Ruak sworn in as East Timor`s new president

Ruak sworn in as East Timor`s new president

Mantan komandan militer Timor Leste Jose Maria de Vasconcelos, atau yang lebih dikenal dengan nama Taur Matan Ruak. (ANTARA/REUTERS/Lirio Da Fonseca)

Tasi Tolu, East Timor (ANTARA News/AFP) - Former guerrilla leader and ex-army chief Taur Matan Ruak pledged to "respect the constitution" as he was sworn in as East Timor`s new president on Sunday.

Ruak, 55, publicly swore he would "respect the constitution and engage for the well-being of the country" in a ceremony after midnight, hours before celebrations to mark 10 years of independence from Indonesia`s brutal occupation.

Ruak takes over from Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel laureate whose international stature gave prominence to the largely ceremonial role.

The new president made his pledge as the national anthem played in the background at Tasi Tolu, a beachside area on the outskirts of the capital Dili where the country declared independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002.

Ruak signed a register, then amid applause by ordinary Timorese and guests that included Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, he smiled and clasped his predecessor in his arms.

This is a crucial year for the country of 1.1 million also known as Timor-Leste. It will choose a new prime minister and government in general elections on July 7, then at year`s end will bid goodbye to UN forces stationed there since 1999.

Ruak won a run-off election last month that was widely lauded as peaceful and fair.

He takes over a country that is hobbled by extreme poverty, corruption and an over-reliance on energy revenues.

But the unstable nation has now enjoyed several years of peace. (*)