DILI, East Timor (AP)--Manuel Carrascalao, a veteran of East Timor’s 24-year struggle for freedom, was elected to head the territory’s transitional legislature following last month’s surprise resignation of independence leader Xanana Gusmao.
He was named speaker of the National Council after rival candidate, Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta, withdrew from the ballot.
“Manuel Carrascalao is a fighter and a very courageous man,” said Ramos Horta, who acts as East Timor’s unofficial foreign minister. “During the most difficult period in this country’s history, he stood up against the (Indonesian) occupation.”
The 36-member council is wholly appointed by the territory’s 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, which is administering the territory during preparations for independence.
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 full independence is granted and a head of state is chosen, probably early next year.
East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999. Before and after that ballot, pro-Indonesian militias launched a wave of violence that ultimately devastated much of the territory before the arrival of international peacekeepers.
Militiamen killed Carrascalao’s son during an attack on his home in Dili on April 17, 1999.
Gusmao had been the clear front-runner to become East Timor’s first president until he announced his withdrawal from politics last month.
His departure amid infighting among Timor’s various political factions makes it unclear who will get the top job.
Meanwhile, a U.S. naval task force arrived Monday in Dili for a three-day visit to the devastated province.
Approximately 350 marines and sailors from USS Boxer, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Cleveland will provide medical assistance and humanitarian aid, and work on community relations projects, a spokesman said.
Apr 10 STL: Manuel Carrascalao, The New NC President News from ETimor added Apr 15
9 AP: Veteran Pro-Independence Leader To Head E Timor Assembly
News added Apr 10
"Manuel Carrascalao, a veteran of East Timor’s 24-year struggle for freedom, was elected to head the territory’s transitional legislature following last month’s surprise resignation of independence leader Xanana Gusmao. He was named speaker of the National Council after rival candidate, Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos Horta, withdrew from the ballot. ... The 36-member council is wholly appointed by the territory’s 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, which is administering the territory during preparations for independence." Associated Press
2 LUSA: Gusmao Explains Resignation from National Council
“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” Xanana Gusmao
2 AP: East Timor Council Blocks Ramos Horta's Bid For Top Post
"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." Associated Press
1 RDP: Horta on national council Interview
"I think it was my duty, my moral duty, to accept this challenge [presidency of ETimor’s National Council interim parliament]. 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, 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." Jose Ramos Horta, vice-president, National Council of the Timorese Resistance
31 Reut: Ramos-Horta replaces Gusmao as Timor leader News
"Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, foreign minister of U.N.-run East Timor, will take over as head of the territory’s de facto parliament, the United Nations said on Saturday. He replaces independence leader Xanana Gusmao, who quit last week over internal squabbling which he said was hampering the tiny territory’s push for independence." Reuters
29 RA: Allies back Gusmao's decision to quit East Timor assembly
"The civil society needs more his time and work rather than the national council. So he wants to continue to bring the people together to really reflect on the constitution so that it can be a legitimate one, reflects the peoples’ wishes, spirit and soul as he puts it, so his time is better used elsewhere rather than in the national council." Agio Pereira
28 BBC: Gusmao resigns as East Timor leader News
"I feel, as president of the National Council, that any attempt to overcome the deadlock is in vain due to the lack of willingness [of Council] members, ... As I refuse to be part of a politically irresponsible process, I hereby tender my resignation,” East Timor independence leader Jose “Xanana” Gusmao