The former president of Timor-Leste has called for the Australian Defence Force to increase its on-the-ground training and support activities in the small Asia-Pacific nation.
Speaking exclusively to Defence Connect, His Excellency Dr Jose Ramos-Horta said that while the Timorese people are grateful to Australia for the ongoing commitment; there is scope for escalation of the relationship.
“We want Australia to play an even bigger role in Timor-Leste,” Dr Ramos-Horta said.
“I think we need Australia to expand defence co-operation, [including] more training of Timorese military officers.
“[In] the next five to 10 years, Timor-Leste will go through a very important, urgent transition in the army leadership. We need to send more officers to Australia for army chief of staff courses. We need to expand the training of our police force in Timor-Leste.”
Dr Ramos-Horta, who was a founding member of the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor and was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1996, said Australian defence personnel and leadership are greatly respected by his compatriots.
“I have a great respect for the Australian defence forces. There was hardly a single incident of misbehaviour involving Australian forces … against innocent local people, in fact none.”
The Nobel laureate also praised New Zealand and Portguese defence forces for their contribution to peacekeeping and assistance in Timor-Leste.
Dr Ramos-Horta is currently a special representative at the United Nations.
To hear more form Dr Ramos-Horta, tune in to our special edition podcast here.