Subject: AU: I'll bring home oil millions: Gusmao

The Australian

I'll bring home oil millions: Gusmao

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Dili, East Timor

April 05, 2007

EAST Timorese resistance hero Xanana Gusmao has promised he will unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in oil revenue held in a New York escrow bank account if he is elected prime minister.

Mr Gusmao's current post of president is up for election on Monday. He is not contesting the symbolically important position but eight others are, including incumbent Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta.

Monday's presidential polls will be followed by parliamentary elections mid-year, including for the powerful position of prime minister - a job Mr Ramos Horta inherited last year after the ruling Fretilin party's Mari Alkatiri was deposed in a bout of bloody public unrest.

Campaigning in Dili deteriorated into violence yesterday as sporadic fighting broke out between gangs of youths from rival parties. Police fired tear gas and warning shots to break up fights and rock-throwing attacks, which left several injured, including two UN policemen who were hurt during a clash near the Australian embassy.

Mr Ramos Horta attracted several thousand people to a stadium in the capital, Dili, yesterday afternoon for the final official event of campaigning for Monday's vote.

No further election rallies will be allowed, leaving the pulpits at Easter Sunday masses as the last opportunity for political direction in this devoutly Catholic country.

Electoral Commission spokesman Martinho Gusmao, a senior Catholic priest, said yesterday that parishioners would not officially be told who to vote for, since "we ask people to choose according to their conscience".

However, Father Gusmao said that of the eight candidates, he favoured Democratic Party leader Fernando "Lasama" de Araujo "and if someone asks me to give advice in my personal capacity, that is what I will say".

The priest denied he was creating a conflict of interest in appearing to endorse a particular candidate while working for the electoral commission, "since we Timorese still in a way have to develop the character of our political style - the culture of our politics".

Speaking at a public forum in Dili, Father Gusmao was interrupted by his namesake, the former president, who said: "What he means is that, of the candidates, Lasama is the one who satisfies the younger generation - of the others, there areonly grandparents standing for election."

The issue of a generation gap cutting across East Timor's political divide has become a rhetorical theme of the poll, with the demarcation being seen as between those who carried arms against the Indonesian occupation and those who did not.

Mr Gusmao, a one-time guerilla leader jailed by Indonesia for his actions, appears to have delivered to long-time ally Mr Ramos Horta the votes of those who did fight in the 24-year resistance, by personally backing the latter's campaign.

Mr Gusmao, wife Kirsty Sword Gusmao and their children were at yesterday's Horta rally, to the delight of supporters.

In a targeted attack on the current government - led by Mr Ramos Horta but run by the Fretilin party machine - Mr Gusmao said yesterday it was important that the next administration "put our fingers on the many things that we did in not the right way".

Key among these, he said, was the failure to provide adequate healthcare, education and other important social needs, "or even to make sure people had enough to eat".

"Now we need to have a master plan on how to spend the money, so that in 10 to 15 years this country will live in a very good condition," he said.

"But democracy will not work if the people are hungry. We have so much money in an account in New York, while here in Timor people are struggling and living in misery."

Mr Gusmao went on to say he would be able to get access to that money.

A third contender with a chance is Fretilin's Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres, who attracted several thousand people to a rally in Dili yesterday.

Formal election results are not expected to be known for at least two days after polls close, leaving the possibility of more violence should the outcome be in dispute.


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