Issue cover-dated September 3, 2001
Interview: What Happens Next?
Independence leader and Presidential hopeful Xanana Gusmao talks with TIME about East Timorís challenges
photo:For years Xanana Gusmao, East
Timorís de facto leader, led the resistance to Indonesian rule.
Photo: JOHN STANMEYER/SABA FOR TIME
Xanana Gusmao, the former guerrilla leader, last week ended months of speculation and announced that he will stand for East Timorís presidency when the country gains full independence next year. With the young nation about to hold its first legislative election, Gusmao spoke with Timeís Phil Zabriskie and Zamira Loebis about the perplexing challenge of achieving a national reconciliation after the turmoil that has accompanied the path to independence.
TIME: What is your position on amnesty for the violence of 1999?
Gusmao: Amnesty can be considered, but only after justice, after trials. Not before.
TIME: Would that mean not putting people in jail?
Gusmao: It is not my decision to say. As a principle, I only can conceive amnesty after justice. But who can decide? It will be the assembly, the government. Not me.
TIME: Do you believe itís necessary for East Timor to address the past in order to move forward?
Gusmao: In terms of justice, I have told people, yes, they burned your house. They killed people. These men: they will go to trial, they will go to prison. Who will pay for their daily life in prison? The money that you pay in taxation, instead of going to teachers and nurses, will go to prisoners. Do you accept this? What we have discussed is that if we need to repair buildings, the people who burned the buildings will repair them.
TIME: Are you worried that the election will proceed badly?
Gusmao: I had been very worried about violence. So far, we donít have any reports of it.
TIME: Some people say that you yourself need to account for alleged crimes committed by Fretilin and Falintil members.
Gusmao: In May last year, at the conference of Fretilin, I asked members (to) apologize to the people for many crimes. I am ready also because I was central commander of Fretilin. Sometimes, I think we should have a tribunal. If I have to go to trial, Iíll go.
TIME: Are you worried that TNI (Indonesiaís army) might return to East Timor with the aim of retaking the country?
Gusmao: I donít believe TNI will. The militias, yes, they could come (and) infiltrate. But in my perception, TNI is already going toward the right way. East Timor is an international issue now. If the TNI were to come again, it would be suicide. I donít believe Mega (Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri) would allow this. I donít believe the generals would allow this.
See also: BD: Recent news re Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão
BD: Truth, Reception and Reconciliation - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news
BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports
BD: Peoples' Participation / Participação Dos Povos / Partisipasaun Politika - A collection of recent media releases, reports and articles