Subject: RT Interview: E. Timor's Gusmao Says He'll Do His Best

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

INTERVIEW - East Timor's Gusmao says he'll do his best

By Carol Pineau

DILI, East Timor, March 20 (Reuters) - East Timor's reluctant president-in-waiting Xanana Gusmao said on Wednesday he would do his best if voters, as expected, choose him to lead the world's newest nation next month.

The charismatic former guerrilla leader has procrastinated over the role he has been widely tipped to win ever since he was freed from a Jakarta jail around the time East Timor voted overwhelmingly to break from Indonesia's often brutal rule in 1999.

In an interview with Reuters, Gusmao said he was still ambivalent about the April 14 presidential election but did not want to let down his fellow East Timorese.

"Even if I win, I will continue to say I don't want to lead, it is a dogma for me. If I win, I will do my best," said Gusmao, wearing an open-necked pale blue shirt and speaking at a hotel in the capital Dili.

Gusmao's reluctance has annoyed some of his resistance movement comrades and U.N. officials desperate to see the impoverished nation succeed once it becomes formally independent on May 20 after centuries of foreign occupation.

They have also expressed concern over his political posturing, most recently threatening to pull out of the race over the use of party logos -- a political standoff averted by his only opponent, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, who said a smooth election was more important.


But the poet and former teacher said he did not wish to create political strife, only a better future for the territory's 740,000 people, whose lives were thrown into chaos after the independence vote.

"If I am elected president, I will continue to pay attention to the democratic process, to help people assimilate the values of democracy," Gusmao said.

"I will help people to discuss and debate the problems, not only in terms of national priorities, but building awareness of their right to demand, in a peaceful way, a better life," he said.

Gangs of pro-Jakarta militias, backed by elements of the Indonesian military, laid waste to East Timor following the U.N.-backed vote on August 30, 1999.

The United Nations, which estimates more than 1,000 people were killed in the violence, has administered East Timor since. Court hearings began last week in Indonesia against officers and others accused of human rights abuses in the region.

Gusmao brushed off recent criticism from East Timor's chief minister and long-time rival Mari Alkatiri that he was no longer a national leader because of his decision to run as the candidate of nine political parties.

With Gusmao heavily favoured to win the April 14 vote, the battle appears to be developing into more of a power struggle between Gusmao and majority party Fretilin, founded by Alkatiri.

Fretilin holds 55 of the 88 seats in a Constitutional Assembly which has opted for a constitution calling for a parliamentary system with a strong prime minister and substantially reduced presidential powers.

"I am a common man. I will follow the constitution and the constitution does not allow me to put my five cents in," Gusmao said, laughing.

"As president I will not have many responsibilities but I can express the desperation of the people."

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