Subject: Gusmao takes swipe at politicians in Xmas message to East Timorese

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

AFP, Tuesday December 24, 2002

Gusmao takes swipe at politicians in Xmas message to East Timorese

East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao has taken another swipe at the new country's politicians in a Christmas message to his people.

Gusmao, in the message released Tuesday, said hardships in Asia's poorest nation "have made it difficult for us, in all households throughout Timor-Leste (East Timor), to be able to say that we are all smiling, we are all happy because we are entering this (Christmas) period."

"Independence is not easy," the former anti-Indonesia guerrilla commander told the people of the overwhelmingly Catholic nation, which achieved freedom on May 20.

Gusmao asked East Timorese again to "urge the leaders to improve themselves by valuing their responsibilities and the positions they hold so that the people can feel that when Christmas approaches at the end of the year we can all smile."

He chided those who forget that the government's purpose "is to serve the people, to resolve the people's problems and to lessen the people's suffering."

In an apparent reference to deadly riots in the capital on December 4, the president urged "the elderly to teach the children that being independent is difficult, that they must control themselves..."

The violence in which two people died and 25 were injured was the worst since Indonesian troops and their militia proxies withdrew in 1999, destroying much of the country as they left.

Some 10 buildings were gutted by fire or severely damaged in other ways.

Last month Gusmao accused politicians of being obsessed with status regardless of their competence and of ignoring the suffering of the people.

Parliament is dominated by the former leading pro-independence party Fretilin.

Gusmao is a former commander of Fretilin's armed wing but has become estranged from the party in recent months.

His supporters accused some Fretilin members of waging a dirty tricks campaign during the April presidential election.

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