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  • Documents on Democracy
  • East Timor

On 11 October 1996, The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Was Awarded To Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo And José Ramos-horta In Recognition Of Their Work Toward A Just And Peaceful Solution To The Conflict In East Timor, The Former Portuguese Colony Invaded And Occupied By Indonesia In 1975. Following Are Excerpts From Ramos-horta’s Acceptance Speech, Delivered On December 10 In Oslo, Norway:

It Is With A Deep Feeling Of Humility That I Join Today With Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo To Receive The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize That Has Been Bestowed Upon The People Of East Timor. . . . God’s Modest Gifts Of Health And Wisdom To Me Will Always Be Put In The Service Of Peace And Justice Not Only For My Country And People But Also For The Cause Of Peace, Freedom, And Democracy Everywhere My Faint Voice Can Be Heard. . . .

If, God Willing, East Timor Becomes Independent, Allow Me To Share With You Our Vision For Our Country’s Future And Role In The Region. East Timor Is At The Crossroads Of Three Major Cultures: Melanesian, Which Binds Us To Our Brothers And Sisters In The South Pacific Region; Malay-polynesian, Binding Us To Southeast Asia; And The Latin Catholic Influence, A Legacy Of Almost Five Hundred Years Of Portugese Colonization. This Rich Historical And Cultural Existence Places Us In A Unique Position To Build Bridges Of Dialogue And Cooperation Between The Peoples Of The Region. . . .

We Will Endeavor To Build A Strong Democratic State Based On The Rule Of Law Which Must Emanate From The Will Of The People Expressed Through Free And Democratic Elections. All International Human Rights Treaties Will Be Submitted To The Parliament For Ratification. We Believe That Human Rights Transcend Borders And Must Prevail Over State Sovereignty. . . .

No Country, No Matter How Rich And Endowed With Natural Resources, Is An Island Unto Itself. In An Increasingly Small World And Competitive [End Page 185] Age, Where Modern Electronic Communications Break The Barriers Of Silence Erected By Dictators, Indonesia Cannot Continue To Flout The Right Of The People Of East Timor To Self-determination, And The Rule Of Law In Indonesia.

The Next Two To Three Years Will Witness A Transition In Indonesia. Australia, New Zealand, The United States, Canada, And The European Union Can Encourage A Peaceful, Evolutionary Transition With A Discreet Yet Firm Policy Of Pushing For Democratic Reforms And Rule Of Law In Indonesia And For A Genuine Act Of Self-determination In East Timor.

. . . We Are Not Asking That Indonesia Be Punished With Comprehensive Economic Sanctions. We Believe That Economic Engagement With A Country Can At Times Foster Positive Changes Through The Development Of A Democratically Conscious Class. . . .

The Peoples Of Burma, Thailand, The Philippines, South Korea, And The Democracy Movements In China And Indonesia Are Telling The Rest Of The World That Democracy And Human Rights Are Not An Invention Of The West. The Thousands Of Asians Who Died In The Streets Of Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, Rangoon, And Beijing Did Not Die For A So-called Asian Value That Denies The People Of Asia The Basic And Fundamental Freedoms Enjoyed In Europe, Latin America, And An Increasing Number Of Countries In Africa.


On 29 December 1996, the government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca signed a comprehensive peace accord ending the country’s 36-year-old civil war (see the essay by Rachel M. McCleary on pp. 129–43 above). On the occasion of the signing of the accord, Guatemalan president Alvaro Arzú spoke at the National Palace in Guatemala City. Excerpts from his speech appear below:

Now is the time for peace, now is the time for peace for Guatemala. Part of our mission and our promises materialized today, and our commitment to the future of our people and our region was consolidated. Today we came to say: Mission accomplished! And at the same time, to point out with responsibility and realism and with joy and enthusiasm how much more we still must do.

Today a chapter of our history ended and we started to write another—perhaps a more difficult one, but a more encouraging and promising...

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pp. 185-187
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