Thursday, May 10, 2007

Horta president of Timor 'by landslide'

Horta president of Timor 'by landslide'
By Karen Michelmore

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta pledged to do his best to serve the people after winning Timor's presidential elections in a landslide.

The tiny nation's prime minister crushed his opponent, ex-guerilla fighter Francisco Guterres "Lu Olo", securing 73 per cent of the vote with 90 per cent counted.

But Ramos Horta initially appeared unaware of the result, and said he would not be celebrating the convincing win.

"I owe the people, I owe them everything," he told reporters.

"What I owe them is consistency, loyalty in working with everybody to uphold justice, to enhance democracy, to work for the poor of this country, to heal the wounds.

"(But) I don't celebrate because it's going to be five years of hard work - it's no cause for celebration."

Ramos Horta swept 10 of the country's 13 districts, gaining up to 15 times as many votes as his rival in some areas.

He said he had been a reluctant candidate, and described the overwhelming result as a "wake-up call" for the major party Fretilin, the historic party of independence in East Timor.

He also declared outgoing president, the charismatic ex-fighter Xanana Gusmao, as a "very, very high" chance at becoming the country's prime minister in the upcoming legislative elections on June 30.

"(It is) very good, but these elections have been quite surprising," Ramos Horta said.

"New parties like PD the Democratic Party, PSD the Social Democratic Party .... they have fared very well so President Xanana should not take for granted that he can win."

He wasn't concerned about the risk of violence by Fretilin supporters.

"I'm not concerned about that - Fretilin is a well-organised party, disciplined and they will be able to educate their more recalcitrant members ... to accept because we have the legislative elections coming.

"If anyone misbehaves now, if Fretilin misbehaves now, they will be punished in the legislative elections."

The election result came as the Australian-led military force providing security for the poll was forced to defend itself after a series of minor mishaps, including the crash of a small surveillance aircraft in Dili last week.

The unmanned surveillance aircraft - about the size of a model aeroplane - slightly damaged a house when it crashed near an Australian base in the capital last week.

The commander of the international stabilisation forces in East Timor, Brigadier General Mal Rerden, said a special investigation team had been sent from Canberra to determine the cause of the crash, and minor repairs had been made to the house.

All similar craft have been grounded until the results of the investigation, he said.

"There is nothing unusual about aircraft flying around providing observation for the forces on the ground," Brig-Gen Rerden said.

"The simple thing is these unmanned aerial vehicles provide you with another way of seeing the tactical situation."

In a separate incident two weeks ago, a soldier was disciplined after his weapon fell off the back of a vehicle in Gleno and was "misplaced" for a short period, he said.

Brig-Gen Rerden said Australian troops had conducted "hundreds and hundreds" of patrols to secure the country, with only a couple of "very, very minor incidents".

Brought to you by AAP

© AAP 2007

No comments: