|Subject: PDI: East Timor activist praises Filipinos
for 'people power'
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 11:10:09 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Philippine Daily Inquirer July 25, 1999
East Timor activist praises Filipinos for 'people power' By Armand Nocum
EAST Timor independence leader Jose Ramos Horta yesterday described Filipinos as ''pioneers'' in the pro-democracy campaign sweeping Asia and other parts of the world.
At a press briefing following his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Horta said it was the 1986 ''people power'' uprising that had emboldened the East Timorese to continue with their struggle for independence from Indonesia.
He said they had been fighting for more than 23 years now, amid repression and harassment from the Indonesian military which has ruled East Timor with an iron fist.
And with the forthcoming election for autonomy for East Timor, Horta predicted victory for the pro-independence group in the former Portuguese colony with a population of 800,000.
''In conditions of no fear, no intimidation, I would say the overwhelming majority of the people would vote for independence,'' he said of the August polls.
He said this was possible even in the face of what he described as continuing and ''counterproductive'' military harassment.
''The Indonesian army is orchestrating violence, and violence seems to be the only means that the Indonesian army knows in persuading people to vote one way or the other,'' he said.
But Horta credited Filipinos for being part of their long struggle for freedom.
''Of all the Asian countries, the Philippines, in my view, has the better experience and knowledge of the situation in East Timor,'' he said.
''Over the years, Philippine doctors, priests and nuns have worked in East Timor, and they are extremely popular with our people.''
He thanked President Estrada for allowing him entry into the Philippines, and human rights organizations for inviting him.
Horta was banned by the Ramos administration from entering the country in 1995, upon the request of Indonesian President Suharto.
Horta was to attend the Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor at the University of the Philippines, which was held simultaneously with the Asia Pacific Economic Conference summit in Subic.
Suharto had feared that Horta would use the Apcet forum to embarrass him and seek the support of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the independence movement in East Timor.
Horta is here on the invitation of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, International Solidarity Groups and Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor.