Political Earthquake: Major General Taur Matan Ruak to Run for the Presidency

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in: Tempo Semanal-14/07/2011

Taur Matan Ruak Xefe Estadu Maior das Falintil
(philip Blenkinsop)

Reliable Tempo Semanal  souces said that the Chief of the East Timorese Defence Force, FALINTIL-FDTL has strongly indicated in public and in private that it is his intention to soon resign from the defence force because he intends to run in the 2012 Presidential election.
Ruak’s most serious competition on the Presidential elections likely includes FRETILIN’s President Fransisco “Lu Olo” Guterres, current President Jose Ramos-Horta, and the President of the National Parliament Fernando Lasama.  Some indications include that Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres will also candidate himself.

According to Tempo Semanal sources General Ruak will resign from the national defence force by the end of the year and quickly announce his candidacy as a civilian citizen for the Presidency in early 2012.

According to Tempo Semanal sources, General Ruak informed the President of the Republic Jose Ramos-Horta in late June 2011 that it was his intention to run for the Presidency.  President Ramos-Horta indicated to General Ruak that it was 90% certain he would not run for the Presidency again.  According to TS sources President Ramos-Horta shortly afterward met with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and the Secretary-General of FRETILIN Mari Alkatiri and informed them that General Ruak intended to resign from the defence force and candidate himself for Presidency.
After hearing that General Ruak intends to run for the Presidency on 22 June 2011 President Ramos-Horta indicated that he is almost certain he will not seek re-election.

Taur Matan Ruak with Falintil Guerrilla 1998
 (photo: Philip B)

General Ruak is known to have strong popularity in the ranks of the FRETILIN Opposition but is also known to have strong ties to Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao based on common experience in the guerrilla struggle.  General Ruak’s position as a military officer has been carefully independent of political party position, but it is known that he privately questions the agendas of many civilian political leaders.  According the TS sources General Ruak understands that he can only play a role in national politics as a civilian, so he must resign from the defence force.

Major-General Taur Matan Ruak is a 24-year veteran of the armed struggle against Indonesian occupation between 1975 and 1999.  However, he is not of the older generation who played leadership roles in the 1975 civil war.  He is both of the past and the present and the future.

General Ruak was a field commander in FALINTIL during the 1980s and 1990s.  After Xanana Gusmao the commander of FALINTIL was captured in 1992 and later on Konis Santana was declared field commander in 1993 Ruak was appointed Chief of Staff of FALINTIL with responsibility for military operations.

(L) L-7, (C) Xanana Gusamao (R) Taur Matan Ruak 1999 in Remexio

After Santana died in March 1998 Ruak was appointed field commander of FAILINTIL.
In 2000 upon the resignation of now Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao from FALINTIL, Ruak became commander of FALINTIL.
On 1 February 2001 FALINTIL was transformed into the modern defence force FALINTIL-FDTL.
Between 2001 and 2006 Ruak was the lead uniformed defence leader in Timor-Leste under the civilian leadership of the FRETILIN government. Ruak came under considerable pressure in 2006 and 2007 for the real and perceived mistakes made by the defence force during the crisis.

Since 2007 under the civilian leadership of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and the Secretary of State for Defence Julio Pinto, Ruak has made many changes in the defence force. Numerous soldiers have been rewarded from professional success and a large number have been dismissed for misconduct and even crimes that the civilan justice system cannot process.  The defence force is also in a stage of advanced development regarding naval and even air components and is soon the join international peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon in the UN peacekeeping mission UNIFIL.
General Ruak “Jose Maria Vasconselos” is from Baguia subdistrict in Baucau.  He speaks Makassae, Naueti, Tetun and Portuguese.  He is also a self-taught English speaker.  He is known, as being a strong-minded frontal personality who has conviction is positions.  General Ruak was recommended for prosecution by the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry into the event of the crisis of 2006.  He is also known to have fully cooperated with this commission in its fact-finding efforts.  He was subsequently cleared of allegations.

General Ruak is married to Isabel Ferriera of Manufahi District and has three children, two daughters and one son. (***)

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