Subject: SMH: UN, Gusmao outline the shape of things to come

Sydney Morning Herald Monday, August 21, 2000

UN, Gusmao outline the shape of things to come

Xanana Gusmao inspects Falintil troops in Aileu. Photo: AP/Joel Rubin

By MARK DODD Herald Correspondent in Aileu, East Timor

Fighters from the former guerilla resistance force Falintil, in their first move out of forced cantonment since the United Nations entered East Timor, will join UN peacekeepers in hunting down pro-Indonesian militia launching cross-border raids.

A senior Falintil commander said a small force, fewer than 100 men, would soon be sent to the border with West Timor to provide intelligence and act as a liaison.

"They [Falintil] want to go to the border," another source in the pro-independence National Council of East Timorese Resistance said. "They know the people and the mountains there, and they can move fast. The PKF [UN peacekeeping force] with all its modern equipment has not stopped some militia from reaching as far as Baucau."

The plan to rejoin the territory's defence came as the chief UN administrator here, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, signalled that Falintil would be recognised as the legitimate founder of the country's new self-defence force. He also hinted at increased co-operation between the UN peacekeepers and Falintil.

Mr Vieira de Mello said the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, in a letter several months ago to the independence leader, Mr Xanana Gusmao, had formally recognised the Falintil's role "in the present, past and future of this country".

Mr Vieira de Mello issued a blunt demand that pro-Indonesian militias stop their cross-border violence and warned that former militia leaders would face prosecution for war crimes.

"They are not many and we know them. One by one they will be made accountable for their past and recent crimes," he said.

In another sign of the emerging political face of the new East Timor, Mr Gusmao yesterday resigned as Falintil commander-in-chief in a formal parade at the force's cantonment here in the mountains south of Dili.

Standing before ranks of Falintil fighters, Mr Gusmao gave his last speech in uniform. His voice faltering with emotion, he said: "I was your commander but I learnt from you how to make war. I learnt from you how to serve the national cause and I learnt from you forgiveness and the spirit of reconciliation."

He recalled bleak times such as his capture by Indonesian forces in 1992 and the period when Falintil's total strength dwindled to 150 armed rebels.

But he praised the new commander, Taur Matan Ruak, for rebuilding the force to more than 1,500 men under arms. In a gibe at the UN, he apologised for the poor living conditions of the troops at the cantonment.

Falintil needed new heroes to participate in the struggle for East Timor's reconstruction from the ashes of last year's militia violence, Mr Gusmao said.

Mr Vieira de Mello hailed Mr Gusmao's decision to resign his military role as "confirmation that from today there is a separation of military and political power in East Timor - an affirmation of one of the basic principles of democracy".

Mr Gusmao earlier attended an open-air memorial Mass held by Bishop Carlos Belo. Sitting at the front with Mr Gusmao were his 26-year-old daughter, Zenilda, from his first marriage, and his new Australian wife, Ms Kirsty Sword.

Falintil may also have made history of a sort by becoming the first guerilla army to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. The medal was handed to Mr Gusmao and Commander Matan Ruak in Aileu by the veteran independence advocate Mr Jose Ramos Horta, who was awarded the prize in 1996 jointly with Bishop Belo.

Mr Ramos Horta promised to use his share of the $1.3 million prizemoney to be spent on micro-credits for East Timor's poor. He appealed to other countries to contribute.


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