José Ramos-Horta

Background

Timor-Leste (East Timor) is colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th Century. When the Portuguese leave in 1975 it appears the colony might finally gain its independence. But Indonesia invades at the end of the same year. The East Timorese begin a 24-year struggle to liberate their homeland. More background.

Mini biography

Born on 26 December 1949 in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste (East Timor). His mother is Timorese and his father Portuguese. He has 11 brothers and sisters. He is educated in a Roman Catholic mission.

1969 - He works as a journalist in East Timor.

1970 - He is exiled to Mozambique, another Portuguese colony, when his efforts to secure independence for East Timor raise the ire of the colonial administration.

1974 - The announcement by a new government in Portugal that it intends to withdraw from its colonies divides the East Timorese population and results in the formation of new political groups.

The Marxist Revolutionary Front for East Timor's Independence (Fretilin), founded on 20 May, calls for full independence. Ramos-Horta, who has by now returned to East Timor, joins the group. The Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) initially favours a continued association with Portugal. When the UDT shifts its position the two groups join in an independence campaign.

The Popular Democratic Association of Timor (Apodeti) favours integration with Indonesia and receives backing from the Indonesian Government, which also wants to see the province integrated.

Indonesia's policy on East Timor hardens following a meeting in September between Indonesian President Suharto and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who acknowledges that it may be best if the province joins Indonesia, if the East Timorese so wish.

1975 - The rise in the influence of Fretilin causes concern in Indonesia, which fears that East Timor may turn communist. As the Portuguese administrators leave, Fretilin troops seize the bulk of the colonial armoury.

The UDT, also concerned by the rise of Fretilin, stages an abortive coup d'état on 10 August, leading to a civil war between Fretilin and an anticommunist coalition of UDT and Apodeti. Fretilin quickly takes control, occupying most of the province by September, despite the military support given to UDT and Apodeti by Indonesia.

In October, Ramos-Horta drives a group of five foreign television reporters to the town of Balibo to film Indonesian border incursions. Ramos-Horta leaves the town just hours before the two Australians, two British, and one New Zealander, the so-called 'Balibo Five', are captured and executed by the Indonesian military on the morning of 16 October.

On 28 November, Fretilin proclaims the Democratic Republic of East Timor. Ramos-Horta is appointed Fretilin's minister for communications and external affairs, becoming the main contact for foreign journalists. Meanwhile, the UDT and Apodeti call on Jakarta to intervene.

Indonesia invades on 7 December, landing forces at Dili and at Baukau, 100 kilometres to the east, and installing a puppet government composed of members of UDT and Apodeti.

The invasion takes place with the blessing of United States President Gerald Ford and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who meet with Suharto in Jakarta on 6 December, the day before the Indonesian troops are mobilised.

It is estimated that 60,000 East Timorese, or 10% of the population, are killed in the first two months of the invasion. All told, up to 250,000 of East Timor's 1975 population of about 650,000 will die as a result of the occupation and the famine that follows.

Ramos-Horta, who just days before the invasion left East Timor to represent it overseas, escapes the violence. Arriving in New York he becomes the youngest person to address the United Nations (UN) Security Council, successfully calling on it to pass a resolution demanding that Indonesia withdraw and give his people the right to self-determination. Indonesia ignores the resolution.

1976 - By April there are an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 Indonesian troops in the East Timor. They will remain permanently stationed there to "pacify" the population.

On 31 May the puppet government votes for integration with Indonesia, and on 17 July East Timor becomes the Indonesian province of Timor Timur.

Most of the world, including Portugal, never recognises the annexation and the move is condemned by the UN, which continues to recognise Portuguese sovereignty over the territory.

1977-85 - Ramos-Horta acts as the permanent representative of Fretilin at the UN, becoming one of the primary voices for East Timor on the world stage. He addresses the UN Security Council, the fourth committee of the UN General Assembly, the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Commission on Human Rights of the European Parliament. He speaks out against human rights violations by the Indonesian military and promotes a peace plan to end the violence in his country.

1983 - He studies public international law at the Hague Academy of International Law and trains in human rights law at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. He completes an MA in peace studies at Antioch University in 1984.

1989 - Eventually settling in Sydney, Australia, Ramos-Horta founds the DTP (diplomacy training program) in the law faculty at the University of New South Wales. The DTP aims to train indigenous peoples, minorities and human rights activists from the Asia-Pacific region in the UN human rights system.

1991 - On 12 November, at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, Indonesian troops shoot and kill 271 unarmed Timorese attending the funeral of a young Timorese killed during an earlier demonstration. The so-called 'Dili Massacre' receives worldwide coverage.

The international community responds to the incident by suspending or threatening to suspend aid to Indonesia, prompting Suharto to appoint a national investigation commission to look into the incident.

The commission finds the army guilty of "excessive force." The senior officer in East Timor and his superior in Bali are replaced, three officers are dismissed from the army, and at least eight officers and soldiers are court-martialled.

Four junior officers are sentenced to jail terms of between eight and 14 months. However, the punishments are relatively light compared to the harsh sentences meted out to the Timorese accused of instigating the incident.

A worrying finding of the commission is that as well as the on-duty troops present at the cemetery there was "another group of unorganised security personnel, acting outside any control or command (that) also fired shots and committed beatings, causing more casualties."

1992 - Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao is captured in Dili by the Indonesian military on 20 November and charged with subversion.

On 21 May he is sentenced to life imprisonment in Jakarta's Cipinang jail for having, according to the presiding judge, "disturbed the life of East Timorese." The sentence is later commuted to 20 years.

1993 - In March the US begins to support critics of Indonesia's rule in East Timor. The UN Human Rights Commission adopts a resolution expressing "deep concern" at human rights violations by Indonesia in East Timor. In May the administration of US President Bill Clinton places Indonesia on a human rights "watch" list. When Suharto meets Clinton in Tokyo in July concerns are raised about the East Timor human rights issue.

1994 - As part of an ongoing dialogue under the UN, Ramos-Horta meets Indonesia's foreign minister, Ali Alatas in October.

1996 - In February, Ramos-Horta is awarded the first UNPO prize, given by the Unrepresented National and Peoples Organisation for his "unswerving commitment to the rights of and freedoms of threatened peoples."

In October, Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Belo are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor."

"Ramos-Horta has been the leading international spokesman for East Timor's cause since 1975," the Norwegian Nobel Committee says. "Recently he has made a significant contribution through the 'reconciliation talks' and by working out a peace plan for the region."

"In awarding this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Belo and Ramos-Horta, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wants to honour their sustained and self-sacrificing contributions for a small but oppressed people. The Nobel Committee hopes that this award will spur efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict in East Timor based on the people's right to self-determination."

The Indonesian Government is "astounded and surprised at the reason given for the award" and finds it difficult to understand why it was presented to Ramos-Horta, a man whose hands they claim "are stained with the blood of the victims of the Fretilin's reign of terror."

1998 - Suharto is forced to step down as president of Indonesia in May. He is replaced by his deputy, Jusuf Habibie. In June Habibie proposes a fresh autonomy deal for East Timor and in August agrees to negotiate with Portugal and the UN on the future of the territory.

Independence for East Timor now seems near, although concern rapidly develops over the growth of antiseparatist Timorese militias. The militias, who are backed by elements from the Indonesian military, begin to warn of violent consequences if independence is granted to East Timor.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese Government presents Ramos-Horta with the Order of Freedom, the highest honour the nation can bestow.

1999 - On 27 January, Habibie announces that the East Timorese will be allowed to vote on self-determination. Shortly after two Indonesian special forces units, codenamed 'Tribuana' and 'Venus', arrive in East Timor to provide undercover assistance to the militias.

The antiseparatist militias step up their campaign of violence and intimidation, killing at least 22 civilians during an attack on the house of a Catholic priest in Liquica on 6 April. At least 12 more are killed in Dili on 17 April when the Aitarak (thorn) militia gang attacks the home of independence figure Manuel Carrascalao.

On 5 May, Portugal and Indonesia agree on a formula to determine the fate of East Timor. A UN-supervised referendum will be held to establish if the East Timorese want autonomy within the Indonesian Republic or full independence. The referendum is scheduled for 30 August.

The referendum takes place in a tense atmosphere but without a major violent incident. 98.6% of the 444,666 registered voters cast a ballot. However, when it is announced on 4 September that 78.5% of the voters have chosen in favour of independence, chaos breaks out as the antiseparatist militias go on a murderous rampage.

During the weeks of violence that follow more than 1,000 die, the territory's infrastructure is destroyed and 500,000 of the entire population of 800,000 are forced to flee their homes, either to the country's interior or to neighbouring West Timor.

Indonesian police and soldiers participate directly in some of the atrocities and the forced transport of 250,000 refugees to West Timor.

On 12 September, Habibie agrees to the deployment of international forces to restore order in East Timor. The situation is finally brought under control after 20 September, when the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET), an UN-backed, Australian-led peacekeeping force, lands in Dili. The militias retreat to West Timor, where they terrorise the East Timorese transported to the refugee camps there.

On 19 October the Indonesian Government ratifies the referendum result and revokes East Timor's incorporation into Indonesia. The UN officially assumes control of the territory on 25 October. In December Ramos-Horta returns to his homeland for the first time in almost 25 years. He subsequently resigns from Fretilin and is appointed as minister for foreign affairs and cooperation in a provisional government.

2000 - INTERFET is replaced by the UN Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) in February.

At the same time, a report by the UN International Commission of Inquiry for East Timor recommends the establishment of an international human rights tribunal to prosecute those responsible for serious human rights violations that took place in East Timor in 1999.

2001 - In April a secret Indonesian Government report on the violence surrounding the East Timor independence referendum is leaked to the media.

The report, prepared by the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in East Timor, finds that officers in the Indonesian military directed the militia violence and that top generals, including the then armed forces commander and defence minister, General Wiranto, were aware of the situation but did little to prevent it.

Meanwhile, East Timor's first general elections are held on 30 August, the second anniversary of the territory's vote for independence. Fretilin wins the elections, but without the massive majority expected.

The party takes 55 seats in the 88-seat Assembly, five seats short of the two-thirds majority it needs to form government in its own right. It becomes instead the dominant force in a coalition. Ramos-Horta retains his post as foreign minister.

2002 - As East Timor's independence day approaches, dignitaries from 92 countries, including former US President Bill Clinton, UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, Indonesian President Sukarnoputri, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, gather in Dili to witness the birth of the world's 192nd nation.

At midnight on 19 May Annan hands government to President-elect Xanana Gusmao and declares East Timor independent. The UN flag is lowered and the East Timor flag raised. About 100,000 East Timorese watch the ceremony.

Hours later, Gusmao swears in the new East Timor Government. UNTAET is dissolved, although the UN retains a presence through the UN Mission of Support in East Timor.

East Timor joins the UN on 27 September.

2003 - Ramos-Horta shocks many observers when he comes out in support of the US intervention in Iraq. "If you can persuade a dictator to give up power, as did happen in Haiti, so much the better. But there are times in our humanity when the use of force is the only way to stop genocide," he explains.

"Look at what happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Does anybody have the moral right to tell the Vietnamese 'you were wrong in intervening in Cambodia in 1979'? I applauded it. Vietnam was the only country in the world with the guts to do it.

"Can we tell the great African statesman, one of my favourite leaders in the world, Julius Nyrere of Tanzania, 'Sorry, you were wrong in intervening in Uganda to get rid of Idi Amin,' when he was the only African leader with the moral courage to do it? ...

"We say that the Security Council is the only source of international legitimacy for intervention. So when the Security Council said no to intervention in Rwanda even when genocide was going on, was that right? The Security Council was wrong in Cambodia, Uganda and Rwanda. I am happy that Saddam Hussein is out. The situation is far better than it was three months ago in Iraq. People are demonstrating for everything - against America, against the British, against each other. That's great. Yes, there were casualties - but far less than anticipated and far less than the more than two million deaths caused by Saddam Hussein. ...

"I never accept being locked in an ideological straitjacket. I see good and bad in all sides. The left cannot claim to have all the virtues. The left has failed miserably over the decades. And the right don't have a monopoly on virtues, or on evil."

In July, Ramos-Horta speaks out against the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi by Burma's military dictatorship. "The recent attacks on Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and her supporters were orchestrated by hard-liners in Burma's military regime who fear her enduring popularity and the national reconciliation process supported by other, more tolerant, members of the ruling junta," he says.

At the start of November he confirms that the East Timorese government wants to repair its relations with Indonesia and will not support an international tribunal into the human rights abuses that occurred during the Indonesia's rule.

"As foreign minister, I will not use my energy to lobby for an international tribunal," he says. "The government is very solid on this view. We are in a peculiar situation. Indonesia has changed since 1999, the president and government is new; they cannot be blamed for what happened. It would not be fair."

On 10 December he calls on the UN to maintain civilian advisers and a "rapid action" police force of between 400 and 1,000 in East Timor after the main body of peacekeepers withdraw on 20 May 2004.

"The UN must stay, engage in East Timor on a smaller scale but with a robust, credible presence to ensure that achievements of the past two or three years will not unravel with a hasty retreat," Ramos-Horta says.

"Nation-building cannot be undertaken with shortcut methods. It cannot be based on the Security Council wanting to save money from East Timor and then diverting it to Iraq or Afghanistan or the Middle East."

At the end of December UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan formally recommends that the UN mission in East Timor be extended beyond its May 2004 deadline. The last of the UN peacekeepers are not withdrawn until 20 May 2005. A small UN staff of about 70 political, military and police advisers stay on for another year after that.

2004 - At the start of February, Ramos-Horta calls on the military government of Burma to "show their patriotism and intelligence by being the ones who orchestrate Burma's transition to democracy," saying, "they would be forever remembered as the fathers of democracy of Burma if they were to change course."

"At the same time, I would hope that the other side, those who are led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, should be able to walk halfway and reassure the military that, in the event of these inevitable changes, there will be no witch-hunting; that the Burmese military should not fear that they will be prosecuted and jailed," Ramos-Horta adds.

"Even if we claim justice for those who have committed murder and torture, sometimes we have to swallow these bitter pills and forgive, reconcile and rebuild the country. Because when we talk about justice, I believe there is no greater justice than the gift of freedom. Hence, if Burma achieves peace and democracy then everybody should be able to forgive, because they will achieve the greater justice and that is their freedom."

At the end of November, Ramos-Horta accuses the Australian Government of using what "amounted to an unacceptable blackmail" in negotiations over where to set the maritime boundary between the two countries.

Australia wants the boundary set not at the midpoint but at a position that will give it the lions share of the rich oil and gas reserves that lie beneath the seabed.

According to Ramos-Horta, Australia "knows too well that its continental shelf claims are not credible and sustainable in international law." Failure to resolve the dispute would "soil Australia's international image and would do irreparable damage to Australia-East Timor relations," he says.

Ramos-Horta believes that independent mediation or a hearing in the International Court of Justice will be needed to solve the problem.

On 21 December, Ramos-Horta and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda announce the establishment of a joint Indonesian and East Timor Commission on Truth and Friendship to investigate the events surrounding the 1999 referendum.

"This is an initiative which we believe is highly positive and will shed truth on the events of the past," Ramos-Horta says, adding that the commission "would finally close this chapter."

"We would hope and intend that this initiative would resolve once and for all the ... events of 1999," he says.

The commission holds its first meeting on 4 August 2005. The UN later boycotts the proceedings, saying that because the commission may recommend amnesties for serious crimes it should not be endorsed or condoned.

2005 - On 28 November the East Timor Parliament is presented with a report by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, an independent group set up in 2002 to investigate the killings committed during the Indonesian occupation.

According to reports in 'The Australian' newspaper and other media outlets, the 2,500-page report finds that 18,600 East Timorese civilians were murdered or disappeared during the Indonesian occupation and between 84,200 and 183,000 more died as a direct result of Indonesia's policies. Indonesian police or soldiers were to blame for 70% of the 18,600 murders and disappearances.

The report is based on interviews with almost 8,000 witnesses from East Timor, statements from refugees in West Timor, Indonesian military documents and intelligence from international sources.

"The crimes committed in 1999 were far outweighed by those committed during the previous 24 years of occupation," the report says.

The Indonesian security forces "consciously decided to use starvation of East Timorese civilians as a weapon of war."

"The intentional imposition of conditions of life which could not sustain tens of thousands of East Timorese civilians amounted to extermination as a crime against humanity committed against the East Timorese population. ...

"Rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence were tools used as part of the campaign designed to inflict a deep experience of terror, powerlessness and hopelessness upon pro-independence supporters. ...

"The violations were committed in execution of a systematic plan approved, conducted and controlled by Indonesian military commanders at the highest level. ...

"Members of the civil administration of Timor and national-level government officials, including (Indonesian) ministers, knew of the strategy being pursued on the ground, and rather than taking action to halt it, directly supported its implementation."

The report finds that the violence surrounding the 1999 independence vote was also part of a systematic plan approved, conducted and controlled by Indonesian military commanders to the highest level.

The report calls for reparations for victims of torture, rape and violence. It also recommends that this compensation be paid by Indonesia, Portugal and foreign nations that sold weapons to Indonesia and supported the annexation of East Timor.

According to the report, the mandate of the UN special crimes unit should be renewed to allow it to investigate and try human rights violations. The UN Security Council should also set up an international tribunal "should other measures be deemed to have failed to deliver a sufficient measure of justice and Indonesian persists in the obstruction of justice."

Ramos-Horta says the "bits of the report I have read confirm what I have known for many, many years about what happened here; a terrible indictment of the Indonesian Army and of Indonesian society."

"I lost three brothers. A sister remains profoundly traumatised and angry. I never asked my mother or brothers or sisters what they went through because I don't want to go through the whole ordeal."

However, Ramos-Horta rejects the report's recommendations as "outlandish, with no connection to reality."

2006 - Late in April a political crisis develops in East Timor that threatens to plunge the fledgling democracy into civil war.

The crisis springs from dissatisfaction with the government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, tensions between ethnic groups from the east and west provinces of the country, and rivalries among the military and police.

With the government unable or unwilling to control the situation, and with President Gusmao's power to intervene limited by the constitution, Ramos-Horta takes responsibility for securing the intervention of a foreign peace-keeping force and extending Gusmao's executive authority, especially in matters of defence and national security.

Australian troops arrive in East Timor at the end of May. They will be joined by security forces from New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal.

On 30 May, Gusmao declares a "state of grave crisis" and takes direct control of the armed forces, the police and the defence and interior ministries to "prevent the violence and avoid further fatalities."

The incumbent defence and interior ministers resign on 2 June. Ramos-Horta takes over the defence portfolio.

Calls for Alkatiri to resign mount. On 25 June, after a month-long stand-off, Ramos-Horta quits the government.

The next day, Alkatiri finally steps down. Ramos-Horta is sworn in as caretaker prime minister on 10 July. He retains the defence portfolio. A new government headed by Ramos-Horta is formed on 14 July.

Speaking of his new responsibilities to the people of East Timor, Ramos-Horta tells the 'Los Angeles Times', "I am scared by their trust. They think I am a genius, they think I am a prophet, when I am really a sinful character. But somehow, because of the way I am, they trust me. ... I feel the weight of the country on my shoulders, and how can I now say no to the common people?"

At the same time, however, he is reluctant to accept the role.

"I was pushed by Xanana to be prime minister," he tells 'The Australian' newspaper in 2008. "I was the only person he would accept. ... It was totally against my plan and my desire. ... My plan was to go abroad for two to three years, to study in France, really, a sabbatical - I have a contract to write a book."

2007 - Ramos-Horta steps down as prime minister to contest East Timor's first presidential elections. After a split result in the first-round, he wins the 8 May run-off with 70% of the vote.

Ramos-Horta replaces Xanana Gusmao, who declined to stand for another term as president but gave Ramos-Horta his backing. He is sworn in on 20 May.

2008 - In January, Ramos-Horta calls on the East Timorese to pray for former Indonesian President Suharto, who lies dying in an Indonesian hospital.

"It is impossible for us to forget the past, but East Timor should forgive him before he dies and I ask people to pray for Suharto as former president of Indonesia," Ramos-Horta says.

Suharto dies from multiple organ failure on 27 January.

The ramifications of the 2006 political crisis hit Ramos-Horta directly early on the morning of 11 February when he is shot and seriously wounded outside his home during an apparent assassination attempt by a band of rebel soldiers. He is flown to Darwin in Australia for medical treatment the same day.

Xanana Gusmao is fired upon in a separate attack by the rebels but escapes without injury.

A state of emergency is declared and the situation quickly brought under control by international peacekeepers stationed in East Timor.

Five weeks later, and after multiple operations, Ramos-Horta is discharged from the Royal Darwin Hospital.

Speaking to the 'Sydney Morning Herald' about the shooting, Ramos-Horta says, "I could see from the face and eyes ... that he was going to shoot me."

"I turned around. It was at that moment that he fired at least two shots, hitting me on the right side of the back. If I had not turned at that moment, he would have shot me right in the chest. ... I would have died immediately."

Ramos-Horta returns to East Timor on 17 April. He receives a heroes' welcome from a crowd of thousands.

Meanwhile, the report of the Commission on Truth and Friendship investigation into the violence surrounding the 1999 referendum is leaked to the media in July.

According to 'The Sydney Morning Herald', the report finds that "Indonesian soldiers, police and civilian officials were involved in an 'organised campaign of violence'" and the "Indonesian state bears 'institutional responsibility' for atrocities including murder, rape, torture, illegal detention, and forced mass deportations."

Quoting directly from the 321-page report, the Herald writes, "The provision of funding and material support by military and government officials was an integral part of a well-organised and continuous cooperative relationship, in the pursuit of common political goals aimed at promoting militia activities that would intimidate or prevent civilians from supporting the pro-independence movement.

"TNI (Indonesian military) and police personnel, as well as civilian officials, were at times involved in virtually every phase of these activities that resulted in gross human rights violations including murder, rape, torture, illegal detention, and forcible transfer and deportation.

"Viewed as a whole, the gross human rights violations committed against pro-independence supporters in East Timor in 1999 constitute an organised campaign of violence.

"The TNI , Polri (police) and civilian government all bear institutional responsibility for these crimes."

At the formal release of the report on 15 July, Gusmao, Ramos-Horta and Indonesia President Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono accept the commission's findings and recommendations.

"We convey our deep regret over what happened in the past that has caused the loss of lives and property," Yudhoyono says.

2009 - In January, Ramos-Horta calls for a review of sanctions against Burma, saying the country's people should not be punished for "the perceived sins of their leaders."

"If we aren't pragmatic about it there will be no solution (in Burma) in the immediate term or long term," he says.

"You look at the transition in Thailand, the transition in the Philippines and Indonesia. The military have remained part of society, part of the state and part of the country."

On 30 August, at a ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the independence vote, Ramos-Horta restates his opposition to the creation of an international tribunal into human rights abuses that occurred in East Timor's past.

"My stated preference, both as a human being, victim and head of state, is that we once and for all close the 1975-1999 chapters of our tragic experience, forgive those who did harm to us," he says.

"I am saying let's put the past behind. There will be no international tribunal. Slowly, gradually, steadily, justice will prevail."

2010 - On 20 August, Ramos-Horta pardons the 23 rebel soldiers involved in the near deadly attacks on him and Xanana Gusmao on 11 February 2008. The 23 had earlier been found guilty of attempted murder and given prison sentences ranging from nine months to 10 years.

2012 - East Timor's third presidential election is held on 17 March.

Ramos-Horta comes in third behind Fretilin's Francisco Guterres and former armed forces chief Taur Matan Ruak (real name José Maria de Vasconcelos) in the first round vote and is disqualified from contesting the run-off.

The second round vote, which is held on 16 April, is won by Ruak.

Ramos-Horta's term as president formally ends on 20 May.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor winds up its operations on 31 December. Early in 2013 the Australian-led troops from the International Stabilisation Force established following the crisis of 2006 begin to withdraw. East Timor is left to stand on its own for the first time since Portuguese settlement over 450 years ago.

2014 - In September Ramos-Horta is made an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in recognition of his leading role in East Timor's independence movement and for his work in maintaining a strong relationship with Australia.

2015 - In March Ramos-Horta and human rights activist Benedict Rogers write in The Guardian newspaper about the imprisonment in the Maldives of former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed. According to Ramos-Horta and Rogers the jailing of Nasheed represents the death of democracy in the Maldives and a return to the dictatorship of earlier times. Nasheed was the Maldives' first democratically elected president. He was forced out of office in 2012.

Ramos-Horta and Rodgers recommend a stronger international response against the regime in the Maldives, including targeted financial sanctions, a tourism boycott and censure by the Commonwealth and the UN.

2016 - In December Ramos-Horta is one of 23 signatories to a letter urging the UN Security Council to act to stop the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in western Burma. Calling the situation in Burma "a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity," the letter criticises Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her failure to "take any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas."

Comment

It must have been excruciating for Ramos-Horta as he observed the conflict in Timor-Leste (East Timor) from the outside. An estimated 200,000 East Timorese were killed during the 24-year Indonesian occupation. Four of Ramos-Horta's own 11 brothers and sisters died at the hands of the Indonesian military.

But while he has only contempt for the Suharto regime and its domestic and international supporters, Ramos-Horta has no bitterness towards the Indonesian people. "One thing I am proud of is that in 24 years of our struggle not one single Indonesian civilian was targeted by the resistance," he has said. "No Indonesian civilians, no Indonesian settlers were killed in this country in 24 years. No terrorist tactics were ever used against Indonesians in this country, and there was no hatred towards Indonesians."

Ramos-Horta has also given Indonesia credit for establishing a special human rights court to try 18 military personnel and militia leaders accused of participating in the violence in East Timor during 1999, even though the court has been criticised as a sham by international observers.

"(The court) is unprecedented in the whole of Asia," he has said. "There has never been in the history of Asia any tribunal to try military officers accused of human rights abuses. The Indonesians are setting a precedent. The trials have been flawed, unjust and unfair but the fact that the Indonesians are doing it, that suddenly those people have to go to court and sit there, is in itself significant progress."