Subject: SMH: Fretilin confident that voters will remember who led the struggle

Sydney Morning Herald August 25, 2001

Fretilin confident that voters will remember who led the struggle

The left-wing party says others will not be excluded from government, reports Lindsay Murdoch from Dare Mulo.

Photo: On the campaign trail ... Rogerio Lobato, whose family has a reputation for resistance to Indonesian occupation. Photo: Andrew Meares

Some people wept. Others sang national songs they had rehearsed for days and stamped their bare feet in the dust. Rogerio Lobato this week brought the revolution to Dare Mulo, a village high in East Timor's mountains, 100 kilometres south of Dili.

"The vote will be a landslide," said Mr Lobato, sipping thick black coffee made from beans growing wild in the mountains where 14 of his brothers and sisters were killed in the 24-year guerilla war with Indonesia.

"The war has left a deep emotional connection with Fretilin," he said. "The villagers may not be able to write their own name, but they are not stupid. They know who collaborated with the Indonesians. They know who led the resistance struggle."

For weeks the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor, or Fretilin, has dominated campaigning throughout the villages for the election of the half-island territory's first independent parliament ahead of full statehood next year.

United Nations officials, diplomats and other observers predict that the left-wing party founded in 1974 will win 60 to 90per cent of the vote, raising concern over the creation of a one-party state.

Fretilin will almost certainly dominate the 88-member parliament after voters go to the polls next Thursday, exactly two years after a majority of East Timorese voted to reject Indonesian rule. The parliament's first job will be to draft a Constitution establishing how to rule the 812,000 people.

If Fretilin wins more than 85per cent of seats it will be able to write the Constitution without input from any other party. Fretilin favours a system of government based on the French model, where a president elected directly by the people every five years would have the authority to call and chair parliament and make important decisions.

Its leaders deny claims by rival parties that their supporters have been intimidating voters during the campaign, which has so far been peaceful. They also deny they want a communist state.

"We will form a government of national inclusion," said Mr Lobato, 52, a member of Fretilin's central committee.

"If someone from the other parties is competent and honest and will do a good job we will bring him or her into government. But they must not develop the policies of their own party. They must agree to pursue the programs of the party that won ... our government will be based on pragmatism and realism."

He added: "It's nonsense to say we are a communist party. Almost all of us are practising Catholics and have strong links to the church. So how can we be communists?"

Two years ago, dozens of pro-Jakarta militia surrounded Dare Mulo and pointed their home-made guns at villagers as they lined up to vote in the UN plebiscite. But the villagers bravely ignored the intimidation because Fretilin, which operated underground during Indonesia's occupation, told them to.

The militia responded by destroying 90 per cent of the village and killing an unknown number of people in an orgy of violence and destruction which was repeated across East Timor.

But Mr Lobato said Fretilin believed strongly in peacefully bringing back into the villages and towns people who supported Indonesian rule, including an estimated 80,000 still living in squalid camps in Indonesian West Timor.

"There still should be justice for the victims," he said. "We will ensure that those who are guilty will be brought before the courts and given the chance to defend themselves."

To the people of Dare Mulo the Lobato family are heroes. Rogerio's brother, Nicolau, was the commander of anti-Indonesian guerillas in 1978 when he was shot in the leg not far from the village during an attack by soldiers led by Prabowo Subianto, the son-in-law of the then Indonesian dictator Soeharto. Rather than be taken prisoner, Nicolau declared, "My last bullet is my victory", before shooting himself dead.

His wife was eight months pregnant when she was captured. Rather than be taken for interrogation she pleaded to be shot dead. A soldier obliged.

The Fretilin rallies held in all East Timor districts in recent weeks had been highly emotional, Mr Lobato said. He was greeted in Dare Mulo, for example, by three teenage girls whose parents were killed in 1999. They wept as they recited poems of welcome.

"The memories are still fresh in the people's minds," he said.

Mr Mari Alkatiri, another Fretilin leader, said his party was confident of receiving 80 to 85per cent of the vote. He noted Fretilin was rural-based and more than 90per cent of the population lived outside the cities and towns.

Mr Alkatiri said Fretilin's policy was to ignore claims that its members were intimidating voters, although UN police have reported one incident involving two men. "Some of the other parties are taunting us," he said. "But we will not respond. Few other countries have had such a violence-free election campaign."

He claimed that interests in Indonesia - not the Government in Jakarta - had tried to send 1billion rupiah (about $215,000) to one of the other political parties to be used to try to thwart Fretilin. But the money was seized by border officials.

"I know the party, but won't say which one in the interests of keeping things peaceful," Mr Alkatiri said. "There are certain individuals in Indonesia, even generals, who don't want Fretilin to win this election ... it will be another humiliation for them because they could not crush us during 24 years of occupation."


22 Aug 01 22:10

East Timor: Alkatiri Accuses Election Panel of 'Intellectual Dishonesty'

The number two in East Timor`s Fretilin party hierarchy, Mari Alkatiri, strongly critized Wednesday the territory`s Independent Eletoral Mediation Panel, which has complained about the movement`s campaign use of an expression deemed to be provocative.

The three-member Panel, set up as a watchdog ahead of the August 30 Constituent Assembly elections, considers that Fretilin`s frequent use of the expression "dasa rai" (sweep the ground) in rallies is a "disturbing form of apparent verbal harassment" and thus violates the national unity pact signed by the parties before the campaign.

Fretilin leaders have in rallies promised to clean the garbage from the territory`s streets. However, the Tetun (lingua franca of East Timor) words "dasa rai" were also used during the Indonesian occupation to refer to operations against the East Timorese resistance and more recently by anti-independence militias before the 1999 independence plebiscite.

Alkatiri told Lusa Wednesday that the Panel was practicing "intellectual dishonesty", charging that it was attempting to use "alleged threats by Fretilin" to justify "the overwhelming defeat of the other parties" in the August 30 ballot.

"All our speeches have called for peace and stability and clearly rejected violence. Why do they remove from our discourse an appeal we make to the people, for them to relax after the election campaign", he queried.

Fretilin, which is widely favored to win the election, is currently a center-left, social democratic-style force that benefits from its long association with the independence cause and resistance to Indonesia`s quarter century occupation of East Timor, although some have voiced fears about its Marxist past.

The Indonesian invasion in 1975 was triggered (sic) by Fretilin`s unilateral declaration of independence after the brief civil war that followed the withdrawal of Portuguese colonial authorities.

East Timor has been governed by a UN transition administration since the 1999 plebiscite, with full independence expected next year. Voters in the territory will on August 30 elect the 88 members of an assembly whose main task will be to draw up the future national constitution.

JBC -Lusa-

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