Subject: Nobel winner vs former rebel - Martinkus

The Courier Mail (Australia)

April 7, 2007 Saturday

Nobel winner vs former rebel

John Martinkus

Two very different men are vying to lead East Timor. John Martinkus reports from Dili

'The Nobel Peace prize was . . . for us'

Lu Olo

THERE was a moment this week in Dili when it looked as though the increasingly bitter race for the presidency would spill over into violence.

On Thursday afternoon, as supporters of Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta gathered to attend a rally, a convoy of rival Fretilin supporters drove past.

Portuguese riot police frantically waved both convoys away from each other as a few stones began to fly between the two groups. Panicked bystanders began to flee expecting a fight.

But the convoy drove on and the tension subsided.

Inside the Dili football stadium, Mr Ramos Horta addressed the crowd.

He spoke about the dangers of supporting the Fretilin candidate Francisco Guterres, who is known universally as ''Lu Olo'', as President and former resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, watched approvingly from the crowd.

Monday's vote to decide the president is a power struggle with Fretilin, the majority party in East Timor's parliament, on one side.

The other camp is led by Mr Gusmao and Mr Ramos Horta.

The problem for these two high-profile politicians is that they are relying almost entirely on their own personal popularity to win the contest.

Neither has a political party or organisation behind them. Fretilin, on the other hand, has a political organisation that has survived the Indonesian occupation and formed the Government since Fretilin won the first elections in East Timor in 2001.

''In 2001, we had 270,000 militants and that got us 45 seats in parliament,'' he told The Courier-Mail.

''In the last five years, many of the youth who are sons and daughters of our members can now vote so the figure will be higher.''

Monday's election requires a candidate to obtain 50 per cent of the total vote to be elected president. If no candidate reaches this figure then a run-off election will be held between the two highest polling contenders. The contrast between the two main candidates could not be greater. Mr Ramos Horta is well know internationally for his role in lobbying successfully around the world for East Timor's independence through the 24 years of Indonesian rule. Lu Olo spent that period as a resistance fighter in the mountains of East Timor rising to the rank of Chief of Staff of the Falintil resistance army where he oversaw operations against the Indonesian military.

A lifelong Fretilin supporter he was elected as chairman of the Parliament and oversaw the writing of the East Timor constitution. He speaks little English and has been mainly ignored by the foreign press. Mr Ramos Horta by contrast is fluent in English and openly courts the foreign press.

On the last day of the campaign he invited the foreign media to his home to discuss his program. ''Lu Olo is not his own man,'' he told the gathering.

''He is a puppet,'' he said referring to Lu Olo's relationship with ousted prime minister Mari Alkatiri who remains as the Fretilin party's president.

Lu Olo is direct about Mr Ramos Horta.

He praises the man's diplomatic skills that brought a Nobel Peace prize and international profile.

But he adds: ''Ramos Horta became recognised because it was our people fighting in the mountains. The Nobel Peace prize was not for him but for us.''

More than any other issue it is responsibility for last year's violence that remains the central issue for this election. Lu Olo is scathing about President Gusmao's role in the crisis that led to the resignation of Mr Alkatiri.

He says Mr Gusmao's reputation has been burnt by his involvement.

''There were demonstrations here to call for the resignation of Mari Alkatiri,'' he told The Courier-Mail.

''Xanana Gusmao and the first lady participated. He told the demonstrators 'you have to shake the Government'.''

Mr Ramos Horta is perceived in East Timor as the candidate favoured by the international and business community. He promises to kickstart the economy by distributing part of the money accumulating in the Timor petroleum fund and to relax restrictions on foreign investment and tax.

Lu Olo believes these decisions should remain with Parliament and Mr Ramos Horta would be acting outside of his constitutional powers.


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