Historic guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao has won the first presidential elections in East Timor, the former Portuguese colony, now called Timor Loro Sae.
Xanana Gusmao, a 56-year-old poet, who spent half his life in the mountains of his country fighting the Indonesian Armed Forces, is a reluctant politician. He only accepted to enter the Presidential race due to international pressure and persuasion from his friend Jose Ramos-Horta, Foreign Minister of Timor Loro Sae, who together with Bishop of Dili Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. He is quoted as having said to his followers, two months ago, that “After independence, I had always hoped to plant pumpkins and to breed animals”.
Before he joined the political party FRETILIN, Xanana Gusmao worked as a topographer during the day and as a teacher in the Chinese school in Dili, the capital city of Timor Loro Sae, at night. In 1974, after the territory gained independence from Portugal, he worked as a journalist at the country’s first newspaper, “A Voz de Timor”, (the Voice of Timor).
Jose Alexandre Gusmao, guerrilla name Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, led the resistance force, FALINTIL, against the Indonesians until he was captured and imprisoned in Jakarta on 20th November 1992, one year after the massacre at the cemetery of Santa Cruz (November 12th, 1991). 271 unarmed Timorese civilians, mostly youngsters, were massacred by the US-backed and equipped Indonesian Armed Forces, commanded by the CIA-connected General Wiranto. A further 250 people mysteriously disappeared and 382 were wounded. By then, his guerrilla force had withstood the full brunt of the Indonesian Armed Forces, aided, equipped, financed and advised by the USA and had gained international renown as a heroic people’s leader.
The Portuguese government and people took up his cause and campaigned incessantly and relentlessly to have him released and his people freed. Under the yolk of the Indonesian/American political and military occupation, given the go-ahead by Henry Kissinger, one third of the population of East Timor was massacred.
Released from prison in September 1999, after the population of Timor Loro Sae had voted for independence by a massive 80/20 majority, despite a campaign of assassination and intimidation by the US-backed Indonesian Armed Forces, Xanana Gusmao returned to his birthplace convinced he was an ex-freedom fighter who would melt away into his population unnoticed.
His people, and the world community, expect more of him, although his reticence to take up the political sceptre may be well-founded: Timor Loro Sae is a territory divided by vested political interests of a selfish clique of privileged families.
Xanana Gusmao is officially elected interim President today, Sunday 14th April 2002, until East Timor is officially declared an independent state on 20th May. East Timor’s 700,000 inhabitants, who have survived various attempts at genocide by the Indonesian Armed Forces, will support their new President with unwavering loyalty, he who gave them their homeland.
It remains to be seen whether the political cliques in the territory will do the same.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru