EAST TIMOR’S Prime Minister, Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, spoke of the uncertainty in his fledgling country’s future at the law faculty of the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) inaugural Hal Wootten Lecture last week.
“Today [the ministers of the government of East Timor] struggle to maintain ideals of freedom and justice,” Ramos-Horta said. “It is four years since East Timor’s independence and we are still faced with the huge challenge of creating a functioning government.”
Ramos-Horta spoke of a return to violence in May 2006, in which sections of the military caused the wider population to clash in bloody incidents around the country. He cited a failure of the judiciary and police, along with sections of the UN administration, and his own government’s inability to maintain law and order.
The law faculty has nurtured a strong relationship with Ramos-Horta. While in exile and campaigning on behalf of East Timor, UNSW made Ramos-Horta a Visiting Fellow in 1989 and formed the diplomacy training program — a human rights training program made available to people from the Asia-Pacific region.
“In 1989 [Ramos-Horta] came here and made his mark,” UNSW chancellor David Gonski said. “He worked with Professor [Garth] Nettheim to establish the diplomacy training program, which was his idea, and became a reality.”
The lecture recognises the contribution made by the foundation dean of the faculty of law at UNSW, Professor Hal Wootten AC QC.
“East Timor as a nation is attempting to match [Wootten’s] lifelong commitment to healing the scars of the past,” Ramos-Horta said.