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Jamsheed Marker's Comments on Xanana Gusmão

Jamsheed Marker, United Nations Special Envoy to East Timor

Perhaps now a word about Xanana Gusmão. He is indisputably the leader of the East Timorese people. He originally, I think, was a teacher; he started life as a teacher; I'm not quite sure as what. But very early on, he became a freedom fighter. He went into the bush and he organized the whole resistance. He was captured and then imprisoned: initially for twenty years, then that was reduced, I think, to -- I don't know, twelve years or something.

But all the time, from prison, he continued to guide this movement. He had the most incredible links that he'd established, and there was no doubt anywhere when we went to East Timor that he was the acknowledged leader of the East Timorese people. The man had a tremendous presence. He's not very old -- he's now in his forties right now -- but a tremendous dignity, a tremendous presence and a tremendous sense of -- tremendous political sense, as well as humanitarian sense.

And he told me that, you know, he's fighting for the freedom, but he has no intention to humiliate the Indonesian military, although they had fought, and that he really was seeking some sort of solution for his people. He was a kind of -- n my view, a kind of junior Nelson Mandela; he had that same aura about him.

And it's interesting to note that afterwards I met with Nelson Mandela, because Nelson Mandela went out to Jakarta. Suharto had been very supportive of Mandela during the ANC, during the time of the African thing, and so Mandela went there to thank him. And when he was there, he said he would like to meet with Xanana Gusmão. So, he was told by Suharto, "Why do you want to meet him, he's just a common criminal?" to which Mandela said, "That's what they said about me for twenty-five years." And full marks to Suharto: he immediately arranged for Gusmão to be brought out of prison and brought to the state guest house, and he and Mandela had dinner together.

So it's -- you know, the Indonesians have also shown a great deal of -- it wasn't all just brutal repression. It is always a mixture where you can -- where certain human elements and streaks of humanity come out, and become all the more impressive for that.