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His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao – Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao – Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to the promotion of peace and resistance to social injustices. His selfless service of others bears witness and inspires many in the global community.
Former President and Prime Minister of East Timor, His Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, is often referred to as the Mandela of Asia.

He remains a voice of reason and moderation in the debate over the future of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and like former President Mandela, he continues to advocate reconciliation rather than retribution as the best method of healing Timor-Leste’s wounds inflicted by the Republic of lndonesia during its colonial occupation.

Gusmao is the Minister for Mentorship Planning and Strategic Investment of the Government of Timor-Leste. Until stepping aside on 16 February 2015 to facilitate a generational leadership transition, he was the Prime Minister of his country for seven and a half years. Prior to this role as Prime Minister, he served as the first elected President of the Republic after being sworn in on 20 May 2002, the day marking Timor-Leste’s official restoration of independence.

He began his involvement with the Timorese independence movement by joining the Marxist Revolutionary Front for East Timor’s Independence, founded on 20 May 1974.
He was elected as the deputy head of its Department  of Information and was a central figure in the quest for independence.

After the Indonesian occupation in 1975 he became deeply engaged in the resistance struggle. In 1981 he was elected Leader of the Resistance and Commander-in-Chief of the national liberation armed forces of Timor-Leste. He went on to conceive and implement the policy of national unity, bringing together all resistance movements to work cooperatively to achieve the goal of national sovereignty under the banner of the National Council of Maubere Resistance.

On 20 November 1992, after 17 years of active resistance, he was captured in the capital Dili, charged with subversion and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Even though imprisoned in lndonesia until September 1999, he continued to lead the struggle to achieve freedom for his people.

In July 1997, Mandela, while on a State Visit to Indonesia, not only called for the immediate release of Gusmao, but also insisted on meeting with him; not in prison but in the State Guest House, where he had dinner with him.

After the meeting, Mandela reiterated calls for Gusmao’s release, saying that his release was essential to resolving the conflict in Timor-Leste. After international pressure, Indonesia’s President Habibie, announced on 27 January 1999 that Timor-Leste will be allowed to vote on self-determination on 30 August 1999.

Timor-Leste’s first democratic general elections were held on 30 August 2001. Gusmao did not stand in the election but used his authority and charisma to ensure that the vote is conducted in a free and fair manner without violence or intimidation.

Since the first democratic general elections in Timor-Leste, Gusmao has served in different positions in government. He has directed all his efforts to the task of national reconciliation, reconstruction, continuing his life-long work of service to uphold the independence and dignity of the people of Timor-Leste.