Subject: Gusmao's new year message lists complaints against the Government

Sydney Morning Herald/The Age December 30 2002

Gusmao's new year message lists complaints against the Government

By Jill Jolliffe in Dili

East Timor's President, Xanana Gusmao, has appealed to his people to reject violence in 2003 - but has also renewed criticism of the Fretilin-led government.

"I ask you to remain calm, because violence does not help us build, it only destroys," he said in a new year message broadcast nationally on Saturday.

East Timor is still reeling from the effects of violence early this month in which two people were killed, more than 20 injured and key buildings burnt as an angry mob rampaged through Dili.

The riots were triggered by anti-government sentiments, but Mr Gusmao did not hesitate to renew his long-standing criticisms of the administration of the Prime Minister, Mari Alkatiri.

In particular, he focused on the Ministry of Internal Affairs, led by Rogerio Lobato. In a list of suggested "improvements" in government, he warned against a proposal that only members of the governing party be eligible for election as local administrators.

Mr Lobato said this year that only chiefs who belonged to Fretilin should be eligible for office. Local chiefs are at present elected at village level, taking into account the traditional power structure and their contributions to the community.

The President subsequently demanded that Mr Alkatiri sack the minister, on grounds of "incompetence and negligence", a demand that was rejected.

Under the Timorese constitution the president has a figurehead role, with limited power.

Mr Gusmao called for help for farmers to sell their produce. He recently told a meeting of the diplomatic corps that rural poverty was an acute problem and aid donors should restructure their contributions accordingly.

The new year message also touched on the sensitive issue of hundreds of youths who began emigrating from the territory to seek work in Europe even before independence six months ago. The exodus is continuing. Most job seekers are obtaining Portuguese citizenship documents in Lisbon before proceeding to England and Northern Ireland to work in factories.

Mr Gusmao said he was aware many were stranded in Lisbon awaiting documents, and offered help from his staff to overcome bureaucratic difficulties.

The Christmas and new year period has been a relatively sombre one for East Timor, where there is widespread disillusionment with independence, fuelled by the high cost of living and widespread unemployment.

The Prosecutor-General, Longuinhos Monteiro, who headed one of three inquiries into the December 4 violence, has said preliminary conclusions are that outsiders infiltrated "a spontaneous demonstration of young people" and manipulated it for their own ends.

photo: Xanana Gusmao ... appeal for end to violence.

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