|Subject: SMH: E.Timor: Guerillas hold back - for now
From: "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Received from Joyo:
Sydney Morning Herald Saturday, February 13, 1999
*East Timor: Guerillas hold back - for now
By JOHN MARTINKUS in Dili
The East Timorese guerilla commander Falur Rate Laek sits surrounded by the booty captured in his most recent encounter with Indonesian forces - rifles, grenade launchers, boxes of ammunition.
While he and the 100 guerillas in his unit of Falintil, the armed wing of the East Timor independence movement, seem well equipped to take on Indonesian troops, he is under strict orders not to do so.
The orders came from independence leader Xanana Gusmao, issued from his Jakarta prison cell before he was released to less restricted and more comfortable detention in a suburban house this week.
Xanana, who has appealed for a ceasefire by both sides in the Timor conflict, has told the guerillas not to attack the Indonesian military outposts that surround the bush camp occupied by Commander Falur and his men in the central region of the territory. The guerillas claim to have 600 troops, split up into five regional units.
"The situation is difficult because I have conditions to obey against war operations and the Indonesians are always trying to make operations against our possessions [camps]," Commander Falur said. "Until now I have done nothing."
His last operation was an attack on an Indonesian police post in the town of Alas on November 9. In the raid his unit captured 36 automatic weapons, grenade launchers and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition.
He said the raid was carried out in response to increased Indonesian military action in the area and at the urging of local people who feared a crackdown on independence supporters.
"After we conducted that operation in Alas, the military responded against the local civilian population in Alas and then Turiscai, where they have tortured and beaten many more of our people," he said. "There is mass killing in that area and many people were violated by the Indonesian military.
"If people still doubt that, it is because they don't understand about the military situation here and the Indonesian military."
He said as many as 50 people were killed in the Alas area, which remains closed by the Indonesian military. The guerillas moved out of the area in the three days following the attack and have not returned since.
Although he has avoided action since November, Commander Falur accuses the Indonesian military of creating conditions with the potential to start a civil war. He referred to the emergence of Indonesian-sponsored paramilitary groups, made up of East Timorese opposed to independence.
While Indonesian officials have said the groups are needed to protect civilians from the Falintil guerillas, Commander Falur denies the guerillas have been involved in recent killings of civilians in Ainaro, Turiscai, Alas and, most recently, the villages in the Zumalai district where four deaths led to the flight of more than 5,000 villagers to the safety of the local church and school in the town of Suai.
"The Indonesians still use the old tactics to blame everything on us," Commander Falur said. "So someone who is out of touch and does not know about the Indonesian military would believe them, but we have an army to fight for the independence of our people, not to fight against our people.
"That's why we are now here in the jungle - to defend our people, not kill them in the villages."
>From personal experience, he doubts the loyalty to Indonesia of the newly recruited members of the paramilitary groups.
He served in the Indonesian Army from 1980 until 1983, and recalls the brutality of the Indonesian military towards its East Timorese members. He said he was forced to witness the massacre of his own people in the town of Kraras in 1983, when the entire male population of the village was killed by the Indonesian military. After that he fled back to the bush and re-joined the guerillas.
In his camp a more recent arrival told similar stories of his treatment. Mateus Santos was one of 13 Indonesian soldiers captured by Commander Falur's men in the November attack on Alas. Eleven were released after several days but two, both East Timorese, remained.
"I want to stay here because I feel safe," Santos said. "I am always hit and beaten by the Indonesian soldiers. They always suspect me of co-operating with the guerillas. Years ago they killed my wife and my children. They suspect me all the time. They are always beating me.
"With the guerillas, they are East Timorese, they are brothers. We want to stay here and work together for independence."
In the East Timor capital, Dili, paramilitary leader Eurico Guterres said he would fight a civil war if his safety and that of other pro-Indonesian Timorese was not guaranteed.
But in the mountains, another guerilla leader, Lu-Olo, who has been fighting with Falintil continuously for the 23 years since the Indonesian invasion, said there would be no problem with a guarantee for these people if they were willing to be disarmed.
"We are trying our best to have contact with them to avoid the reopening of old wounds that Indonesia is trying to do," he said.
"All through the years we have been the ones who have always wanted a ceasefire. If Indonesia wants a ceasefire as well, then OK we will, then work for independence in other ways."
But Lu-Olo is wary of Falintil surrendering its weapons without "an open, frank and clear statement from the Indonesian side" on a ceasefire.