Subject: East Timor Council Blocks Ramos Horta's Bid For Top Post

Also: Timor: New president of interim parliament says it was his duty to accept post

Associated Press April 2, 2001

East Timor Council Blocks Ramos Horta's Bid For Top Post

DILI, East Timor (AP)--Political squabbling in East Timor intensified Monday when its transitional assembly blocked, at least temporarily, a bid by Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta to become its new chief following the surprise resignation of popular independence leader Xanana Gusmao.

Gusmao, who had been chief of the National Council, quit the grouping last week, citing infighting among its 36 members.

Saturday, the territory's U.N. administration announced that it had appointed Ramos Horta to fill Gusmao's council seat. Several officials later confidently predicted that the council would elect Ramos Horta as its new leader.

However, in what became a heated session Monday, a majority of council members said they had not been properly advised of Gusmao's resignation and voted to postpone debate on his replacement and the leadership until April 9.

Some members also demanded that the council draft a list of several candidates for the position rather than automatically accept Ramos Horta's nomination.

Ramos Horta was not present at Monday's council session and was not immediately available for comment.

U.N. officials also did not comment.

The National Council is wholly appointed by the U.N. administration and is regarded as a dress rehearsal body for eventual East Timorese self-rule.

It has no direct powers, but debates and comments on regulations drafted by the United Nations.

The council is to be dissolved in June ahead of August elections for a new body that will draw up a national constitution to be in place before independence is granted and a head of state is chosen, probably early next year.

Until now, Gusmao had been the clear front-runner for the position of East Timor's first president.

However, his departure amid infighting among East Timor's various political factions makes it unclear who will get the top job.

Ramos Horta and Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo received the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize for their international diplomatic fight against 24 years of Indonesian rule.

After Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, Ramos Horta remained in self-imposed exile to lobby foreign governments to support freedom for his homeland.

East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999. The result of the ballot triggered a wave of violence by pro-Indonesian militias.

BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific - Political April 1, 2001, Sunday

Timor: New president of interim parliament says it was his duty to accept post

RDP Antena 1 radio, Lisbon, in Portuguese 1300 gmt 31 Mar 01

Excerpt from report by Portuguese radio on 31 March

Reporter Jose Ramos Horta vice-president of the National Council of the Timorese Resistance and Nobel Peace laureate in 1996 has replaced Xanana Gusmao as the president of East Timor's National Council interim parliament for the next three months. What has motivated you to accept this challenge?

Jose Ramos Horta I think it was my duty, my moral duty, to accept this challenge. There has been a lot of disorientation, sadness, consternation and general concern among the population, the youth and the members of the National Council. I have spoken with Sergio Vieira de Mello head of UNTAET, UN Transitional Administration in East Timor , with Xanana Gusmao and with practically every political party, and also with Mari Alkatiri Economic Affairs Minister and Ana Pessoa Internal Administration Minister , and they all thought that it would be important for the National Council to continue its work, and to, how should I put it, to avoid a breaking point, and that it would be important to send a message of continuity, seriousness and tranquility to the whole of the population, and naturally to the international community as well. Therefore, and in the light of the vacancy left by Xanana Gusmao, given that there is a vacant post, I have accepted to occupy it. Xanana Gusmao has called me and we have talked on the phone. He seemed to be very happy with this solution.

Reporter What is going to change in this totally-Timorese National Council under your presidency?

Horta Well, I do not know if I am going to do things differently, in the same way I do not know which was the working method of the National Council, or the methods of the previous president, among other things. If I am able to contribute with something else, and to suggest other working methods, then - interrupted by reporter

Reporter For example?

Horta I would say that it would be better for us to avoid motions, let us have consensus, because there are no disputes between parties, this the National Council is not a parliament of opposition, this is not an elected body, it is instead a consultative body, which makes recommendations. So, why should we insist on having motions? It is necessary to work creatively, with tranquility and tolerance, in order to implement what is decided by general agreement. Sometimes, when the surroundings are too formal, the atmosphere becomes heavy, people feel more restrained, they start taking sides, and sometimes I feel like asking them: Why are we discussing this in this room, where the acoustic is not even the best? Why are we not in the Areia Branca beaches, where we would feel more relaxed, and where we can in the shade? Why not going to a restaurant instead? Of course, some motions and consensus need to be carried out in the solemnity of the room of the National Council , but the debate, the discussion, may be done at home, and lobbies work like this all over the world, the work of any parliament is done in this manner. This is why I would like to invite some cabinet members to present their points of view directly to the National Council, without confrontation, but through dialogue instead. We should work through cooperation, not through rivalry or confrontation.

Reporter This cooperation will last only three months, because the National Council will cease to exist. As Sergio Vieira de Mello head of UNTAET, UN Transitional Administration in East Timor said, you would then return to your role of Foreign Affairs Minister, but it has also been said that with you at the head of the National Council, new changes may occur, namely, the opening of the Council's interim discussions to the population of East Timor through radio and television.

Horta Absolutely, I actually thought that was already in place. I think that the National Council should be totally available for live broadcast, if the radios wish to do so, because it is also their decision, if they want to broadcast live or simply to make recordings and to broadcast later, because a body of this nature, in other words, representative of a people, should be transparent...

April Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from