[FOUNTAIN]A skillful leader in TimorThe new Emir of Kuwait, 76-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, served as a foreign minister for 40 years until 2003, then was appointed prime minister. It is not rare in a kingdom for a member of a royal family to hold a high-ranking government position for a long time. Abdullah bin Adbulaziz al-Saud, the 82-year-old king of Saudi Arabia, served as commander of the Saudi National Guard for more than 40 years, from 1963 to 2005, after which he became king.
Antonio de Oliveira Salazar served as prime minister of Portugal for 36 years, from 1932 to 1968, when he suffered a serious brain hemorrhage. In his later years, the powerful leader became less brilliant and made the anachronistic mistake of refusing to liberate Portugal’s colonies. The Portuguese military suffered a great loss in the course of suppressing independence movements, and in 1974, the military carried out a coup and withdrew from almost all the colonies. The Portuguese forces hurriedly pulled out of East Timor, which had been under Portuguese rule for nearly 400 years.
While East Timor declared independence in November, 1975, it was occupied by Indonesia only two weeks later. International analysts explain that the enormous amount of oil and natural gas discovered in the Timor Sea between East Timor and Australia was the cause of the invasion. In 1978, Australia became the only country in the world to acknowledge Indonesia’s sovereignty over East Timor. In return, in 1989, Indonesia shared the right to develop oil fields in the Timor Sea with Australia.
The intervention of the United Nations ended the iron rule of Indonesia in 1999 but, according to a report on human rights infringements that the East Timorese Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation submitted to the United Nations on January 20, more than 180,000 people were killed during the Indonesian occupation. However, President Xanana Gusmao of East Timor forgave the assailants. He said that the objective of the report was to reveal the truth, not to punish the wrongdoers. He gave up revenge for the future of the nation.
Mr. Gusmao signed an agreement to develop the oil and natural gas in the Timor Sea with Australia in May, 2002, a month after his inauguration. He seems to be a leader who knows what should be done in order to survive in the cold-hearted international community. The world hopes that Mr. Gusmao can skillfully transform the underwater energy resources from a poison that brought a foreign invasion, into a remedy that saves the country.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.