|Subject: KY: Anti-independence leader
apologizes to E. Timor 's Gusmao
Also: Guerillas wary of visiting militia leader
Anti-independence leader apologizes to E. Timor 's Gusmao Kyodo News By Tim Johnson DILI, East Timor , June 15 --
East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao held reconciliation talks Thursday with a former high-ranking organizer of anti-independence militias, who apologized for his role in last September's post-referendum violence.
Gusmao held a two-hour meeting with Herminio da Costa da Silva, who has been in Dili under U.N. civilian police guard since last Friday.
Herminio told Kyodo News in an interview that he apologized to Gusmao, both orally and in writing, for the violence and destruction that followed the Aug. 30 vote for independence.
But he denied any personal responsibility for any human rights violations.
Human rights officials say as many as 1,500 people, mostly independence supporters, may have been killed when the militias backed by the Indonesian military went on a rampage of murder, looting and arson after the results of the U.N.-organized referendum were announced.
Herminio, a former deputy commander of the United Front for East Timor Autonomy, an alliance of pro-Indonesian militias, said he came to Dili for an 11-day visit on behalf of thousands of pro-autonomy East Timorese who desire to return to East Timor from Indonesia but fear doing so in the absence of guarantees on how they will be treated.
Asked about the prospect of a tribunal, he insisted there can be no national reconciliation so long as the pro-independence camp insists on punishment.
"Reconciliation means no punishment, and punishment means no reconciliation," he said.
"Some say there should be reconciliation first and then punishment. Others say there should be punishment first and then reconciliation. Both are wrong."
He said he and Gusmao agreed to continue discussions between his new Timorese People's Party (PPT) and Gusmao's National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), the umbrella group of pro-independence parties.
Herminio, a former leader of the Apodeti party that prior to Indonesia's 1975 invasion advocated integration with Indonesia, announced formation of the PPT on May 7 after breaking away from UNTAS, the broad umbrella group of anti-independence political movements.
He said he split with UNTAS after it rejected his call for recognition of the referendum results and cooperation with the new U.N. administration in East Timor .
Herminio said he asked Gusmao for his new political party to be allowed to contest East Timor 's first elections, expected to be held next April, at the earliest. He said the party would support Gusmao to become East Timor 's first president.
Regarding the repatriation of as many as 100,000 mostly pro-autonomy East Timorese from Indonesia's West Timor , Herminio pledged to do his best to ensure their early return, saying 90% may return by September if the necessary assurances are secured.
But the U.N.'s top administrator, Sergio Vieira de Mello, said, "We should not be discouraged if very few return as a result of Herminio's visit."
"I told Herminio that rather than promises, we want deeds," de Mello told reporters Monday after talks with Herminio on Saturday.
"The return of refugees, over which he may have influence, will be a test of his influence and of the meaningful nature of the assurances he has given us in the constitution of his party and in the statements he made to us in Dili."
Sydney Morning Herald June 15, 2000
Guerillas wary of visiting militia leader
By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent in Dili
A senior commander of the East Timorese pro-independence guerillas says reconciliation is possible with pro-Jakarta militias, but not with the senior militia leaders who took part in last year's post-ballot violence.
Commander Falur Rate Laek, a senior Falintil commander, made the comments during a controversial visit to Dili by Mr Herminio da Costa da Silva, a former high-ranking pro-integration official and organiser of pro-Jakarta militias.
Commander Falur said the independence fighters were prepared to forgive those responsible for violence between 1975 and August 30, 1999, the day East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia.
"What occurred between 1975 and the referendum in 1999 we're going to forget. We understand that. It was war. But what happened from August30 onwards was criminal activity."
Commander Falur, who serves as the chief liaison officer to the UN peacekeeping headquarters in Dili, is known for leading a spectacular attack on an Indonesian army post in late 1998 in which a large quantity of automatic weapons was seized.
On Saturday Mr Costa da Silva met Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor and was expected to meet yesterday for reconciliation talks with the independence leaders Mr Xanana Gusmao and Mr Jose Ramos Horta.
Mr Vieira de Mello said the former militia chief had formed a new political party, the first loyalist group to recognise the outcome of the referendum.
Commander Falur said that Mr Costa da Silva, a former Aitarak (Thorn) battalion commander, was the third most senior pro-integration official in East Timor and answerable to the then commander-in-chief of the militias, Mr Joao Tavares.
An Australian Defence Force handbook on East Timor lists Mr Costa da Silva as the senior commander of the Aitarak militia responsible for a spate of bloody violence last year, including a murderous attack on the Dili home of an independence activist, Mr Manuel Carrascalao, that left up to 12 people dead, including Mr Carrascalao's son.
Local people have expressed surprise that Mr Costa da Silva was allowed to return to Dili even for peace talks.
"Herminio is a bad man in East Timor. In September, he organised militias to kill many people. He still wants Indonesia to come back," a Dili security guard, Mr Antonio da Silva, said.
Asked whether he could trust Mr Costa da Silva, the Falintil commander replied: "Not really. These guys did what they did for money. They are mercenaries - they can't be trusted."
Relations between UN-administered East Timor and Indonesia were improving but the remnants of pro-Jakarta militias based across the border in Indonesian West Timor remained bitter about last year's electoral defeat, Commander Falur said.
Despite his reservations about Mr Costa da Silva, he said he supported reconciliation with former militia members.
Mr Costa da Silva is not the first pro-Jakarta militia leader to seek talks with East Timor. Others to have visited recently include Mr Juanico Belo and Mr Edmundo de Conceicao.
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