Subject: RT/AFP: East Timor's Gusmao gets heroes welcome from refugees

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

Also: East Timor's Gusmao meets refugees, asks them to come home

East Timor Gusmao gets heroes welcome from refugees

KUPANG, Indonesia (Reuters, Nov. 28, 2001) - East Timor president-in-waiting Xanana Gusmao got a heroes welcome when he gave a message of reconciliation to around 1,000 refugees in Indonesian West Timor on Wednesday.

Gusmao was greeted with cheers when he spoke to the crowds packed into a sports stadium. The refugees had fled the bloodbath two years ago when East Timor voted for independence.

"Don't be afraid to go back to the land of Timor. There is always provocation saying those who come back will be terrorised or be punished. That's not true," Gusmao told the crowd in Kupang city, some 1,950 km (1,170 miles) east of Jakarta.

"I am a person who is against violence," he told refugee representatives from all parts of West Timor. Gusmao has been on a three day visit to West Timor. He returns home on Thursday.

The soft-spoken independence leader repeated calls for all refugees to return home and rebuild their tiny territory, shattered after Jakarta-backed militias opposed to East Timor breaking away from Indonesia went on a killing spree following the 1999 vote.

"Let me emphasise that I am not here as a winner looking out for the loser but to look out for our brothers and sisters -- peace has now become the national mission in East Timor," he said.

FLED (sic) VIOLENCE

Up to 300,000 East Timorese -- more than a quarter of the territory's population -- fled the militia violence and took shelter in West Timor.

The United Nations estimates more than 1,000 died but none of the Indonesian army officers blamed for the killings have been brought to trial, bringing international condemnation.

Around 80,000 refugees remain in makeshift camps and empty buildings throughout West Timor, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Many refugees said they were moved by Gusmao's two-hour speech but remained apprehensive about returning home unless he became leader of the tiny territory.

"He is the only one who can provide protection. I would certainly go home if he is elected as president," said Matheos Bere.

Gusmao is widely tipped to become East Timor's leader next year when it formally declares independence.

The United Nations has been administering East Timor since the international community sent in troops in 1999 to end the bloodshed.

One woman jostled her way to greet Gusmao at the entrance door and made a cross sign on his forehead as a gesture of respect and devotion.

Some of those still in West Timor include members of the militias who fear retaliation back home, while others have been prevented from going home by threats from these same groups.

After listening to Gusmao one former militia member expressed regret at being involved in the groups, saying he "felt he had been used"

"We cursed the political elite who used us as their tools," said Abilio Dedeus.


East Timor's Gusmao meets refugees, asks them to come home

JAKARTA, Nov 28 (AFP) - East Timor's independence leader Xanana Gusmao on Wednesday met about 1,000 East Timorese refugees in Indonesian West Timor, including many who had opposed a break with Jakarta, and appealed for them to come home.

"I've come here to ask you to go home, not because we have won the war but because we are all Timorese," Gusmao said in East Timor's native Tetum language, quoted by the state Antara news agency.

The safety of the refugees will be guaranteed once they return to East Timor, Gusmao said in the gathering at a gymnasium in the West Timor capital of Kupang.

Gusmao was on the last day of a three-day visit to West Timor aimed at promoting reconciliation and persuading the refugees to return.

He said the fact that many of them had voted against independence from Indonesia in a UN-sponsored ballot in August 1999 should not deter them from going back to East Timor.

"It was the riots that broke our hearts. They hurt our hearts and also yours," he said.

The referendum resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia, which annexed the territory in 1976 in a move not recognized by the United Nations.

Pro-Jakarta militias, backed by the military, unleashed a wave of killing and mass destruction in response to the vote. Militia violence also occurred in the run-up to the vote.

A substantial number of the refugees are from militia groups or militia families or are hardline political opponents of Gusmao, who has played a leading role in encouraging reconciliation.

An estimated 250,000-290,000 East Timorese either fled across the border into West Timor or were forced across by militias following the vote. Militia members followed suit after the arrival of UN peacekeeping forces in September

Gusmao is universally expected to become the first president of East Timor when it attains independence next May 20.

He has also met government, police and military officials as well as pro-Jakarta militia leaders during his stay in West Timor.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says almost 189,000 East Timorese refugees have been repatriated from West Timor in the past two years and an estimated 77,000 remain.

Gusmao has said amnesties must be considered for some of those who led the deadly violence surrounding the independence vote in East Timor, which is currently under UN administration.


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