Subject: ABC: Xanana announces new political party

Also Gusmao to stand for PM of East Timor; East Timor President Lambasts Ruling Party


ABC Radio Australia

Last Updated 28/03/2007 1:44:09 PM

TIMOR: Xanana Gusmao announces new politcal party

East Timor's election fever has gripped the President, who is due to step down in May.

Xanana Gusmao has announced the formation of a new party. The new C-N-R-T, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction aims to loosen the grip of East Timor's biggest party Fretilin.

Presenter/Interviewer: Karon Snowdon

Speakers: Xanana Gusmao, President of East Timor, Jorge Teme, spokesman for Fretilin Mudansa and former Ambassador to Australia

SNOWDON: East Timor's politics are in turmoil. Now there's another party to add to the small nation's volatile mix of political divisions, even enmities, and it was welcomed in the traditional manner in a ceremony in Dili.

The new party's name is a deliberate reference to the former CNRT, the peak non-partisan body formed by Xanana Gusmao in 1998. It reunified the resistance movement and tried to end Fretilin's claim to be the sole representative of the people's struggle against Indonesia. The new CNRT has confirmed the much anticipated role of Xanana Gusmao as its leader.

Gusmao has not joined a party since he resigned from Fretilin in the 1980s. As the outgoing president, he won't assume the leadership until his term expires after the election of a new president, that vote is due on April 9th.

The plan is much the same as in 1998. The CNRT organisers say the party and its new leader will restore a grassroots connection with politics and provide unity to the nation.

GUSMAO: I thank them for their trust and we hope that together we try something for our people.

SNOWDON: Xanana Gusmao, who is yet to say if he will actually stand as a candidate for parliament. While his hero status served him well as president, a different set of skills will be needed there. But his plan with the CNRT is to sweep Fretilin from its dominance in East Timor's parliament, where it's held a big majority for these first five years of democratic government. But Fretilin itself has fractured. A breakaway group, Fretilin Mudansa wants to break the strangle hold of the old guard under former prime minister Mario Alkitiri.

Fretilin Mudansa also has its eye on the crucial parliamentary elections to be held a few months after the presidency poll in April. The group will not stand its own candidates, but will throw its support behind CNRT and the presidential bid of Jose Ramos Horta, also a former early leader of Fretilin. However, nearly all major players in the political crisis which has gripped East Timor since last year's violence have been tainted in the public's eyes by their roles then, or failure to resolve the crisis.

Mudansa spokesman, Jorge Teme, says his faith in Xanana Gusmao is justified.

TEME: There is no doubt, there is no doubt at all, because the people, because the public are thinking, are talking, are arguing about when the changes are coming. People are waiting for changes, because people cannot stay within a crisis like this and we do believe President Xanana still is charismatic leader. People cannot just simply forget President Xanana's, married for 24 years, leading the guerilla movment, leading the fight for his country, even though one individual says that Xanana is no good, but you can measure by any estimation that Xanana still gets the support of the people. And we do believe Xanana will win this election.

Listen at 


The Financial Times

Gusmao to stand for PM of East Timor

By John Aglionby in Dili, East Timor

Published: March 26 2007 15:29

Xanana Gusmão, East Timor's president, announced on Monday that he would join a new opposition political party and contest general elections due to be held in the next three months.

The move would see Mr Gusmão, a revered former guerrilla leader and poet who had said he wanted to retire from public life, become the leading candidate for the more hands-on job of prime minister at the general elections.

Should he win, Mr Gusmão would replace José Ramos Horta, the Nobel laureate who took over as prime minister of the tiny former Portuguese colony following a violent crisis last year. Mr Ramos Horta, in turn, is the favourite to win an election for the largely ceremonial presidential post scheduled for April 9, although the former foreign minister is one of eight candidates.

The moves by East Timor's two best-known leaders are seen as increasing the pressure on the leadership of Fretilin, the leftist ruling party whose leader, former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, was widely blamed for last year's crisis.

Mr Alkatiri was forced to resign as prime minister last May after being accused of involvement in communal unrest that left 37 people dead and saw 150,000 residents of the capital Dili flee their homes. Some 2,500 foreign troops were deployed to restore order.

Mr Gusmão said on Monday that he would join the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, or CNRT, which is expected to register formally as a party in the coming weeks. It is using the acronym employed by the 1990s umbrella group that led the international fight against Indonesian rule, which came to an end with a United Nations-sponsored ballot in 1999.

Announcing his decision to remain in politics, Mr Gusmão told a group of CNRT members that he wanted to end the widespread suffering that blights much of East Timor's 1m population following a year of political turmoil.

"When I leave the presidency we will join together for the people's salvation because they mustn't suffer again," he said.

Mr Gusmão's announcement came after he was presented with a petition that CNRT members said had been signed by 6,250 people eager to see the president remain in politics.

"East Timor needs a strong political party with good leadership, with a leader who loves people," the petition said. "That's why we want you Xanana. We only trust you."

Filomeno Aleixo, a member of the Fretilin central committee, on Monday condemned Mr Gusmão's use of the CNRT acronym, which remains emotive in East Timor. "It's his right to do what he's doing but it's unethical because he's effectively hijacking a powerful historical symbol - the name CNRT - that all Timorese know as something completely different from what he's using it for," Mr Aleixo said.


Financial Times (UK)
Friday, March 30, 2007

East Timor President Lambasts Ruling Party

By John Aglionby in Dili, East Timor

Xanana Gusmao, East Timor president, on Thursday accused the ruling Fretilin party of corruption, arrogance and mismanagement that had put the fledgling country on a path of violence and economic stagnation since its 2002 independence.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Gusmao, whose job is largely ceremonial, said the young country's governing elite had built a record that compared unfavourably even with Indonesia's brutal 24-year rule, which came to a bloody end in 1999 following a United Nations-sponsored referendum.

"Indonesia used to kill and lie but the economy continued to function," Mr Gusmao said. "Now we're independent it doesn't any more. Now the roads aren't repaired. The schools are rehabilitated but they're not done properly. Buildings are built for the ministries but the people are continuing to suffer."

The road near his house "has to be repaired twice a year, every year". "They fill a hole and then three months later it's bigger than it was before. How could that be if the government was doing its job properly?"

Mr Gusmao will step down from the presidency in May. His successor is due to be elected on April 9 with José Ramos-Horta, the country's Nobel laureate prime minister, seen as the favourite among eight candidates.

Mr Gusmao, who stepped down from Fretilin in the early 1980s, announced this week that he intended to join a new party that will oppose Fretilin in parliamentary elections later this year.

He said his country would never recover if Fretilin's current leadership retained power. "[Fretilin] is rotten down to its hands, which are always demanding money, and its mouth, which is always just saying: "Yes sir, yes ma'am,?" he said. "Its heart and its body are still healthy though."

The former guerilla leader said a UN mission that arrived after a massive breakdown of law and order last year should not be needed past mid-2008 if the East Timorese could settle their differences.

Mari Alkatiri, the Fretilin leader, was forced to resign as prime minister last August after an upsurge in violence left at least 37 people dead, forced 150,000 to flee their homes and triggered the collapse of the police and much of the military.

Mr Alkatiri dismissed Mr Gusmao and his new party, the Council for East Timorese Reconstruction, as 'a pack of liars'. He accused them of fomenting the violence that led to his forced resignation.


Back to  March menu
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu