Subject: A moving homecoming to what can never be the same

Sydney Morning Herald

A moving homecoming to what can never be the same

April 18, 2008

DILI: Jose Ramos-Horta stopped briefly at the spot where he lay bleeding, near death, more than two months earlier outside his house overlooking Dili harbour.

"It's emotional for me, not because this is where I was almost killed but because of the reception I have received," the 58-year-old Nobel laureate told the Herald.

"I'm overwhelmed," he said, referring to the tens of thousands of Timorese who yesterday lined six kilometres of road from Dili's international airport to greet him.

Mr Ramos-Horta said he was "recommitted absolutely" to resuming East Timor's presidency, dismissing speculation he was intending to quit the post he gained at elections last year.

"I will not fail in the enormous task I face … when a person is received like this I feel a huge responsibility not to betray their trust."

Not since the day East Timor gained independence in 2002 have so many Timorese taken to Dili's streets. Government officials said later they believe Mr Ramos-Horta's return will be seen as a turning point in the violence and instability in the country since 2006.

Pale and thin after five operations at Royal Darwin Hospital, Mr Ramos-Horta walked the 500 metres from the beachfront to his house behind a girl drum band and village children in traditional dress. But as he approached his thatched-roof house the realisation dawned he will no longer be able to mix freely with East Timor's poor as he had done for years. Portuguese riot police and Timorese guards brutally pushed media representatives and bystanders out of his path. A 24-hour-a-day security cordon will now surround the President.

Asked how he thinks he will cope returning to the place where the rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was shot dead, Mr Ramos-Horta said: "I don't know. I will have to see how I go in the next few days."

Lindsay Murdoch


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