Subject: Pool report of Jose Ramos Horta's hospital visit

Pool report of Jose Ramos Horta's hospital visit

Lindsay Murdoch

Wednesday 19 March 2008

This is Lindsay Murdoch's pool report of East Timor president Jose Ramos Horta's return to Royal Darwin Hospital on 19 March 2008 to thank the doctors and nurses who helped him recover from serious gun shot wounds in the attacks in Dili on February 11 2008.

President walks gingerly into the hospital foyer at 9.15am, 15 minutes earlier than scheduled (He had been driven there from the nearby Darwin Private Hospital).

President is wearing a loose fitting brown cotton shirt and brown trousers. His face is unshaven. He looks thin.

President smiles when he shakes hands with two pool journalists.

President indicates he doesn't require a wheel chair and walks to a lift which takes him to the Intensive Care Unit on the first level, where he arrived in a critical condition on the evening of February 11 and was discharged on March 3.

Twenty five doctors and nurses gather around him in the unit's tea room.

President presents the hospital's manager Len Notaras with a photograph of the President meeting The Pope at the Vatican in January, as a gesture of his gratitude to the hospital.

"When I was shot the Pope himself prayed for me," the president said.

Mr Notaras thanked the president, noting that His Holiness' Office was on the phone calling about the President's condition in his early days at the unit.

The President then presented some Timor coffee to the doctors and nurses. "It's the best coffee in the world," the president told them. "I have to also tell you that Timor coffee already has been found to have strong viagra content so it is very healthy," the president joked.

Mr Notaras told the President it is wonderful to see that he has done so well.

"You are a man who has made a difference and you will continue to make a difference," Mr Notaras said.

"You have made a difference to our lives with your courage and capacity to move on," Mr Notaras said.

The President: "I would like to thank you all for your care and patience."

The President thanked everybody at the hospital, even the cleaners, mentioning one cleaner, a "humble man" who he thought was from Sudan.

The President joked with a doctor about his long hair, thinking at first he was a rock musician.

President: "I thank you all for your kindness. Of course I don't forget the Australian doctors in Dili at the Aspen Medical Centre who looked after me in the critical minutes when I was taken to the centre.

"If that centre had not been there I don't know what would have happened.

"I would have gone to the Dili National Hospital where there are doctors of different nationalities...they would have taken care of me but I don't know they have the equipment the Aspen Medical Centre has.

"I remember every detail from the moment I was shot.

I remember everything...the ambulance...a very old battered ambulance. No paramedic. A Portuguese special police unit, GNR...luckily it had a paramedic who jumped in the ambulance and gave me the first assistance.

"On the way to the heliport (Aspen) I fell off the chair a few times because there were no belts.

"I remember even though I was bleeding I was holding on tight.

"And I was telling the driver - go slow.

"But maybe he was wise because it was only a matter of minutes for me to arrive there (Aspen).

"And then I arrived here in your hands.

"I thank all of you."

At this point the President fought back tears and put his hands to his face. He appeared unable to speak for 20 seconds.

A nurse: "You have done very well."

President: "Thank-you."

The President handed out several more gifts before walking unassisted from the hospital.

The President spoke to journalists at the door of the hospital.

President: "I am very much indebted to Australia and the Timorese people. I have been treated very well...professionally."

Asked if he was looking forward to returning home, the President said: "I will be here for a few more weeks because I need additional therapy for a quick recovery."

A journalist asked if the President had a message for Timor.

President: "My message to my people is please forgo violence and hatred with weapons, machetes, with arson - we only destroy each other and the country.

"I thank the people here.

"There are so many thousands of people in Timor - the bishops, the priests, the nuns, the common people who have prayed for me.

"I thank all of my people.

"I will be back soon."

The President then spoke to a journalist from TVTL, the Timorese national television, in Tetun.

The journalist said later the President appealed to the rebel leader Gastao Salsinha to surrender. It would be in his best interest to do so (this is paraphrasing. I have no direct quotes of what the President said in Tetun).

The President walked to a waiting car and was driven away.


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