Subject: Gusmao faces tough ride after predicted election victory

also: Gusmao: from poet-warrior to president and Timor's first president making comeback bid

Gusmao faces tough ride after predicted election victory

DILI, East Timor, April 9 (AFP) - East Timor independence hero Xanana Gusmao rode on horseback through streets lined with adoring supporters here Monday as the campaign for the presidency of the world's newest nation entered its final week.

The charismatic former guerrilla commander, 56, seems certain to sweep to victory in the April 14 poll against his sole challenger Francisco Xavier do Amaral.

But analysts say Gusmao may face a rougher ride as the largely ceremonial head of state due to tensions with the territory's biggest party Fretilin.

The veteran pro-independence party will dominate the future parliament and government.

Amaral, 66, was president for nine days in 1975 between East Timor's first independence declaration and Indonesia's invasion.

Last month he made a key concession allowing the removal of party logos from ballot papers, averting a threat by Gusmao to boycott the poll over an issue which he said compromised his independence.

Amaral on Monday expressed annoyance at having his prospects written off in advance. But he told AFP he is "not fighting to win or lose" but for principles like peace and human rights.

Gusmao's campaign manager Milena Peres last week paid tribute to Amaral's integrity. But she said some members of Fretilin -- which is not backing either man -- were using dirty tricks to try to reduce Gusmao's vote.

Pires said the members -- not necessarily on orders from the party leadership -- had been instructing Gusmao's supporters either to vote for Amaral or to spoil their ballots. Many supporters have alleged intimidation attempts.

The allegations of dirty tricks underscore the simmering tensions between the former jungle warrior and Fretilin. Gusmao led Fretilin's military wing in the 24-year independence battle but has since distanced himself from the party.

"People in Fretilin see Xanana as a rival to power," said Indonesian lawyer Johnson Panjaitan, who represented Gusmao while he was in jail in Jakarta after being captured in 1992.

"There are people within Fretilin who want to become president themselves."

Panjaitan predicted prolonged conflict with Fretilin, which won 57 percent of the vote in last August's elections for a constituent assembly. The assembly will become the parliament after independence on May 20.

"Fretilin, I think, will remain intensely critical of Xanana. They will be unrelenting in putting him under pressure," Panjaitan, a regular visitor to East Timor, told AFP.

"Definitely there is going to be continued political conflict."

A key source of tensions is Gusmao's policy of granting amnesties to East Timorese involved in the orgy of violence, destruction and forced deportations in the months surrounding the 1999 UN-run ballot on independence.

"Xanana's policy to offer amnesties is intensely criticised by Fretilin. They do not accept his approach and Xanana feels they are arrogant for rejecting it," Panjaitan said.

"Xanana says Fretilin must understand that his approach is necessary to maintain the unity of East Timor. He is trying to make East Timor a home for all East Timorese."

Fretilin's deputy leader Mari Alkatiri, the current chief minister who will become prime minister, indicated there were frictions with Gusmao in an interview with Portugal's O Publico newspaper last September.

Alkatiri, who lived in exile in Mozambique during most of the Indonesian occupation, made clear who he felt would be in charge of independent East Timor.

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


Gusmao: from poet-warrior to president

DILI, East Timor, April 9 (AFP) - Xanana Gusmao, the poet-warrior who led East Timor's hard-fought struggle for independence, looks set on Sunday to complete an unlikely journey from jungle guerrilla to president.

Gusmao, 56, is strongly tipped to secure the presidency over his only rival, Francisco Xavier do Amaral.

Upon independence on May 20, the man who has declared he would rather be a pumpkin farmer or photo-journalist is expected to take over as head of state of the world's newest nation.

Gusmao endured jungle life and imprisonment in an Indonesian jail to lead his people to freedom but was a reluctant presidential candidate. Only last month he said he hoped to lose the election.

But his pleas to stay out of politics fell on deaf ears. East Timorese said there was simply no one else.

Gusmao's reluctance stemmed from a vow he made in 1983 as a guerrilla leader, according to Jose Ramos Horta, the interim foreign minister and Nobel peace laureate.

"He promised his people that he would never be president, so that he would not be troubled by his conscience that maybe he was leading the people into this bloody struggle in order to be president one day," Ramos Horta told AFP last year when Gusmao declared his candidacy.

"Also, he prefers to retain his independence and authority to help the government in difficult years ahead," Ramos Horta said.

"That's all very nice, but the fact of the matter is we still need him, we still don't have a better person."

Gusmao, a former civil servant in Portugal's colonial administration and a corporal in its army, began campaigning for independence in 1975, a year after the Portuguese departed.

He had already been monitoring Indonesian troop movements when they invaded in December 1975. He watched their air and sea assault from the hills above Dili, and weeks later left his then-wife and two children to fight Indonesia from the mountains and forests.

In 1981 Gusmao assumed leadership of the guerrilla army Falintil, the armed wing of the Fretilin party.

He evaded capture for the next 11 years. Myths grew around the charismatic fighter, attributing him with powers to turn into a creature or vanish before his enemies.

The spell ended when he was captured in Dili in 1992. Convicted of subversion, he was jailed in Jakarta for life.

From behind bars he continued to direct the resistance and earned himself the description "poet warrior" as he wrote poetry and painted in his cell.

He was released in September 1999, eight days after East Timor voted to separate from Indonesia in a poll that was engulfed by violence from Indonesian-backed militias.

Now married to Australian Kirsty Sword with whom he has a baby son, Gusmao has since focused on reconciling pro-Indonesian and pro-independence supporters.

He has distanced himself from Fretilin, which won 57 percent of the vote in elections last August for a future parliament and will form the post-independence government.

Although he was nominated by nine parties -- but not Fretilin -- Gusmao insisted he would stand as an independent.

If elected he says he will press parliament for an amnesty law allowing him to revoke the jail terms of those convicted following the wave of militia violence in the territory in 1999.

His firm stance in favour of amnesty would put him at odds with Fretilin and other parties who strongly oppose amnesties for those involved in the bloodshed.


Timor's first president making comeback bid

DILI, East Timor, April 9 (AFP) - Francisco Xavier do Amaral, 66, only had nine days as East Timor's first president in 1975.

More than a quarter of a century later, he is bidding for his old position -- the only rival to reluctant but formidable presidential candidate, independence hero Xanana Gusmao.

East Timorese voters will on April 14 choose one of the two to lead the tiny half-island as it graduates to full independence on May 20.

Amaral began secretly campaigning for East Timor's independence in the 1960s when it was a neglected but harshly-ruled Portuguese colony.

In May 1974, a month after a revolution at home in Portugal presaged an end to its 400-year rule over East Timor, Amaral founded the pro-independence Timorese Social Democratic Party (ASDT) and took up its presidency.

In September of that year the ASDT was transformed into Fretilin, with Amaral still at the helm.

On November 28, 1975, following a brief civil war, Amaral declared East Timor's independence and was appointed president.

Nine days later East Timor's first head of state fled into the jungles as neighbouring Indonesia invaded the territory -- the beginning of its often brutal 24-year occupation.

Amaral fought with the Falantil guerrillas, the military wing of Fretilin, until he was captured by Indonesian troops in 1979 and brought to Bali island.

There he was kept under loose house arrest until 1984 when he was transferred to Jakarta -- officially still under house arrest, but able to move around freely.

East Timorese finally got their own say and voted to split from Indonesia in a United Nations-supervised ballot on August 30, 1999, triggering an orgy of killing and destruction by Indonesian soldiers and their proxy militias.

Fear gripped East Timorese living in Jakarta, including Amaral, as rumours swirled of intelligence agents hunting down independence supporters.

Amaral fled again, this time to the Indonesian island of Batam where a businessman friend took him into hiding.

After three weeks he was secretly flown out of Indonesia to Portugal, where he stayed until the following January.

He returned to his devastated homeland on February 4, 2000, finding 80 percent of its infrastructure destroyed by Indonesian soldiers and militias, and his compatriots grieving for hundreds of slaughtered relatives.

In May 2001, as East Timor prepared for its first ever democratic elections, Amaral revived the ASDT. It won six of 88 seats in the August 30 polls for a Constituent Assembly, which will become the parliament after independence.

Amaral is currently the assembly's deputy speaker.


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