Subject: SMH: Magic man ruffles Gusmao's vision

January 20, 2001 Sydney Morning Herald

Magic man ruffles Gusmao's vision By Hamish McDonald, Foreign Editor in Dili

His full name is said to be Ely Foho Rai Boot, which translates from the main Timorese language Tetum as something like Ely Great Mountain, but he is known here just as "L7".

That was his codename in a clandestine network called the Familia Sagrada, or Sacred Family, during the 24 years that the occupying Indonesian Army tried to eliminate stubborn nationalist resistance in this former Portuguese colony.

Disciplined by a mixture of Catholicism and native lulik or black magic, Familia Sagrada was a vital link between the Falintil guerillas in the mountains and the underground political resistance in the towns. L7 became known as a "pastor" of the network, partly through his mastery of lulik.

L7 handed out charms and spells that were believed to make the recipient invisible to Indonesian patrols and impervious to bullets. Like his former guerilla leader, Xanana Gusmao, he was reputed to be able to turn himself into a tree at will.

But since the Indonesian Army left in October 1999, L7 has become a thorn in Gusmao's side as the former resistance leader makes the transition to statesman, building an entirely new nation virtually from the ground up.

Though so far a minor problem, L7 is being watched closely by political analysts here as an example of how dangerously the remarkable co-operation of East Timor's existing political forces could be upset by the emergence of a nativist radical challenge, with or without outside help.

Parties belonging to Mr Gusmao's coalition, the National Committee of Timorese resistance, or CNRT, are already restive with his opposition to political campaigning, with elections likely about August for an assembly that will decide a new constitution and then become East Timor's first national parliament.

Unease has deepened by Mr Gusmao's public questioning of the effectiveness of the massive United Nations operation intended to get East Timor on its feet.

In a new year speech, Mr Gusmao said well-paid UN staff were too reluctant to hand over senior jobs to Timorese, suggesting that these "masters of independence" were disguising self-interest by setting unrealistic standards.

An edginess has returned to Dili after three outbreaks of violence early this month: an attack by rock-throwing youths on UN cars and staff at a popular disco, another attack on the mosque of Dili's small Muslim community, and a family feud that saw one person stabbed to death.

L7 led a defiant mini-rebellion last June in one of the cantonments where Falintil's remaining 1,500 or so fighters are secluded, while UN peacekeepers have chased out the vestiges of the pro-Jakarta militias set up by the Indonesian military.

He and about 30 supporters seized weapons, and threatened to march out. Mr Gusmao made a special trip to talk him down, successfully, but two or three of L7's group managed to slip out of camp with their guns and make it to the town of Baucau, where they linked up with a shadowy Indonesian-linked group called the Republica Democratic Timor Leste (RDTL).

Despite being placated by the allocation of a vehicle and a job as a Falintil liaison officer with the UN, some sources here say L7 has more recently been throwing his weight around by setting up roadblocks and demanding payments in the hinterland - though not to the point of staking out territory as his own, which would bring down UN troops and police on his head, UN officials said.

The links with RDTL are the most alarming aspect. This group takes its name from the independent republic proclaimed unilaterally by the Fretilin party on November 28, 1975, and wiped out 10 days later by the Indonesian paratroop and marine seizure of Dili. But it appears to be the latest front for Indonesian subversion, Timorese leaders say.

Mr Gusmao says the RDTL is linked with a group called the Partai National Timor, founded by one of the original Fretilin members from 1975, Abilio Araujo, who was "turned" by the Indonesians during exile in Lisbon.

With funds provided by ex-president Soeharto's family, Mr Araujo was given control of a lucrative backdoor import trade of Indonesian goods via Macau, avoiding a Portuguese ban on Indonesian imports because of the Timor invasion.

"RDTL is essentially a group that came from the PNT," Mr Gusmao said, noting that PNT had been set up by Indonesian special forces general Zacky Anwar Makarim to promote the option of autonomy within Indonesia in the UN-conducted referendum of August 30, 1999. "Suddenly the same people have appeared defending RDTL, which is just to confuse people," Mr Gusmao said.

The group had taken unemployed young people to various districts, including Dili, to stage acts of violence. The CNRT is still looking for the group's source of funding.

A CNRT leader, Mari Alkatiri, who was a Fretilin minister in 1975 before exile in Mozambique and Portugal, also suggested that a front of Timorese nationalism could be used as a subversion technique to bring the territory back into Indonesia. "They will create some radical nationalist group and try to do it - it is a classic," Mr Alkatiri said. "Through a clear integrationist group it is impossible - there is no space - but if some Indonesian generals are preparing some kind of subversion they will use a nationalist group."

Whether groups like RDTL get any space in East Timor's regular politics will be decided soon when the UN sits down with CNRT to work out regulations governing the activities of political parties.

Pro-Indonesian groups based among the 120,000 displaced East Timorese across the border are claiming the right to use the new democratic process to put the option of returning to Indonesian rule. The feeling in CNRT is that they had their chance in the 1999 ballot.

Mr Gusmao's instinct, meanwhile, is to hold East Timor back from party activity, which he constantly equates with "confusion", while recalling the way Fretilin and the conservative Timor Democratic Union (UDT) started fighting in 1975.

In his new year speech he attacked unnamed politicians who took stances "almost contrary to commonsense" to win support, and others who distorted a history "that brought grief and left scars in our souls". Mr Gusmao says his speech was meant to remind politicians "to be aware of the complexity of the process and to avoid rushing to power-seeking".

Like CNRT's other best known figure, Jose Ramos Horta, he has distanced himself from Fretilin, and declares he will not "ever, ever" join a party himself. "Civic education will avoid confusion among the people, and they will prove to political parties they are more mature," he said.

While some Timorese figures, including Bishop Carlos Belo, are suggesting a delay in moving to independence, Mr Gusmao wants to proceed with plans for a transition later this year, barring "technical" obstacles. But analysts say he wants to keep the "non-party" CNRT together, building on its remarkable success in submerging old Fretilin-UDT rivalry at its inception in 1998 and then getting the population to register and vote for independence in the face of horrendous violence.

But some of his senior colleagues think the time has come for East Timor to move again into party activity. "There is a vacuum in the country which could be filled by Indonesian subversion," said Mario Carrascalao, a CNRT vice-president who was previously a UDT leader and later provincial governor for 10 years under Indonesia. Mr Carrascalao recently formed the new Social Democratic Party of Timor.

Fretilin's Mr Alkatiri, who is also within CNRT and a minister for economic affairs in the interim administration, agrees that there is still a task of public education to get a multi-party system accepted. But Mr Gusmao was being pessimistic, Mr Alkatiri said.

"I think it is time to start with party political activity. The more we postpone it the worse for East Timor." 

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