The University hosted President Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor recently and I was lucky enough to get a seat for his speech. After Joseph Stiglitz, the President is the second ever Nobel Prize winner that I have had the opportunity to listen to first hand.
The speech was interesting, but it was not a memorable one. I am unable to recall too many points of the speech.
What I do remember the most is East Timor’s ties with Indonesia.
He is concerned with attempts at punishing Indonesia for past violence in East Timor. He said Indonesia should be given the room to face its own history. The context that Indonesia finds itself in should be understood and taken into account: it at one point came close to repeating the history of the Balkans. That is a painful part of modern Indonesian history. Raising it up would cause old woulds to reopen and ignite an unproductive and divisive debate.
Furthermore, this is not the best time to demand for justice. Such demand at this juncture or in the near future may risk whatever progress, which is a lot, Indonesia is making. He said, such demand would sap energy away from development. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia should not be burdened with an international controversy. The fire of nationalism should not be lighted up.
He believes that as Indonesia matures as a democracy, its society will address it eventually. I definitely think that such approach is better at attaining sustainable peace and good diplomatic relations. Although an exaggerated example, the problem of post-World War I Germany comes to mind with respect to effort to punish Indonesia. Keynes was right about Germany and the current President of East Timor may be right about Indonesia.
In other words, it is in East Timor’s interest to have Indonesia focused on its developmental agenda.
He also made it clear that any attempt to set up a tribunal to punish Indonesia would not get the support of East Timor.
And I thought, those were wise words. And I am on board.