Subject: Lusa: Admitting civil war 'excesses', PM Alkatiri rebuts 3,000 death toll

East Timor: Admitting civil war 'excesses', PM Alkatiri rebuts 3,000 death toll

Dili, Dec. 21 (Lusa) - Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri acknowledged Wednesday that his FRETILIN party forces committed "errors" and "excesses" during East Timor's brief civil war in 1975, but he vehemently denied an official report's findings that 3,000 people died in that conflict.

"Who assumes the responsibility of carrying out a struggle and doesn't commit errors, especially in the face of such a powerful enemy", Alkatiri asked rhetorically when questioned by Lusa on the report.

"We also committed errors. And there were errors that were effectively excesses", he added, referring to both the weeks-long civil war and resistance to the Indonesian invasion and annexation of East Timor that came in its wake.

But the prime minister was adamant in denying that 3,000 people perished in the civil conflict that initially pitted FRETILIN forces against the rival UDT party.

"It's an absolute lie that there were 3,000 killed in the civil war. A few hundred died in Ermera and Maubisse, a few tens in Dili and isolated killings in other areas", Alkatiri said.

He charged that the inflated casualty figure had been influenced by "some foreigners" interviewed by Dili's Welcome, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR).

The "executive summary" of the CAVR report, to which Lusa had access earlier this week, said that at least 183,0000 East Timorese were killed during the 24-year struggle against Indonesian occupation and some 3,000 during the civil war in 1975.

The 2,500-page report, prepared over 18 months, was delivered to President Xanana Gusmão on Oct. 31 and by him to parliament on Nov.


But it has yet to be made public, given the fears of the country's leaders that it could be manipulated for political reasons or to seek revenge.

As far as the ruling FRETILIN party was concerned, Alkatiri told Lusa "there is no problem" in publishing the CAVR report, "as long as the consequences don't lead to persecution of the past".

"Re-enforcing stability is contradictory to persecuting the past", he emphasized.

Human rights organizations and the influential East Timorese Catholic Church are pressing for the release of the 2,500-page CAVR document.



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