Subject: Falintil taking tentative steps towards re-mobilisation

The Australian 31 January 2000

Falintil factions mobilise recruits

By MICHAEL WARE in Metinaro, East Timor

EAST Timor's Falintil resistance fighters appear to be taking tentative steps towards re-mobilisation, with hundreds of young men being recruited into its ranks.

The move to bolster the army comes as smaller security companies, militia and vigilante groups emerge.

The capital, Dili, in particular, has seen the establishment of a number of such organisations, and it is believed a clash between two of them may have been the catalyst for last Tuesday's bloody riot.

Falintil, which fought a guerilla campaign for 24 years, appears to have set up training camps across East Timor, despite the UN's presence and security being provided by the Australian-led International Forces (Interfet), following the Indonesian military's (TNI) withdrawal.

At one camp near Metinaro, about 50km east of Dili, about 150 recruits began training on January 22 using sticks shaped as assault rifles. Marcello da Costa Pereira, who described himself as a Falintil first vice-secretary and the camp's commander, said the re-mobilisation push had come from Falintil command.

"Dili and Region 3 (a Falintil district under the command of Falur Rate Laek) have ordered us to train the people."

"The three sucos (tribal groups) in this region supplied 50 men each to be trained here. Everyone's doing it (around the country).

"We are preparing because obviously one day Interfet and the UN will leave and then we will have to have enough troops. We have heard TNI may want to cause trouble but we are not scared.

"We train them with sticks today, but later we will get guns because we are becoming ready to be the force in East Timor."

But the army's commander-in-chief, Taur Matan Ruak, said while he was aware of the camps springing up around East Timor, he had not ordered it.

He listed about six regional centres, including Suai, Maliana and Los Palos, where new recruits were being trained.

He said it was happening independently of Falintil command and when he encountered members of one of the groups on the road to Los Palos recently, he told them to go home.

However, given Falintil's well-organised command structures, it is surprising that the Metinaro camp, which displayed Falintil regalia, could operate on such a large scale without official sanction.

Interfet headquarters said it was unaware of the camp's existence either on an intelligence level or through formal communications with Falintil.

"We have no knowledge of a Falintil re-mobilisation," Interfet chief-of-staff Colonel Bruce Armstrong said.

"Falintil has had great discipline in the past, and since Interfet has been here, and to the best of our knowledge, they have confined themselves, when carrying their weapons, to the cantonment area."

But Colonel Armstrong said the revelations about the Metinaro camp would be raised with Falintil "at a high level, and at the political level".

In Dili, according to UN civilian police superintendent Graeme Cairns, all of the capital's 44 villages were setting up 50-man neighbourhood watch groups, or security units.

"The reality is these groups are going to form, with us or without us, so it's better for Civpol to be involved," he said.

The independence movement, CNRT, is also associated with the security companies.

And at a meeting last Sunday, former members of East Timor's conservative UDT political party met to discuss a range of issues concerning the UN and CNRT, which is largely comprised of their old rivals, Fretilin, including the possible formation of their own security company.

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