The first president of East Timor’s Fretilin party, Francisco Xavier do Amaral, announced Wednesday plans for a new political movement, a Fretilin “third way” aiming to serve as either a “pole for union” of party factions or an “alternative” for the elections next August.
“I have tried to stay in the middle, to get the others to join so that we can continue together”, Xavier do Amaral told Lusa, moments before addressing a crowd gathered in front of his home in Dili, the East Timorese capital.
Xavier do Amaral lived in Jakarta during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. Before returning to his homeland last year, he was a pro-integration (autonomy within Indo[n]esia) representative at reconciliation meetings of East Timorese leaders.
He has repeatedly been linked to the radical party CPD-RDTL (Popular Defense Committee-Democratic Republic of East Timor), which indicated he was the group’s top official for education and culture in its founding document.
Xavier do Amaral said Wednesday that his new movement, to be known as either the Fretilin-ASDT or the PDT (Timorese Democratic Party), will be officially founded in April if other Fretilin leaders do not heed his call to unite.
East Timor, which was occupied by Indonesia from 1975 to 1999, is currently governed by a UN transition administration mandated to prepare it for full independence, likely within the next year. Elections for a Constituent Assembly, which will oversee preparation of the national constitution, are scheduled for Aug. 30.
On Wednesday, the controversial flag of the Democratic Republic of East Timor (RDTL) was raised at Xavier do Amaral’s home in the Lecidere neighborhood of Dili.
The RDTL was declared unilaterally by Fretilin on Nov. 28, 1975, in the wake of a brief civil war and a week before Indonesia’s invasion of the former Portuguese colony.
The RDTL flag is claimed by four political movements in East Timor. Beyond Fretilin, which uses it as its official symbol, the flag is also used by the CDP-RDTL and the Timorese Nationalist Party (PNT), besides Xavier do Amaral’s new movement.
The flag is a major focus of debate at a time when symbols and well-known figures are determinant fixtures of the East Timorese political stage, setting those calling for restoration of the republic proclaimed in 1975 by Fretilin against those defending the proclamation of an independent republic at the end of the current transition process.
The Wednesday announcement marked the formal return of Francisco Xavier do Amaral to political activity. Along with Jose Ramos Horta, Nicolau Lobato and Justino Molo, he founded in 1974 the Timorese Social Democratic Association (ASDT), which was later the same year replaced by Fretilin.
He was expelled from the movement in 1977 in circumstances that have never been fully explained.