Magazine article New Internationalist

The Ark of Resistance [Profile]

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Ark of Resistance [Profile]

Article excerpt

TWO decades spent constantly on the move, sleeping on floors and knocking on diplomatic doors in every corner of the earth, have taken their toll on Jose Ramos Horta. It must be hard for him, on any one day, to figure out exactly where he is. Yet, in person, he is extraordinarily calm, as if sustained by the force of his convictions. You can tell he'd have made a good lawyer- the profession for which he trained. Tortoise-shell frames on round spectacles, observant, restless eyes and thick, greying hair give him an intellectual, distinguished and slightly distracted air.

There is nothing abstract about his cause. Of his eleven brothers, four were killed after the invasion of his country, East Timor, by the Indonesian Army in 1975. Ramos Horta has spent the intervening years in exile as the Special Representative of the National Council of Maubere Resistance, the umbrella organization of pro-independence movements inside and outside East Timor.

Then, in December 1996 - jointly with the Catholic Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, who remains inside the country - he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 'sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of a small people'. 'The Peace Prize has made an enormous difference in awareness-raising around the world,' he says. 'This has resulted in pressure, embarrassment for governments that are now taking the issue much more seriously.'

False optimism would not, however, have sustained him through the long years of exile. He has no illusions now. The level of repression has increased dramatically,' he continues. 'The number of troops in East Timor is at the same level as in the mid-1970s, when Indonesia first invaded. There are now something like 30,000 troops in the territory. Bishop Belo says he has never seen so many troops. That is not only an arrogant defiance of the world, but also an act of desperation, hoping that they can crush once and for all the people of East Timor...

'If you can label a country a terrorist state based on its behaviour towards its own people, Indonesia is a terrorist state. A terrorist is not only someone who picks up a gun and kills individuals. Terrorists are also those who drop bombs from the skies on a civilian population, or use troops to massacre civilians. Indonesia belongs in the category of terrorist state'.

Jose Ramos Horta's persistence is based on his knowledge of the East Timorese people and their determination never to be digested by their huge Indonesian neighbour. There is the obvious difference between the Catholic majority in East Timor and the Muslim majority in Indonesia. …

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