Subject: AFP: Fretilin says Gusmao must run as independent to win support

Agence France Presse

September 7, 2001 Friday

Fretilin says Gusmao must run as independent to win support

LISBON, Sept 7

Fretilin, the veteran resistance party that swept East Timor's first free elections last week, said on Friday it would only back independence hero Xanana Gusmao as president if he stood as a non-aligned candidate.

Fretilin will support the man known as the father of East Timorese independence "if Xanana stands as an independent, if he's not the candidate of this or that party", Fretilin's second in command, Mari Alkatiri, said in an interview with Portuguese daily O Publico.

Alkatiri, who is expected to become the first prime minister of East Timor since it broke away from Indonesia, said Gusmao would not be invited to stand on behalf of Fretilin (the Revolutionary Front for East Timor) .

But he insisted there was "no break" between Gusmao and the party.

"There are some points that have to be clarified. For example, we'd like to know what he hoped to accomplish by clearly supporting the Democratic Party (DP) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD)," Alkatiris said.

Gusmao attended meetings by the two parties during the campaign leading up to the East Timor ballot, which elected members of a constituent assembly that will write a constitution and become the parliament of the fledgling nation.

The DP won the second largest number of votes in the election, after Fretilin. The PSD came third.

Gusmao, a 55-year-old former guerrilla who is seen by many East Timorese as the only possible future president, reluctantly announced he was standing on August 25 after months of spurning the idea.

His pleas to stay out of politics, 20 years after taking command of the violent struggle against Indonesian rule, fell on deaf ears. East Timorese said there was simply no one else.

Gusmao's reluctance stemmed from a wish to remain independent and, according to fellow veteran campaigner Jose Ramos Horta because he had vowed as a guerrilla leader in 1983 never to take his people into a bloody struggle simply to win power.

Alkatiri reiterated his preference for a "semi-presidential" system when UN-administered East Timor becomes fully independent next year.

"It's the government's job to run the government and the country and the president shouldn't interfere," he said.

Asked about his future role in possibly running the country, Alkatiri said it would be up to Fretilin's central committee to tell the UN administrator in East Timor who would head the government.

East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in December 1975, a year after the departure of the territory's former colonial ruler Portugal.

Alkatari said East Timor's new constitution should stick to the country's original declaration of independence, made in November 1975, just before Indonesian troops arrived.

It should not date its independence from August 1999, the moment when the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted in favour of independence from Indonesia, he said.

He said he did not know whether Portuguese would be the new country's official language.

"Fretilin has always supported keeping Portuguese but we can't say it'll be the official language, if only because there'll be people in parliament and probably in the government who don't speak it," he explained.


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