Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: The Australian: Naldo Rei: Raised On A Nation's Fight For Freedom

The Australian

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Raised on a nation's fight for freedom

Sian Powell

NALDO Rei was nine years old when he crept into the jungle on his first mission for the East Timorese resistance movement. Like so many in East Timor, he spent decades fighting for freedom.

Now a 32-year-old public information officer in the troubled new nation, Rei says the 24 years of danger and bloody struggle have yet to deliver peace and stability.

The tiny country is now riven by regional loyalties. Tens of thousands of dispirited East Timorese live in tents, fearing to rebuild their burned and destroyed homes. Worse still, earlier this year rebels tried to kill the East Timorese President, Jose Ramos Horta.

``We wanted peace, stability, a democratic society,'' Rei said. ``We don't want to live in violence and fearing everyone all the time.''

In Australia to promote his memoir, Resistance, a Childhood Fighting for East Timor, Rei is scheduled to appear at the Northern Territory and Sydney writers' festivals.

He spent his difficult youth working towards East Timor's independence from Indonesia, dodging the Indonesian military and trying to endure both torture and jail.

``My involvement in the struggle began when I was born,'' he said, referring to an infancy spent in hiding. ``But I really began helping the clandestine movement when I was nine. I was a messenger; everybody was controlled by the Indonesian army, so we helped by leaving messages in different places. It was dangerous, but my parents did it all the time.''

Shocked by the synchronised rebel attack earlier this year on Mr Ramos Horta and the nation's once revered guerilla leader Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, Rei said he blamed the international forces stationed in East Timor.

The Australian troops, he said, had ``surrounded'' rebel leader Alfredo Reinado for two years. ``We were really upset with the Australian army,'' he said. ``How could Reinado escape from Ermera (hill district)? How could it happen? How come they didn't prevent the action to try and kill the President? It's just incredible.''

Rei also slammed East Timor's Government, criticising its internal squabbling and repeated interference in the judicial process. ``People have to believe in the Government, it has to have legitimacy,'' he said, adding the nation's leaders must begin to co-operate to solve seemingly intractable problems, such as the thousands of tent-dwellers who refused to shift.

Despite years battling the oppressive Indonesian military, Rei said he bore no grudge towards Indonesians. ``I also love Indonesian people, but not the Government; we always had a problem with the Indonesian Government and the military.''

Indonesians, he said, were fighting for democracy at the same time as East Timorese were fighting for independence. Now both goals have been achieved, yet many East Timorese were unhappy.

``Everybody should sit down together and solve the problem,'' he said. ``Timor is so small, not over one million people. Why don't they sit down? We know they can do it. In the 24 years (of struggle) there was no other country to help us.''

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