Horta announces initiative against arms trade

August 20, 1997

By Helen Jarvis

SYDNEY — In a major public address at the University of New South Wales on August 14, Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate Jose Ramos Horta spoke out strongly on a number of critical issues of human rights in Australia and internationally. He contrasted humanity's scientific and technological progress with genocide and human destruction on an ever greater scale.

The most detailed focus of his address was weapons sales, which have caused the death of 20 million people in the Third World since the end of the second world war and which amounted to some US$21 billion in 1995.

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) most fuel the arms race, profit most from this trade and contribute most to the consequent repression and death.

In 1994 some 93% of these sales were by the wealthy nations, 56% by the US. Ninety per cent of sales went to non-democratic countries, two-thirds of which were listed as such by the US State Department.

Horta announced that the newly established Commission of Nobel Laureates has decided as its first act to campaign for the adoption of an International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers to ban such trade with countries that do not respect human rights.

The audience broke into applause when he restated the view of historian Henry Reynolds that an apology to the original inhabitants of Australia does not show a "black armband" view of history; the problem was rather a white blindfold view of history.

He spoke strongly against the cuts to Radio Australia, referring to the encouragement it and the BBC have given to people facing repression. If money has to be saved, then why not terminate military intelligence in our region, he asked, to another round of applause.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be defended at the time of its 50th anniversary, and attempts by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to revise it should be resisted, Horta said.

On East Timor, Horta stated that Xanana Gusmao or Bishop Belo should be standing in his place, and that the Nobel Peace Prize was an honour to those East Timorese people who have given their lives and struggled for freedom for the past 22 years.

For the same time, East Timor has been ready for a peaceful settlement and for dialogue with no preconditions. He reiterated the peace proposal he presented first to the European Parliament in 1992 for a three-phase transition leading to self-determination.

In looking back on the East Timor tragedy, Horta said that no-one was free from responsibility. It serves no purpose to assign blame, he said, but the East Timorese leaders in 1975 also share collective responsibility for immature and irresponsible behaviour that alarmed Jakarta. "But there is one single truth — the only victims are the East Timorese people."

He concluded his address optimistically: who would have thought that the Armenian or Eritrean peoples would once again have their own state? Who would have believed that Vaclav Havel could be president within a year of being arrested? Nelson Mandela, president after 27 years as a political prisoner was proof that nothing is irreversible and that empires do not last forever.

Horta was appointed visiting professor at UNSW on the day his Nobel Peace Prize was announced. He has been director of the Diplomacy Training Program in the UNSW Faculty of Law since 1989.

The address was the 11th Wallace Wurth Memorial Lecture, whose previous speakers have included the Dalai Lama and Noam Chomsky.<>><>41559MS>n<>255D>

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