Ramos-Horta Launches Burma Petition – The Irrawaddy


Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta has launched a worldwide petition for democracy in Burma, which also calls for the release of Aung Saw Suu Kyi ahead of the election due sometime in 2010.

Speaking at Bradford University in the UK, as part of the PeaceJam event, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ramos-Horta said that Burma’s political divisions should be resolved by dialogue between all relevant parties and not through sanctions that penalize the people of the country.

His comments come after a recent controversy in which the Timor-Leste ambassador to the UN was apparently fired after voting in favour of a General Assembly resolution condemning the human rights situation in Burma.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy last month, Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa said that the ambassador was replaced as his term of office had expired, an account disputed by Timor-Leste’s main opposition party, Fretilin.

Timor-Leste is currently seeking Asean membership, with a view to 2012 accession. All 10 Asean member-states, including Burma, would have to agree.

Ramos-Horta has in the past been an outspoken critic of the military government in Napyidaw. No Asean member-states voted in favor of a December 2009 resolution condemning rights abuses in Burma.

The Timorese president is currently in Ireland on the second leg of a four-country tour that takes him to Switzerland and Japan next week. He will address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 13. This comes two days before UN Special Rapporteur on Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana presents his third report on the human rights situation in the country, after his February visit.

Ramos-Horta survived an apparent assassination attempt in 2008, the details of which remain a mystery. Last week, courts in Dili sentenced rebels to prison for their role in the attacks on Ramos-Horta and Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

However Marcelo Caetano, who was accused of shooting the president twice in the back, was found innocent, after Australian police evidence suggested that the bullet fragments taken from Ramos-Horta’s back during surgery in Australia did not come from Caetano’s gun.

On Wednesday, hours before the verdict, Ramos-Horta said that he thought Caetano had shot him.

Maj. Alfredo Reinado, the rebel leader implicated in the plot to kill Ramos-Horta and Gusmao, was gunned down at the scene. However, the Dili court found that claims by presidential guard Francisco Lino Marcal that he shot Reinado from a distance were false, with forensic pathologist Muhammad Nurul Islam concluding he was shot at close range, suggesting an execution.

The verdict also exonerated Reinados’ girlfriend, Angelita Pires, who had been vilified as a Lady Macbeth type-figure by many in the Timorese political elite, since the attacks on the president and prime minister.

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