East Timor president in Lismore
WHEN East Timor president José Ramos-Horta arrives in Lismore this morning, Bill Sheaffe will give him a taste of home.
The Nobel Laureate is visiting the city at the invitation of his friend and former adviser Janelle Saffin, now the Federal Member for Page.
When the President arrives at Ms Saffin's office to be formally welcomed to Lismore, it will be with Timor-Leste coffee and muffins and danishes made at Mr Sheaffe's popular Caddies cafe.
Once the coffee has been drunk and the danishes and muffins devoured, Ms Saffin is expected to take Dr Ramos-Horta for a stroll through the Lismore CBD, with a stop at Caddies to ‘highlight the link' between local businesses and East Timor, now known as Timor-Leste.
“There's a strong feeling towards Timor-Leste and particularly around here,” Mr Sheaffe said. “A lot of people trumpeted that cause for years.
“I feel quite honoured he's coming to Lismore and that he's found the time to do a bit of a street walk.”
Dr Ramos-Horta's visit is believed to be the first official trip to the Northern Rivers by a foreign head of state.
The nearest contenders are Queen Elizabeth II's 1954 visit and informal trips by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to visit his son while he was studying at Woodlawn College outside Lismore.
Ms Saffin said the visit was a big deal for Lismore.
“It's an honour having a head of state visit, also one who's a Nobel Laureate and known to many in our community, because in our community there's a lot of goodwill and support for the people of Timor-Leste,” she said.
Ms Saffin said the President was in Australia to encourage investment in his small nation.
She has included a stop at Caddies because of the cafe's long history of selling free trade coffee grown in East Timor.
Asked if she'd had to do much arm-twisting to convince her old boss to come to Lismore, Ms Saffin responded simply: “I asked him. We're close friends and confidants. It's just a way of bringing him into our community,” she said.
“There are so many people who ask about him. We have soldiers who have served there and some of them will meet him, and the university wants to honour him with a doctorate.
“We have a relationship with Timor as well and Dr David Lloyd will speak about some of that (at Southern Cross University this morning).”
Even without that, the visit would be important.
“He's an international statesman,” Ms Saffin said.
“There are not many people who can pick up the phone and ring any leader in the world, but he's one of them. He can talk like that to all sorts of people. When I met (musician) Paul Simon, it was through him.”