Subject: AU: Irony in the Pacific for long-distance diplomat

The Australian

Irony in the Pacific for long-distance diplomat By BERNADETTE CONNOLE 26 June 2000

THE bittersweet irony of the tension in the Fiji and the Solomons is that East Timor is now one of the few peaceful zones in the Pacific region, says Jose Ramos Horta.

The Nobel Peace prize winner said the tension would not be solved by gunboat diplomacy. He said the Australian Government was taken a measured approach to this unfolding crisis.

But it was a time for Pacific neighbors to stand back from the bullies in the Pacific. "They will not overthrow neighboring countries using balaclavs, menace, bows and arrows - their weaponry and diplomacy is crude."

Ramos Horta was speaking in Sydney after the launch of the film, The Diplomat, which portrays the final tumultuous year of his campaign to secure independence for his country.

The Film by director Tom Zubrycki and producer Sally Browning will be shown as part of the travelling film festival in Brisbane, Wollongong and Darwin starting in July with a national release in August. It was funded through a Film Australia national Interest program.

Ramos Horta was showing the laughter and the strains of the long-distance diplomat. He had been working on the computer until early morning, just received a standing ovation at the festival and seemed at odds with the luxurious surroundings the Sheraton on the Park.

" East Timor is now is a new phase. There are no beggars, children do not stop you for money - the Indonesian military build up will always be the main challenge in the Pacific. "They are the hypocrites, the ones to always watch - not just the coup attempts in the Pacific.'' he said. The film shows the desolation and isolation of the East Timor leader who watched Dili burn and waited to know if his friends were still alive.

Ramos Horta said new businessmen - the carpetbaggers - were one of the main problems in the new East Timor.

:"They are building air-conditioned shipping containers - calling them hotels - and charging more than $100 for the privilege.

"There are land developers in Dili there for a quick buck setting up tourism projects disguised as 'Eco tourism operations'.

"We will not tolerate tourism ventures that are not environmentally sustainable to our tiny island. We do not want another Bali overrun by tourists out to cash in on the locals and the sunshine." Jose warned.

He said the United Nations personnel were being more co-operative in rebuilding the shattered homes in Dili but the World Bank was still very bureaucratic.

"People have to fill in too many forms for building approval - we have to wait for up to two months for the green light and then it is too late to build in the rainy season.

"The World Bank is still caught up in a Western style public service mentality which does not work in East Timor," Ramos Horta believes.

The film shows the desolation and isolation of the East Timor leader who watched Dili burn and waited to know if his friends were still alive.

East Timor is now part of the Internet boom. You can tap into Dili every day to find out what is happening with the United Nations or buy the book by Ramos Horta online.

While the city burned he vowed to unleash computer terrorism on Indonesiam sytems, promising to cripple what was already a dying regime.

Cyber terrorism has arrived as a political tactic. East Timor was the first country born of the Internet Age, thanks to the sophisticated information bombardment of its committed supporters.

The message has now shifted to and shows the level of political savvy by roving ambassadors such as Ramos Horta supporters.

Part of the reason for the turn of events in September 1999 when President Clinton and Prime Minister Howard relented to armed peacekeepers going to East Timor was the level of Internet outrage on embassy systems at the White House, in Portugal and the Australian Parliament.

It will be a difficult journey for independence movements in the Pacific that do not take on board the Internet revolution.

When I spoke of the young student who died in my arms three days before the ballot he wanted to know his name. I was working as a district electoral officer for the United Nations when the bloody incident took place at the UN regional headquarters in Dili.

I said I wanted to plant a tree for Peter, aged 23 , who was gunned down in the Dili streets for showing a photo of Ramos Horta in a pre-ballot rally.

We connected and Jose was close to tears at the memory of the debt of blood he owed fellow Timorese who died in the conflict, including three brothers.

He paused, grabbed a coffee. The look on his face showed a man who did not want to stop to feel the pain - the grief of too many friends who had died. He was saved from a moment of intimacy by the mobile phone. "I'm sorry, Bernadette, I have another meeting to go to soon"

Ramos Horta praised the courage of the journalists who stayed behind in the UN compound during those terrifying times in the Dili UN compound in the slaughter of September 1999 after the vote was announced.

"It was a time in history when journalists become witnesses, rather than just reporters. These efforts saved the lives of many locals who were caught up in the compound and raised the level of the standards of the profession

The Diplomat is a fascinating portrait of a fragile complex character. It breaks through the façade showing Ramos Horta throwing beer nuts, getting angry with the filmmakers about the length of the shoot, confessing infidelity.

It was a great documentary on East Timor. Zubryski and Sally Browning had luck on their side as events unfolding while they were doing the Film Australia shoot.

"I felt crushed to go through the events of September 1999 again.

"We paid a terrible price to be free. We did not betray those who gave their lives if kids can now go to school, if we can tackle the problems of malaria , illiteracy and rebuild our country."

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