East Timor's Nobel Prize Winner to Speak at Yale Tomorrow

Jose Ramos-Horta, winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, will be the keynote speaker at a panel discussion on Tuesday, November 16, 3-6 p.m. in the Divinity School’s Marquand Chapel, 409 Prospect St.

The discussion, titled “The Case of East Timor,” will also feature Shepard Forman, director of the Center on International Cooperation, and Arnold S. Kohen, author of “From the Place of the Dead: The Epic Struggle of Bishop Belo of East Timor.” The public is invited to attend the free event, which is sponsored by the Yale-Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights and the Health and Human Rights Committee of the School of Medicine’s department of epidemiology and public health.

Ramos-Horta shared the Nobel Peace Prize for 1996 with Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, a Dominican bishop of East Timor, who has advocated a peaceful resolution to the conflict in his homeland. Ramos-Horta was honored for his role as the leading international spokesman and activist for East Timor’s cause since 1975, when Indonesia took control of the country. He is credited with focusing international attention on East Timor’s struggle for self-determination. It is estimated that 200,000 people – one-third of the population of East Timor – have since died from starvation, epidemics, war and terror.

Born in East Timor in 1949, Ramos-Horta became a journalist with A Voz de Timor. He was exiled to Mozambique in 1970-71 on a charge of making anti-Portuguese comments. After his return to East Timor, he helped found the Timorese Association for Social Democrats, later called Fretilin, and began lobbying for East Timor’s independence from Portugal.

Civil war broke out in East Timor in the summer of 1975 and Ramos-Horta became the minister for external relations and information in the newly declared independent government of East Timor. When Indonesia invaded East Timor in December of 1975, Ramos-Horta began to argue before the United Nations for international recognition of an independent East Timor.

For 10 years after the Indonesian invasion, while living in exile, Ramos-Horta served as the permanent representative to the United Nations of the East Timorese independence movement, and after 1986 was the special representative of Xanana Gusmao, leader of the National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM). In the early 1990s, Ramos-Horta played a prominent role in drawing up the CNRM’s peace plan.

In 1994, Ramos-Horta headed a delegation of pro-independence East Timorese who met publicly with Indonesia’s foreign minister as part of an ongoing U.N.-sponsored dialogue. This was the first public meeting between an Indonesian foreign minister and external leaders of East Timor since the invasion. He also participated in U.N.-sponsored talks on East Timor held in Austria in 1995 and 1996.

In January of 1999, the Indonesian government agreed to a hold a referendum giving East Timor’s citizens a choice of autonomy within Indonesia or independence. More than 78 percent of the East Timorese voted for independence in the August referendum. Since the vote, Ramos-Horta has continued to speak publicly and write about his homeland’s difficult and violent transition to independence.

Ramos-Horta is the author of two books, including the 1987 “Funu: The Unfinished Saga of East Timor.” He has received the First UNPO Prize, given by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, the Professor Thorolf Rafto 1993 Human Rights Prize and the 1995 Gleitzman Foundation Award.

The Health and Human Rights Committee was established in January 1999 by students in the department of public health. The group, which is open to all members of the Yale community, organizes a human-rights based speaker series and is developing curriculum and a public health/human rights clinic component to the Master of Public Health Program. For further information, visit the committee’s website at: info.med.yale.edu/eph/humanrights.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325