Summer 1998

A New Era in East Timor

Senate For Referendum

Timor Autonomy?

Selective Purchasing Law

New Report

Activist Training

Upcoming Speaking Tours

ETAN Chapters Active

Constâncio Pinto, Simon Doolittle

Attacks on Ethnic Chinese Indonesians

Relief Fund

Canadian Movement Reorganizes

ETAN/US Web Site


Upcoming Strategy Conference

Estafeta -
Spring 1998
Spring 1997

East Timorese National Convention in the Diaspora
By Milena Pires, policy officer for the Catholic Institute for International Relations. Reprinted from CIIR’s Timor Link, August 1998.

For the first time in 23 years of resistance, exiled Timorese individuals and organisations came together in April for the East Timorese National Convention in the Diaspora. Although a meeting had been in the planning for some time, the economic and political turmoil in Indonesia persuaded East Timorese of all political tendencies and none to gather on 23-27 April in Peniche, Portugal.

The Convention established the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), which encompasses the entire resistance movement, including both major Timorese political parties, Fretilin and the UDT.(1) The Convention adopted a 'Magna Carta on Freedoms, Rights and Duties, and Guarantees for the People of East Timor'. It also elected officers for the CNRT's political, executive and judiciary commissions.

The Magna Carta provides a comprehensive basis for the future constitution and political direction of an independent East Timor, pledges adherence to the rule of law and guarantees civil and political rights for East Timor's citizens.

To jubilation among the participants, resistance leader Xanana Gusmão was elected president of the CNRT's political and executive councils.

The Convention was organised by members of political institutions and church representatives. It evaluated and restructured the resistance movement, its external representation in particular, so as to increase its capacity to confront the challenges presented by the fall of Suharto and the consequences for East Timor of the upheavals and attempted reforms in Indonesia.

After the meeting, the CNRT re-asserted the right of the East Timorese to self-determination, to be expressed in a referendum. The Council also called for direct participation, of Timorese in talks between Indonesia and Portugal led by Xanana Gusmão.

The CNRT is arguably still a part of, and influenced by, the older generation within the resistance movement. However, it is trying to introduce new ideas and new people. It has established a think-tank, the Cabinet for Strategic Studies, composed entirely of the new generation. Answerable directly to the presidency, the Cabinet should provide an antithesis to the CNRT's more traditional structures. If it is to bring about genuine change within the resistance movement, however, the Council must address issues such as the equal participation of women.

Carmel Budiardjo, co-founder of TAPOL, the UK-based Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, was present at the Convention. This is her memory of the conclusion:

I rushed in to find out what had happened and found the hall full of people hugging each other, tears in their eyes, young and old, men and women. They had unanimously adopted the Articles of Association of the CNRT. Now, the East Timorese at home and abroad had an organization solidly backed by all groups, parties and generations, with Statues that had been mulled over and discussed in an open forum by all sections of the movement. The emotion gripping all those present was testimony of the historic significance of that moment.