Xanana Gusmão: Wikis


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Xanana Gusmão 

Assumed office 
08 August 2007
President José Ramos-Horta
Vicente Guterres (Acting)
Fernando de Araújo (Acting)
José Ramos-Horta
Preceded by Estanislau da Silva

In office
20 May 2002 – 20 May 2007
Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri
José Ramos-Horta
Estanislau da Silva
Preceded by Sérgio Vieira de Mello
Succeeded by José Ramos-Horta

Born 20 June 1946 (1946-06-20) (age 63)
Manatuto, Portuguese Timor
Political party CNRT
Spouse(s) Kirsty Sword
Religion Roman Catholic

Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão GCL (born José Alexandre Gusmão, on 20 June 1946) is a former militant who was the first President of East Timor, serving from May 2002 to May 2007. He later became the fourth and current Prime Minister of East Timor on 8 August 2007.[1]


Early life and career

Gusmão was born to mestiço school teacher parents (of mixed Portuguese-Timorese ancestry)[2] in Manatuto in what was then Portuguese Timor, and attended a Jesuit high school just outside of Dili. After leaving high-school for financial reasons at the age of fifteen, he held a variety of unskilled jobs, while continuing his education at night school. In 1965, at the age of 19, he met Emilia Batista, who was later to become his wife. His nickname, "Xanana", was taken from the musical lyric, "Sha-na-na".[3]

In 1966, Gusmão obtained a position with the public service, which allowed him to continue his education. This was interrupted in 1968 when Gusmão was recruited by the Portuguese Army for national service. He served for three years, rising to the rank of corporal. During this time he married Emilia Batista, by whom he had two children, his son Eugenio, and daughter Zenilda. He has since divorced Emilia, and in 2000 he married Australian Kirsty Sword, having sons Alexandre, Kay Olok and Daniel. In 1971, Gusmão completed his national service, his son was born, and he became involved with a nationalist organization headed by José Ramos-Horta. For the next three years he was actively involved in peaceful protests directed at the colonial system.

It was in 1974 that a coup in Portugal resulted in the beginning of decolonization for Portuguese Timor, and shortly afterwards the Governor Mário Lemos Pires announced plans to grant the colony independence. Plans were drawn up to hold general elections with a view to independence in 1978. During most of 1975 a bitter internal struggle occurred between two rival factions in Portuguese Timor. Gusmão became deeply involved with the FRETILIN faction, and as a result he was arrested and imprisoned by the rival faction the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) in mid-1975. Taking advantage of the internal disorder, and with an eye to absorbing the colony, Indonesia immediately began a campaign of destabilization, and frequent raids into Portuguese Timor were staged from Indonesian West Timor. By late 1975 the Fretilin faction had gained control of Portuguese Timor and Gusmão was released from prison. He was given the position of Press Secretary within the FRETILIN organization. On 28 November 1975, Fretilin declared the independence of Portuguese Timor as "The Democratic Republic of East Timor", and Gusmão was responsible for filming the ceremony. Nine days later, Indonesia invaded East Timor. At the time Gusmão was visiting friends outside of Dili and he witnessed the invasion from the hills. For the next few days he searched for his family.

Indonesian occupation

After the appointment of the "Provisional Government of East Timor" by Indonesia, Gusmão became heavily involved in resistance activities. Gusmão was largely responsible for the level of organization that evolved in the resistance, which ultimately led to its success. The early days featured Gusmão walking from village to village to obtain support and recruits. But after FRETILIN suffered some major setbacks in the early 1980s Gusmão left FRETILIN and supported various centrist coalitions, eventually becoming a leading opponent of FRETILIN. By the mid-1980s, he was a major leader. During the early 1990s, Gusmão became deeply involved in diplomacy and media management, and was instrumental in alerting the world to the massacre in Dili that occurred in Santa Cruz on 12 November 1991. Gusmão was interviewed by many major media channels and obtained worldwide attention.

As a result of his high profile, Gusmão became a prime target of the Indonesian government. A campaign for his capture was finally successful in November 1992. In May 1993, Gusmão was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Indonesian government. He was found guilty under Article 108 of the Indonesian Penal Code (rebellion), Law no. 12 of 1951 (illegal possession of firearms) and Article 106 (attempting to separate part of the territory of Indonesia).[4] He spoke in his own defense and he was appointed with a defense lawyers before the commencement of his trial. The sentence was commuted to 20 years by Indonesian President Suharto in August 1993. Although not released until late 1999, Gusmão successfully led the resistance from within prison. By the time of his release, he was regularly visited by United Nations representatives, and dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela.

Independence of East Timor

Transition to independence

On 30 August 1999, a referendum was held in East Timor and an overwhelming majority voted for independence. The Indonesian military commenced a campaign of terror as a result, with terrible consequences. Although the Indonesian government denied ordering this offensive, they were widely condemned for failing to prevent it. As a result of overwhelming diplomatic pressure from the United Nations, promoted by Portugal since the late 1970s and also by the United States and Australia in the 1990s, a UN-sanctioned, Australian-led international peace-keeping force (INTERFET) entered East Timor, and Gusmão was finally released. Upon his return to Dili, he began a campaign of reconciliation and rebuilding.

Gusmão was appointed to a senior role in the UN administration that governed East Timor until 20 May 2002. During this time he continually campaigned for unity and peace within East Timor, and was generally regarded as the de facto leader of the emerging nation. Elections were held in late 2001 and Gusmão, endorsed by nine parties but not by Fretilin, ran as an independent and was comfortably elected leader. As a result he became the first President of East Timor when it became formally independent on 20 May 2002.

Gusmão has published an autobiography with selected writings entitled To Resist Is to Win. He is the main narrator of the film "A Hero's Journey / Where the Sun Rises",[5] a 2006 documentary about him and East Timor. According to director Grace Phan, it's an "intimate insight into the personal transformation" of the man who helped shape and liberate East Timor.

He is now married to Kirsty Sword, an Australian woman he met in prison in Jakarta and with whom he has three children: Alexandre, Kay Olok, and Daniel.

2006 political crisis

President Gusmão visiting a countryman aboard USNS Mercy, August 2006

On 21 June 2006, Gusmão called for Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to resign or else he would, as allegations that Alkatiri had ordered a hit squad to threaten and kill his political opponents led to a large backlash.[6] Senior members of the Fretilin party met on 25 June to discuss Alkatiri's future as the Prime Minister, amidst a protest involving thousands of people calling for Alkatiri to resign instead of Gusmão.[7] Despite receiving a vote of confidence from his party, Alkatiri resigned on 26 June 2006 to end the uncertainty. In announcing this he said, "I declare I am ready to resign my position as prime minister of the government...so as to avoid the resignation of His Excellency the President of the Republic [Xanana Gusmão]."[8]

2007 political developments

Gusmão declined to run for another term in the April 2007 presidential election. In March 2007 he said that he would lead the new National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) into the parliamentary election planned to be held later in the year, and said that he would be willing to become prime minister if his party won the election.[9]

Gusmão was succeeded as President by José Ramos-Horta on 20 May 2007.[10]

The CNRT placed second in the June 2007 parliamentary election, behind FRETILIN, taking 24.10% of the vote and 18 seats. He won a seat in parliament as the first name on the CNRT's candidate list.[11] The CNRT allied with other parties to form a coalition that would hold a majority of seats in parliament. After weeks of dispute between this coalition and FRETILIN over who should form the government, Ramos-Horta announced on August 6 that the CNRT-led coalition would form the government and that Gusmão would become Prime Minister on August 8.[12][13] Gusmão was sworn in at the presidential palace in Dili on August 8.[1]

2008 assassination attempt

On 11 February 2008 national television reported that the motorcade of Gusmão had come under gunfire one hour after President José Ramos-Horta was shot in the stomach; according to the Associated Press, the two incidents raised the possibility of a coup attempt.[14]


In May 2007, Gusmão signed a $US14.4 million food security contract giving sole import rights to the vice-president of his political party. [15] A copy of the contract signed on 7 May 2007 - entitled "The Supply and Warehousing of White Rice" - shows Gusmão's signature authorising the procurement of 16,000 tonnes of white rice for $US14.4 million. The beneficiary is given as Germano AJda Silva, director of Dili-based Tres Amigos Company and vice-president of Mr Gusmao's CNRT party. The opposition Fretilin has said that the rice contract was evidence of growing corruption involving the Prime Minister and close associates. [15]

Awards and prizes

Meeting Students of DIS - Dili International School, Oct 22, 2009

In 1999, Gusmão was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

In 2000, he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for being "Courageous and principled leader for the independence of the East Timorese people".

In 2002, he was awarded the North-South Prize by the Council of Europe.

Mr Gusmão is an Eminent Member of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation.


  1. ^ a b "Gusmao sworn in as East Timor PM", Al Jazeera, 8 August 2007.
  2. ^ Geoffrey C. Gunn (2003). First Globalization: The Eurasian Exchange, 1500-1800. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 282. ISBN 0742526615. 
  3. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  4. ^ Amnesty International briefing on Xanana Gusmao
  5. ^ luxlucis.sg
  6. ^ ABC News Online (2006). Alkatiri's resignation 'would paralyse Govt'. Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  7. ^ Reuters (2006). East Timor ruling party meets to debate PM's future. Retrieved June 25, 2006.
  8. ^ Agence France-Presse (2006). East Timor PM quits. Retrieved June 26, 2006.
  9. ^ "Gusmao to run for PM", Associated Press (The Australian), March 29, 2007.
  10. ^ "Horta sworn in as Timor-Leste's new president", Xinhua (People's Daily Online), May 21, 2007.
  11. ^ "National Provisional Results from the 30 June 2007 Parliamentary Elections", Comissão Nacional de Eleições Timor-Leste, July 9, 2007.
  12. ^ "East Timor's Independence Hero To Be Next Prime Minister", VOA News, August 6, 2007.
  13. ^ Lindsay Murdoch, "Violence greets Horta's PM decision", smh.com.au, August 6, 2007.
  14. ^ "East Timor President Wounded in Attack". The New York Times. 2008-02-10. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-East-Timor-President.html?hp. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  15. ^ a b "Gusmao's $15m rice deal alarms UN"

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Sérgio Vieira de Mello
UN Administrator
President of East Timor
2002 – 2007
Succeeded by
José Ramos-Horta
Preceded by
Estanislau da Silva
Prime Minister of East Timor

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