Edited by Eliot Hoffman, East Timor Action Network/US, http://www.etan.org
East Timor's senior leader, Xanana Gusmao, urged the territory's political
elite Tuesday to show the world they were "really prepared"
for independence, while criticizing the UN transition administration for the slow pace of its "Timorization process."
Gusmao, speaking at a Dili news conference, expressed his solidarity
with four Timorese transition cabinet members who
threatened to resign at the weekend to press for greater local authority.
Though their initiative had caught him by "surprise," Gusmao said he
understood their concerns, underlining that the simple
appointment of local leaders to the administration "does not mean the empowering of the Timorese.
"Empowering the Timorese is to place more Timorese in decision-making areas," he said.
Gusmao acknowledged there were "technical difficulties" in implementing
a proposed transition timetable for independence next
year. He said it was up to the political parties, the legislative National Council and UNTAET to assure that no "unneccessary [sic]
preoccupations" destabilized the process.
"It is important to guarantee the international community that Timorese
politicians and intellectuals are really ready to take the
people to independence" he said.
Separately, in an "open letter," Gusmao accused unnamed political groups
of "sowing an atmosphere of conflict," reminiscent
of the tensions which led to civil war in 1975.
"We know that national unity at the level of (political) parties will not be achieved," he lamented.
In his letter, Gusmao confirmed publicly for the first time that he
had offered his resignation, at an "opportune time," as president
of the National Council, or legislature, because of incompatibilities with his role as head of the CNRT/National Congress, the territory's umbrella leadership organization.
CNRT sources told Lusa that Gusmao had agreed to remain at the National Council, "at least for the time being."