracy of East Timor .