Subject: Interview w/Gusmao: 'The U.N. Is Not Listening'

Asiaweek December 3, 1999

'The U.N. Is Not Listening'

Xanana Gusmao on East Timor's present and future

East Timor continues to generate headlines. In Jakarta, a human-rights commission is preparing to investigate the military's top brass for abuses committed in East Timor, as well as in Aceh. In East Timor itself, relations have been strained between UNTAET (U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor) and the Timorese leadership, as represented by the pro-independence National Council for East Timorese Resistance (CNRT). U.N. officials have been accused of leaving CNRT leaders out of the rehabilitation operation, and UNTAET head Sergio de Mello is currently trying to mend the breach. Meanwhile, former rebel leader Xanana Gusmao has been on a whistle-stop tour of the territory to brief himself on what has happened and what needs to be done. Contributor Tom Fawthrop caught up twice with Gusmao, 53, on the road. Excerpts from their conversations:

What role do you envisage for the CNRT during the transitional period? We want to make clear that the present leaders of the CNRT will be the government of tomorrow. We have a unique mandate - 78.5% of the vote in the Aug. 30 referendum. The CNRT must be consulted by UNTAET on every decision. Timorese people should be appointed to positions in UNTAET and international staff only brought in to fill the gaps. But the U.N. and some U.N. humanitarian agencies are not listening to the CNRT. We do not want the U.N. to turn into a bureaucratic machine that does not understand the Timorese people.

You have complained that all the best buildings still standing have been allocated to UNTAET, other U.N. agencies and international NGOs.

The CNRT is still trying to find an office for itself. Now foreigners occupy all the best buildings, leaving us with nothing.

What is your position on U.N. peacekeeping troops?

We don't want too many. We don't need 9,000. It can bring social problems. We are more concerned with reconstruction.

Does that mean there are no more serious security threats to East Timor?

I have said we need a small number of peacekeeping forces in the border area and in the Oecussi enclave [which is surrounded on three sides by West Timor]. Three thousand troops are enough. I have written to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan about this. We want the U.N. to save money from peacekeeping troops and spend it on reconstruction aid.

What is your assessment of the new leadership in Indonesia?

This is a positive development. I think the new government is aware that if it doesn't stop the violence, it won't be able to manage the economic crisis.

Will you ask Jakarta to provide compensation for all the damage inflicted by pro-Indonesia forces?

I have already told the people we won't ask for compensation.

When you visit Jakarta [at the end of November], do you plan to ask the government for a full accounting of all East Timorese people forced to flee to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia?

Yes, of course, because we want to know how many people died and how many people disappeared. We know that at present [the militias] are continuing to kill and rape East Timorese refugees in Atambua [in West Timor]. Many, many are suffering. I appeal to the international community to pressure the Indonesian generals to stop the killings, the rape, the violence. I appeal to the Indonesian government to do more to stop the militias.

Who do you hold responsible in the Indonesian government?

It seems Gen. Wiranto has lost his heart, his human sense. Or he has no control over his men, his Kopassus special forces. We know it is the military that is doing the killings and encouraging the militias. It is a shame on Indonesia.

Do you support moves toward setting up an international tribunal?

Yes. We have a sense of justice and human rights. We want our people to feel that independence will bring them justice.

But you have also committed yourself to reconciliation.

Yes. On Aug. 25, I gave an amnesty for all acts of political violence committed before that date. Now those who accept the result of the referendum, we welcome them into the national movement for reconstruction. But those who instigated the violence must face justice. If not, we will be a country without justice, just as in Suharto's time. But East Timor will be different. It will have justice, human rights and democracy.

What are the priorities for an independent government of East Timor?

Free education and health care are most important to us. We will be very proud to have educated people, strong people, healthy people. Many countries went bankrupt because of corruption and dictatorship. We are ready to face bankruptcy for free education and health._

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