José Ramos-Horta

His Excellency
José Ramos-Horta
President of East Timor
In office
20 May 2007  20 May 2012
Prime Minister Estanislau da Silva
Xanana Gusmão
Preceded by Xanana Gusmão
Succeeded by Taur Matan Ruak
Prime Minister of East Timor
In office
26 June 2006  19 May 2007
President Xanana Gusmão
Preceded by Mari Alkatiri
Succeeded by Estanislau da Silva
Personal details
Born José Manuel Ramos-Horta
(1949-12-26) 26 December 1949
Dili, Portuguese Timor
(now East Timor)
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Ana Pessoa Pinto (Divorced)
Children Loro Ramos-Horta
Alma mater Hague Academy of International Law
Antioch College
International Institute of Human Rights
Columbia University
Religion Roman Catholic

José Manuel Ramos-Horta GCL AC (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʒuˈzɛ ˈʁɐ̃muz ˈɔɾtɐ]; born 26 December 1949) is the United Nations' special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). He was appointed to this position on 2 January 2013. Previously, he was special envoy to fellow Lusophone country, Guinea-Bissau, and was the President of East Timor from 20 May 2007 to 20 May 2012, the second since independence from Indonesia. He is a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize and a former prime minister, having served from 2006 until his inauguration as president after winning the 2007 East Timorese presidential election.[1] As a founder and former member of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), Ramos-Horta served as the exiled spokesman for the East Timorese resistance during the years of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor (1975 to 1999). While he has continued to work with FRETILIN, Ramos-Horta resigned from the party in 1988, becoming an independent politician.[2]

After East Timor achieved independence in 2002, Ramos-Horta was appointed as the country's first foreign minister. He served in this position until his resignation on 25 June 2006, amidst political turmoil. On 26 June, following the resignation of prime minister Mari Alkatiri, Ramos-Horta was appointed acting prime minister by then-president Xanana Gusmão. Two weeks later, on 10 July 2006, he was sworn in as the second prime minister of East Timor. On 11 February 2008, Ramos-Horta was injured when he was shot during an assassination attempt.

Early history and family

Of mestiço ethnicity,[3] Ramos-Horta was born in 1949 in Dili, capital of East Timor, to a Timorese mother and a Portuguese father who had been exiled to what was then Portuguese Timor by the Salazar dictatorship. He was educated in a Catholic mission in the small village of Soibada, later chosen by FRETILIN as headquarters after the Indonesian invasion. Of his eleven brothers and sisters, four were killed by the Indonesian military.

Ramos-Horta studied Public International Law at the Hague Academy of International Law (1983) and at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where he completed a Master of Arts degree in Peace Studies (1984). He was trained in Human Rights Law at the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg (1983). He completed Post-Graduate courses in American Foreign Policy at Columbia University in New York (1983).[4][5] He is a Senior Associate Member of the University of Oxford's St Antony's College (1987) and speaks fluently in five languages: Portuguese, plus English, French, Spanish and the most commonly spoken East Timorese language, Tetum.[6]

He is divorced from Ana Pessoa Pinto, East Timor's Minister for State and Internal Administration, with whom he has a son, Loro Horta, born in exile in Mozambique.[7]

Political career

José Ramos-Horta (1976)

He was actively involved in the development of political awareness in Portuguese Timor, which caused him to be exiled for two years in 1970–71 to Portuguese East Africa. His grandfather, before him, had also been exiled, from Portugal to the Azores Islands, then Cape Verde, Portuguese Guinea and finally to Portuguese Timor.

A moderate in the emerging Timorese nationalist leadership, he was appointed Foreign Minister in the "Democratic Republic of East Timor" government proclaimed by the pro-independence parties in November 1975. When appointed minister, Ramos-Horta was only 25 years old. Ramos-Horta left East Timor three days before the Indonesian troops invaded to plead the Timorese case before the UN.

Ramos-Horta arrived in New York to address the UN Security Council and urge them to take action in the face of the Indonesian occupation during which an estimated 102,000 East Timorese would die.[8] Ramos-Horta was the Permanent Representative of FRETILIN to the UN for the next ten years. His friends at that time mentioned that he arrived in the United States with a total of $25 in his pocket. His pecuniary situation was often straitened in that period; he survived partly by grace of Americans who admired his politics and his determination. Further, he was obliged to travel worldwide to explain his party's position.

In 1993, the Rafto Prize was awarded to the people of East Timor. Foreign-minister-in-exile Ramos-Horta represented his nation at the prize ceremony. In May 1994, Philippine President Fidel Ramos (no relation), bowing to pressure from Jakarta, tried to ban an international conference on East Timor in Manila and blacklisted Ramos-Horta, with the Thai government following suit later that year by declaring him persona non grata.[9]

In December 1996, Ramos-Horta shared the Nobel Peace Prize with fellow Timorese, Bishop Ximenes Belo. The Nobel Committee chose to honour the two laureates for their "sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of a small people", hoping that "this award will spur efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict of East Timor based on the people's right to self-determination". The Committee considered Ramos-Horta "the leading international spokesman for East Timor's cause since 1975".[10]

Ramos-Horta played a leading role in negotiating the institutional foundations for independence. He led the Timorese delegation at an important joint workshop with UNTAET on 1 March 2000 to tease out a new strategy, and identify institutional needs. The outcome was an agreed blueprint for a joint administration with executive powers, including leaders of the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT). Further details were worked out in a conference in May 2000. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in East Timor, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, presented the new blueprint to a donor conference in Lisbon,[11] on 22 June 2000, and to the UN Security Council on 27 June 2000.[12] On 12 July 2000, the NCC adopted a regulation establishing a Transitional Cabinet composed of four East Timorese and four UNTAET representatives.[13] The revamped joint administration successfully laid the institutional foundations for independence, and on 27 September 2002, East Timor joined the United Nations. Ramos-Horta was its first Foreign Minister.

On 3 June 2006, Ramos-Horta added the post of Interim Minister of Defense to his portfolio as Foreign Minister, in the wake of the resignations of the previous minister.[14] He resigned as both Foreign and Defence Minister on 25 June 2006, announcing, "I do not wish to be associated with the present government or with any government involving Alkatiri."[15] Prime Minister Alkatiri had been under pressure to resign his position in place of President Xanana Gusmão, but in a 25 June meeting, leaders of the FRETILIN party agreed to keep Alkatiri as Prime Minister; Ramos-Horta resigned immediately following this decision.[16] Foreign Minister of Australia Alexander Downer expressed his personal disappointment at Ramos-Horta's resignation.[17] Following Alkatiri's resignation on 26 June, Ramos-Horta withdrew his resignation to contest the prime ministership and served in the position on a temporary basis until a successor to Alkatiri was named.[18] On 8 July 2006, Ramos-Horta himself was appointed Prime Minister by President Gusmão.[19] He was sworn in on 10 July.

Before his appointment as Prime Minister, Ramos-Horta was considered a possible candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as United Nations Secretary-General.[20] He dropped out of the race in order to serve as East Timor's Prime Minister, but he has indicated that he might run for the UN position at some time in the future: "I can wait five years if I am really interested in the job in 2012. I would be interested in that."[21]

In an interview with Al Jazeera broadcast on 22 February 2007, Ramos-Horta said that he would run for president in the April 2007 election.[22] On 25 February 2007, Ramos-Horta formally announced his candidacy. He received the support of Gusmão, who was not running for re-election.[23] In an interview with Global South Development Magazine, Ramos-Horta revealed that Mahatma Gandhi was his greatest hero.[24]

In the first round of the election, held on 9 April, Ramos-Horta took second place with 21.81% of the vote; he and FRETILIN candidate Francisco Guterres, who took first place, then participated in the second round of the election in May.[25] The full results of the runoff elections were made public by East Timor's National Electoral Committee spokeswoman, Maria Angelina Sarmento, on 11 May, and Ramos-Horta won with 69% of the vote.[26]

He was inaugurated as President of East Timor in a ceremony at the parliament house in Dili on 20 May 2007.[27] He had resigned as Prime Minister the day before and was succeeded by Estanislau da Silva.

During the first round of the presidential elections of 2012, held on 17 March, Ramos-Horta, who was eligible for a second and final term as president, took third place with 19.43% of the vote behind the presidential candidates Francisco Guterres with 27.28% and Taur Matan Ruak 24.17% of the vote. He admitted defeat,[28] and his term as president ended on 19 May, with the inauguration of Taur Matan Ruak as his successor.[29][30]

Assassination attempt

On 11 February 2008, José Ramos-Horta was shot in an assassination attempt. In the gun skirmish, one of Ramos-Horta's guards was wounded, and two rebel soldiers, including rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, were killed.[31][32] Ramos-Horta was treated at a New Zealand Military base in Dili before being transferred to the Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia for further treatment. Doctors thought that he had been shot two or three times with the most serious injury being to his right lung.[33] His condition was listed as critical but stable.[34] He was placed in an induced coma on full life support,[35] and regained consciousness on 21 February.[36] A message from Ramos-Horta, still recovering in Darwin, was broadcast on 12 March. In this message, he thanked his supporters and Australia and said that he had "been very well looked after". A spokesman said that his condition was improving and that he had started taking short daily walks for exercise.[37]

Ramos-Horta was released from the Royal Darwin Hospital on 19 March, although he said that he would stay in Australia for physical therapy for "a few more weeks". He also said on this occasion that he had remained conscious following the shooting and "remember[ed] every detail", describing how he was taken for treatment.[38] On 17 April, Ramos-Horta returned to Dili from Darwin. He gave a press conference at the airport in which he urged the remaining rebels in the mountains to surrender.[39]


Following the 2012 Guinea-Bissau coup d'état, he offered to mediate the conflict. As of 31 January 2013 he is the UN special envoy to the country.[40]

Other activities

Ramos-Horta and the Obamas

Ramos-Horta is a frequent speaker, along with other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, at Peacejam conferences. He has served as Chairman of the Advisory Board for, a web site for peace and human rights, since 2000. In 2001 he gathered the post 9/11 statements of 28 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates on the web site,[41] and has spearheaded other peace initiatives with his fellow Nobel Laureates.

Ramos-Horta supported the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and condemned the anti-American tone of its detractors as "hypocritical".[42] In the 1990s he had supported the cause of Kurdish people in Iraq.[43]

José Ramos-Horta in 2009

In May 2009 Ramos-Horta stated that he would ask the International Criminal Court to investigate the ruling junta of Myanmar if they continue to detain fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.[44] However, by August 2010, he had softened his views on Myanmar, warmly receiving the Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win, and said that he wants to improve relations and seek strong commercial ties with Myanmar.[45]

Ramos-Horta is an early signatory of the International Simultaneous Policy (SIMPOL) which seeks to end the usual deadlock in tackling global issues. Lucas became a signatory in 2006.[46]

On 5 August 2009, he attended the funeral of the late former president of the Philippines Corazon Aquino. He was the only foreign head of state to attend. On 30 June 2010, he attended the inauguration of Benigno S. Aquino III, the 15th President of the Philippines. He was, again, the only head of state who attended the inauguration and the first dignitary to arrive in the Philippines for the inauguration.

Ramos-Horta is a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law. It does so by making available, discreetly and in confidence, the experience of former leaders to today’s national leaders. It is a not-for-profit organization composed of former heads of government, senior governmental and international organization officials who work closely with Heads of Government on governance-related issues of concern to them.


The Roman Catholic priest Carlos Belo of East Timor and Ramos-Horta were jointly awarded the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. Both men also received the Order of Liberty, the Grand Cross, from Portugal in 1996.

On 25 November 2013, the Governor-General of Australia appointed Ramos-Horta an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to strengthening Australia and Timor-Leste bilateral relations and for his outstanding leadership to bring independence to Timor-Leste.[47][48]

Depictions in fiction

The 2000 documentary The Diplomat, directed by Tom Zubrycki, follows Ramos-Horta in the period from 1998 to his return to East Timor in 2000.[49][50] Ramos-Horta is played by Oscar Isaac in the 2009 film Balibo.[51] The film tells the story of the Balibo Five and the events preceding the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.[52]

See also


  1. Greenlees, Donald (11 May 2007). "East Timor hopes new leader will heal divisions". International Herald Tribune.
  2. Lindsay Murdoch (10 July 2006). "Ramos Horta vows to rebuild Timor". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 27 September 2006.
  3. Dr. José Ramos-Horta
  7. YaleGlobal Online
  8. A detailed statistical report prepared for the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor cited a lower range of 102,800 conflict-related deaths in the period 1974–1999, namely, approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 'excess' deaths from hunger and illness. (Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (9 February 2006). "The Profile of Human Rights Violations in Timor-Leste, 1974–1999". A Report to the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation of Timor-Leste. Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG).
  9. Sonny Inbaraj Asean's commitment to East Timor faces tough test Asia Times
  10. The Norwegian Nobel Committee (2006). The Nobel Peace Prize 1996. Retrieved 26 June 2006.
  11. "New structure of NCC proposed". 21 June 2000.
  12. "SC/6882 : Security Council briefed by Sergio Vieira de Mello, Special representative for East Timor". 27 June 2000.
  13. "?". Archived from the original on 22 December 2009.
  14. Seattle Times (3 June 2003). Nobel laureate takes security posts.
  15. Australian Associated Press (2006). Timor's foreign minister resigns. Retrieved 25 June 2006.
  16. Associated Press (2006). Alkatiri to remain as PM. Retrieved 25 June 2006.
  17. AM (2006). Downer disappointed by Horta resignation. Retrieved 26 June 2006.
  18. Reuters (2006). Jose Ramos-Horta to be East Timor prime minister. Retrieved 8 July 2006.
  19. Associated Press (2006). Ramos-Horta named E Timor's new PM. Retrieved 8 July 2006.
  20. (2006). Spec growing on Ramos-Horta. Retrieved 27 September 2006.
  21. The Courier Mail (2006). Ramos Horta ‘on PM shortlist’. Retrieved 27 September 2006.
  22. "East Timor PM to run for president", Al Jazeera, 22 February 2007.
  23. "Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta to run for president in East Timor", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 24 February 2007.
  24. “We resisted the temptation of violence”- Ramos-Horta, GSDM 14 February 2015.
  25. "Two set to square off for presidency", AAP (, 18 April 2007.
  26. "Guterres congratulates Horta as new president of Timor-Leste", Xinhua (People's Daily Online), 11 May 2007.
  27. "Ramos-Horta sworn in as E Timor president", 20 May 2007.
  28. East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta admits poll defeat BBC News, 19 March 2012
  29. Kingsbury, Damien Timor election a key test of stability Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April 2012
  30. Powles, Anna Nationalism and nostalgia win in Timor Leste Asia Times, 27 April 2012
  31. "Ramos-Horta wounded". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 February 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2008.
  32. "Ramos Horta wounded, Reinado dead in Timor attack". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 February 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2008.
  33. Australian troops arrive in East Timor. AP, 12 February 2008.
  34. "Ramos-Horta on way to Darwin" Check |url= value (help).
  35. "East Timor leader 'in induced coma'". London: BBC News. 11 February 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2008.
  36. "Ramos-Horta regains consciousness". ABC News. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  37. Ed Johnson, "East Timor's Ramos-Horta Thanks Supporters From Hospital Bed",, 12 March 2008.
  38. "Timorese president leaves Australian hospital after treatment following Feb. attack", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 19 March 2008.
  39. Lindsay Murdoch, "Emotional homecoming for Ramos Horta",, 17 April 2008.
  40. "E Timor's Jose Ramos-Horta gets UN Guinea-Bissau role". BBC News. 1 January 2013.
  41. "Cnn Live This Morning". CNN. 7 February 2001. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  42. U.S. Soldiers Are The Real Heroes In Iraq, Wall Street Journal 17 October 2005
  43. Jose Ramos Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate, Speaks for Leyla Zana 28 May 1997
  44. Arkar Moe (20 May 2009). "Is it Time to Take Than Shwe to International Criminal Court?". The Irrawaddy.
  45. "Timor Leste seeks 'strong' commercial ties with Myanmar". The Brunei Times. 21 August 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  46. About Simpol-UK (International Simultaneous Policy Organization)
  47. Governor-General of Australia. Retrieved 28 January 2014
  49. "The Diplomat (2000)". IMDB. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  50. "A Place to Think: The Diplomat (2000)". ABC. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  51. "Balibo (2009)". IMDB. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  52. Davies, Luke (August 2009). "Robert Connolly's 'Balibo'". The Monthly. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to José Ramos-Horta.
Political offices
Preceded by
Mari Alkatiri
Prime Minister of East Timor
Succeeded by
Estanislau da Silva
Preceded by
Xanana Gusmão
President of East Timor
Succeeded by
Vicente Guterres
Preceded by
Fernando de Araújo
President of East Timor
Succeeded by
Taur Matan Ruak
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