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Foreign Minister visits Jose Ramos-Horta in Darwin hospital; East Timor government happy with the medical response.

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Tuesday 12 February 2008

Foreign Minister visits Jose Ramos-Horta in Darwin hospital; East Timor government happy with the medical response


MARK COLVIN: Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith is in Darwin, where he's just finished meeting with his East Timorese counterpart Zacharias da Costa. 


He's also met members of Jose Ramos-Horta's family. 


Stephen Smith joins me now. 


MARK COLVIN: Mr Smith I gather you've also had a meeting with the medical team that's looking after the President; what are they telling you? 


STEPHEN SMITH: What they're telling me Mark is what they're saying publicly, which is the President's condition remains very serious but stable. 


I had a meeting with Zacharias da Costa, my counterpart then had a meeting with members of President Ramos-Horta's family, including his mother and two of his sisters and then had a session with the medical staff. 


And can I just take the opportunity of complimenting the medical staff both at the Royal Darwin Hospital and also those staff involved in the medical evacuation and also the medical team in Dili. All the reports are that the work done was first class and certainly contributed to the stable position that the President is now in. 


MARK COLVIN: The word 'coma' of course rings alarm bells with people. When we hear that he's in a medically induced coma until Thursday, do you know what that means? 


STEPHEN SMITH: Well, it's done deliberately. Essentially it's enabling his body to recover. I mean obviously I'm not a medical practitioner but the conversations I've had he was placed into an induced coma for the purposes of transporting him from Dili to Darwin.  


Further medical work was done when he arrived and he's now under medication effectively enabling him to be in that very stable, but nonetheless very serious state. 


MARK COLVIN: I know they do it when people have had very bad burns for instance. It really implies that, if he did wake up, he would be in really tremendous pain. 


STEPHEN SMITH: Well he suffered at least two gunshot wounds to the chest or back and obviously he needs on the advice I've received, if he continues to remain stable he will need a week or so in intensive care and then a longer period of hospitalisation. 


But, the good news is that he has been in a serious but stable condition for 24 hours and in his case, in this case, stability is actually good news. So we just hope that his stable condition continues. 


He's described as being very strong, so that we hope aids his recovery and that's obviously what the Australian Government, but also the Australian people are hoping for. 


MARK COLVIN: And you met members of his family. What are they saying? 


STEPHEN SMITH: Well his mother's obviously very, very distressed, as you would expect any mother to be. I'm very pleased that Foreign Affairs Department officials here in Darwin have done everything they can to make life as convenient as possible for family members and his mother is distressed but she's also very stoic and strong. 


MARK COLVIN: You know on PM last night we heard, that the Timorese Foreign Ministry was saying that UN Police stood back for 30 minutes and also that Joao Carrascalao, who's leader of one of the minor parties, he was also on PM last night saying that this had happened, that UN Police left him bleeding on the ground and that it was up to his family to get the ambulance. Did they say anything about that? 


STEPHEN SMITH: No. One of the things that I've been at pains and Zacharias da Costa, the East Timorese Foreign Minister also made the point when we did a joint press conference, is that we've been at pains to not rush to judgement.  


There are a range of facts that both the East Timorese Government and the Australian Government and the international stabilisation force and the UN need to get on top of.  


So, we don't want to rush to judgement about the facts, nor rush to judgements about an analysis. So, I've seen that suggestion but I don't know whether that is based upon anything valid. 


MARK COLVIN: Can you tell us whether or not the UN police who did attend were Australians or not?  


STEPHEN SMITH: No, I don't know that. I suspect though that if they were I would have been advised, so my starting point is that I don't believe that's the case but I'm happy to stand corrected.  


MARK COLVIN: And you spoke to Zacharias da Costa as you say, the East Timorese Foreign Minister, is he satisfied? Have Australia and East Timor got things on an even keel in terms of what we're providing and what they want? 


STEPHEN SMITH: Absolutely. I mean one of the reasons I came to Darwin was to relay personally to Zacharias da Costa the strength of the Australian Government's views in this matter.  


We wanted to stand shoulder to shoulder with East Timor, the duly elected government. And the response that I've had from Zacharias da Costa is that the East Timorese Government is very happy and very grateful, firstly with the medical assistance that's been provided to the President and also very pleased with the support that's been given to family members who've arrived in Darwin as well.  


Secondly they are very pleased with the quick response to their request for assistance in troops and the police and as Peter Cave said they will commence to arrive in the course of this evening and tonight.  


And also the show of force with HMAS Perth being in sight off Dili all morning is also been greatly appreciated. 


So the East Timorese government is very happy that Australia has responded appropriately, as Australia should being in a special relationship with East Timor, in a relationship that we pay particular care and attention to and a country that we believe we have a special responsibility to act in respect of. 


MARK COLVIN: Thank you very much for joining us tonight. 


STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks Mark. Thanks very much. 


MARK COLVIN: Stephen Smith, the Foreign Minister.