Reuters: Timor's Jungle Fighters Search for New Life
Timor's jungle fighters search for new life
By Angie Ramos
AILEU, East Timor, March 20 (Reuters) - Adomi Kalohan Semosai plays his flute solemnly as his fellow East Timorese guerrillas crowd around him, clutching their guns in an abandoned Indonesian army barracks in the lush highlands of the territory.
``I'm tired now,'' said Semosai, 27, whose life has been interrupted by East Timor's 24-year fight for independence.
He would like to settle down, have a family and become a farmer, he says.
A comrade among the Falintil fighters, Julio Aparicio Soares, explains that the music speaks of their desire to be reunited with family members and heal the wounds of the past.
``The song is about our longing for relatives who are still in West Timor. We want them to know that it is safe to come home now,'' said Soares, 25.
Six months after mass violence erupted in East Timor in the wake of an historic vote of independence from Indonesia, around 100,000 East Timorese are still in refugee camps in the west of the island under the close watch of Indonesian soldiers. Aid agencies say many are forced to stay, and others are too scared to leave.
``I hope they can hear the message of this song -- the war is over and we want to be able to get on with our lives,'' said Soares.
WAR IS OVER
The years since Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in December 1975 were a constant battle between the Falintil guerrillas and the Indonesian army.
Like most of the guerrillas, Soares and Semosai never went to school, bartering education for an uncertain shot at freedom. Life as a guerrilla wasn't easy: Soares left his family in the town of Baucau to join Falintil in the hills to the south.
``Every day, I would think about them... wondering when I would see them again,'' said Soares.
He last saw his parents during a clandestine visit in 1992. Soares says the latest news he had of his family was that they were in a refugee camp in Kupang, West Timor.
Soares himself is adjusting to a new life -- a life without enemies. Since peace was restored in East Timor with the assistance of a U.N. mandated international intervention force, an estimated 1,000 Falintil guerrillas gathered in a cantonment in Aileu.
It is the only place in the territory where Falintil, with their trademark long frizzy hair, can still walk around with their guns. They man several checkpoints around the town, living side by side with the U.N. troops assigned to assist them.
FUTURE UNCERTAIN FOR FALINTIL FIGHTERS
The United Nations transitional government and the former resistance movement are still in the process of discussing the future of Falintil. Ironically, the ex-guerrillas have been given a former Indonesian barracks as their home.
Nobel laureate and independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta said the fate of Falintil would depend largely on the kind of security force East Timor has once the U.N. leaves in two to three years.
``Are we going to have a conventional army or are we going to have just a national police or a mix of both? Falintil would then be integrated accordingly in the new defence system we will establish in this country,'' said Ramos-Horta.
There have been concerns that Falintil fighters, although highly disciplined after years hiding in the jungle, are not equipped to meet the demands of a new security force. Most of them have not had a proper education and few can even read and write.
But Ramos-Horta says they deserve to be treated with respect, and they may be given a chance to study while training to join a new security force.
``They are the most generous, most courageous, the ones that sacrificed most, and we owe it to them and their families in helping them find jobs. They don't want handouts,'' he said.
``They've always fought for the preservation of freedom of the country and the new defence force of East Timor will have the same task -- to guarantee the freedom that we won after 24 years and no one better than the Falintil people to ensure that.''
Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter V3.5.8, is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from http://www.v3inc.com/