On 8 October 2012 His Excellency Jose Ramos-Horta, co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, delivered the 2012 Sir James Plimsoll Lecture and spoke to the theme: 'Reflections on the past 10 years in Timor-Leste and positioning the country for the future'.
José Ramos-Horta has served as Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and, most recently, as President of Timor-Leste.
Sir James Plimsoll was one of Australia's most distinguished diplomats. He served as Secretary of the Department of External Affairs from 1965-1970, and as head of mission at many of Australia's key overseas posts. He later served as the highly popular and respected Governor of Tasmania from 1982 until his death on 8 May 1987.
Speaking off the cuff, Jose Ramos-Horta shrugged off jet leg to captivate an audience of more than 500 presenting this year’s Sir James Plimsoll Lecture.
Co-winner with Bishop Carlos Belo of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, and a former President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste, Dr Ramos-Horta is spending three days in Tasmania as a guest of the Honorary Consul in Tasmania, Hobart eye surgeon Dr Nitin Veema, and UTAS. Next stop is a brief return to Dili and then New York.
The survivor of an assassination attempt in 2008 spoke with guarded optimism about the next five years of Timor-Leste’s development, pointing to the fact that by mid-2013 most of the country will have electricity, that a major road-building program was underway and that within three-five years it will have more GPs per capita than any other country in the region, thanks to Cuban bilateral development assistance programs.
But while detailing the role that Fidel and Raul Castro have played in helping one of the least developed countries in the world, he used the platform of the Plimsoll lecture to dismiss suggestions by Australian academics is growing closer to China.
With characteristic good humour he joked that China had more influence over Australia.
“We don’t even have a cheap Chinese loan.”
The only Chinese contribution to his country had the construction of three government buildings, he said. "Does that make a country under the influence of China?" he asked. "How about Australia, which sells almost everything to China?”
Of Timor-Leste’s future, he said improvements in education, health and the reduction of poverty were vital.
"He has to deliver," Dr Ramos-Horta said of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
"Our people have been waiting for far too long for simple clean water, to have a few electric bulbs at home to be able to study at night.
"Will he be able to? I believe so, as long as the cabinet is absolutely loyal to him and as long as our development partners redirect their attention, energy and resources to where it can make a difference."
Authorised by the Director of Marketing
23 October, 2012