East Timorese Activist Returned Home After Nearly Decade in Exile Discusses Independence and the Challenges Facing a Free East Timor

May 14, 2002


Jose Ramos Horta returned to East Timor in December 1999 after a quarter century in exile. At about the same time a younger generation of East Timorese was trickling home as well. Bella Galhos was one of those young people. She spent nearly a decade in exile in Canada after Indonesia had given her a student scholarship to act as a poster girl for the occupation. Once there, she defected and became a leading activist working for East Timor’s independence. She returned to East Timor with Canadian peacekeepers in December 1999 to help rebuild the country Indonesia had just destroyed. In addition to her activism Bella has turned to music to reflect upon East Timor’s struggle and the challenges that lie ahead. She spoke just a block down the road from the Santa Cruz cemetery where Indonesian soldiers gunned down more than 270 Timorese in 1991.


  • Jose Ramos Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and East Timor’s first Foreign Minister.
  • Bella Galhos, East Timorese activist returned home after nearly a decade in exile.