East Timor democracy leaders named Nobel Peace Prize winners
Indonesia angered by selection
(CNN) -- A Roman Catholic bishop and an
exiled pro-democracy activist won the Nobel Peace Prize October 11 for their efforts to bring a peaceful end to the
conflict in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony annexed by
Indonesia in 1976.
Indonesia expressed "regret" over the decision to name Bishop
Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta as recipients
of the 1996 peace prize, accusing Ramos-Horta of "inciting
and manipulating the people of East Timor."
But the Nobel committee praised the two democracy advocates
and cited them "for their work toward a just and peaceful
solution to the conflict in East Timor."
"By awarding this prize, we hope to contribute to a
diplomatic solution to the conflict," Francis Sejersted,
chairman of the committee, said.
East Timor, predominantly Roman Catholic, was annexed by
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, in
1975 during a raging civil war. The former Portuguese colony
is located midway between the Indonesian island of Java and
the northwestern tip of Australia.
Australia is the only country in the world that recognizes
Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor.
Indonesia was critical of the Nobel committee Friday.
"It comes as quite a surprise to us and it is
regrettable that such a reputable institution would award a
person like Mr. Ramos-Horta this award," Ghaffar Fadyl of the
Indonesian Foreign Ministry said.
But Ramos-Horta, who now lives in Australia, dismissed the
criticism. (10 sec./115K AIFF or WAV sound)
"I'm as guilty of inciting my people as the Dalai Lama is
guilty of inciting the people of Tibet," he said. "I am as
guilty as Nelson Mandela of inciting the people of South
Africa. If that is our guilt, our collective guilt, I accept
Ramos-Horta added that resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, who
is serving a 20-year jail term in Indonesia, should have won
the award, not him. "I would feel much happier if, instead of
my name, his was selected," he said.
Belo called it "a victory for East Timorese...and all
Encourages 'peaceful settlement'
Indonesia was condemned by the international community when
Indonesian troops killed dozens of pro-democracy East
Timorese supporters in November 1991. The government claimed
50 demonstrators were killed, while human rights groups said
about 200 were killed by the army.
Belo, 48, has been instrumental in prompting the government
to investigate the killings, which led to the dismissal of
two generals and the imprisonment of several army officers.
Ramos-Horta has been a leading international spokesman for
East Timor's independence since 1975.
The two men will share the award of 7.4 million Swedish
kronor, or $1.1 million.
Before the prize was awarded, East Timor dissidents claimed
Indonesian troops were cracking down out of fear that Belo
would win the award.
Sejersted, the prize chairman, said the committee was aware
of the risk that the prize could trigger a crackdown, "but we
can also see the possibility of encouraging a peaceful
"This was about to become a forgotten conflict, and we wanted
to contribute to maintaining momentum (towards a peaceful
solution)," he added.
Despite Indonesia's anger over the selections, others praised
"I'm thrilled," said former South African archbishop Desmond
Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Price in 1984.
The Vatican welcomed the news with "deepest satisfaction."
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