Mindanawon peacebuilder receives Timor Leste’s highest award

Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta confers the Ordem de Timor on Gus Miclat for his contribution to the struggle for independence of the former Portuguese colony which later fell under Indonesian rule. Contributed Photo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /24 June) – A Mindanawon peacebuilder was among two recipients of the Ordem de Timor, the highest honor conferred by East Timor on East Timorese and foreign nationals who made significant contributions to East Timor, the Timorese or humanity.

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a regional advocacy and peacebuilding organization based in Davao City, was awarded the Ordem de Timor Wednesday night by Timor Leste’s newly elected President Jose Ramos Horta.

The 65-year old Miclat was recognized for his “contribution to the struggle for national independence through his various activities within the scope of the organization he established together with other people in IID. The activities of that organization focused on advocacy and solidarity, promoting solidarity between peoples, contributing to conflict prevention, peace building and democratization in this region of the world, particularly in countries where there is conflict.”

IID was the Secretariat of the Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET) that was also given the same award in 2015 by then President Taur Matan Ruak who is the current Prime Minister of the country. Miclat was a Convener and Coordinator of APCET. In 2005, APCET transformed into the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition.

Along with Miclat, the Secretary-General of ADN, Ichal Supriadi was also given the same award for his own contribution in regional efforts of monitoring elections in the region while he was the Secretary-General of the Asia Network for Free Elections (ANFREL). ANFREL is a member of the Asian Democracy Network (ADN).

Miclat, AND chair, is in Dili to meet with President Horta and civil society partners to explore collective efforts in sustaining democracy in the region amid shrinking civic spaces due to the rise of repressive regimes.

President Horta has been vocal in calling out the Myanmar junta that dislodged the elected civilian government there through a coup in February 2021. Thousands of civilians have been killed, imprisoned and tortured since then. Thousands of refugees have also spilled across the borders of neighboring countries. A National Unity Government (NUG) composed of elected parliamentarians, ethnic groups and the civil disobedience movement has been established. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) where Myanmar and the Philippines are members, has yet to mediate effectively in helping resolve the crisis.

Established in 2009, the order Order of Timor-Leste was created for “prestige and dignity of East Timor’s recognition of nationals and foreigners, who in their professional or social activity, even in a spontaneous act or altruism, have contributed significantly to the benefit of Timor-Leste, the Timorese, or the humanities.”

“I humbly share this award not only with the peacebuilding circles in the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region but with the peoples and communities that we serve who until today continue to confront monumental challenges of armed conflict they never wished to be part of. This award represents a critical triumph of peace over armed conflict,” Miclat said.

“With the new era of armed conflict and violence happening at the moment between nations, — and with wars often waged, unjustly, in the name of the people—peacebuilding through people –to- people solidarity remains an imperative strategy,” he added.

He noted that while global wars intensify like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “we must even doubly intensify our call for a just peace and humane society. The democratic future, human rights and welfare of the people should be at the core of conflict transformation initiatives.”

In January 2009, while the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were stalled due to the aborted signing in August 2008 of the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in Kuala Lumpur, Miclat said President Horta, who was then visiting the Philippines for lectures at the University of the Philippines College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City and at the Ateneo de Davao University, expressed willingness to help mediate in the peace process if invited by the Philippine government and the MILF. IID had proposed to Horta to help the stalled peace negotiations.

Horta won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 along with Timor Bishop Carlos Belo “for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.”

East Timor gained its independence from Indonesian rule in 2002. (MindaNews)