UCD honour peace activist with honorary doctorate

UCD has awarded the President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste an Honorary Doctor of Laws. Dr. José Ramos-Horta was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 along with Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo for “their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor”. He was honoured by UCD in recognition of the commitment he has shown to human rights along with his dedication to establishing the independence of Timor-Leste, which has had a tumultuous history of foreign occupation.
In 1970, at 21 years of age, after working as a journalist in his homeland, which was then a Portugese colony, José Ramos-Horta was exiled for one year to Mozambique, another Portuguese colony, where he began his efforts to secure independence for Timor-Leste.
Although Timor-Leste secured independence in 1975, it was invaded by Indonesian forces after their proclamation of independence. Working from Australia and the USA, Ramos-Horta lobbied governments to cut ties with the Indonesian President Suharto’s regime and promoted a peace plan to end the violence in his homeland.
After 24 years of occupation and armed conflict, in May 2002 Timor-Leste achieved its independence from Indonesia. The small country has made progess since this event, despite some violence and disruption. José Manuel Ramos-Horta formally took office as President on 20th May 2007, following a landslide victory in the first national elections since the restoration of independence.
In February 2008, he was the victim of an assassination attempt which he survived following multiple operations in Australia.
Timor-Leste remains in an embryonic state, with a delicate security situation and a stagnant economy. It also remains one of the world’s poorest countries. According to data from the WHO, in Timor-Leste 14% of children younger than 5 years of age suffer from acute malnutrition, and 56% are chronically malnourished.
After receiving the award, President Ramos-Horta delivered an address entitled “Timor-Leste and opportunities for Asia in the 21st Century”. In the paper he described how a small country like Timor-Leste struggles to integrate itself strategically, economically and diplomatically after becoming independent. Despite gaining its independence in May 2002, the country still remains in a fragile condition. In February 2008, Dr Ramos-Horta was the victim of an assassination attempt which he survived following several operations.
“President Ramos-Horta is a moral giant, who from a young age has acted as a voice of his people to assist them towards independence from oppression,” said Dr. Niamh Hardiman, who gave the citation at the honorary conferral ceremony. “His advocacy has shown that the best way to respect the rights of the oppressed, and to achieve freedom and justice, is through peace building.”
“He played a vital role in healing divisions within his own country, building bridges with its nearest neighbour, and keeping faith with the principles of freedom, justice, peace and reconciliation that have informed his whole life’s work.”