Subject: Lusa: 'Fallen heroes' of independence war exhumed for proper burial

Age: Timorese gather to honour fallen

East Timor: 'Fallen heroes' of independence war exhumed for proper burial

Dili, Aug. 19 (Lusa)- Civil and military officials in East Timor have recently exhumed the bodies of over 250 people who died during new nation`s quarter-century independence struggle against occupying Indonesian forces.

The victims of Timor's bloody independence war had been buried in makeshift graves in the center and east of the country and are being returned to their families for proper burial as part of a East Timor Defense Force (ETDF) initiative to "honor fallen heroes".

Capt. Mau Kalo of the ETDF told Lusa there had been widespread popular calls for proper burial of the war dead, both guerilla fighters and civilians, and rigorous contacts with ex-fighters had established at least 3,000 Timorese are buried in one mountainous zone in the center of the country.

Bodies are being taken for full identification to a school outside of Dili before being handed over to families, Capt. Kalo said.

Timor's prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, told Lusa he welcomed the exhumation process, saying it was time to "restore the truth of history".

"It is important the initiative progresses in a coordinated fashion under the charge of sovereign bodies, particularly parliament. It is not just enough to exhume the bodies, they have to be properly identified to ensure no errors are made", the Timorese leader said.

ASP/CJB -Lusa-


The Age (Melbourne) Timorese gather to honour fallen By Jill Jolliffe

We-Mori, East Timor

August 20, 2003

Thousands of East Timorese have spent the past few days converging on a former resistance base to thank ex-Falintil guerillas for defending them from the Indonesian army.

Some are carrying the freshly exhumed remains of loved ones killed between 1975 and 1999, demanding that they be given a heroes' memorial.

The remains were located by ex-Falintil soldiers from East Timor's new UN- trained army, the East Timorese Defence Force, which is organising today's Falintil Day event.

Up to 300 sets of remains are expected to be carried to the We-Mori base before the Falintil Day ceremonies, attended by UN special representative Kamalesh Sharma and East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao.

For five days, the defence force's two infantry battalions have been scouring eastern districts for bodies of guerillas killed in action and buried in improvised graves, as well as civilian victims.

"The Indonesian Government recently asked us if they could send people here to fix up a war heroes' cemetery for their fallen, so that relatives could visit," East Timor Defence Force commander Brigadier Taur Matan Ruak said. "We then realised we don't have our own."

Brigadier Ruak was in We-Mori, his old resistance command post 40 kilometres south-west of Baucau, to co-ordinate Falintil Day preparations.

Cirilio Pereira Gusmao, 21, is accompanying his father Mario's remains. They were found in a mass grave of 10 civilians who disappeared from the village of Ossorua in 1983. Mr Gusmao wept as he told how he was only six months old when his father was taken from their home by Indonesian soldiers. "I'm happy, because we've found his body, and I'm grateful to our soldiers. But I'm also sad that I never knew my father," he said.

The bones of Felizarda Viegas's brother, Andre Gusmao, were in the same grave. She said the victims appeared to have been tied together, dumped into the grave and shot.

"They were from the civilian underground," she said. "We had no idea what had happened to them. They disappeared without trace."

Brigadier Ruak said the remains, of which there are now more than 200 sets, would be stored at an army base awaiting a government decision on a memorial.

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