September 8, 1999
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: For peace in Timor and for all those who died in the last 23 years.
MARGARET WARNER: When independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta cast his vote last week, it seemed the culmination of his life's work: Self- determination for the people of East Timor. But the violence that erupted in the wake of that August 30th U.N.-sponsored referendum has left the territory's future more in doubt than ever. The 49-year-old Ramos-Horta has spent a lifetime fighting for East Timorese independence, most of that time in exile from his homeland. He was born and raised in East Timor when it was still a Portuguese colony. His father was a Portuguese political exile, his mother East Timorese. As a young journalist, he joined the East Timorese resistance movement and helped found its leading political party. When Portugal abruptly abandoned its colony in 1975, Ramos-Horta, at the age of 25, was named Minister of External Relations in the fledgling government of the Democratic Republic of East Timor. But later that year, on the eve of invasion by Indonesia, he fled the island. Three days later, Indonesia began a bloody occupation that would claim the lives of 200,000 East Timorese, about a third of the population. Ramos-Horta went to the United Nations, where he began a quarter-century campaign to awaken the world to East Timor's plight. Partly through his efforts, the United Nations has never recognized Indonesia's annexation of East Timor. Through years of exile, in the United States, Australia and elsewhere, through speeches, writings, and meetings with foreign leaders, Ramos-Horta repeatedly called for an internationally sponsored referendum on East Timor's future. In 1996, he and an ally who had remained on the island, Bishop Carlos Belo, received the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Institute honored them "for their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people." Indonesia's leaders protested the award to men they said were inciting and manipulating the people of East Timor.
ALI ALATAS, Foreign Minister, Indonesia: I'm quite astounded at the choice of the Nobel Committee this time, and I wonder what the criteria are for such a choice.
MARGARET WARNER: But early this year, a new Indonesian government, headed by President B.J. Habibie, decided to allow a referendum on East Timor's future. Ramos-Horta was allowed to return to Indonesia for the first time in 24 years. He was reunited with longtime guerilla fighter Jose Xanana Gusmao, and together they sat down for talks to plan for the referendum.
|A Nobel Prize winner speaks out|
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Ramos-Horta joins us now. He's been in the U.S. this week meeting with U.N. and World Bank officials and members of Congress. He returns to the region tonight.
Welcome, sir. The Indonesian ambassador to the U.N. and other Indonesian officials have been saying today the situation is better, quieter in East Timor, yet we've seen some footage apparently smuggled out to Australia that suggests quite the opposite. What are you hearing about what's going on, on the ground?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: I have to say that hundreds of people have already been killed, executed by the Indonesian army. At least three priests, Catholic priests, are confirmed dead. The second bishop of East Timor -- Don Basili Donashimento[ph] -- has gone to the mountains as well. The information I have heard -- not confirmed -- is that he has been wounded. The Indonesian army is chasing the resistant fighters and together with them the thousands of displaced persons who are in the mountains.
MARGARET WARNER: How many people have been forced to flee their homes, or have fled?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: A total of about 250,000 in the last four days alone. Thousands have been pushed into trucks and trucked away to Indonesia. This is mass deportation of the worst kind.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, we just saw some footage of people being put on military trucks. Where, when you said being deported to Indonesia, where, to the western part of Timor?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: They are sent to the western part of East Timor and herded into camps with no access by the International Red Cross, no doctors, no proper food, no water, no sanitation. Hundreds have been put into ships and sent away to remote Indonesian islands. This is mass deportation, similar to the deportation of Kosovars or during World War II by the Nazis of Jews in Germany and in Europe.
MARGARET WARNER: So, who's directing this?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: This is a policy of the Indonesian army, of the two branches: the special forces and the military intelligence. I believe even the defense minister of Indonesia has no control over these elements of the forces on the ground in East Timor. They are the ones who challenged policies of the president. They are the ones who do not want to accept the results of the referendum, which favors independence.
MARGARET WARNER: So, in other words, your view is that the civilian leadership, President Habibie and his government, are not behind this but are powerless to stop it?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: Yes, I believe so, that President Habibie would not have started this whole process now to get the army to stop it...
MARGARET WARNER: You mean, because it was his initiative to have the referendum?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: It was his initiative. He publicly accepted the result of the referendum, saying they would honor it. The same was said by the Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and defense minister -- but you have in Indonesia two powerful factions, the special forces and the army intelligence.
MARGARET WARNER: So, in other words, are you saying that you don't even think that the military high command in Jakarta, General Wiranto and his group are running this?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: No. I don't think General Wiranto himself is involved. He is challenged by these two powerful institutions, the special forces and army intelligence with their own people in highest echelon of the army hierarchy in Indonesia, such as army general, Zachi Enwar[ph], chief of army intelligence. He is the one directing it from Jakarta.
|A spiral of violence|
MARGARET WARNER: Now, as you know, Indonesian officials are saying -- and we had the Indonesian ambassador here last night -- saying, well, the government is sending in fresh troops to East Timor, troops that have no ties to East Timor. Do you think that is going to make any difference?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: When are the old troops going to leave then? They keep sending more troops and more killings occur. It's a bit like asking Hitler to send more troops into Poland to save the Jews or asking Saddam Hussein to send more troops to Northern Iraq to save the Kurdish or asking Milosevic to send more troops to Kosovo to save the Kosovars.
MARGARET WARNER: The international community, as you know, is saying that they're not going to send in foreign troops unless the government of Indonesia agrees. Do you see any prospect that the government would agree?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: The Indonesian government will not agree, and if the United States and the powers that be keep dragging their feet under that pretext, they will be responsible for the killing, for the death, for the genocide, thousands of innocent people who trusted the U.N., who trusted the international community -- they went to vote -- 80 percent voted for independence, and they have been abandoned; they've been betrayed by the whole world community.
MARGARET WARNER: But when you say the government will never agree if President Habibie, you think would actually like to correct this situation. Why wouldn't he invite international troops in?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: President Habibie has no power. He cannot do it because the army, those who are in charge, they will not let him do it. If he challenges the army, he will be overthrown; there will be a military coup in Indonesia.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think the international community has enough leverage to force whoever the powers that be are in Indonesia to change its mind on this point?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: There are enough powers in the world, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, they're all concerned about Indonesia's challenge to the U.N. They are prepared to send in forces. It is just necessary that the Security Council take action, adopt a resolution, regardless of whether Jakarta say yes or no, because, after all, East Timor was never part of Indonesia; unlike Kosovo, which is part of Serbia, the U.N. never recognized East Timor, so why should they wait for authorization from the government of a congress illegally occupying East Timor anyway?
|A reluctant world community?|
MARGARET WARNER: But Mr. Ramos-Horta, you know better than anyone that for a quarter century the international community for a variety of strategic, economic reasons has not been willing to risk a confrontation with Indonesia over East Timor. Do you think anything's changed fundamentally?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: Absolutely. There are things that the world community can do, the World Bank, the IMF, the Congress can terminate financial assistance to Indonesia. That would put enormous burden and pressure on the army.
MARGARET WARNER: But I guess my question is: Do you really think the international community will do this, given its view about Indonesia's strategic and economic importance?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: Indonesia is not economically important. It is expecting to receive $75 billion from the IMF, billions of dollars from the U.S., the World Bank, they are thoroughly bankrupt, and yet they are wasting millions more on a war of genocide against a small, defenseless people. Indonesia has become not a factor of stability, strategic stability in the region, but, in fact, by their actions they are the ones who are threatening stability in Southeast Asia.
MARGARET WARNER: But what does the sort of hard-headed realist in you tell you about whether the United States or Australia or any of these other countries is ready to see it as you're seeing it, that it's time to really push Indonesia?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: You have two issues here. One is an issue of morality of international law. And that's what led the United States and Europeans into Kosovo, not for strategic reasons. In East Timor, in Indonesia, you have also an issue of morality and human decency, but there is also an issue of the credibility of the international community, the credibility of the United Nations. If the U.N. is allowed to fail there, if the world community, the United States, the major powers, do not back up the secretary-general on this issue, yes, it will threaten the credibility of the whole U.N., and that is a matter of concern for the whole humanity, because if the U.N. is following its credit, failing this, I don't think in the years to come anyone will ever trust the United Nations ever again.
|A vote for independence|
MARGARET WARNER: And you're referring, obviously, to the fact that this was a U.N.-sponsored referendum, and the U.N. was supposed to ultimately be responsible for the interim, the transition to self-rule?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: We were told by the United Nations to go and register. We were told to go and vote. We were told by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, "The U.S., the world community, will not abandon you." We were told by the Australians, the European Union. Our people challenging the militias, the thugs, defying all the threats, they went and registered to vote in the most democratic exercise ever. When you see tens of thousands of people walking down the mountains to cast their vote, their vote for freedom-- and what is the price? What is now the reaction of the world community -- allowing these people to be slaughtered?
MARGARET WARNER: What kind of reaction have you gotten this week, let's say, from World Bank officials and from members of Congress and U.N. officials?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: I am thoroughly pleased with my discussions today with President Jim Wolfensohn of the World Bank. I cannot put words in his mouth, but I believe that he will do whatever he can so that the conscience of humanity will take action. I also believe that the U.S. Congress will take action to stop military sales, military assistance, military cooperation with Indonesia. But I am thoroughly disappointed so far with the administration that is not moving beyond rhetoric, not moving beyond diplomatic representation. The U.S. must take the lead in the Security Council for a U.N.- mandated intervention force in East Timor.
MARGARET WARNER: You also, I gather, did not meet with any Clinton administration officials. How did you read that?
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: No, I did not meet, only because of a time schedule. All the administration officials are in Auckland-- Secretary of State Albright, Stanley Roth. I have been on the phone with National Security Council officials. I've been on the phone with Ambassador Holbrooke. I think the dialogue between me and the Clinton administration officials has been very productive, and I believe I'll be seeing administration officials during the APEC summit in Auckland.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Ramos-Horta.
JOSE RAMOS-HORTA: Thank you.