José Ramos Horta wearing FRETILIN Shirt for FRETILIN rally in Manatuto municipality, March 10th, 2018. Photo Supplied.
DILI - The 1996 peace prize winner Jose Ramos Horta recently decided to return to FRETILIN party and start criticized his former chief of the resistance, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. During the struggle Xanana decided to appoint Horta as his special envoy of CNRM in abroad. After the independence in 2006 Xanana appointed Horta to become the second prime minister of the country to replace Mari Alkatiri.
Moreover, in 2007 Xanana play a big role to bring Horta to be the president of republic of Timor - Leste.
Ramos Horta lose the election when he try to re-run for the second term of the presidency in 2012. He lost the election as he failed to get the support from Xanana. In that time Xanana supported Taur Matan Ruak to be the president of republic.
How is Timor – Leste now. I mean, Timor – Leste now is moving well in the right direction?
On the political, democracy, rule of law, and human right dimension, I would say we are doing very very well. Even a conservative think – thank, like Freedom House in Washington said Timor – Leste is the number one functioning democracy in Southeast Asia. Our democracy is not perfect like most democracy is are not perfect. However we’ve make tremendous progress of the last 15, 17 years in consolidating our democratic culture and democratic institutions.
The campaign have entered one week and no major conflicts have occurred. As a Nobel Peace Price laureate what is your role to ensure the process of this campaign until the upcoming election?
Well, is not only as a nobel peace laureate could be as a former president, be as a citizen, each of us, everyone of us have the obligation to contribute towards keeping the debate, the political confrontation, rising the convince of civilize the event. And so far the campaign, the debate been very civilize. I don’t even mind when some in opposition make outlandish accusation, that’s normal. Look at the US presidential election two years ago. So it’s absolutely normal. And I was think all the other parties, Xanana Gusmão, Taur Matan Ruak, Mari Alkatiri, the young generation (Democratic Party), they all have been very good in influencing our people not to result to personal attacks, although it does not mean I am personal attack but peace for me important is no one is wounded, no one is killed because of some election. For me that is the main careful democracy.
How are your expecting the campaign to be conducted given the more polarized state of politics in Timor – Leste. Is there a significant risk of violence?
I do not anticipated fear any formal violence, but I can anticipate even more increasing vitriolic speeches but Mr. Xanana Gusmão in particular he is already over 70, look at him he is tired and this is his last for run, his last active involvement. He is a good man, he cares about the country, he wants the best for the country and maybe sometimes he feel very hard that not everyone supporting him. I am very people can say, I am very Westernize but I know the country well. I go all of the country, I build with the common people and many of the common people they support me because they know I don’t tough really play politic. But on the other hand been exposed to western democracy, but also our own values democracy I think that more then 10 years for a government of a leader be in office is not good, not good for democracy, not good for the leader himself or herself. The electorate get tired be you might turn out of the ideas, run out of credibility and I can see that Mr. Xanana was 15 years in the government. First as a president, and as prime – minister. It’s obvious that he’s tired, frustrated because people around him, the cabinet members they didn’t deliver and he pay the price last year in 2017, and he probably pay the price again because of the people around him. They didn’t deliver on his grand vision and the program. So most likely he will be gone politically speaking and even if he want to win, I almost guarantee Xanana Gusmão will not be the prime – minister because he left 2015 and the electorate watching this and that’s why there is so much support for FRETILIN as to change. So it’s time to FRETILIN and the a new party.
Do you fear undermining the credibility of your Nobel prize by taking sides in partisan politics?
Maybe that the argument that I hear but many other nobel laureate, Nelson Mandela he was a nobel laureate even more then me and the others, he was the president of ANC. He never left ANC and continue to support ANC then my good friend former president of Costa Rica in South America twice as a president. He is as a nobel peace price and he campaign for equality party. Barack Obama, leader of Democratic Party, president of United States (US) and many others like in Northern Ireland two leaders there David Trimble and John Hume and the we have Shimon Peres leader of the Israel labor party and others. I think that’s not issue but I think everybody would agree with me that at least in my public intervention again and again, I only show respect to uncle Xanana Gusmão, to Taur Matan Ruak, I tell people that don’t do personal attack and I don’t agree with Mr. Xanana Gusmão on a number of policies issue in therm of governance. I don’t agree. Like if I have been a prime – minister for 10 years I would be focus all this 10 years on quality education, on rural development and that means water and sanitations for the people, full security and this have been failure for the last 10 years. The study by the UN on our social economic indicator, particularly on malnutrition and the children growth extremely negative, I’d say total failure over the last 10 years. So I would have priority. For me the campaign has to be policies and the priorities. And Alkatiri, the FRETILIN would have a different priorities. Yes, we can not change everything there are good thing that Xanana did like infrastructure building. We have to continued but we have to be more modest the type of roads we build. So fundamentally, I believe that Alkatiri is a face strict manager. I’m very impress with the way he has learn to be economist, a manager, administrator and a leader. He is very restrict and that’s why sometimes Xanana does not like him. Xanana is too flexible, too spontaneous, improvise, make decision on the spot. Alkatiri he go by the law, and the rule and he is a very different leader.
How can Timor – Leste improve the living standards of its people; is the focus on big ticket economic developments the right approach or should there be more attention to improving basics such as access to clean water?
The next 10 years this government and whoever come after five years maybe this one again will have 10 years from the government program I know it will be focus on rural development. Rural development in every aspect of A to Z. Rural roads, not high ways. Rural roads to make easy access for education, for students, for health care, people to move from their villages to schools and electricity is very important but is not a main great electricity can be solar panels and absolutely vital, the clean water. So all of this part of the rural development. We have to improve education system. It has been many 10 years of really disaster. For instance, if I were make decision this past 10 years I would have invest a lot in vocational training. Copying model the Australian vocation schools call TAFE were young people by basic electricity, car mechanic to able to fix a car, fix motorbike, the bicycle, air conditioner, refrigerator, builder, a carpenter and all of this. But if we do not have enough job, too many young people with a certificate in profile vocational skills they can easy to get a job in Australia or in Korea make thousands of dollars a month. You will better paid with a vocational certificate in electricity, plumbing and if you show up with your PhD in a humanities. So it has very wrong from the start to the independence. I hope the next government can change that and I have discussed with Australia, with South Korea and Japan how to expand their support for vocational school in Timor – Leste.
What’s your assessment of Timor – Leste’s progress since independence?
We have made a tremendous progress. Consolidating democracy, real culture democracy of tolerance, on the security side. Timor – Leste is most peaceful even common criminality is very low. We don’t have organized crime. Timorese are not involve in organized crime like money laundry, trafficking, people smuggling or sex slavery, Timorese are not involve in that. We do have it some attempts that using Timor – Leste for money laundry but this by foreigners. On the economic front we have unable the last 17 years to change from dependency on oil and gas revenues and exports to more diversify economy. In the diversification economy I would say at least two for the timing realistic. One is agriculture so that we guarantee food security the other is tourism. On both agriculture slash security and tourism the last 10 years we have done. Timor – Leste can not leave as and industry country or a manufactory country but we could be have a service economy so that we adopt trade port people, we have a proper legislation and open up Timor – Leste for financial services like Dubai, like Singapore not we are going to be like them, I am not saying, I just . . . incentive to attract main insurance companies and others to establish their offices in Timor – Leste even at all short of facilities because Timorese are very good in administration. I have observe for the last 10, 15 years. By watching, for instance our finance minister 10 years ago a lot of foreigners are working there now almost 100% Timorese. Our petroleum fund investment is almost 100% Timorese managing. So we need more trading and to set up a financial center in taking stage 20 years but I think we can do that and the first like manufactory or Timor – Leste be a mass trading center. Look Singapore, Singapore doesn’t produce much. Singapore is a big financial center and particularly import – export hub. So you build port then encouraging shipping to come to Timor – Leste, you build ware houses and then from here re – export even to Indonesia, re – export to Australia.
Is Timor – Leste at a stage when it needs to move pass the independence hero stable of leaders and transition to a new generation?
Well, as you know in the government last 10 years more young leaders in the government and the Mr. Xanana like Dionisio Babo, Rui Hanjam and so many. In FRETILIN as a same. Look at the current government maybe the only three belong to the older generation. Alkatiri, myself and maybe Estanislau Aleixo da Silva. The next five years our responsibility is to consolidate for the democracy, rule of law, improve governance, absolutely security inter – equality for the people and then 2023 are you believe Mr. Alkatiri, myself, we will be side line. Maybe how to build the new government if that’s all they want but on mater we hand over to them in 2013 the country full democratic, democracy still . . ., absolutely peaceful, so save and with a sound economy.
What political leadership ambitions do you have?
No, I don’t have any . . . you know as you I am not even on the party list. I was there because I believe I have to help Alkatiri, to help FRETILIN but I also help Democratic Party because if you look at all political parties in Timor only FRETILIN and Democratic Party we say have roots, they solid structures. Look at the democratic party, Mr. La Sama died the party continue strong. Alkatiri can leave today there are many people in FRETILIN will take over. That’s what guarantee governance stability, democracy in the country. CNRT party, if Mr. Xanana want to leave today, CNRT would disassemble completely and PLP even worse. They have even less educated experience committed people then CNRT. Something happen Mr. Taur Matan Ruak decided with PLP for . . . So that’s only I support Democratic Party and FRETILIN. And I believe these two parties are crucial for democracy in Timor – Leste.
What does this election means for you personally and to Timor – Leste?
As a person if it goes peacefuly and I believe it will then as a political person as one of the leader of the country I’m very happy because again we show the maturity Timor – Leste democracy. So that both are personal sentiment and the political sentiment. If Mr. Xanana win, very few people believe he can win . . . all the observers, foreign diplomats, the churches, everybody tell me very difficult for CNRT to win. And the FRETILIN will win but even if he win I will be the first to congratulate and wish him to success and he will deserve, he will need all the support he can. I will not be part of it as I was not part of any . . . the government over past 10 years but as a human being, as a Timorese I have to pray and wish that he does a good government.
What is your possition on the Greater Sunrise issue? Are you supporting the government possition to bring the pipeline to Timor – Leste?
Having resolve the maritime boundary next we have to find the most treaties comercially, financially, and technical viable option to develop Greater Sunrise. All we know that Mr. Xanana Gusmão has been insisting, advocating, bringing pipeline for Greater Sunrise to Timor – Leste. I can speak only as a government . . . and Alkatiri as a prime – minister he also said he want to see the pipeline coming to Timor – Leste but that’s our view and the pipeline is not to take political decision to be blame by Timor – Leste government and Australian government. It’s involve many oil and gas companies and involve billion of dollars that belong to the oil and gas companies. So and then these oil and gas companies they will make decision only on the basis of how economically, financially viable not at the political reason. We want the pipeline come to Timor – Leste. So we all support that the pipeline may come to Timor – Leste but I don’t have any documentation because Mr. Xanana Gusmão never provided to us with comprehensive report, studies that it was conducted paid for by Timor – Leste government money. To make that understand, the reason why he so much insist on the pipe line to come to Timor – Leste. We support but to be better if we have . . . we lead all the studies done by all the his consulted that the government have done. As a hire, paid for so that we can better . . . Mr. Xanana is said he is not doing any report because he . . . that was everybody want to feel because he was the chief negotiator and the State negotiate with the State, government negotiate with government and the oil companies negotiating with Timor – Leste because they tough Mr. Xanana was the official chief negotiator and not a freelancer but he said basically he is not. So who is represented the State? Anywhere in the world is represented by the elected people, represent by the president of republic and his . . .
Regarding to your accusation which posted on the Facebook seems like some people are disrespecting you now but before people very respect you a lot. What is your comment or why it’s happen like that?
Well uncle if you look at my Facebook you will see I don’t make personal criticize, personal attack. I do criticize time to time about fair policy and then if you look at my Facebook in the past many years I every time there was some strong, very strong attack on the government by some journalists from outside or some academics I always try to defend but also even before of this election I always critical of properly education system, in the health system before a few years ago. I was only very critical of corruption. That’s nothing new I just saying that just because now I’m saying again? Well, have I lost credibility with them? That’s fine, okay I accept I lost credibility but you know if you look at my Facebook you know I try . . . sometimes you know I try to be funny and sometimes I . . . but I never make any strong unfair criticize of Avo Nana. No I’m consider him as our grand father and the most fair thing we can do to Avo Nana, to grandpa Nana is that on 12 May 2018 he retired to preserve his house and be the senior adviser of the State to the government. I care about him but you know he is out because I only tell him you know every time I travel in somewhere and the ambassador said ooohhh Mr. Xanana is here you want to say something to him? I said just tell him stop smoking, stop drinking too much coffee, don’t work to hard and do exercise because we want to see him live in healthy and long. So if he looses the election and everything make him loose the election do the blessing because he will stay happy and healthy. Thank you very much. (Oki)