José Ramos-Horta sworn in as Timor-Leste president
by Stefano Vecchia

One of the founders of the independence movement, Ramos-Horta is back in the country’s top office after winning the election on March 19 with 62 per cent of the vote. He faces many challenges, from developing the country’s infrastructures to reconciling its many groups.

Milan (AsiaNews) – José Ramos-Horta, has been sworn in as Timor-Leste's 7th president pm the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence.

A founder of the independence movement, first against Portugal, then Indonesia, Ramos-Horta received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, which he shared with Mgr Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Dili at the time.

After the country was free, he served as its first minister of foreign affairs. Between 2006 and 2007, he was prime minister, and president between 2007 and 2012.

Viewed as one the most open and cosmopolitan leaders of the “old guard”, the 72-year-old Ramos-Horta’s earned his high status during the War of Liberation, but also from developing good relations with Church leaders in one of the only two Catholic majority countries in Asia (the other is the Philippines).

Elected with 62 per cent of the vote on 19 March, the president reaffirmed the positive nature of Church-state relations at a meeting on 27 April with the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Timor-Leste.

During the event, he renewed the pledge to work together with the Church on issues of justice, human and social rights, education and national development.

Development remains one of the two main challenges the newly elected president will have to face in a country which, according to UN data from 2020, ranks 141st out of 187 in terms of human development.

Infrastructures are a major issue in the country of 15,000 square kilometres while agriculture, education and health still lag far behind for its population of 1.3 million.

The other challenge is national reconciliation. Despite substantial foreign aid and significant offshore gas and oil potential, the lack of shared objectives among the country’s political parties, factions, ethnic groups and leaders has meant continued insecurity and underdevelopment.