Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The José way

One benefit of living over here is that when ‘western’ style events happen, it’s not too hard to get involved.

East Timor’s President José Ramos-Horta recently visited Bangkok as part of the International Peace Foundation’s ‘Bridges’ speaker program. The program is bringing some of the world’s most acute minds across the Asia-Pacific region to talk about world affairs under the umbrella of peace.

For twelve bucks I was able to roll out of bed on a Sunday morning, wipe the sleep from my eyes, and listen to Professor Ramos-Horta, the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, speak at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club about all things peace and foreign affairs. Cool.

Professor Ramos-Horta is one incredibly intelligent bloke. He chatted off the cuff for a couple of hours on everything from microcredit schemes, what the Middle East needs to do to solve its troubles long-term, Iraq, Cuba & the US, Australia’s refugee policy, East Timorese civic and national development, maritime protection and border security in the Timor Sea.

What I found most interesting, alongside themes in my current reading of Bill Clinton’s ‘Presidential Years’, was what life was like as a national leader dealing daily with diplomacy at home and abroad. Admittedly, East Timor is miniscule when it comes to world super-powers, but its recent independence and proximity to the Muslim world has cast Ramos-Horta into the international spotlight.

His opinions:

Myanmar and Cuba
The US and EU should review their policies to impose sanctions on Myanmar and Cuba, with a view to generating peace in the long term. Apparently he has stated his case at the UN quite fervently on this. I don’t know enough about the issue to agree or disagree, however I don’t know if a full removal would be the best course of action in the two countries at this time. Interestingly, he’s also apparently good pals with Fidel and Raul Castro, stopping in on them recently when he visited in Cuba.

East Timor
Apparently things are doing well there, however for the bloke in charge of a country to say otherwise would be irresponsible. Apparently last month, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations reportedly warned in a report that East Timor is at "risk of anarchy" if its economic problems are not addressed. East Timor is also among the world's poorest nations, with unemployment at about 50 percent.

Amanda Vanstone
When preparing for his first dealing with the then Federal Minister, he was apparently surprised when he had heard from other people in the diplomatic world that she could be likened to an ‘older version of Kylie Minogue’!!

East Timorese Labour
An interesting argument for East Timorese labour to be placed in the Australian countryside on seasonal visas, arguing that it would solve problems for both countries. Could it also be creating more problems for Australia though?

He didn’t fully endorse the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, however he did state that the dissolution of Saddam’s regime is a good thing. The silence from many liberal journalists in the Club was almost deafening. An interesting view from an advocate for peace, however perhaps he playing into UN politics here…

Israel and Palestine
A juicy few tangents of discussion. On democracy in Palestine, he said it was good that it is alive in the country, however Hamas must rethink their strategy if they are to responsibly care for the long-term good of its people.

On Israel, Professor Ramos-Horta said the Israelis should be a little more balanced and humane in their response to attacks on their country.

Can the tensions be resolved at this stage? Probably not, unless someone similar to Mahatma Ghandi or Nelson Mandela can step up from the Palestinian side. "Stop fighting violence with violence and engage Mahatma Gandhi's civil disobedience-style. [Palestinians] can paralyse the entire economy of Israel, and even get sympathy among Israeli people and millions around the world."

Australia’s refugee policy
He is most definitely not a fan, however he isn’t exactly shouting from the rooftops as he knows how much support Australia has, and does give to his country.

I also got a feeling he’s aiming up to head up the UN in the next elections to happen in 2012. Watch this space!

Rev. Jesse Jackson is coming to town in mid-April, so I’ll be looking forward to hearing what he’s got to say.


Mum said...

Looked at the programme and yes, you'd find lots to grab the attention. Ever been to the jazz?

Belly said...

Haven't managed to get to the Jazz as yet, but they have a terrific view to the SW, so could be worth a few sunset beers...