Subject: Ruling party shows its strength in double anniversary celebrations

East Timor: Ruling party shows its strength in double anniversary celebrations

Dili, May 20 (Lusa) - Tens of thousands of government supporters gathered in East Timor's capital Friday to mark the 31st anniversary of the foundation of the ruling FRETILIN party in festivities that coincided with the celebration of the country's third independence anniversary.

In a speech to some 20,000 supporters, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, FRETILIN's leader, called for political tolerance, but described the massive turnout as a response to those who questioned his party's grassroots strength.

The partisan celebrations began Wednesday with the arrival in Dili of an estimated 57,000 people from the country's interior.

Alkatiri, in comments to Lusa, denied FRETILIN was trying to outdo the influential Catholic Church that recently mobilized several thousand anti-government demonstrators for three-weeks in non-stop protests in Dili.

While denying FRETILIN aimed to overshadow the Catholic demonstrations that had called for his resignation, Alkatiri said there was "a need for all of us, including ourselves, to see what we represent".

FRETILIN was formally organized as a pro-independence movement from Portugal in September 1974, but Friday's celebrations mark the creation of the party's precursor, the Timorese Social Democratic Association, on May 20, 1974.

The festivities coincided with East Timor's third anniversary of independence, following 24 years of Indonesian occupation and nearly three years under a transition UN administration.

In a wide-ranging speech to the nation Friday, President Xanana Gusmao issued an "alert" to the government and FRETILIN, noting that the ruling party recently accepted into its ranks a mass martial arts group with a violent history, including alleged participation in killings and arson.

The KORKA group's integration into FRETILIN's youth wing, Gusmão warned, could serve "as a bad precedent for the use of youths, as it could lead to the creation of partisan militias".

Later in his remarks to Lusa, Alkatiri downplayed the president's concern.

He said FRETILIN's inclusion of KORKA, a group that claims thousands of adherents, aimed "to change the philosophy of martial arts", transforming the past penchant for "violence into one of self- control".



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