Taur Matan Ruak

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Taur Matan Ruak
Official portrait, 2018
8th Prime Minister of East Timor
In office
22 June 2018 – 1 July 2023
PresidentFrancisco Guterres
José Ramos-Horta
DeputyArmanda Berta dos Santos
José Maria dos Reis
Preceded byMari Alkatiri
Succeeded byXanana Gusmão
5th President of East Timor
In office
20 May 2012 – 20 May 2017
Prime MinisterXanana Gusmão
Rui Maria de Araújo
Preceded byJosé Ramos-Horta
Succeeded byFrancisco Guterres
Personal details
Born (1956-10-10) 10 October 1956 (age 66)
Baguia, Portuguese Timor (now East Timor)
Political partyPeople's Liberation Party
Other political
Independent (before 2017)
(m. 2001; died 2023)
Military service
Allegiance East Timor
Years of service1975–2011
RankMajor General
CommandsPonta Leste Sector
Timor Leste Defence Force
Battles/warsIndonesian occupation of East Timor

José Maria Vasconcelos GColIH (born 10 October 1956), popularly known as Taur Matan Ruak (Tetum for "Two Sharp Eyes"), is an East Timorese politician who served as 8th prime minister of East Timor from 2018 to 2023. He also was served as 5th president of East Timor from 2012 to 2017.

Before entering politics, he was the Commander of the FALINTIL-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL), the military of East Timor, from 2002 until 6 October 2011. Prior to serving in the F-FDTL, he was the last commander of the Armed Forces of National Liberation of East Timor or FALINTIL (Forças Armadas para a Liberação Nacional de Timor Leste), the insurgent army that resisted the Indonesian occupation of the territory from 1975 to 1999. Leaving the military in 2011, he stood as an independent candidate in the 2012 presidential election and prevailed in the second round of the vote, held in April 2012.[1]


On 7 December 1975, when Indonesia invaded and occupied East Timor, Taur Matan Ruak took to the hills with the recently formed FRETILIN Army, FALINTIL. As a combatant, he participated in battles against the Indonesian military in Dili, Aileu, Maubisse, Ossu, Venilale, Uatulari and finally in Laga on the northeastern coast, where he eventually stayed. Major-General Ruak's first official FALINTIL appointment was at the end of 1976. From 1976 to 1979, he rose through the FALINTIL ranks in the two eastern military sectors, the Central East Sector and the Eastern Point, or the Ponta Leste Sector. Then he became a company commander.

Taur Matan Ruak and others regrouped the following day at the base of Monte Legumau (Monte Apara) and recommenced guerrilla operations after the collapse of the last Timorese resistance base at Matebian Mountain on 22 November 1978. He was ordered to carry out guerrilla activities in the east after the death of Commander Nicolau Lobato in December 1978. During a mission to locate survivors of the annihilation campaign, Taur Matan Ruak was captured in the Viqueque area by Indonesian Army forces on 31 March 1979. After 23 days he managed to escape and rejoin other FALINTIL forces in the mountains.

In March 1981 he was appointed Assistant Chief-of-Staff of FALINTIL, responsible for the operational command of the Eastern Sectors and later the Central Sector. Taur Matan Ruak was promoted and made responsible for strategic planning of commando operations in the Eastern sector in March 1983. Between 1984 and 1986 Brigadier Ruak was transferred and served as military adviser for commando operations in the Western Sector. After nearly 10 years of operational experience he was promoted to Deputy Chief-of-Staff. After 1986, he was responsible for all commando operations throughout East Timor.

In November 1992, Commander-in-Chief Xanana Gusmão was captured in Dili. Taur Matan Ruak was promoted to Chief-of-Staff. Ruak became the Commander of FALINTIL after the death of Commander Konis Santana on 11 March 1998. Xanana Gusmão resigned from FALINTIL and Taur Matan Ruak was appointed the Commander-in-Chief of FALINTIL. With the restoration of Independence on 20 May 2002 he became the Chief of the Armed Forces (Chefe Estado Maior General Forças Armadas, CEMGFA) and was promoted to Major General in 2009.

General Ruak was married to Isabel da Costa Ferreira from May 2001[2] until her death on 18 June 2023.[3]

Political career[edit]

Taur Matan Ruak played a role in the 2006 East Timorese crisis. On 2 October 2006, the United Nations Independent Special Commission of Inquiry made a number of recommendations including that several individuals be prosecuted. Notably, it found that Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, and Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues and Defence Force Chief Taur Matan Ruak acted illegally in transferring weapons to civilians during the crisis.[4][5]

Ruak resigned from his position as commander of the F-FDTL on 1 September 2011. At the time there was speculation that he was considering running for president. Ruak stated that he would make a decision on standing for election during 2012.[6]

He was formally decommissioned by President José Ramos-Horta on 6 October 2011.[citation needed]

Election as president[edit]

A presidential election was held in East Timor on 17 March and 16 April 2012[7] to choose a president for a five-year term. Incumbent President José Ramos-Horta, who was eligible for a second and final term as president, announced that he would seek nomination to be a candidate in the election.[8] The election was seen as a test for the "young democracy" in seeking to take control of its own security.[9] Taur Matan Ruak provisionally beat Francisco Guterres in a second round runoff.[citation needed]

Taur Matan Ruak was sworn in as president on 20 May 2012, on the same day that East Timor marked the tenth anniversary of its independence.[10] Both Taur Matan Ruak and José Maria Vasconcelos are official names of the President. From June 2013, he made a series of "community visits" in some of the country's most remote areas.[11]

Resignation as prime minister[edit]

Ruak announced his intention to resign the premiership in February 2020, due to a failure to pass the budget for that year. However, he retracted his resignation in March 2020 in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.[12]



  1. ^ Everingham, Sara (19 April 2012). "Taur Matan Ruak claims victory in East Timor election". PM. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  2. ^ Timor Foundation: First Lady Isabel da Costa Ferreira Archived 3 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Morreu Isabel da Costa Ferreira, mulher do primeiro-ministro timorense, ex-candidata presidencial (in Portuguese)
  4. ^ UN (17 October 2006). "UN commission of inquiry issues report on violent crisis that shook Timor-Leste". UN.
  5. ^ UN (2 October 2006). "Report of the UN Independent Special Commission of Inquiry for Timor-Leste" (PDF). UNHCHR. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  6. ^ "E Timor army chief resigns ahead of polls". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. AFP. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  7. ^ "L'ONU salue l'élection au Timor-Leste". Le Figaro.fr (in French). AFP. 19 March 2012.
  8. ^ "East Timor's Ramos-Horta to Seek Second Term". Jakarta Globe. Agence France-Presse. 31 January 2012. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  9. ^ "Polls close in East Timor presidential election". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. AFP. 17 March 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  10. ^ "East Timor celebrates independence anniversary". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. AFP. 20 May 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  11. ^ O'Shea, Mary (16 October 2013). "President's pilgrimages keep two sharp eyes on Timor-Leste's remote villages". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  12. ^ "East Timor PM withdraws resignation to tackle coronavirus". CNA. Dili, East Timor. 8 April 2020. Archived from the original on 9 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  13. ^ "CIDADÃOS ESTRANGEIROS AGRACIADOS COM ORDENS PORTUGUESAS - Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas". www.ordens.presidencia.pt (in Portuguese). Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Presidente Lu-Olo condecora antecessor Taur Matan Ruak em cerimónia solene". DN (in European Portuguese). Lusa. 19 May 2017. Retrieved 6 August 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Taur Matan Ruak at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by President of East Timor
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of East Timor
Succeeded by