Timor-Leste: A Society Of Peace
By Nobel Peace Prize Laureate,
President J. Ramos-Horta,
On International Human Rights Day
At the “National Parliement”
Dili, 10th December 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we gather here today to once again celebrate the International Human Rights Day, allow me first to renew my sincere and warmest congratulations to President Barack Obama of United States for his well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize.
On 15th October 2009 following the announcement by the Nobel Peace Committee of this year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, I issued the following statement which I read in parts:
I am pleased and understand why the wise men and women of the Nobel Peace Committee decided that President Barack Obama should, this year, be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
In less than a year since he took office, President Barack Obama has injected renewed hope and momentum in the stalled Middle East peace process. He is fully committed to the two-State solution and rightly feels that the Palestinians have been the main victims of this conflict.
One should not expect quick progress in resolving the 60 year-old conflict rooted in generations of mistrust and hatred.
In less than a year, with his inspiring messages of humility, dialogue and peace, President Obama has significantly lessened the tensions in the world, in the Middle East (University of Cairo speech), in relations with Russia, Iran, Venezuela. President Obama’s conciliatory approach, the depth of his intellect and vision of peace, has won over many millions of people.
By giving hope to the millions of disfranchised, the poor and the angry in Middle East, Asia and Africa, President Obama has drained the swamp in which Al Qaeda and other extremist groups operate and recruit. One should not underestimate the power of President Obama’s oratory and conciliatory approach; it has had the effect of, at least, rescuing many young and angry from sliding further into extremism.
His Prague speech on nuclear disarmament and concrete action since then in restarting Nuclear Arms reduction talks, leading hopefully to elimination of all nuclear weapons showed courage.
President Barack Obama’s pledge of more support in fighting extreme poverty is another example of his genuine commitment to peace and justice. He is also more open to a fairer trade regime that favors the developing world.
President Obama is pursuing dialogue with the decrepit military junta ruling Burma. He is right in attempting to engage the military diplomatically as I have advocated for years. I believe that there is a real chance President Obama will succeed in securing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and the start of serious dialogue between her and the military leading to lessening of tensions, mistrust and a new, albeit imperfect, political environment in Myanmar.
Will President Barack Obama succeed? Will he deliver on his promises and do justice to the Palestinians? The negative contrarian forces in the US and Israel are formidable. The extremists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere will not give up. If Israeli hardliners persist in encroaching on Palestinian land with expanded settlements, they will, in a perverse way, strengthen the hand of the extremists and undermine President Obama’s strategy.
When we shook hands and exchanged a few words in the evening of 24th September at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art reception which he and Mrs. Michelle Obama hosted, I told President Obama with his wife Michelle listening attentively: “Mr. President, you cannot fail”. He responded: “We will all work together”. This is President Obama’s belief and style, working with all, reaching out, building bridges, forging consensus.
So I believe that this son of Africa, descendent of Africans who were enslaved for centuries, elected to the most important mission in the world, does deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.
Once again I congratulate President Barack Hussein Obama on the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
But this morning, in my office, as a way to mark the International Human Rights Day, I honored several Timorese patriots, our brothers and sisters, with the no less important “Sergio Vieira De Mello Human Rights Award”.
You will recall, the Sergio Vieira De Mello Human Rights Award was created last year jointly by the Presidency of the Republic and UNMIT. Last year’s winners were:
Father Elígio Locatelli, in the category of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a great man and missionary, originally from Italy, who has adopted Timor-Leste as his own country since 1964; he is the Director of the Fatumaka Technical School, the oldest vocational school in our country; and João Piquino, of the Forum Tau Matan, in the Category of Civil and Political Rights.
This year the Timorese State instituted the Human Rights Prize “Sergio Vieira de Mello” through the Decree 15/2009 of 18 March 2009 and the Presidential Decree 26/2009 of 6 November 2009.
The selection committee reviewed more then 60 submissions, all with strong merit. It was not an easy task for the Conselho de Agraciamentos e Ordens Honoríficas to make a short list and then propose the names to me to make the final decision.
This year’s winners were:
The Comité 12 de Novembro, in the category of Civil and Political Rights And
In the category of Social, Economic and cultural rights:
1. Madre Guilhermina Marçal
2. The NGO PRADET, Dili
3. Orfanato Beata Laura Vicuna, Laga
4. Mana Maria de Lourdes (Mana Lu), of ISMAIK, Instituto Secular Ma’un Alin Iha Kristo
5. Maria de Fátima Wadhoomall Gomes, Shepherd of Igreja Evangélica Assembleia de Deus
I congratulate each and every one of them. And I wish to introduce them to you here today
1. The 12 November Committee is a Timor-Leste NGO created by survivors of the 12th November 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre with the mission to care for the survivors and their families.
Since its foundation, the Committee’s top priorities have been
(a) The registration and verification of victims and survivors of he Massacre
(b) The location, exhumation, identification and re-burial of victims of the 12th November Massacre in collaboration with families and the International Forensic Team
(c) To assist survivors with social services in the areas of health, study and employment.
It also advises the government on a memorial, collection of historical information and contributing to the building of a spirit of nationalism and self-sacrifice amongst the young.
2. Madre Guilhermina Marçal
Madre Guilhermina Marçal, is a Canossian sister. She was born in Same and has been working for the promotion of social, economic and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, since the early age of 12, in particular, during the occupation and during the tragic events of 2006.
In 2006 she challenged crossfire and all the risks associated with her condition of woman to evacuate endangered persons of all ranks, genders and ages, and provided them with shelter.
She managed to bring disparate groups from all regions to live in harmony in the Canossian Convent in Balide and share responsibility for the safety of the community.
Currently, she works for the empowerment of women and offers a range of resources for students to build on their education and prepare to become the future leaders.
3. PRADET (Psycho-social Recovery and Development in East Timor)
PRADET opened its doors in 2002 to work on the psychological sector. With all the depression, psychological trauma and mental diseases that were inherited from the past violence, PRADET seeks to provide the most psychologically vulnerable with the necessary tools to overcome their challenges.
PRADET supports and develops projects on Mental Disease Assistance, Victims of Gender Based Violence, Peace and Democracy Assistance for Juvenile Justice, Assistance to Conflict Victims and Provides a Shelter to Victims of Human Trafficking.
4. Orphanage Beata Laura Vicuna, in Laga
The Orphanage Beata Laura Vicuna develops training activities with focus on the household work, supporting the youngsters in their spiritual development into a meaningful future.
Among other activities the orphanage invests in the interpersonal capacities working on good relationship building among all, and especially through skills development and the promotion of sports, arts, music and drama.
5. ISMAIK - Instituto Secular Ma’un Alin Iha Kristo- Mana Lourdes
Sister Lourdes, popularly known as Mana Lu, developed since her teenage years a solidarity network throughout Timor-Leste that has been dedicated to, and focused on, the most vulnerable.
With more then 10 houses across the country, Mana Lu gathers communities in the search for solidarity, faith and resource maximization.
Since 1989 ISMAIK and Mana Lu have been developing activities
(a) from health care with the Clinic of Bairro Pite and Dr. Daniel Murphy to the hosting of University students in Dili,
(b) from orphanages to community development of sustainable agricultural techniques and
(c) from the support to people suffering from tuberculosis and leprosy to the civil education programs of youngsters and Christian faith development, amongst other activities.
6. Maria de Fátima Wadhoomall Gomes,
Maria de Fátima is the Shepherd of Igreja Evangélica Assembleia de Deus and has been working for the promotion of human rights since the sixties.
She started in Ataúro, alongside her late husband, to work with the local communities.
Even though she doesn’t have formal training as a nurse, she acted as a nurse and provided basic heath care to the population in Ataúro.
She was very active in promoting awareness on the need to send children to school and provide them with formal education. She taught women some basic notions of family planning, hygiene, culinary, family education and domestic violence.
These are some of today’s heroes of our country. I am honoring them, thanking them on behalf of the nation, for their courage, self-sacrifice, generosity and inspiring leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen
As we celebrate International Human Rights Day, I want to share with you some thoughts and reflections on the situation in our country, where we are in giving to our people the most valuable human right, the right to peace, the right to live in one’s town, village, home, to walk down our streets, without fear, in complete tranquility and freedom.
Without conditions of real peace, no one can enjoy the most basic political and civil rights or economic, social and cultural rights. Without real peace, we cannot fully implement the rights enshrined in our Constitution and in International Conventions concerning Child and Women’s Rights. Without real peace, we cannot progress on economic rights, rights to employment and housing, rights to adequate education and health and the right to food.
We can be very proud that we have one of the best Constitutions in the world and that, consistent with the principles and provisions of our Constitution, we ratified all seven major International Human Rights Conventions.
We do not have prisoners of conscience or political prisoners; not a single journalist has been harassed or imprisoned since restoration of independence; no media outlet has been fined, suspended or closed down for lack of proper publishing license.
Our civil society is well-organized into numerous NGOs, academia and civic groups. While the vast majority of our people are Catholics, no minority religious groups can allege discrimination or exclusion even when some of the religious sects proliferating now in our country have dubious activities and dubious authority in matters of faith.
However, we have to do more to advance Child Rights and Women’s Rights.
On 18th December the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) will mark 30 years since its adoption.
Our society, like too many others around the world, rich and poor, is plagued with discrimination based on gender and profoundly affected by domestic violence.
We have made progress in giving a voice to women. In the National Parliament, the Executive Branch and in the Judiciary, there are significant numbers of women in policy-making and decision making positions. It is of great comfort to me and to all of us that 30% of the seats in our National Parliament are held by women. The average in the European Union is only 18%.
The number of women elected in the suku elections went up from a miserable 7% in 2004 to 13% in 2009, and women elected as village chiefs went up from 22% in 2004 to 37% in 2009.
However this is still too a modest result when we know that women in our society contribute to at least half of our GDP, our agriculture and trade, and they are the ones who shoulder the burden of looking after everybody in the household.
For hundreds of years men have ruled communities, nations and empires and men dragged humanity to countless wars in which millions of innocent lives were wasted. And yet men seem to think we have the God-given right to rule alone with the exclusion of our grandmothers, mothers and sisters.
So let’s all do more at home, in Government and in our National Parliament to combat domestic violence and discrimination against Women.