Subject: Xanana pays emotional visit to East Timor rebel base

also [AFP] Gusmao makes emotional visit to East Timor rebel base

Jakarta Post October 25, 1999

Xanana pays visit on independence fighters

JAKARTA (JP): Independence leader Jose Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao wept openly on Sunday as the East Timorese guerrillas who struggled for over two decades against Indonesian rule welcomed him home with celebrations and tears of their own.

Children in traditional Timorese dress sang and scattered flower petals as Xanana arrived by helicopter at the headquarters of East Timor's Falintil guerrillas high in the mountains above the capital Dili.

"Our war is not finished," Xanana said in a speech to hundreds of armed guerrillas lined up under a baking sun, Reuters reported.

"Our people are hungry, our people are crying, our people are dying. We must wage war not with guns but to care for our land and look after our people," he said in East Timor's Tetun language, his voice cracking with emotion.

Seasoned guerrillas in camouflage uniforms, with unruly hair and automatic rifles, veterans of years of warfare in the jungle, wept openly as Xanana embraced them.

Widows who lost husbands in the war sobbed and clung to him. Xanana whispered to them and wiped tears from their eyes. Women huddled round him, singing a Timorese freedom anthem. He clasped their hands, sang with them, and wept with them.

Xanana set his feet on his homeland for the first time on Friday after seven years. He was arrested by the Indonesian Military in 1992 and was sentenced for life on subversion charges. The Indonesian government released him last month after East Timorese voted against a wide-ranging autonomy offer on Aug. 30.

Earlier on Saturday, Xanana gave a positive response to Indonesia's offer of a reconciliation meeting between two pro and anti-independence factions in East Timor. But he set a condition for the return of anti-independence militias into the strife-struck territory.

Taufik R. Soedarbo, chairman of the Post-ballot Task Force in East Timor (P4TT), said the Indonesian government had offered to facilitate a reconciliation meeting between the two conflicting groups, which Xanana welcomed.

"Xanana has given a positive response to the offer and said such facilities will be helpful to creating peace in the troubled territory," Antara quoted him as saying after a closed-door meeting with Xanana in Dili.

Also attending the meeting were National Council for East Timor Resistance (CNRT) coordinator Leandro Isaac, Ian Martin, who chairs the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), and Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove, chief of the Australian-led International Force for East Timor (Interfet).

Soedarbo declined to say when and where the reconciliation meeting would take place.

Xanana said in a media conference on the same day that he would allow prointegration militias, who have been accused of rampaging through the territory after the Aug. 30 ballot, to return to East Timor only if they apologized to the East Timorese.

"They are allowed to come back home but they must make an apology to the people for all damages caused by their brutality after the ballot," he said.

Xanana, who chairs the East Timor Transition Commission, reiterated that East Timor was seeking support from the World Bank, Japan, Australia and Indonesia to make preparations for the territory's independence.

He said he would also need cooperation from Indonesia, especially during the transition period, on at least three matters -- the status of prointegration militiamen, repatriation of East Timorese refugees and Indonesian assets in the territory.

Abel Guterres, a CNRT executive, said about US$100 million would be needed to build infrastructure and to repair facilities damaged during the post-ballot violence.

He said donor countries were scheduled to meet in Washington in December to discuss financial aid for East Timor. (rms)

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Gusmao makes emotional visit to East Timor rebel base

DILI, East Timor, Oct 24 (AFP) - East Timor resistance leader Xanana Gusmao made an emotional visit to a pro-independence fighter base near here Sunday after seeing with disbelief the devastation in Dili caused by pro-Jakarta militiamen following an August 30 independence vote.

He went by helicopter to Remexio, in hills some 14 kilometres (nine miles) southeast of here, where the armed wing of the East Timorese independence movement, Falintil, has a base.

The visit to the camp, where some 700 guerrillas are based, followed an impromptu walk through Dili's streets, where he inspected the damage inflicted by militias following the ballot in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to split from Indonesia.

Children presented him with a local traditional weaving which he placed around his neck before heading through a cheering throng of supporters to inspect hundreds of troops in military fatigues, and saluted the Falintil flag as it was raised.

Wiping tears from his eyes, he mounted a platform and gave an emotional speech in the local Tetum language.

Gusmao told the fighters they were East Timor's heroes and said many of the guerrillas had sacrificed themselves for the struggle for independence.

"Because of that we can meet again today," he said.

In Dili, after visiting patients at a French hospital, he walked streets followed by an armoured personnel carrier of the International Force for East Timor (Interfet) and heavily guarded by Australian troops, and went into several gutted buildings to check the damage.

"I am speechless, I am happy to be here but I am absolutely speechless," he told AFP while looking inside the charred shell of what was once a home destroyed in the militia violence.

In an interview with the BBC he said he was not thinking about retribution, which was "not our priority now."

"I am devastated, devastated, simply devastated," he said.

Hundreds of people flocked to greet Gusmao as they realised the man in military fatigues and a flak jacket was tipped to be independent East Timor's first president.

"Viva Falintil, Viva Xanana Gusmao," they shouted, while he acknowledged with a thumbs up sign and a raised fist.

He kissed a child and grasped the hands of an old woman, telling her: "This is the last time that we will suffer, the last time."

Looking bewildered as he crunched over shattered glass, Gusmao said: "Our policy of reconciliation is still open." He wanted to meet "all the East Timorese people," including militia leaders

Gusmao told the BBC his role was now as a politician and not a fighter. His main priority was not to bring militia to justice but to help his people rebuild East Timor.

He added however if international institutions wanted to pursue justice he would not stand in their way.

"Our priority is to save people from famine, from illness," he said.

"We are concentrating our mind, thoughts, to reconstruction and I believe that although it is difficult, we can do it... With international community assistance, we will.

"We have to fight the lack of everything with determination. Although it would be very difficult, we know that fundamentally we are now free."

Before flying to Remexio, he gave a rousing speech from the a building balcony.

"We must keep discipline right now. Do not insult the Indonesians, (that) we are human beings and they are the animals," Gusmao said in Portuguese, a witness said.

"We were not afraid when they burned and destroyed everything. You can see with your own eyes that today we laugh, we laugh because beginning from tomorrow, we will create a new Dili."

Gusmao has been staying at a house in Dili guarded by Interfet troops, after slipping into East Timor from Australia unannounced on Thursday night, setting foot in his homeland for the first time since 1992.

The resistance leader was arrested in Dili in 1992 and initially sentenced to life imprisonment in Jakarta.

After serving almost seven years, he was moved to house arrest in February as part of a UN-sponsored deal to settle the conflict in East Timor, and was released after the August 30 vote.


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