Subject: SMH: Reshaped CNRT sets course for move to independence

Sydney Morning Herald August 31, 2000

Reshaped CNRT sets course for move to independence

Dili: After a 24-hour session, East Timor's main independence umbrella group has reaffirmed support for Mr Xanana Gusmao as its leader and approved measures aimed at a smooth transition to independence.

A seven-member commission will oversee the running of the group, to be known as the National Council of Timorese Resistance/ National Congress. The CNRT's new composition is seen as a significant dilution of the influence of Fretilin, East Timor's best known and formerly most prominent political party.

Delegates voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Mr Gusmao as president and the veteran independence leaders Mr Jose Ramos Horta and Mr Mario Carrascalao as vice-presidents.

There had been confusion on Sunday, when Mr Gusmao and Mr Ramos Horta announced their resignations. However, their decision was revoked within hours, and is being seen as a tactic to ensure unity and reform of the CNRT in the face of opposition by elements of Fretilin.

The congress, which opened on August21 and ended early yesterday, adopted Portuguese as the official language and Tetum as the national language; called for a human rights bill; and endorsed policy guidelines for a future elected government.

It also set up a reconciliation commission to bridge differences between political factions and investigate past political killings.

There was a focus on transparency and good governance, with a decision that the CNRT's accounts be published annually. The new body will be responsible for East Timorese affairs until a parliament is elected next year.

It will shape policy issues for debate in the 33-member National Council, which shares power with the United Nations transitional administration.

Overnight, delegates laboured over the recommendations of four working parties on CNRT reform, the transitional process, national security and foreign relations, and good governance and democracy-building.

By the leadership vote at 6am many delegates were slumped exhausted in their seats.

"With the new organisation of the CNRT we can determine our future and move on," Mr Gusmao told delegates. "We've started to witness a new beginning."

Mark Dodd

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