Jose Ramos Horta on E Timor: “In 20 years, we’ll be killing each other over land and water”

by | Sep 1, 2009


Ten years of freedom for East Timor today, and a notably graceful editorial in the Jakarta Post:

Indonesia would have learned a great deal from the fatal mistakes of its 24-year occupation of the then East Timor, now Timor Leste, so it hardly needs more lessons. Well perhaps one more: a lesson on statesmanship from President José Ramos-Horta.

On the 10th anniversary of the UN-sponsored independence referendum that ended Indonesian rule, Ramos-Horta’s speech Saturday was worthy of his standing as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, part of which read “My stated preference, as a human being, victim and head of state, is that we once and for all close the 1975-1999 chapters of our tragic experience [and] forgive those who did us harm.”

 It concludes:

Timor Leste is fortunate to have truly great statesmen like Ramos-Horta and Gusmao. Statesmanship will remain in short supply among Indonesian leaders for as long as we continue to let human rights violations go unpunished. While our leaders are busy talking the talk at international forums, we are certainly not walking the human rights walk.

But in an FT interview, Ramos-Horta’s own preoccupations are focused on the future:

José Ramos Horta, the president, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Indonesian rule that left more than 150,000 Timorese dead, says that when a shortage of water and dependence on subsistence agriculture is added, the scale of the problems the country faces cannot be overstated.

“With this population growth and poverty, [and] increasing pressure on water and land, 20 years from now we will start killing each other over water and land,” he told the Financial Times. He has no doubt that, unless more attention is paid to rural areas, urban migration – particularly among the rapidly escalating ranks of disillusioned and unemployed youth – will be so great that it will create a “time bomb”.

Author

  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.


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