Subject: AP/RT: Pres-Elect Prioritizes Raising Living Standards

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

E. Timor's Pres-Elect Prioritizes Raising Living Standards

JAKARTA, May 3 (AP)--East Timor's president-elect, Xanana Gusmao, said Friday his priority would be raising living standards in his soon-to-be independent country - not punishing those responsible for past human rights atrocities.

Gusmao, who is on a two-day visit to Indonesia, said he understood the need to punish those who killed hundreds and destroyed much of East Timor's infrastructure after the country voted for independence in 1999.

But he said the most pressing concern was the widespread poverty of its 800,000 people.

"If we talk about justice, we see a few people being judged," Gusmao said. "We fought, we suffered, we died for what? To try other people or to receive benefits from independence?"

Gusmao has long stressed the importance of reconciliation, rather than retribution, in dealing with the East Timorese who joined pro-Jakarta militia gangs that terrorized the population before, during and after the independence vote.

International rights activists have accused Indonesia's army of having funded and armed the militias. Police and soldiers have also been accused of taking part in the bloodshed.

Gusmao, a former pro-independence guerrilla commander, has also refrained from publicly criticizing Indonesia for its failure to stop the rampage, or its refusal to hand over Indonesian officials wanted for questioning over the violence.

Thursday, he urged Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to attend the country's independence celebration May 20.

Megawati has said she plans to attend the event, despite pressure from some nationalist legislators who have told her not to go.

"We on our part in East Timor will be working on the basis that she will grace our celebrations...and we will welcome her with all our heart," Gusmao said.

Gusmao refused to comment on the trials in Jakarta of 18 senior Indonesian officials, including several military and police officers, over their alleged role in the post-ballot rampage in 1999.

He complained that journalists were fixated on the issue.

"I am not a human rights activist. I am not a judge. I am not a prosecutor," he said. "As president, my priority is how to give to our people the opportunity to see the benefits of independence."

East Timor has established a truth and reconciliation commission to look into atrocities dating back to 1974, when its Portuguese colonial rulers withdrew, triggering a brief civil war.

At least 10 pro-Jakarta militiamen have been sentenced for crimes against humanity in trials in East Timor.

Later Friday, Gusmao was due to fly to Sulawesi island, where he will encourage East Timorese refugees who fled the territory after the independence vote to return home. He is then due to return to East Timor.

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E.Timor's Gusmao puts social justice before revenge

By Achmad Sukarsono

JAKARTA, May 3 (Reuters) - East Timor president-elect Xanana Gusmao said on Friday his priority was to give his people a better life, not seek trials for those who made his nation suffer for decades.

His comments to reporters were in line with the conciliatory tone he had already set by making Jakarta the destination of his first post-election trip and personally inviting President Megawati Sukarnoputri to attend East Timor's formal independence celebrations this month.

Gusmao had even hoped to extend a face-to-face invitation to ex-president Suharto, who ruled Indonesia when it invaded and occupied East Timor -- and when it later put then-guerrilla leader Gusmao in jail -- but that meeting failed to come off due to Suharto's ill-health, officials said.

However, in a busy schedule on Thursday Gusmao did see various senior officials and political leaders, most of whom emerged from the sessions saying nice things about the man who was a symbol of opposition to Indonesia's rule over East Timor, some 2,100 km (1,300 miles) east of Jakarta.

BREAK AWAY

East Timor broke away from Indonesia in 1999 through a vote sponsored by the United Nations, after 24 years of Indonesian occupation in which an estimated 200,000 people or quarter of the population died as a result of military repression and famine.

The independence vote itself sparked violence by pro-Jakarta militia, backed by elements of the Indonesian military, that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths according to U.N. estimates.

The U.N. has been administering East Timor, about half the size of Belgium and slightly smaller than Hawaii, since late 1999 and will hand over full control on May 20, making it the first newly independent nation in the millennium but also one of the world's poorest.

Gusmao, who won a landslide election on April 14 and will be sworn in on independence day, said on Friday fighting social injustice and trying to raise living standards was more important than trying to bring people responsible for them to court.

"I am not saying that I don't agree with justice. I believe when you talk about justice we see a few big problems, but if we talk about social justice we have all of our people (to help)."

"...what is my priority? Social justice. We have suffered... we have died... for what? To try other people? Or to seek benefits from independence," he said, his facial expression and hand gestures reflecting the emotion in his voice.

CAPTURED

Gusmao, captured by Indonesia in 1992 and held until just after the 1999 independence vote, refused to comment directly on Jakarta's trials of seven suspects over the 1999 post-ballot violence.

The trials began in March and have proceeded at a glacial pace, with prosecutors trying to prove the involvement of Indonesian police and military in the atrocities but thus far without bringing in eyewitnesses from East Timor to testify.

The trials were targets of criticism even before they started when prosecutors failed to include top military commanders such as former military chief Wiranto in the list of suspects.

East Timor has its own truth and reconciliation commission probing atrocities and human rights violations in the territory but it has been hobbled by the fact many of those involved fled to Indonesia and Jakarta has not been inclined to send them back.

EAST TIMOR WILL WELCOME MEGAWATI

Despite such continuing differences Gusmao was upbeat on Friday, saying he enjoyed his meetings with Indonesian leaders and wanted to be their host at the May 20 bash.

"I am indeed very happy to say that Madame Megawati has noted our keen desire to welcome her on this occasion in Dili. The people of East Timor...will welcome her with all their heart," he said of the Jakarta leader who opposed the 1999 poll.

In a sign of how far Gusmao is prepared to go to bury the past, he had also planned to meet former president Suharto, forced from office in 1998 after more than 30 years in power.

But a U.N. official in Jakarta said the one-time autocrat cancelled the meeting due to ill health.

"Yes, he was going to pay a courtesy call on former President Suharto because he is sick and he also planned to give him an invitation," Gusmao's spokesperson Ines Almeida told Reuters by phone from the East Timor capital Dili.

"One of Xanana's main priorities as president is to restore relations with Indonesia and that means doing it with the old generation and the new."


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