Subject: Religion no basis for people’s movement - Ramos-Horta

also Ramos-Horta: Patience, humility needed in young democracies

Religion no basis for people’s movement -- Ramos-Horta

Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 06:33:00 08/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines­Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta on Tuesday said religion should not be used as the basis for any people’s movement.

The winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize explained that the experience of the predominantly Catholic Timor Leste in the struggle against the mainly Muslim Indonesian invaders showed the benefits of separating religion from politics.

Ramos-Horta’s remarks were particularly significant to the Philippines as alleged “lost command” units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had occupied several villages in North Cotabato and committed atrocities against residents including Christians in the area.

“We never manipulated religion… We never used religion to advance a cause,” he said Tuesday in a public forum at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law.

Ramos-Horta explained that isolating the political struggle from religious belief resulted in Timorese people’s respect for Indonesian civilians and made the “friendship” and reconciliation efforts easier with Jakarta.

“Not one single Indonesian civilian was killed by the resistance. Not one in 24 years,” he said referring to the years after Timor Leste came under Indonesian control in 1976.

Ramos-Horta was responding to a question on how peace in the region could be pursued and maintained by the countries and other stakeholders.

He said the youths in both Timor Leste and Indonesia were now playing a major role in establishing ties of friendship and reconciliation between the two peoples.

Ramos-Horta delivered a lecture and answered questions on peace, reconciliation and the Timor Leste experience at the very hall that would have played host to him and Timorese resistance leaders in 1994.

He was stopped from entering the country because of lobbying by the Indonesian government at that time.

Looking back, Ramos-Horta said efforts of the Indonesian and Philippine governments to stop him from delivering a speech on the situation of the East Timorese under the Jakarta government worked in his favor.

“If we had been allowed to enter and speak before the forum, it would have just been another forum... Because of the mishandling of the Indonesian government and the uproar it generated, we were able to draw international attention to East Timor,” he said.

Ramos-Horta said the international attention generated by the fiasco in Manila hastened East Timorese independence.

Five years later in 1999 and with support from the United Nations, Timor Leste broke free from Indonesia. In 2002, it became a sovereign state.

“When the Philippines finally found itself free from the dictatorship [in 1986], I said it was only a matter of time before East Timor was also freed,” Ramos-Horta said referring to what he called a trend of countries being freed from oppression at that time. “You started it,” he said.

“Of course, it took more time than I thought it would,” he added, drawing hearty laughter from the audience.

Ramos-Horta also said he had fond memories of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., who led the anti-Marcos efforts in the United States. He said he listened to the Filipino martyr’s lectures in Boston in the early 1980s.


Features, 8/13/2008 6:41 PM August 13, 2008

Ramos-Horta: Patience, humility needed in young democracies


Visiting East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta paid tribute to the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines, which he said inspired hope among the East Timorese for their own independence even while under Indonesian rule.

In a forum Monday attended by foreign dignitaries, state officials and the academe, Ramos-Horta described the Filipino people as "pioneers" in the region for achieving peace through nonviolent means.

"Your country inspired us tremendously over the years. When finally, the people movement led by former President Corazon Aquino took power in Malacañang, we thought 'Well, now it is going to be irreversible.' But it took longer than we thought in terms of democratic expectations," he said to a packed crowd at the University of the Philippines Malcom Theater.

Ramos-Horta, who is a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, also praised the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. whom he described as dynamic and an eloquent speaker. He said he had a chance to listen to the former senator during a lecture at Columbia University in New York.

"I went to him, introduced myself and like many other international luminaries, you try to talk to them and they look at you like a moron. He was very friendly. He laughed, he smiled, called me brother," he said, eliciting laughter. He said he spoke to Aquino several times over the phone before the senator's last trip on August 1983 where he was shot.

Ramos-Horta paid tribute to Aquino as well as the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, whom he called a "great man." A report on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Web site said Ramos-Horta offered flowers and prayers at Sin's tomb in Manila Cathedral.

Ramos-Horta said the Philippines also helped East Timor by sending peacekeepers, led by Lt. Gen. Jaime de los Santos, to the region after Indonesia relinquished control of the territory in 1999. He said that aside from police and soldiers, the Philippines also sent medical personnel as well as priests and nuns to the embattled country.

During the forum, Ramos-Horta joked about an incident in 1994 wherein he was banned by then Philippine President Fidel Ramos from entering the country to attend an international conference in Manila. He joked that he and former President Ramos were in fact "distant cousins" from the same family tree.

He said, however, that he understood the Philippine position since Indonesia was considered an economic tiger in the region before the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Ramos-Horta also talked briefly about the failed assassination attempt on his life last February as well as his pardon of militant leader Joni Marquez. He said that East Timor is a young democracy that is still engaged in nation-building after achieving independence six years ago.

He described the assassination attempt as a failure of peace dialogue after rebel forces led by Alfredo Reinado disregarded the negotiations and decided to use force. "Whoever uses violence, uses force, no matter the validity of the grievances or claims, will lose," he said.

He said he pardoned Marquez since it was unfair to keep him in prison while Indonesian military officials responsible for even worse crimes against the country remain free. More than 100,000 people were allegedly killed by Indonesian troops during the

"In the efforts of peacemaking whether in Timor Leste or any young democracies, patience, prudence and humility are virtues that must be observed," he said.

Ramos-Horta said that while many of his countrymen do not agree with his policies, he said any leader should be willing to back away from any cause or ideology that drags them to the same level as their opponents.

"I don't believe in any cause, religion or ideology where the end justifies the means and where the political and religious arguments would lead to the killing of innocent people. If in the process of the struggle of your independence, you use the tactics of your opponent, then you must be willing to abandon the cause," he said.


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