Subject: Gusmao anguished by slaughter but doesn't regret referendum
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 08:52:08 -0400

Financial Times Monday September 20 1999

EAST TIMOR: Gusmao moves to Darwin

By Sander Thoenes in Jakarta

Xanana Gusmao, leader of East Timor's pro-independence movement, left Indonesia for Darwin in northern Australia at the weekend to prepare for a return to his homeland.

Mr Gusmao, who may well become East Timor's first president, is expected to make Darwin the headquarters-in-exile of CNRT, an umbrella organisation of pro-independence groups and the Fretilin resistance movement he has headed for years.

The move returns Mr Gusmao to the limelight after years of detention that had left him marginalised. He was released from house arrest this month and had stayed at the British embassy in Jakarta.

In his last interview in Indonesia, Mr Gusmao said little about his plans for a transitional government but called for rapid deployment of international troops and relief for the 150,000 East Timorese in camps in West Timor, more than 60,000 hiding in the mountains of East Timor and thousands scattered across Indonesia.

"Every day of delay can cause more destruction and more dead from disease and starvation," Mr Gusmao said.

He said his commanders in East Timor had told him the Indonesian military appeared to be concentrating on the northern coast, which supports Indonesian claims that the soldiers are being withdrawn to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. But Mr Gusmao said many towns were still under Indonesian military control and accused troops of shelling refugees in their hide-outs in the hills.

Mr Gusmao's detention in Jakarta since 1992 has turned him into a very cautious, diplomatic politician. He was sometimes too diplomatic for his own commanders, whom he kept under orders to refrain from attacking soldiers even as they deported and killed thousands of Timorese.

Mr Gusmao indicated he felt the military, who far outnumber the guerrillas, would seize on any attack to launch a massive offensive and delay their withdrawal.

"If we want to reply immediately it causes more suffering, more dead," he said. "This decision is a political decision, a strategic decision."

His has been a strategy of public relations, also, in which his CNRT has managed to keep the moral highground by abstaining from violence, pledging to tolerate its opponents and sounding a tone of compromise with Indonesia.

Similarly, Mr Gusmao was loath to criticise the United Nations for pushing ahead with the independence referendum even though it led the military and affiliated local militias to massacre many of his people.

"We accept every sacrifice," he said. "If there had been a delay it would be the same, unless we faced a democratic government in Indonesia without [an active political role of the military]. We just feel sad because we are unable to avoid it but we never regret it. We cry but we never regret it."


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