BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home  March news

"There are 8 parties behind the independence flag. Of the five parties set up in 1974, four eventually collaborated, to a greater or lesser extent, with the Indonesian occupiers. FRETILIN always maintained its opposition to the occupation. Aware of its present advantage, FRETILIN now feels restricted as part of the united front proposed by Xanana Gusmão, and wants to leave it to conquer its own territory. For some, however, talk of such a move only rekindles memories of the 1974 civil war and impels Xanana Gusmão to appeal for national unity." East Timor Observatory
See Also:

Apr 24 ACFOA: Briefing Notes on political parties and groupings  Report
BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports
BD: National Council of Timorese Resistance - A collection of recent speeches, statements, news and reports
Portuguese: Mar 5 OTL: Partidos políticos e Forças pró-independência  Report

East Timor Observatory

Ref.: POL02-05/03/2001eng

Subject: Political parties and Pro-Independence Forces


Contents:
Summary
Background
Political Parties
Forces without Political Party status
The Facts
Conclusions

Summary:


A look at East Timor’s post-1974 history would explain Xanana Gusmão’s insistence on unity among all the pro-independence political parties under the umbrella of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), and shed light on the role that the CNRT President has played in getting these parties to work together (see Background below).

There are 8 parties behind the independence flag. Of the five parties set up in 1974, four eventually collaborated, to a greater or lesser extent, with the Indonesian occupiers. FRETILIN always maintained its opposition to the occupation. Aware of its present advantage, FRETILIN now feels restricted as part of the united front proposed by Xanana Gusmão, and wants to leave it to conquer its own territory. For some, however, talk of such a move only rekindles memories of the 1974 civil war and impels Xanana Gusmão to appeal for national unity. To counter the position of FRETILIN, which is seeking to capitalise on the gains made by the resistance, Xanana Gusmão points out that victory at the 1999 referendum was achieved because of the political unity within the CNRT, and that the CNRT would be sure of victory if it ever became a party and ran in the elections. However, for reasons to do with his own personal rejection of power, and the risk that a unanimous election result might jeopardise democracy, Xanana Gusmão does not want to transform the CNRT into a party. Three new parties, PST, PDC and PSD, will have to gain a lot of ground before they become realistic alternatives. Xanana Gusmão is appealing to all Timorese to participate in the political process, but to avoid turning political activity into a popularity contest with street demonstrations that could lead to violence.  top
 

Background:


On 25 de April 1974, the Portuguese colonialist regime is overturned, and the new regime recognises the right of peoples in Portugal’s colonies to self-determination. In East Timor, the green light to political organisations leads to the formation of 5 parties: UDT, which supports maintaining links with Portugal; FRETILIN, which advocates total and immediate independence; APODETI, which wants ET to be tied to Indonesia as an autonomous province; KOTA and the Labour Party, neither of which ever had any popular support.

In January 1975, in order to combat pressure from Indonesia aimed at bringing about the territory’s integration in the Republic, UDT and FRETILIN form a pro-independence coalition. UDT breaks out of the alliance in May, and on 11 August takes command of the airports and radio transmitters in Dili and Baucau, takes over the police force’s arms and weapons store, and demands that Portugal arrest FRETILIN’s leadership. UDT Vice-President, Francisco Lopes da Cruz, justifies the about-turn in position: "If we want to be independent we must follow Indonesia’s political line, otherwise we will be independent for a week or a month" (New York Times, 12-8-75).

FRETILIN’s leadership withdraws to Aileu and asks the Portuguese Government to disarm UDT. The Portuguese Governor condemns the coup and calls for talks but, led by Timorese officers and non-commissioned officers, most soldiers leave the Portuguese army and join FRETILIN to form the FALINTIL. After a month of fighting, during which between 1,500 e 3,000 people were killed, UDT loses control of its positions. FRETILIN manages to gain control over the territory, while the other parties flee to the Indonesian part of the island, where Jakarta uses them to justify its intervention. Portugal tries unsuccessfully to organise meetings for talks. On 28 November, faced with Indonesia’s imminent invasion, FRETILIN declares the independence of the Democratic Republic of East Timor (RDTL), to which the parties that fled to Indonesia (which have, meantime, regrouped in the MAC – Anti-Communist Movement) respond by declaring the integration of East Timor in Indonesia. Portugal rejects both initiatives and, once again, appeals to talks. On 7 December, Indonesia bombs and occupies Dili.

Most of the population flees from the invader and takes refuges in the mountains, protected by the FALINTIL. Indonesian military operations and bombardments, the constant need to move from one hiding place to another to escape from the invaders, as well as hunger and disease force the people to come down from the mountains and surrender to the occupiers, who herd them into camps guarded by soldiers. The resistance fighters pay dearly with their own lives during this phase of the war, regarded as the war to protect the people, which ended with the killing of FRETILIN’s President and Commander of the FALINTIL, Nicolau Lobato, on 31 December 1978.

What remains of the FALINTIL reorganises and adopts guerrilla warfare tactics under Xanana Gusmão’s leadership (1981). Their activities are effective enough to cause the Indonesian military commander to propose a ceasefire and negotiations in 1983. The ceasefire only lasts for 5 months but it is enough time for communication channels between the resistance and the population to be consolidated. The talks also make a meeting possible between Xanana and the Indonesia-appointed Governor, Mário Carrascalão. According to Carrascalão, they agree at the meeting to both continue working for the Timorese people – each in their own different and separate ways. Other Timorese, while working within the Indonesian administration, are secretly collaborating with the resistance. In 1986 Xanana and Bishop Belo hold a secret meeting.

Within the FALINTIL, political reflection gradually leads to criticism of its own past military strategy and political position. In 1987 Xanana takes an important step towards national unity by declaring that the FALINTIL are no longer to be formally considered FRETILIN’s forces but rather the armed forces of the National Resistance. In 1989, Xanana leaves FRETILIN and sets up the CNRM (Conselho Nacional da Resistência Maubere – National Council of Maubere Resistance), a non-partisan political body.

In the occupied towns, young Timorese start organising and rebelling against the discrimination in education, where Indonesians are getting preferential treatment. In 1989, Mário Carrascalão manages to get President Suharto to authorise greater access to the territory, isolated since 1975, arguing that it would enable more exchanges between East Timor and "the rest" of Indonesia. This opening, and subsequent entry of foreign visitors breathes life into a new form of struggle against occupation – public demonstrations. Although the demonstrations are brutally put down by Indonesia’s military, they are important signals to the outside world that, far from dying out, the resistance is actually winning over considerable sectors of Timorese youth. Santa Cruz, in 1991, proves to a major milestone in this form of struggle.

Xanana’s arrest in 1992 and his imprisonment in Indonesia make possible, at international level, what the ceasefire had previously enabled: direct contact (this time on the part of the UN, US, Nelson Mandela) with Xanana Gusmão. These contacts become vital in the subsequent evolution of events that, suddenly, take a new turn when President Suharto falls from power in May 1998. One month prior to this, the 1st Timorese Congress, attended by the main opposition forces CNRM, UDT, FRETILIN and independents – had been held in Portugal, and had given birth to the CNRT - the first democratically based resistance structure. Pro-independence forces, under the CNRT banner, run in the UN-organised "popular consultation" in August 1999, winning 78,5% of the votes.    top
 

Political parties

[See also: 'East Timorese political parties' in Nov 8 1999 Pat Walsh: From Opposition to Proposition: The CNRT in Transition BD]

FRETILIN – Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor, founded in 1974.

It unilaterally declared independence shortly before Indonesia’s invasion and was the main party of the resistance throughout the occupation. In 1998, FRETILIN took part in the founding of the CNRT, leaving this umbrella organization in 2000.

Leadership: Mari Alkatiri, Lu’Olo, Estanislau da Costa. FRETILIN currently holds two of the ministries in the transition Government: Finance (Mari Alkatiri) and Interior (Ana Pessoa).

UDT – Timorese Democratic Union, founded in 1974.

UDT initially advocated maintaining links with Portugal. For circumstantial and personal reasons, its leaders are now dispersed in other parties.

Principle leader: João Carrascalão, Minister of Infrastructures in the transitional government.

FRETILIN and UDT are represented on the National Council (legislative body appointed by UNTAET) by second rank militants (Cipriana Pereira e Maria Lacruna), and have refused to send representatives to the CNRT’s Permanent Council (PC) in protest over the lack of real authority of these two bodies.

PST – Timorese Socialist Party, successor to the Timorese Socialist Association.

This party has strong labour sector and trade union leanings.

Leadership: Avelino Coelho da Silva and Pedro Costa. The former is PST representative on the National Council (NC), while the latter sits on the CNRT PC.

PDC/UDC – Christian Democrat Party/Union, founded in 1999 by Catholic and Protestant leaders.

Leadership: Vicente da Silva Guterres (PC), Alexandre Magno Ximenes (NC), Arlindo Marçal.

PSD – Social Democrat Party, founded in September 2000.

Comprises leaders, especially from UDT, who seek to prevent rifts that occurred in the past.

Leadership: Mário Carrascalão, Agio Pereira (NC), Leandro Isaac, Zacarias da Costa. Represented informally on the PC because the party was only formed after the PC, by Germano Silva.

Pro-Referendum APODETI, composed of former members of APODETI (see ETO POL01 – Pro-Autonomy Movements and Parties).

Leadership: Frederico da Costa (PC), Laurentino Domingos Luis Gusmão (NC).

KOTA – Monarchist party founded in 1974.

Leadership: Augusto Pires (PC), Clementino dos Reis Amaral (NC).

Labour Party founded in 1974.

Leadership: Paulo Freitas (PC), Maria Angela Freitas (NC).

The Timorese Nationalist party (PNT) and the CDP-RDTL group also claim they uphold independence. However, their ties with highly conservative sectors of the Indonesian military position them in the opposing camp (see ETO, POL01). top
 

Forces without Political Party status


CNRT – National Council of Timorese Resistance

Founded in 1998 by members of the CNRM, UDT and FRETILIN. Membership was extended before the August 2000 Congress, to incorporate the new parties - PST, UDC, PSD – and the old pro-Indonesia parties - APODETI, KOTA and the Labour Party. After the Congress, however, FRETILIN and UDT left the CNRT.

CNRT President, Xanana Gusmão, and José Ramos Horta, now Foreign Minister in the transitional Government, deserve special mention as they refused to join any political party. As the CNRT is not a political party, it cannot run in the elections.

Youth Movements - RENETIL, ETSSC, Juventude Lorico Asswain, IMPETU, OPJLATIL, OJETIL ...

These movements all attract young Timorese, most of whom were educated in Indonesian schools, in contrast to the political parties whose leadership is largely representative of the older generation brought up and educated under the Portuguese colonial system. The first 3 movements mentioned above organized congresses during 2000. Their members might join existing parties or, because of their specific differences, could set up new political parties.

The Catholic Church

The influence of the Catholic Church cannot be ignored. Bishop Belo’s views often carry as much weight as those of Xanana Gusmão. One of the 5 Timorese ministries in the transitional Government (Social Affairs) is headed by Father Filomeno Jacob. A priest was the organizer of the CNRT Congress. The Catholic Church is represented on the NC by Father José António da Costa.    top
 

The Facts:


[gathered between 1-1-2000 and 15-2-2001].

1975 revisited in 2000 by some current leaders:

FRETILIN Mari Alkatiri estimates that 15,000 people had belonged to the secretive network set up by FRETILIN to help the resistance during the Indonesian occupation. The network gave the party widespread support in rural areas. These forces need to be reorganised in a proper political party, in spite of reluctance among some groups to dismantle their clandestine structures (Sydney Morning Herald, 16-5). UDT

Although regarded the second most important party, no information is available on its current activities, except for its reactions to the activity of other forces, SDP and CNRT.

PST

The Timorese Socialist Party is always mentioned whenever an event is labour-related. It organises workers’ demonstrations and their employment-related claims, negotiates between strikers and employers, and intervenes if a protest becomes too rowdy. It uses Marxism as a tool, says Avelino Coelho da Silva. "We don´t accept the argument that political parties will divide East Timor – rather the lack of democratic culture will" (IPS, Darwin, 14-4).

PSD

In August, just a few days before the CNRT Congress, news broke of a new party being formed – the Social Democrat Party (Partido Social Democrata - PSD). It is formally inaugurated after the Congress. Among its founders is Mário Carrascalão. The new party aims to attract people who are tired of the ‘revivalism’ of the old parties and there are rumours that it has received the blessing of Xanana Gusmão and the two bishops of the influential Catholic Church. José Ramos Horta denies membership of the PSD but admits involvement in its creation (Lusa, 16-8). João Carrascalão criticises the project "nothing more than a joke in bad taste", and guarantees that the UDT would neither disappear nor form a coalition with the future PSD. He referred rather to approaches to "other Timorese parties" (Lusa, 17-8).

CNRT – The August 2000 Congress

After the Congress

FRETILIN and UDT do not show up at the meetings of the CNRT Permanent Council. Alkatiri justifies the absence by saying: the PC "has no powers" and it is only "a facade". João Carrascalão shares this view, describing the PC as merely "decorative". Xanana Gusmão reacts with uncharacteristic severity, threatening to put forward a proposal to the PC that the two parties’ ministers in the transitional Government be removed: "they are only interested in having ministers" (Lusa, 14-9). One week later, Gusmão states that the door of the PC is still open, and that the PC was meant to provide a forum where all Timorese forces could "support and practice a policy of tolerance" and work together in "a spirit of partnership" rather than hostility (Lusa, 21-9).

Conclusions:


Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor's transition process a programme by the 'Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere'
Coordinator: Cláudia Santos 
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE -  1069-069     Lisboa - Portugal
ph.: 351 1 317 28 60  -  fax: 351 1 317 28 70  -  e-mail: cdpm@esoterica.pt
URL: http://homepage.esoterica.pt/~cdpm

East Timor Observatory
ETO was set up by two Portuguese NGOs - the Commission for the Rights of the Maubere People (CDPM) and the ecumenical group Peace is Possible in East Timor,  which have been involved in East Timor solidarity work since the early eighties. The aim of the Observatory was to monitor East Timor's transition process, as well as the negotiating process and its repercussions at international level, and the developments in the situation inside the territory itself.
E-mail: cdpm@esoterica.pt  Homepage: http://homepage.esoterica.pt/~cdpm/frameI.htm
Portuguese:

Observatório Timor Leste
Duas Organizações Não Governamentais portuguesas, a COMISSÃO PARA OS DIREITOS DO POVO MAUBERE (CDPM) e o grupo ecuménico A PAZ É POSSÍVEL EM TIMOR LESTE que, desde o início da década de oitenta, se solidarizam com a causa do Povo de Timor Leste, tomaram a decisão de criar o OBSERVATÓRIO TIMOR LESTE. A vocação do Observatório Timor Leste é, no quadro das recentes alterações do regime de Jacarta face a Timor Leste, o acompanhamento, a nível internacional, do processo negocial e, no interior do território, do inevitável período de transição que se anuncia.
E-mail: cdpm@esoterica.pt  Homepage: http://homepage.esoterica.pt/~cdpm/framep.htm
French:

Observatoire Timor-Oriental
Deux Organisations Non Gouvernementales portugaises, la ‘Commission pour les Droits du Peuple Maubere’ et l’association oecuménique "La Paix est Possible au Timor Oriental", qui se solidarisent avec la cause du peuple du Timor Oriental depuis le début des années 80, ont pris la décision de créer un OBSERVATOIRE TIMOR ORIENTAL. La vocation de cet observatoire est d’accompagner le processus de transition du Timor Oriental, aussi bien le processus de négociation que ses répercussions au niveau international et l’évolution de la situation à l’intérieur du territoire.
E-mail: cdpm@esoterica.pt  Homepage: http://homepage.esoterica.pt/~cdpm/framef.htm

See Also:

BD: National Council of Timorese Resistance / Conselho Nacional de Resistência Timorense (CNRT) - A collection of recent speeches, statements, news and reports

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: Pro-autonomy Movements / Pró autonomia Movimentos - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news

Apr 24 ACFOA: Briefing Notes on political parties and groupings  Report
"East Timor is now entering the last, crucial stage of the transition process to full independence. National elections for a Constituent Assembly to develop a Constitution for the new nation will be held on 30 August 2001. Over the months that follow, decision-making and power will be transferred from the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) to democratically elected East Timorese legislative and executive bodies. ...
Until now, the CNRT independence umbrella body has occupied centre stage.  This has had the effect of obscuring the parties who, like the FALINTIL guerillas in the run-up to the August 99 ballot, have endured a period of necessary political cantonment in the interests of national unity. The scene is now set, however, for the political parties to take their rightful place under the spotlight as key players in the democratic process. This is a healthy and positive development which excesses by some should not be permitted to undermine.
In November 1999, ACFOA published a backgrounder on CNRT called ‘From Opposition to Proposition: the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in Transition’, to contribute to a more informed and positive reception for CNRT by the international community. It is hoped these notes will play a similar role in relation to the parties by answering the questions observers and others will have about these new players. How many parties will contest the election? Who are their leaders and how does one contact them? How have they changed from previous times? What ideas and policies do they have for East Timor’s development, foreign policy and so on?"  Pat Walsh, Australian Council for Overseas Aid

Portuguese:
Mar 5 OTL: Partidos políticos e Forças pró-independência  Report
"Oito partidos apresentam-se sob a bandeira da independência. Dos cinco partidos criados em 1974, quatro foram levados a colaborar, mais ou menos, com o ocupante indonésio. A FRETILIN sempre se opôs à ocupação. Consciente da vantagem que adquiriu, a FRETILIN sente-se limitada na frente comum proposta por Xanana Gusmão, e quer partir à conquista do poder. Mas para alguns isso faz renascer a lembrança da guerra civil de 1974 e provoca apelos angustiados de Xanana Gusmão a favor da unidade nacional."  Observatório Timor Leste

Feb 12 ETO: Political Movements and Parties: pro-autonomy  Report
"The Indonesian Government often claims that it has disarmed the militias and that it wants normal relations with independent East Timor, but its actions and statements, as outlined [below], show that these intentions are either not felt by all concerned or simply not genuine. ... Timorese society has its own traditional methods of resolving conflicts, which include material compensation paid by the offender to the victim. Employing such traditional methods might make the idea of reconciliation more understandable and, consequently, make it more meaningful for those concerned." East Timor Observatory

Portuguese:
Feb 12 OTL: Movimentos e partidos Pró autonomia: evolução desde o referendo  Report
"O Governo indonésio proclama frequentemente que desarmou as milícias e que quer manter relações normais com Timor Leste independente; os actos e declarações acima reportados mostram que este sentimento está ainda longe de ser geral ou autêntico. ... A sociedade timorense tem formas tradicionais de resolução de conflitos, que incluem compensações materiais pagas pelo ofensor ao ofendido. Recorrer a essas formas tradicionais pode dar à noção de reconciliação um sentido mais perceptível e portanto mais autêntico para as duas partes." OTL


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home  March news
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