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Peace in Timor Leste

Publication Date : 18-04-2012

 

Congratulations to the people of Timor Leste for their success in holding largely peaceful democratic elections. It is a rare feat that a newly independent nation, which counts among the world’s poorest, could go through the democratic process of selecting its leaders with little violence.

The credit must go to Taur Matan Ruak (whose goal of becoming the new president is almost assured based on exit polls after Monday’s polling day) and his election rival in the runoff, Francisco Guterres.

Both men have offered olive branches before Wednesday’s formal announcement of the final results. Peace after a divisive election in Timor Leste is almost assured, with the two finalists already burying the hatchet.

Timor Leste has never been short of statesmen. Its first two presidents, Jose Alexandre Xanana Gusmao and Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, showed true statesmanship qualities when they made peace with Indonesia, which they fought bitterly through 24 years of military occupation. Ramos-Horta, the incumbent president, gracefully bowed out of this month’s election after he lost the first round.

Gusmao, Ramos-Horta, Ruak and Guterres are former freedom fighters who could be equally effective as peace warriors. Indonesia could learn a lesson or two from Timor Leste about statesmanship, one quality that is sorely missing among our present-day leaders.

Indonesia has a big stake in seeing the evolution of a democratic and peaceful Timor Leste. Indonesia must do everything it can to help the tiny nation become prosperous.

Both countries have already removed the psychological barriers that could have prevented them from working together by forming the Truth and Friendship Commission to address and resolve all remaining contentious issues from Indonesia’s brutal occupation.

The real test for Timor Leste’s democracy will come after UN peacekeeping forces withdraw from the country, as is planned by the end of the year. Indonesia must stand by to give its support to the people of Timor Leste then. As its giant neighbour, we owe it to them.

 

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