Subject: East Timor's Gusmao to Run for President

Also: E Timor's Gusmao Wants To Be Photographer, Not President

British Broadcasting Corporation Saturday, 25 August, 2001

Gusmao runs for East Timor presidency

photo: Mr Gusmao has widespread public support

The man most closely identified with the independence movement in East Timor, Jose 'Xanana' Gusmao, says he intends to run for president in the country's first election for head of state.

The election is expected early next year.

The announcement by the former guerrilla leader ends months of speculation and reverses previous statements that he would not stand.

photo: The former guerrilla had vowed not to run for office

To cheers and applause, Mr Gusmao told a meeting in Dili that he was ready to accept the candidacy for president, but added: " I am conscious that I am not the best person for the job."

East Timor has been administered by the United Nations since its people voted to break away from Indonesia in 1999. It is expected to gain full independence in 2002.


Xanana Gusmao had insisted that he did not want to become president, saying former guerrillas do not usually make good presidents.

But most Timorese see Mr Gusmao, widely viewed as the hero of independence, as the only credible leader who can unite the fledgling nation.

"I declare here and now that I will accept to be nominated by the parties to the office of the president of the republic of Timor Lorasae," he said.

He said he was bowing to pressure from the public and other Timorese political leaders who had asked him to stand, but he said he was not the best person for the post.

"I had nurtured the dream that after independence I would have time to cultivate pumpkins and animals," he said.

The UN's administrator in East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, welcomed the news.

"I am delighted. This is the right decision," he said. "He announced it at the right time. It will reassure the population and will help us continue to move this process forward in a stable and peaceful manner," Reuters news agency quoted Mr Vieira de Mello as saying.

Mr Gusmao, 55, led a guerrilla war for many years against Indonesia, which invaded Indonesia in 1975. He was captured in 1992 and imprisoned for seven years.

Constituent assembly

His announcement comes five days before East Timor holds its first democratic election for an 88-member assembly that will draft a constitution.

The assembly will decide on what system will be used to govern East Timor.

It will also decide how the country's president and parliament will be elected.

Mr Gusmao said his candidacy was conditional on a peaceful outcome to the vote on Thursday, which must be accepted by all political groups.

photo: Indonesia militia killed many during the independence vote

"This means each party must promote...the policy of tolerance and mutual respect in the democratic spirit which we are all engaged in developing," he said.

After the East Timorese voted to sever ties with Indonesia in 1999, a campaign of killings and destruction by pro-Jakarta militias gripped the territory until an Australian-led international peacekeeping force arrived in September 1999.

The United Nations now administers East Timor with the help of a peacekeeping force of nearly 8,000 troops.

Associated Press August 20, 2001

E Timor's Gusmao Wants To Be Photographer, Not President


DILI, East Timor (AP)--East Timor's independence leader Xanana Gusmao doesn't want to be the territory's first president. He would rather be a photographer.

But whether he can fulfill this wish is debatable.

Ask just about anyone on the streets of East Timor's capital, Dili, who they want as their first president and the answer will be a resounding: "Xanana!"

When the fledgling nation signed a landmark multibillion dollar oil and natural gas deal with Australia recently, Gusmao wasn't participating with other dignitaries. He was poking a camera in their faces, taking their picture.

When about 5,000 people gathered earlier this month to witness the signing of a nonviolence pact between rival parties contesting the historic parliamentary elections being held on Aug. 30, he was working the crowd with his Minolta SLR.

Flanked by a team of bodyguards, Gusmao climbed atop a platform and elbowed his way into the middle of a mob of other cameramen and photographers, vieing for the winning shot.

Having achieved his goal to lead his ravaged homeland to independence after 24 years of repressive Indonesian occupation, and four centuries of Portuguese colonialism, Gusmao has had enough of politics.

"I would rather be a photographer than a politician," he told The Associated Press.

But his longtime friend and colleague, acting Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, said Gusmao's destiny lies in politics.

"He does not want the job. But his responsibility to the East Timorese people is to be the first elected president of this country. He realizes that," Ramos-Horta said.

"And he would starve as a photographer. He is very bad," the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate added.

Jesuit Seminary, Portuguese Colonial Army

Gusmao was born June 20, 1946, the second of eight children. At age 13, his schoolteacher father packed him off to a Jesuit seminary in the hills above Dili.

In 1968, he got his first taste of life as a soldier when he was recruited by the Portuguese into their colonial army to serve three years of national service.

Although Portugal was a neo-fascist state at the time, its army in East Timor was a hotbed of leftist activity. Most junior officers were reservists fed up with the bloody wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau. They indoctrinated their East Timorese soldiers, including Gusmao, with a healthy dose of social-democratic ideals that remain with him to this day.

Portugal withdrew from the territory in 1975 following an army-led coup in Lisbon. Indonesia invaded in December, and Gusmao joined the resistance army known as Falintil, consisting mostly of former colonial troops.

By 1982 he had assumed command of the war-weary guerrillas, with whom he had been living off the land and generosity of the people.

This support helped them survive massive offensives by Indonesia's savage, U.S.-trained and equipped military. But a third of the population perished - the highest per capita death toll of any modern war. Gusmao and his men killed about 10,000 of the invaders, terrifying and demoralizing the occupiers.

In 1992, the Indonesians captured Gusmao during a clandestine visit to Dili and jailed him in Jakarta. He remained incarcerated until 1999, when the fall of Indonesia's brutal dictator Suharto paved the way for the tiny territory to hold a referendum on self-determination.

That August, the overwhelming majority of East Timorese opted for independence in a U.N.-supervised plebiscite, sparking a bloody retaliatory rampage by Indonesia's army and its militia proxies.

Gusmao was released and returned to East Timor in October, after Australian-led peacekeepers had restored order and expelled the Indonesians. Hailed as a hero, he immediately set about promoting reconciliation between those who had been for and against independence.

The half-island territory of 700,000 people is being governed by the United Nations during its transition to full independence, expected sometime next year.

With the impending elections - which will choose a new 88-member assembly that will steer the nascent nation to independence - Gusmao has stepped up his calls for national unity amid fears of political unrest.

"No more fighting," he told the crowd which had gathered to witness the signing of the nonviolence pact. "During the past 24 years we have suffered enough. It is time for democracy."

Gusmao isn't a candidate on the upcoming ballot. However, he could still be elected to office in presidential elections early next year.

Despite the pressure to become president, Gusmao says he is acutely aware of the mess other new nations have found themselves in when former freedom fighters took over the government after independence.

"The history of the Third World is repeating itself: the leader of the resistance will end up as president, even if he is not up to the task. Guerrilla commanders will be generals ... all because we were the heroes," he wrote in his autobiography "To Resist is to Win."

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