Working together, they will dig out the truth and nothing but the truth about what happened in ’99, to assign responsibility, and to look at the institutional failings.
– Jose Ramos-Horta
José Ramos-Horta received the Nobel Peace Prize for his effort to bring independence to East Timor. He became prime minister and later president of East Timor.
Jose Ramos Horta (born December 26, 1949) has been Foreign Minister of East Timor since independence in 2002, having previously been a spokesman for the East Timorese resistance in exile during the years of Indonesian occupation betweeen 1975 and 1999.
He was born in Dili, the capital of East Timor, to a Timorese mother and Portuguese father who had been exiled to East Timor by the Salazar dictatorship. He was educated in a Catholic mission in the small village of Soibada, later chosen by Fretilin as headquarters after the Indonesian invasion. Of his eleven brothers and sisters, four were killed by the Indonesian military.
He was actively involved in the development of political awareness in what was then Portuguese Timor which caused him to be exiled for two years in 1970 – 1971 to Portuguese East Africa. It was a family tradition as his grandfather had also suffered exile, from Portugal to the Azores Islands, then Cape Verde, Portuguese Guinea and finally to Portuguese Timor.
A moderate in the emerging Timorese nationalist leadership, he was appointed Foreign Minister in the “Democratic Republic of East Timor” government proclaimed by the pro-independence parties in November 1975. Ramos Horta left East Timor three days before the Indonesian troops invaded to plead the Timorese case before the United Nations.
Ramos Horta arrived in New York to address the UN Security Council and urge them to take action in the face of the Indonesian military onslaught which would result in over 200. 000 East Timorese deaths between 1976 and 1981. José Ramos Horta was the Permanent Representative of Fretilin to the UN for the ensuing ten years.
In December 1996, José Ramos Horta shared the Nobel Peace Prize with his fellow countryman, Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo. The Nobel Committee chose to honour the two laureates for their ‘sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of a small people’, hoping that ‘this award will spur efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict of East Timor based on the people’s right to self- determination. The Committee considers José Ramos Horta ‘the leading international spokesman for East Timor’s cause since 1975.
José Ramos Horta studied Public International Law at The Hague Academy of International Law (1983) and at Antioch University where he completed an MA in Peace Studies (1984). He was trained in Human Rights Law at the International Institute of Human Rights In Strasbourg, France (1983). He attended Post-Graduate courses in American Foreign Policy at Columbia University, New York (1983). He is a Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, England (1987).