BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor home

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


Source: ACFOA


Pat Walsh

8 November 1999

The National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) was established as the peak body of the East Timorese people's resistance to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Its members are drawn from all walks of life and political viewpoints, including the major political parties. Now that Indonesia has left and the administration of East Timor is being taken over by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), CNRT is restructuring itself to play a new role. This involves moving from opposition to proposition and the facilitation of transition to self-government and independence, empowered and supported by the UN.

It is important that international NGOs understand the history, outlook and role of this unique East Timorese institution and the extraordinarily difficult challenges those who comprise it now face thanks to the devastation visited on East Timor by Indonesia’s destructive exit plan.

CNRT’s current life span will be short and will be limited to this period of transition at the end of which political parties will return to centre stage and CNRT will be replaced by a democratically elected government. In the meantime, however, the pro-independence vote has given CNRT a clear political and moral responsibility to determine East Timor’s development at this critical juncture, in close dialogue and cooperation with other sectors of East Timorese society, including NGOs, students and the church. Those recently charged with responsibility by CNRT, whose names are listed in this report, deserve to be given all the space, resources and support they need to carry out their heavy and daunting responsibilities and to enable them to do this in the CNRT spirit of inclusiveness, participation and commitment to the common good.


A. History
B. Origins
C. Current composition and roles
D. Policies
E. Profiles
F. Contacts
Appendix I: Timorese members of the World Bank Joint Assessment Mission
Appendix II: Political parties


CNRT is the acronym for Concelho Nacional da Resistancia Timorense or National Council of Timorese Resistance. Though the word East is missing, this should not be interpreted to mean that CNRT has pan-Timor objectives. CNRT only represents the people of East Timor (which includes the islands of Atauro and Jaco and the enclave of Oecusse in West Timor).

CNRT was formally established at a Convention of 200 East Timorese delegates held in Portugal in April 1998. Though by political necessity held outside East Timor and without the presence of gaoled East Timorese leader, Xanana Gusmao, this was the first broadly representative gathering of East Timorese nationalists since 1975. Some delegates from inside East Timor were present and all Convention decisions were submitted to the resistance inside East Timor for ratification. It was also distinguished by its inclusiveness (all parties, groups and persuasions were represented), its democratic character (both conference delegates and office bearers were elected) and its timing (it was held on the eve of the Suharto resignation). The Convention was a significant step in overcoming internal divisions and strengthening both the unity and purpose of the nationalist cause and international confidence in its capacity.

Key Convention outcomes included:


CNRT is a product of East Timor’s political struggle for independence. It represents the culmination of a search, literally through trial and error, for the vehicle, ideology and strategy best suited to advance the nationalist agenda and has evolved from earlier structures which have been progressively modified or jettisoned in response to changing circumstances and factional struggles. The acronyms tell the story: from Fretilin to CRRN, to CNRM, and finally CNRT. In summary, CNRT represents a rejection of party politics in favour of an inclusive, pluralist system based on the need to build national unity and engage all sections of East Timorese society in the common cause of national liberation (and now reconstruction).

The following time chart demonstrates the origins and political evolution of CNRT.


Following consultations in Darwin, 16-21 October 1999, CNRT announced the formation of the following bodies.

1. Transitional Council

The Transitional Council will be the central CNRT body for the transition period to independence, expected to last 2-3 years, and principal CNRT dialogue partner with UNTAET. Premises for the Transitional Council are being equipped in Aileu.

Xanana Gusmao (President)
Taur Matan Ruak (Falintil Commander)
Jose Ramos Horta (Vice-President)
Mari Alkatiri
Joao Carrascalao
Avelino Coelho
Felicidade Guterres

2. National Emergency Commission

CNRT recognises its obligation to assist the people during this time of emergency and that this assistance will contribute to the enhancement of public trust in the CNRT leadership. The Commission (NEC) will be responsible for CNRT policy and activity in respect of the current emergency - both humanitarian and rehabilitation of infrastructure. It will endeavour to empower the people to respond to this emergency and minimise dependency. It is planned that the NEC will be serviced by a Secretariat based in Dili with regional offices in several parts of East Timor.

Agio Pereira (General Coordinator)

In East Timor
Mar Kairos
Maria Domingas Alves (Mikato)
Isabel Ferreira
Lourenco Oliveira
Maria Paixao
Arsenio Bano
Jose Reis
Mariano Sabino Lopes
Clarimundo Habit
David Ximenes
Leandro Isaac
Joao Alves

Darwin - Alfredo Borges Ferreira, Gloria Castro Hall
Victoria, SA, Tas - Abel Guterres
Perth - Domingos Oliveira
NSW - Kim Gago, Joana Ximenes
Qld - Jose Teixeira.

3. Research and Planning Commission (CRP)

This body will coordinate policy research and planning in the following sectors and advise the Transitional Council. Membership is still to be confirmed:

Judicial/legal affairs (Manuel Tilman)
International affairs (Constancio Pinto)
Finance, Economy and Development (Lucas da Costa) Education, Youth, and Media (Mar Kairos and Domingos de Sousa)
Environment and Tourism (Luis Cardoso)
Health and Social Affairs (Jose Soares)
Public Administration (Faustino Gomes)
Home Office, Security and Defence (Xanana Gusmao and Taur Matan Ruak)

Specialist groups will assist each sector building on the work of the Strategic Planning Conference held in Melbourne, April 1999.

4. Public Service Committee

This Committee will take responsibility for the recruitment and training of East Timorese for public service, including the provision of East Timorese to UNTAET.

Domingos Oliveira (rest of Australia)
Julio Alfaro (Macau)
Emilia Pires (Melbourne and Sydney)
Alberto Araujo (Portugal/Africa)
Mariano Sabino Lopes (East Timor)
Joao Noronha
Maria Braz

5. Team to elaborate on National Development Policy

Lucas da Costa
Mariano Sabino
Manuel Tilman
Mari Alkatiri
Joao Carrascalao
Mario Carrascalao

6. Office of the CNRT President

The office for the CNRT President is being established in Dili by Joao Goncalves. CNRT will also have an office in Baucau.

Rocque Rodrigues (Chief of Staff)
Ines Almeida (Media relations)
Other staff are to be appointed.

7. CNRT National Secretary

Filomena Lim

8. Foreign Affairs Commission

Jose Ramos Horta will continue in his role as CNRT roving ambassador and is expected to appoint several in country CNRT representatives by December, including in Australia.

9. Gender Equity Committee

This body will ensure compliance with the commitment of the CNRT Magna Carta to uphold the rights of women. Membership is not yet confirmed.

Milena Pires
Maria Domingos Alves (Micato)
Antero Benedito da Silva
Fr Jovito do Rego

10. Procurement Committee

This Committee will seek out, advise and monitor international investment for East Timor and advise on the medium and long term impact of investment in all sectors:

Emilia Pires (administration)
Ana Pessoa Pinto (legal)
Mario Carrascalao (responsible for seeking overseas commercial investment, especially in Europe)
Note: according to media reports, some 4000 companies are queuing to share in rebuilding projects in East Timor, 2600 of them American. 90 Australian companies are reported to have registered on the UN procurement site.

11. CNRT Representative in Portugal

Pascoela Barreto


The following broad policy positions have been gleaned from speeches, press reports and miscellaneous documents. The situation remains fluid and these policy formulations should not be regarded as necessarily definitive. Attitudes to Indonesia, for example, have been significantly affected by the post-ballot rampage and destruction. Ultimately all policies will be refined and decided through the electoral political process.

Political parties

CNRT is neither a political party nor an interim Government. Xanana Gusmao has made it clear that Government can only be formed on the basis of democratic elections. He has also firmly insisted that political parties must put their ambitions and activities on hold for the foreseeable future particularly during the next 12 months which he has declared the Year of Emergency. CNRT, however, is clearly committed to a pluralist, multi-party, democratic system based on the rule of law and separation of State and religion. In the Dare talks process, CNRT also offered power-sharing to the pro-integration side provided interested parties were not responsible for serious violations of human rights.

Name and political structure

Republic of Timor Loro Sa'e (Tetum for sun in the east)

Human rights

The Magna Carta adopted in 1998 commits CNRT to uphold all internationally agreed human rights, including basic freedoms of association and expression, freedom of belief and social, economic and cultural rights. The right to ownership of land and goods legally acquired in East Timor by groups or individuals, nationals or foreigners, will be upheld.
Customary law The Magna Carta commits CNRT to 'the elevation of customary rules of law as the basis for future East Timorese laws, so that a proper framework can be provided for traditional values within the new legal systeam and new organisations of the State of East Timor'. Jose Ramos Horta favours a Fijian style Constitution which allows the Great Council of Chiefs an important advisory function. Xanana Gusmao is said to be reluctant to promote the revival of the liurais (petty kings) in case it revives rivalries between the tribes of East Timor's 13 districts.

Civil society

CNRT is committed to encouraging the creation of a strong civil society and NGOs, including a union movement, with an active role in the life of East Timor.


Reconciliation has been declared a top priority. On many occasions and most notably in his speech before the August ballot, Xanana Gusmao has emphasised that reconciliation is fundamental to East Timor’s development and national unity and stability, that all East Timorese have a contribution to make, and that forgiveness is necessary including for those who have committed the most reprehensible acts. In his speech on the eve of the August Popular Consultation (therefore before the post-ballot rampage), Gusmao stated that ‘for reconciliation to become effective, we will proclaim general amnesty for all political crimes committed until now’.

International relations

CNRT statements have focussed on three key relationships:
  1. membership of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP);
  2. integration into the region through support for ASEAN, APEC and particularly the South Pacific Forum membership of which will be a priority sponsored, hopefully, by Australia;
  3. and reconciliation with Indonesia whose new President, Abdurrahman Wahid, Xanana Gusmao is expected to visit soon. Gusmao is not known to have identified with other independence movements in Indonesia such as Free Aceh and OPM, though he shared political imprisonment with some of their representatives and the CNRT Magna Carta supports the rights of peoples to self-determination. Xanana Gusmao recently expressed solidarity with Aung Sang Suu Kyi of Burma and expressed a wish for East Timor to join the UN. In his October speech in Melbourne, Gusmao highlighted the ‘special relationship between Australia and East Timor’.


The Magna Carta accepts Portuguese as the official language of East Timor. Tetum will be the national language. Jose Ramos Horta has said English will be taught at school from primary level, but there will be no place for Bahasa Indonesia. Xanana Gusmao and Timorese graduates of Indonesian universities have said the teaching of Indonesian should be maintained and that there should be multifaceted cooperation with Indonesia.


East Timor will develop a modern market economy with a role for an East Timorese private sector and foreign investment, building on East Timor’s geographical location at the confluence of commercial routes between Asia and Oceania. The State will intervene where necessary to ensure equity, transparency and efficiency and to create special economic zones. Rural development will be prioritised with the objective of developing existing products such as rice, coffee, livestock and coconut and diversifying the rural economy on which 80% of East Timorese depend to make better use of natural resources including forests, fisheries, minerals and tourist potential.


Mechanisms will be developed to combat corruption and promote transparency in the management and accountability of funds provided by international donors and institutions.


CNRT supports the use of the Portuguese escudo as the currency during the transition period. It is considered that through Lisbon this may position East Timor to use the Euro which, as one of the strongest currencies in the world, would make East Timor attractive to Asian investors seeking access to European markets.


The Magna Carta states that 'the protection of the environment is essential to safeguard the survival of future generations' and commits 'an independent East Timor (to) defend policies aiming at the proper management, development and conservation of national resources'.

Timor Gap

CNRT supports economic exploitation of the Timor Gap and the rights of the existing Timor Gap contractors and the Australian Government to jointly develop East Timor's offshore natural resources in cooperation with the East Timorese people. Though not an urgent priority, the 1989 Timor Gap Treaty between Australia and Indonesia will be reviewed to ensure East Timor receives its full share of proceeds of natural gas and oil exploration. Oil production from East Timor's offshore fields only commenced on 21 July 1998. East Timor claims the tax revenue currently being paid to Jakarta by joint venture partners BHP, Santos, Petroz and Inpex Sahu from the Elang, Kakatua and Kakatua North fields in the 'Zone of Cooperation'. Timor Sea reserves are sometimes compared to the vast reserves of the North Sea or Gulf of Mexico, but currently tax returns to Jakarta are said to be only some $5 million annually. However, returns from natural gas in the Undan-Bayu reservoir, which lies in the Zone of Cooperation and is scheduled to commence in two years, are expected to dwarf those from the Elang and Kakatua fields and yield an annual royalty of $40 million each to East Timor and Australia. Indonesia has said it will transfer rights to East Timor. The new Ambassador designate to Australia, Arizal Effendi, is an expert in international treaties.

Development policy

CNRT has initiated a process of policy development and encouraged East Timorese, NGO and foreign experts from a range of disciplines around the world to contribute to this process. A meeting held in Algarve, Portugal, in October 1998 brought together the CNRT political commission and East Timorese professionals to establish general guidelines for a development plan. This was further developed by working groups and individual researchers. A Strategic Development Planning Conference held in Melbourne, 5-9 April 1999 generated many research papers and workshop outcomes on six key areas:
(1) Governance
(2) Legal and judicial systems
(3) Economy, agriculture and tourism
(4) Education
(5) Health
(6) Infrastructure and environment.
Copies of these papers and a report of the Conference Results are available from the East Timor Development Office, 124 Napier St, Fitzroy 3065, Australia. Tel +61 3 9417 6711 Email:

Indonesian settlers

Now that most Indonesians have left East Timor, this is no longer a priority policy issue. Xanana Gusmao has recognised the sensitivity of the issue and given assurances that there would be no violence or expulsions and that Indonesians would be permitted to remain in East Timor. At the same time he has acknowledged that it would not be possible for Indonesian transmigrants to occupy choice areas of East Timor if it disadvantaged his own people.


Both Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta have stated that Timor Loro Sa'e will not have a standing army. Aggression from militia camps in West Timor and the need to provide a role for Falintil troops in an independent East Timor may force a review of this position.


Jose Alexandre 'Xanana' Gusmao, 53, the undisputed leader of the new East Timor. According to his biographer, Sarah Niner, the middle syllable of Alexandre, ‘Xan’ (pronounced ‘shan’) is the root of Xanana, a name he adopted in the 1970s as a literary pseudonym. Gusmao was born 20 June 1946 in a poor family near Manatuto. His father was a schoolteacher. Gusmao received early secondary education at the Catholic seminary in Dare but left before completing the course. He did national service in the Portuguese army and worked as a public servant and journalist/editor. He joined Fretilin in 1974 and went with the guerilla resistance to the mountains when Indonesia invaded in December 1975. His wife and two children stayed in Dili to be eventually resettled in Melbourne. In 1981 he was elected Commander in Chief of Falintil and began a radical rebuilding of the resistance movement which culminated in the creation of CNRT which he now leads. He first came to prominent international attention in 1989 after Australian lawyer Robert Domm journeyed into the mountains of East Timor to photograph and interview him. (The interview, in which Gusmao offered to negotiate without preconditions, was published by ACFOA entitled ‘Keeping the Flame of Freedom Alive’). He was captured on 20 November 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment (later commuted to 20 years). Nelson Mandela spent 2 hours with him in Jakarta in July 1997. In February 1999, he was released from Cipinang prison into house arrest with instructions from Indonesia to find a solution to the issue. On 4 September he was fully released to the British Embassy in Jakarta and returned to East Timor on 21 October. A poet and painter, Xanana Gusmao has been widely praised by world leaders for his statesmanship. His public criticism of pro-independence youth who demonstrated against the militias in Dili in May is a reminder that he is also a tough leader who insists on discipline. Gusmao’s blueprint for East Timor can be found in his August message on the occasion of the Popular Consultation: Now is the Time to Build the Future: Reconciliation, Unity and National Development in the Framework of the Transition towards Independence.

Taur Matan Ruak, 43. Deputy Commander of Falintil under Xanana Gusmao. He has spent almost the entire Indonesian occupation fighting in the interior. He became Falintil field commander in 1998 following the death of Konis Santana.

Jose Ramos Horta, 49, Vice President CNRT. Born 26 December 1949 in Dili from a Timorese mother and Portuguese father. A journalist, whom the Portuguese authorities exiled to Mozambique for 2 years, 1970-2, for his anti-colonial attitudes, Horta was a founder of ASDT (the Timorese Social Democratic Association) – he still describes himself as a social democrat – which preceded Fretilin. He was Fretilin Secretary but resigned from the party in the1980s. He was dispatched abroad 3 days before the Indonesian invasion to lobby the UN and became East Timor’s leading international spokesperson, winning the Nobel Peace Prize with Bishop Belo in 1996. Four of Horta’s eleven brothers and sisters have been killed by the Indonesian military. His political autobiography is Funu: the Unfinished Saga of East Timor (NY, Red Sea Press 1987). He founded the Diplomacy Training Program and is a board member of the East Timor Human Rights Centre.

Carrascalao brothers. The Carrascalao brothers have significant land holdings in East Timor and have played an important role in East Timor’s politics. Joao Carrascalao led the UDT which fought Fretilin in a short civil war in 1975 which provided Indonesia with an excuse to invade. Now UDT President, he is an engineer of Portuguese stock on his father’s side and has lived in Sydney since the late 1970s. His brother Mario Viegas Carrascalao, 62, was a forestry engineer and administrator in Portuguese times. A member of the Suharto Golkar party, he was the Indonesian appointed Governor of East Timor from 1982-1992 when he won some respect for his efforts to protect East Timorese interests, not least the promotion of education for East Timorese (many of whom are the educated ‘coming people’ with good knowledge of and connections in Indonesia). He was later Indonesian Ambassador in Bulgaria. Manuel, 68, the eldest brother, a member of the provincial assembly under Portugal, made a late but decisive conversion to the independence movement. His son was murdered by the militias this year during an attack on his Dili home. With Mario, he is said to be a part of Gusmao’s inner circle.

Mari Alkatiri. Vice-President of Fretilin, a former leader of Dili’s Muslim community. Has lived abroad mainly in Mozambique during the 24 years of Indonesia’s occupation and is regarded as a confidant of Xanana Gusmao.

Avelino Coelho, Secretary-General of the new Socialist Party of Timor.

Felicidade Guterres, appointed to the CNRT Transitional Council in recognition of both her unsung contribution to the liberation struggle inside East Timor and the role of women in a future independent East Timor.

Agio Pereira, 42, moved to Australia from Portugal where he was studying when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975. A biologist and singer, he became director of the Sydney-based East Timor Relief Association and has travelled extensively including in the South Pacific.

Leandro Isaac, 44, was a member of UDT then the Indonesian provincial parliament. In recent years he became chief coordinator of CNRT in East Timor and was a target for assassination by the militias during the ballot period.

Emilia Pires, 39, the first East Timorese graduate of an Australian University (La Trobe) and a former President of the Timorese Association of Victoria and public servant in the Victorian Government. Politically independent, she came to Australia as a refugee with her UDT associated family in 1975. She has travelled extensively and attended the 1985 international women’s conference in Nairobi. She co-organised a CNRT sponsored conference in Melbourne in April 1999 which brought together East Timorese professionals to work on future development planning for East Timor, following which she established an East Timor Development Office in the ACFOA premises in Melbourne. She recently worked in Jakarta after Xanana Gusmao invited her to involve pro-integrationist East Timorese in development planning.

Ines de Almeida, media relations officer in the Office of the CNRT President. She has lived most of her adult life in Sydney where she worked as a state public servant and was an executive in the East Timor Relief Association. She has travelled extensively and participated in the 1997 Beijing Women’s Conference. De Almeida participated in the UN sponsored Intra-Timorese dialogue series in Austria and knows personally many of the key figures on both sides of the political debate.


CNRT Dili Office
Chief of Staff: Rocque Rodriques
Media relations: Ines de Almeida
Joao Goncalves Mobile 040 987 9142
Others to be recruited

CNRT Darwin Office
Office 1, Level 7, Darwin Plaza Building,
Smith Street Mall
Tel (08) 8936 3011
Fax (08) 8936 3007
Office administrator: Emilia Pires (Mobile 040 987 9145). The office will also serve as the CNRT Reconstruction Office. The office, which has been provided by the NT Government on a short term basis, does not yet have email and, in Emilia Pires absence, is staffed by volunteers.

Agio Pereira
Coordinator CNRT National Emergency Commission
c/- CPSU, 1st Floor
38 Wood Street
Mobile 0417 26 511
Fax (08) 9881 5085

Other contacts in Darwin
Justino Guterres mobile 0401 020 460 Email:
Alfredo Borges Ferreira mobile 0419 836 011
Palmyra Pires mobile 0410 41418 373
Gloria de Castro Hall (08) 8927 1956

Melbourne CNRT contacts Elizabeth Exposto, General Coordinator, CNRT Victoria Mobile 041 609 7274 Abel Guterres, National Emergency Commission, Mobile 041 243 3408


Now is the time to build the future. Message by Xanana Gusmao on the occasion of the Popular Consultation. August 1999
Timor leaders plan a new sun in the east, Brian Woodley, The Weekend Australian, July 10-11, 1999
Xanana's republic, Brian Woodley and David Nason, The Weekend Australian, October 23-24, 1999
East Timor at the Crossroads: The Forging of a Nation, 1995. Edited Peter Carey and G. Carter Bentley
A Long Journey of Resistance: The Origins of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, Sarah Niner, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, (to be published).
Timor: A People Betrayed, James Dunn 1996
The National Council of Maubere Resistance(CNRM): Overview of the History of the Struggle of East Timor, Agio Pereira, August 1994.
Transcript of interview with Xanana Gusmao, Peter Mares, Radio National, 17 February 1999.
Speech by Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, Leonda Reception Centre, Melbourne, 11 October 1999.
May 10 Statement on discipline and unity. Xanana Gusmao CNRT Magna Carta Concerning Freedoms, Rights, Duties and Guarantees for the People of East Timor. Portugal 25 April 1998.
ETRA website:


East Timorese members of World Bank Joint Assessment Mission

Joao Cancio Freitas
Filomena Lim Oliveira
Jorge Graca

JUSTICE Ana Pessoa
Aniceto Guterres Lopes

HEALTH Dr Sergio Lobo
Nelson Martins

EDUCATION Domingos Sousa
Armindo Maia

Edmundo Viegas
Estanislau da Silva

Lucas da Costa
Fernanda Borges Nunes
Helder da Costa
Madalena Boavida

Joao Alves
Joao Carrascalao
Nuno Castro
Filomeno Andrade
Antonio B. Oliveira

Milena Pires
Maria D. Alves

Emilia Pires
Joao Alves


East Timorese political parties

The strong emphasis on national unity has pushed political parties into the background and focussed the agenda on national liberation rather than partisan issues. As a result little is known about the current policies (if any), structures,
leadership, and ambitions of the parties, or their level of popular support. Despite early power struggles and differing attitudes towards Indonesia, the first five listed below - all of which were established in 1974-5 - put aside their differences in recent times to openly support self-determination and oppose Indonesia. PST is a recent addition.
  Additions, amendments are most welcome:


National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT)
The CNRT was established as the peak body of the East Timorese people's resistance to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Its members are drawn from all walks of life and political viewpoints, including the major political parties. Now that Indonesia has left and the administration of East Timor is being taken over by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), CNRT is restructuring itself to play a new role. This involves moving from opposition to proposition and the facilitation of transition to self-government and independence.
Australian Council for Overseas Aid

ACFOA is the peak body of the Australian Aid and Development Non-Government Organisations (NGOs). It provides membership services, eg. training, and it develops policy and advocacy related to development issues. Members adhere to a Code of Conduct
ACFOA has various working groups who are part of its policy/advocacy activities. The East Timor WG meets now every two months to share information on East Timor, build up strategies to campaign and lobby governments in matters such as the refugees in West Timor, to liaise with AusAID, the ET NGO Forum [101k](a similar organisation to ACFOA in East Timor), etc.

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

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