The resignation of Xanana Gusmao as President of the National Council last Thursday has confused many NC members. Meantime the nomination of Jose Ramos Horta by UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello, as a replacement for Xanana Gusmao, was received coldly by the National Council. Xanana's resignation was discussed in detail at the National Council yesterday. The Council had yet to reach a decision about his replacement and postponed further discussions till 9 April.
National Council member Aniceto Guterres said a leader could not just leave the National Council and then let the NC agree on his resignation. Aniceto stressed that Ramos Horta was just one candidate for the NC Presidency to replace Xanana. The final decision, said Aniceto, still was with the National Council. "The National Council is the body that elects the President from its members," he added.
Several prominent political leaders have been named as possible candidates for the National Council presidency – in the interim period leading up to the elections. The names have originated from the National Council itself. In the meantime Dr Jose Ramos Horta who was nominated by UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello to replace Xanana, will also be given an opportunity for the presidency. The National Council members who have been named are Aniceto Guterres (director of Yayasan Hak), Manuel Viegas Carrascalao (a businessman), Clementino dos Reis Amaral (from KOTA Party) and Avelino Coelho (from the Socialist Party).
The NC debate yesterday was heated. Some NC members wanted Xanana to give an explanation to the chamber on his resignation. "I don't accept his [Xanana's] resignation. This is serious and it has occurred at a crucial moment when we are in difficulty," said Angela Freitas from the Travalhista Party. But other NC members stressed that the NC should not reject Xanana's resignation. "That is his right [to resign] and we have to respect that right. If we reject Xanana's resignation, he will be a bad president for us and the international community," said Aniceto Guterres. Sergio de Mello's nomination of Ramos Horta was also questioned. "It's not enough that it was done [on Saturday] through a press conference. It has to be clarified officially at the National Council," said a NC member.
The resignation of Xanana Gusmao as the National Council President must be treated as a normal process in a democratic society, though it might have positive or negative implications for the country. This was stated yesterday by the dean of the Sociopolitical Faculty Tolentino de Araujo. The university dean said he agreed that Jose Ramos Horta was the best choice to replace Xanana Gusmao at the National Council and stressed that Horta was the preferred candidate by the international community. He said this was inevitable because Timor Lorosae was still tied with in with foreign countries. "But it is not a problem of who becomes the NC President, it is a matter, however, of whether that person has the vision and commitment to take this country forward," said Tolentino.
The National Council must always consider itself as an organ that has an inspiration to work for the country, functions on a consensus basis and has good working colleagues. There must be consensus within the NC members. Good working colleagues, in turn, are found in the Transitional Cabinet and UNTAET and for that reason the National Council must not function as an opposition organization. The National Council itself has to be seen as a progressive organ. Every NC member has to realize that their main function is not to fight with one another or oppose the executive. The success or failure of the National Council very much depends on the efforts of individual National Council members. The responsibility of taking this country into the future not only lies with the transitional administration but also lies with the National Council. All decisions that are made have to be based on consensus and not made for the sake of group or private interests.
It has to be acknowledged that NC members have been confused over the announcement of Xanana's resignation as National Council President. Is his resignation merely as NC President or also as a NC member? These things are still not clear. With regard to these questions, we hope some clarification will be made soon. Xanana's resignation must be seen as a serious matter. All NC members must also be serious in their debate on the reasons for Xanana's resignation. Let us not consider that Xanana's resignation is "normal" and he was merely exercising his right. The real reasons have to be known to all NC members. Whatever the reasons, NC members must never lose hope and never feel disappointed. The people have placed their hopes on the National Council and we hope the NC, as a body, will take Timor Lorosae forward in the future.
East Timor's interim legislature Monday postponed until 9 April the election of a new National Council speaker to replace independence leader Xanana Gusmao, who resigned last week. The legislature, Dili's only governing body exclusively composed of Timorese, said the postponement was needed to clarify the scope of Gusmao's resignation, whether he had simply stepped down from the post of speaker or from the council itself.
UN administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello tapped Gusmao ally Jose Ramos Horta Saturday to occupy Gusmao's seat in the transitional legislature. While Gusmao's letter of resignation Tuesday only referred to his post as speaker, both Gusmao and Vieira de Mello subsequently confirmed that the resignation applied to his seat in the National Council.
"I'm not up to taking part in a process in which we spend more time discussing trash than the nation's problems", Gusmao told Lusa Wednesday, the day after he stepped down. In a statement Monday, eight council members who have been critical of Gusmao's leadership said that, while they understood he might have felt "offended", Gusmao should recognize that "in democracy freedom of expression is a fundamental right".
Xanana Gusmao has explained his resignation last week from East Timor's interim legislature, saying it was meant to force institutions not to become dependent on any one individual. Gusmao's explanation was contained in a message to an international relations colloquium on East Timor, which began Monday at northern Portugal's Minho University. "Working within the framework of a transition body, the members of the National Council have nevertheless undergone a learning experience that is important for the entire political process. They should now know how to live with and assume the responsibility for which they were appointed", he stated in a text read by his representative, Roque Rodrigues.
Gusmao specified that one of the most important aspects of the process leading to independence was the need to increase political awareness. "I believe that priority work, with debate and explanations beyond the urban center of Dili, should be carried out among the population. This requires attention and availability that my overlapping positions did not allow me to fulfill", Gusmao said. "The political process before and after independence will be subject to different sources and methods used for political, social and economic destabilization", he added. "The current socio-economic situation in important sections of our society has become a contributing factor to that destabilization. I believe the primary role I should play in this scenario is to do everything to ensure the stability of the process", Gusmao stated in his message.
Jakarta - Attorneys for East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres Tuesday demanded that weapons charges against him be dropped on the grounds that he was an Indonesian patriot, not a criminal. Lawyer Suhardi Somomoeljono said state prosecutors had failed to prove Guterres' guilt during the course of the three-month trial. "We urge the judges of this court to acquit our client because he was struggling for the red and white flag in East Timor," Somomoeljono said. Red and white are Indonesia's national colors. Guterres and his militiamen "were not criminals, but were defending Indonesia's interests," he said.
Guterres is accused of ordering his followers last year to take back weapons they had earlier surrendered to police in Indonesian-controlled West Timor as part of a disarmament program. The incident happened soon after three U.N. foreign aid workers were slaughtered by a militia mob. Last week prosecutors asked the court to sentence Guterres to one year in prison. Many observers have criticized the proposed punishment as being too lenient, noting that, if convicted, Guterres would be released by the end of the year as he had already spent several months in custody. Six bodyguards in military fatigues escorted Guterres to the North Jakarta District Court, which was ringed by some 200 police officers. Around 30 of his supporters crowded into the courtroom.
Jakarta - East Timor's U.N. administrators said Tuesday they have asked Indonesian authorities to hand over militiaman Yakobus Bere, who allegedly killed New Zealand U.N. peacekeeper Pvt. Leonard William Manning last July. Bere is currently being detained by Indonesian police in West Timor for the killing. However, officials said they could not hand him over as there was not an extradition treaty between Indonesia and East Timor.