Subject: Lusa: Transition Calendar is Priority - Xanana Gusmao

East Timor: Transition Calendar is Priority - Xanana Gusmao 23 Oct-19:19

The newly-elected president of the East Timor National Council, Xanana Gusmao, said Monday that his top priorities would be to outline the schedule for the transition to independence and to evaluate progress in all sectors of the half-island territory.

Gusmao was interviewed by Lusa shortly after he was elected head of the Council, which will function as East Timor's parliament during the transition. Besides applying the national policy guidelines set during the August congress of his National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT - the territory's umbrella leadership body), the Council will also define the calendar towards independence, he said.

"I am not in the Council to be president. I'm here to continue the job and to take concrete steps," the East Timor independence leader said. "The Council is going to work. It's function will be to direct the process, with the executive in the background. The results of the CNRT congress are the Council's commandments," he added.

Outlining short-term strategy, Gusmao said "it is vital to introduce a countdown plan now," even though the end of next year is indicated as the likely date for full independence.

"They say the end of next year. But when? In what month? How? We have to know this. The central aim of everything is to try to define this calendar, enabling a phased involvement of the East Timorese and development of capacity to have a word in decision-making," Gusmao said.

During the first work sessions, plans call for the National Council to review the territorial budget. This will be followed by a thorough evaluation of progress to date. To this end, Gusmao specified that the Council would sound all department heads and the nine members of the East Timor transition cabinet (five East Timorese and four foreigners), before receiving and making recommendations to the territory's chief UN administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Thirty of the National Council's eventual roll of 36 members were sworn into office Monday during the legislative body's first session in the East Timor capital Dili. Gusmao was elected Council president by 27 votes to three.

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