Subject: ABC: Gusmao Winds Up Presidential Campaign

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Gusmao winds up campaign for East Timor presidency

East Timor approaches the last formal step in its long hard road to democracy and independence - on Sunday the people go to the polls to elect a president. Xanana Gusmao, who led East Timor's struggle against Indonesian rule, first as a jungle fighter and then from prison, is the overwhelming favourite in a two-man presidential contest.

Transcript:

KERRY O'BRIEN: Closer to home, East Timor approaches the last formal step in its long hard road to democracy and independence - on Sunday the people go to the polls to elect a president.

Xanana Gusmao, who led East Timor's struggle against Indonesian rule, first as a jungle fighter and then from prison, is the overwhelming favourite in a two-man presidential contest.

Mark Bowling reports from the campaign trail of a reluctant candidate, who's been likened to Nelson Mandela.

HELDA DA COSTA, UNIVERSITY OF EAST TIMOR: It's an atmosphere of explosion.

The people love him and adore him.

In fact, people running towards him and then lifting him up and yelling, "Viva Xanana, long life, Xanana."

MARK BOWLING: In a country fractured by a quarter of a century of harsh Indonesian rule, he's the one binding force in East Timor.

It is not a question of whether but by how much he'll win this presidential race.

Some say he could secure 90 per cent of the vote, even more.

XANANA GUSMAO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know them, they know me.

They know that if they choose me, I will do all my best to serve them.

MARK BOWLING: Xanana Gusmao embodies the hopes of a new nation.

His message to this crowd in Maliana, a town once controlled by the pro-Jakarta militia is that together, out of the ashes, they must build stability and democracy.

But the wounds of the past have still not healed.

Painful as it is, he calls on his supporters to forget the killing and violence inflicted during Indonesian rule and to move on.

Accompanying him on the campaign trail is his Australian wife, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, herself a tireless worker during East Timor's struggle for independence.

She admits it's hard for these people to forget, but Xanana Gusmao believes reconciliation, not an endless process of human rights inquiries and trials, is the best way for the new East Timor to get ahead.

KIRSTY SWORD GUSMAO: They know that he has also suffered like them in a very real way through the sacrifices that he made through the loss of family and loved ones and, you know, a life of real hardship in the bush for 18 years.

And I think that they relate to him so strongly because of, you know, that shared suffering as well as the shared hopes that they hold for the future of East Timor.

MARK BOWLING: The other presidential candidate is Francisco Xavier do Amaral.

A heart condition has forced him to mount a low-key campaign and his chances appear slim.

Still, he's a respected figure and like Xanana Gusmao, he is already part of East Timor folklore, a one-time jungle fighter who spent years in an Indonesian jail.

In the confusion that followed Portugal's withdrawal from East Timor in the early 1970s, he declared himself president, lasting as leader for nine days.

Do Amaral is campaigning to stop corruption and to prevent East Timor relying on international handouts.

FRANCISCO XAVIER DO AMARAL, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not fighting to be the winner or to be the loser.

I have fought for peace only.

I want to ensure there is democracy here in East Timor.

We are going to be the first nation in the 21st century.

MARK BOWLING: If Xanana Gusmao is a red-hot favourite, the irony is, he's a reluctant candidate who appears more interested in his personal, not his public life.

KIRSTY SWORD GUSMAO: You know, they see, this is not just a political ploy.

This is actually something very sincere.

He doesn't have any personal ambition.

He continues to say to them, "I don't want to be president," and he means it.

MARK BOWLING: Xanana Gusmao has insisted to his supporters there is a deep and personal reason for his reluctance.

So what is that reason?

COLIN STUART, UN HEAD OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS, EAST TIMOR: When he was in the jungles leading the guerillas, so that there would be no question as to where his loyalties lie, he once promised to his troops that he would never seek political office.

And so it was very difficult for him to break with that promise under extreme pressure from many quarters and run as president, because he had vowed he would never to do that.

But he has since acknowledged that he has a responsibility.

MARK BOWLING: For East Timor's future leader, the most pressing issue is refugees.

Finding a way for the repatriation of up to 60,000 East Timorese still in Indonesian West Timor, those who have languished in camps like this one, the Halowin (phonetic) camp near the border, for the last two and a half years.

These babies and toddlers have known no other life than here.

Xanana Gusmao has taken time out from campaigning to visit West Timor, to talk directly to the refugees, meeting some of them under tight Indonesian military security.

Most of these people were herded across the border by the pro-Jakarta militia.

Some are former militia members themselves.

Xanana Gusmao has been reassuring people it's safe to return to East Timor and only those accused of the most serious of crimes could ever expect to face trial.

Most in East Timor now yearn for a quiet life.

But perhaps the biggest challenges lie ahead.

The United Nations administration is preparing to pull out.

International aid will start to dry up and a new nation will have to stand on its own feet.

East Timor has a poor farming economy.

It's pinning its hopes on a potential boon from oil and gas in the Timor Sea.

COLIN STUART: With oil and gas, East Timor has a lot of potential to invest in its health and education and actually change dramatically its standard of living.

MARK BOWLING: As a new nation takes shape, it may come down to one reluctant man to lead the way.

XANANA GUSMAO: We must not forget that the real meaning of independence is to make people believe that independence will give some benefits.


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