Subject: SCMP/E.Timor: Key player abandons parliament

South China Morning Post April 24, 2001


Key player abandons parliament

Back UN's work, urges Ramos Horta


Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta yesterday stepped down from East Timor's interim parliament to return to his former position as unofficial foreign minister.

In a letter addressed to the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (Untaet), Mr Ramos Horta said he was resigning from the 36-member National Council after it rejected his bid for the position of Speaker last week.

The top post had been vacant since independence leader Xanana Gusmao resigned in March, citing political infighting. On April 9, the National Council elected a veteran independence campaigner, Manuel Carrascalao, as Speaker over Mr Ramos Horta, who Untaet had supported.

East Timor is under the administration of the United Nations after voting for independence from Indonesia in 1999. The National Council is an unelected body, serving as East Timor's embryonic parliament. It will be dissolved later this year ahead of elections for a Constituent Assembly, which is to draft a constitution.

Urging support for Untaet's work, Mr Ramos Horta told the National Council yesterday: "We should not look at the presence of the UN in East Timor as new colonisers." But the man who beat him to the Speaker's post claims Untaet is exactly that. Its attitudes smack of neo-colonialism, Mr Carrascalao said, and Portuguese colonial rule may have been better.

While its staff earned thousands of dollars a month, the most basic needs of the East Timorese were left unfulfilled, including food and work, he said.

"Untaet never consults with the people here," he said. "Untaet is dividing the political elite. I think this unemployment is leading to many opportunities to create chaos."

While a small group of East Timorese leaders have good relations with the UN, he said others were written off as "stupid" or "unusable".

Mr Carrascalao said there was no good reason for Mr Gusmao to resign and suggested he felt slighted after having some of his proposals questioned by the National Council. He also dismissed Mr Gusmao's public statements that he does not want to be president of an independent East Timor.

On August 30, two years to the day after the fateful referendum on independence, the vote for the Constituent Assembly will be held. But like many East Timorese, Mr Carrascalao thinks August 30 is far too soon, with much of the territory still in ruin.

"I think it is too early," he said. "Let us work to build a community which is peaceful. I don't think Indonesia will invade again. But maybe they will arrange so that people will come in."

Meanwhile, an older fear is returning.

Left-wing infiltration by East Timorese students returning from Portugal helped sow chaos in 1975, and Mr Carrascalao fears left-wing extremists could again lead the country into anarchy. "I think there are a lot," he said. "I think this is more dangerous."

Mr Carrascalao, 67, has seen a lot in his life. He is the eldest son of the Carrascalao family, which has played a huge role in East Timor's recent history. After fighting against Fretilin in 1975, Mr Carrascalao briefly supported Indonesia's invasion in the hope it would stop the killing.

But he turned against Jakarta once the brutal nature of its rule became apparent. In the last years of Indonesian rule, he was a local figurehead of the National Council for Timorese Resistance, the main pro-independence group that is about to be dissolved.

In 1999, his teenage son, Manelito, was killed by militiamen in an attack on his house during the violence that preceded the independence vote.

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