Subject: WP: Resistance to Independence to Self-Reliance

A Section DIPLOMATIC DISPATCHES Resistance to Independence to Self-Reliance Nora Boustany

05/19/2000 The Washington Post FINAL Page A28

Jose Ramos-Horta, vice president of the National Council for Timorese Resistance, said that if all goes well, his small, United Nations-managed nation will have formal independence by August 2001.

The Nobel laureate, former journalist and university professor, now intimately involved in nursing East Timor into statehood and laying foundations for new institutions, told Washington Post editors and reporters yesterday that by that date, he wants to be out of power to pursue his own interests. He is helping set up a news service, overseeing the training of East Timorese to run a CNN online service and establishing a foundation for peace and democracy.

"I do not want to be entangled in daily politicking. I don't like the hassle," he said. "I can be of more help out of power. These people deserve every sacrifice."

Until then, he is in the twilight zone between resistance and state-building. One day he is called upon to smooth the ruffled feathers of demonstrators demanding jobs, the next he is listening to a former militiaman return home to confess that he "should be hung." Instead, villagers embraced the militiaman, Ramos-Horta said. On other surreal days, the man who kept the flame of nationhood alive for 24 years is asked to reason with an insanely jealous husband listing his wife's suspected infidelities as grounds for beating her.

The daily challenges notwithstanding, Ramos-Horta meets with world leaders regularly and is being hosted in one of Georgetown's most coveted salons and dining in candlelit courtyards surrounded by rose topiaries and stone arches. He talks about the plight of 100,000 refugees still trapped in militia-held camps in western Timor and the frustrations that arise when U.N. consultants, who have no experience on certain issues, advise his countrymen nonetheless. He also talks about his immense gratitude to friends in the United States who kept his hope alive, even when U.S. policy did not.

When he came to raise his people's cry for independence from Indonesian occupation in the cold hallways of the United Nations and Washington, he told a small group of guests gathered at the home of former ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, some people mistook East Timor for Eskimo or Istanbul and wondered whether he had seen "Midnight Express," a movie about Turkish jails. Bagley, who was ambassador to Portugal from 1994 to 1997, met Ramos-Horta while he was trying to get diplomatic recognition and lobby for access. She said that throughout his nearly quarter-century in exile, Ramos-Horta was the "voice of the East Timorese " and acted as his country's traveling conscience around the world.

"We accomplished the impossible," Ramos-Horta said of his national struggle. "We had no alternative."

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