Subject: E Timor resistance heroes look to the younger generation

Sydney Morning Herald 03/01/00

Resistance heroes look to the younger generation

By MARK DODD in Dili, and agencies

As East Timor enters the new millennium, two of its best-known independence leaders say they are decided about their future roles in government when the United Nations leaves.

The man considered by most to be the country's presidential front-runner, Mr Xanana Gusmao, says he has no aspirations to be East Timor's new president.

The former guerilla commander said that in other emerging nations those who led independence struggles often did not make the best leaders in times of peace.

"We read about many other failures, in many other countries, in which heroes of the struggle become the leaders. A new country needs someone of more capability to lead, to govern and to guide," Mr Gusmao said.

Similarly, Mr Jose Ramos Horta, vice-chairman of the main political coalition, the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT) said he would be stepping down from mainstream politics in favour of a younger generation of Timorese.

"I want to give space to a new generation of Timorese, particularly those who have spent their lives here," he said. "I've said for a long time my mission ends with the referendum - that's what I fought for for 24 years.

"What I did for the past 24 years was a mission when the country was occupied by the Indonesians."

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate said he intended to retire from active politics by mid-year.

"When the next CNRT congress meets, I think in the second half of the year, I hope I will be able to quietly exit."

Mr Horta said he wanted to use his Nobel Prize money to establish an East Timorese diplomatic training school, the first of its kind in South-East Asia.

"I want to set up a peace and mediation centre in Dili next year. There is no such thing in the whole Asian region, so I'll be quite busy."

Despite his vow to step down from politics, Mr Horta continues to speak out on various issues affecting East Timor.

He has admitted he is at odds with Mr Gusmao over a controversial decision to allow the return of commercial air services with the Indonesian carrier Merpati.

"I'll tell you quite frankly I would prefer to see the resumption of normal commercial links between East Timor and Darwin [instead]," he said.

Indonesian Army and militia were responsible for a wave of destruction across most of East Timor after a massive vote in August in favour of independence.


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