General Features

Man of vision

Friday 23 November 2012

Kairos Catholic Journal

Laura Meli attended the Gala Evening of Hope on Friday 19 October, where she spoke to His Excellency, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta

On 20th May this year East Timor celebrated its 10th anniversary. What is your vision for the next decade?
The Government, led by Xanana Gusmão, is 100 per cent solidly committed to investing more resources in education and health. This is for every level of education: childhood, elementary, high school, university, vocational. Also in the health sector, including nutrition, water and sanitation. The roads and agriculture. I believe that in five years, 10 maximum, we will see poverty eliminated in East Timor. Child malnutrition, child mortality, tuberculosis and malaria; they will all be eliminated.

Has finishing your term as president in May enabled you to pursue other interests and projects?
I have been doing a fair bit of fundraising in support of groups like the Carmelites, Palms Australia,
East Timor Eye Program and many others who help alleviate extreme poverty in East Timor.

But I am also doing some international political work. As a Nobel peace prize laureate, I am invited to give speeches, like next week in New York I will be speaking about Asia’s political security challenges. I will be addressing a very large group of chief executives, 2000 CEOs from all over the United States, to talk about sustainable development and the responsibility of business to contribute to eliminating poverty through sustainable investment and business.

You are passionate about the education of East Timorese youth; in what ways can Australians help the people, particularly in the area of education and development?
Australia has been very generous. Australia’s yearly commitment to East Timor is $130 million, covering areas like education, vocational training, rural development, water, sanitation. Australia’s commitment is there, you have the commitment at the government level and communities all over Australia. It’s very heartening to see.

You were only 25 years old when you left East Timor as foreign minister to plead the Timorese cause before the UN. What would you say to young people who are fighting to end injustice in today’s world?
First, I would say to young people, study, study and study. You have to excel because, by being the very best in your field of studies, you can be more useful and of better service to your community, your country and the world. But never forget who you are, where you have come from. If you come from a poor background, never forget those who are like you. If you come from a rich background, remember that there are many more who are less fortunate and try to help them. Not necessarily helping in the way that charity does, but even just providing technical advice, volunteer work for a few weeks, a few months a year in a poor country, in a community—that is already very helpful.

Photo by Micahel Silver