In March, Gusmao stepped down as president
of East Timor’s de facto parliament—the United Nations-appointed East Timor
National Council—in protest against what he said was political chaos that
was hampering the territory’s push for independence.
Gusmao, who was released from an Indonesian jail in 1999 after seven years imprisonment, said he would not be a candidate for president after East Timor goes to the polls in August.
He was succeeded by as head of the National
Council by veteran pro-independence campaigner Manuel Carrascalao.
Carrascalao and Ramos-Horta were both candidates for the position but Ramos-Horta withdrew after a 13-13 vote.
East Timor aims to achieve formal independence at the end of this year, two years after its overwhelming vote to end Indonesia’s harsh 23-year rule led to an orgy of violence by pro-Jakarta militias.
The territory’s 400,000 voters are due to elect an assembly on August 30, which will then have 90 days to draft and approve a constitution ahead of full independence.
Ramos-Horta, on a visit to New Zealand,
said Gusmao was the only person with the “moral authority” to fulfil the
duties of president.
“I told him very bluntly that if he doesn’t run for president then I will not be in any government,” he said. “The first five years he has to be there and I am persuaded he will be there.”
Gusmao, who until his capture in the early 1990s led separatist rebels fighting Indonesian rule, said in April he was not an expert at anything, except perhaps how to kill enemies.
Jose Ramos-Horta Added June 12
Mr Jose Ramos-Horta is an internationally-renowned spokesperson for the East Timorese cause. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for “sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of small people”.
Mr Ramos-Horta has been a dynamic and determined advocate for a free and independent East Timor. From 1976 until 1989, he was the permanent representative of the Frente Revolucionaria de Timor Leste Independente (FRETILIN) at the United Nations. He currently holds the position of Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs, United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.