Subject: Connect Asia: Election campaign continues despite some violence

EAST TIMOR: Election campaign continues despite some violence - 28/03/2007

Day five of East Timor's presidential election campaign has been marred by outbreaks of low level factional violence. The day also saw former prime minister Mari Alkitiri complain of heavy handed action by Australian troops. But the eight candidates have maintained their schedules, including veteran independence leader and president of East Timor's parliament, Fransisco Guetterres, known as Lu Olo.

Presenter - Karon Snowdon in Dili

Speaker - Fransisco Lu Olo Gutterres, the Fretilin party's candidate in East Timor's presidential election

SNOWDON: In his campaign literature, Fransisco "Lu Olo" Guetterres highlights his humble background, his 24 years as a resistance fighter against Indonesia's occupation and his progress through the ranks of Fretilin. The Fretilin President and President of East Timor's parliament promises to bring stability, to end poverty and illiteracy and to expand East Timor's role in the region and the rest of the world if elected on April 9th. He says his most important job would be first to restore stability and the rule of law. He doesn't believe the so-called east west split said to be at the core of East Timor's violent crisis last year is real.

GUETTERRES: (Translator) It's an artificial creation within the crisis.

SNOWDON: How was it created?

GUETTERRES: (Translator) It was through a message on the 23rd March by the president of the republic, Xanana Gusmao, who stated that Lorosae, which is the east, is from Manututu upwards and Loromano is from Manatutu to the border.

SNOWDON: Do you blame President Gusmao for the current situation and its division between east and west, the violence that resulted from that? Do you blame President Xanana?

GUETTERRES: (Translator) The president's message wasn't a correct one. The president is responsible for the unity and the guarantee of peace and stability in Timor Leste and his message wasn't a correct one.

SNOWDON: Five years after independence, East Timor remains the poorest country in South East Asia. There are few jobs, infant mortality is high and safe drinking water unavailable to many. And the crisis has left about 70-thousand still living in refugee camps. There's a general belief that despite some successes, politicians have largely failed the people. But Lu Olo 's confidence isn't shaken.

GUETTERRES: (Translator) No, this doesn't affect the role of my campaign. The people understand quite well the importance of development, the importance of the government programs for development. It's not something that is resolved very simply in a few years or a few days. So no, this won't affect my campaign at all.

SNOWDON: The election campaign so far has been peaceful. But with just over a week of campaigning to go, cracks have begun to emerge, perhaps linked to the formation of a new opposition party which has drawn the support of not only a breakaway Fretilin group but has secured President Xanana Gusmao as its leader and is supporting Jose Ramos Horta's as East Timor's new president. The day after the announcement saw the leader of that group attacked by Fretilin supporters. In another incident, a Fretilin rally was set upon by thugs and local police used warning shots to disperse the crowd. The risk now is that tit for tat retaliations will follow.

Former Prime Minister Mari Alkiri.

ALKITIRI: We have been trying to do our best to stop people from violence since June-July last year up to now. And we will keep doing it still. Of course, provocation is coming and everyday some new kind of provocation, trying to provoke us.

SNOWDON: Mari Alkiri brings considerable organising skills to the management of Lu Olo's campaign. And on the diplomatic front, the presidential hopeful says he will maintain good relations with neighbours Indonesia and Australia.

GUTTERES: There are some overlap in the issues, but certainly we're going to work very hard to have very close relationship with Australia and Indonesia.

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