Subject: Ramos Horta gets down to work in E Timor [3 reports]

also: [Guardian] Hero returns to independent East Timor; and [ABC transcript/interview: Nobel laureate returns home

Ramos Horta gets down to work in East Timor

DILI, East Timor, Dec 2 (AFP) - Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta started his first full day back home Thursday welcoming Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama and opening a new office for the pro-independence group.

Leading a delegation at Dili's Comoro airport, Horta embraced Gama shortly after he landed, and accompanied him in a convoy of cars into downtown Dili, where another welcoming ceremony was held.

He and independence leader Xanana Gusmao, tipped to lead the free state of East Timor when it comes into being in two to three years' time, later held talks with Gama and his delegation at an auditorium behind the old seafront governor's office.

Both East Timorese leaders later officiated at the opening of the new office of the independence movement's umbrella organisation, the National Resistance Council of East Timor (CNRT), east of the governor's office.

The new office is housed in the former headquarters of a Chinese commercial association that was turned into an office of the Indonesian navy after Jakarta annexed the former Portuguese colony in 1976.

The previous CNRT headquarters were burned down during the week of violence that followed the announcement of the pro-independence results of the August 30 UN-held ballot in East Timor.

Indonesian military-backed militias waged an unchecked rampage across the territory after the results were announced on September 4, leaving most towns devastated and forcing half of East Timor's some 800,000 people to flee to the hills or to neighbouring West Timor.

Horta, 49, set foot in Dili again on Wednesday after 24 years in exile, during which he relentlessly fought to keep the issue of East Timor under international spotlight.

He had left Dili just a few days before Indonesian troops invaded on December 7, 1975 and became the territory's most vocal freedom crusader abroad.

CNRT spokeswoman Ines Almeida said Wednesday Horta was "staying indefinitely."

Ramos Horta returned to Indonesia for the first time in July when he met Gusmao to attend a meeting between the pro- and anti-independence sides in Jakarta.

But he backed down on his threat to travel back home whether or not Jakarta gave him permission.


The Guardian Thursday December 2, 1999

Hero returns to independent East Timor

Christopher Zinn in Dili

Jose Ramos-Horta, the East Timorese winner of the Nobel peace prize, received a hero's welcome yesterday from thousands of people in Dili following a 24-year exile. Three months after Australian-led troops liberated the devastated former Indonesian province, Mr Ramos-Horta flew in from Darwin. His tireless diplomacy over two decades has helped keep East Timorin the minds of the world.

Yesterday he told 8,000 followers to thank the foreign governments, non-governmental organisations and church leaders who had helped them realise their dream of independence and were helping to rebuild their nation.

He appealed for reconciliation with the Indonesian militia forces. "With the same courage we fought for independence and freedom we must forgive," he said.

Mr Ramos-Horta said he had no interest in becoming part of the new nation's government.

Dili's Catholic bishop, Carlos Belo, with whom he shared the Nobel peace prize, said Mr Ramos-Horta's return should encourage the East Timorese to return from abroad to help rebuild.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation AM News - Thursday, December 2, 1999 8:27

Nobel laureate returns home

After 24 years in exile campaigning for East Timor's independence, Jose Ramos Horta has finally returned home. Any doubts that his years abroad have rendered him unknown among his own people were quickly dispelled, with a crowd of 5000 gathering to welcome him.

Ginny Stein reports from Dili.

GINNY STEIN: Jose Ramos Horta was a young man when he left East Timor, arriving in Darwin just three days before Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony. Almost a quarter of a century later he's returned with his long-held dream of an independent East Timor on its way to fruition.

A small reception committee made up of representatives of the CNRT, East Timor's National Independence Network, along with Falintil commander, Twa Maton Ruak, were on hand to meet him at the airport. But the airport gathering was just the smallest taste of what was to come. An honour guard waited in the rain. By the time he arrived, they were soaked, but their enthusiasm had not been dampened.

TWA MATON RUAK: He is a hero, you know. He does so many works for East Timor. When he stay in Australia he didn't forget people here.

GINNY STEIN: Jose Ramos-Horta says he's returned for good, although he says he's not come back looking for a political role. His message to the more than 5000 people who turned out to hear him speak was of the need to work together.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: I did not come today, arrive here after 24 years with my colleagues from the road, to teach lesson to anyone, because the true hero are those who stayed behind. They're the ones who suffer, they're the ones who were tortured, were raped, they're the ones who were killed. With humility we bow to their courage, but with the same courage that we fought for independence, for freedom, we must also forgive. Forgive requires courage. There can no longer be enemies within the East Timorese family. Too many lives have been lost.

We have come here to join with our brother, friend and leader, Xanana Gusmao, to work with him, to serve under him, to make this country even better.

COMPERE: Jose Ramos Horta.


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