Subject: LUSA: Falintil Extinct at End of Month, Half to Join Defense Force

East Timor: Falintil Extinct at End of Month, Half to Join Defense Force 18 Jan-18:12

East Timor's Falintil force, the armed wing of resistance to the former Indonesian occupation, will formally cease to exist at the end of this month, with about half its members transiting to the future nation's defense force.

Falintil commander Taur Matan Ruak informed Lusa Thursday that the transition date had been set for Jan. 31, after which he should command what has been designated the East Timor Defense Force.

"I believe it is a consequence of our struggle. We fought for our independence and for the current process. We are thus very satisfied", Matan Ruak said. He made his comments after meeting with visiting Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, who on Friday ends a four-day visit to East Timor.

The Falintil commander said the force counted about 450 members until 1998, a number which subsequently rose to more than 1,500. Only about 95, among them independence leader Xanana Gusmao, had been in the bush since 1975 (date of the Indonesian invasion).

Gama's Thursday visit to the Aileu cantonment in the interior south of Dili was vested with symbolism, as it marked the last time a ranking Portuguese official reviewed a parade of East Timorese with the Falintil insignia.

The Lisbon minister also met with some Portuguese troops, including army psychologists involved in selection process for the new Defense Force. Plans call for a first list of recruits, who will begin training February in Aileu, to be ready by Jan. 28.

The 24 year Indonesian occupation of East Timor ended after the territory voted for independence in an Aug. 1999 plebiscite. It has since been run by a UN transition administration, with full independence possible by the end of this year.


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