Subject: NPR: UN administration has brought little change for guerrillas

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Analysis: United Nations administration of East Timor has brought little change for guerrilla independence movement 06/17/2000 NPR: Weekend Edition - Saturday

ALEX CHADWICK, host: This is NPR's WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Alex Chadwick.

For 24 years, the East Timorese guerrilla army known as FALINTIL fought the occupying Indonesian army. FALINTIL is an acronym for Armed Forces For National Liberation of East Timor , a small, determined group of fighters living in the hills, usually under hard conditions--not enough food or weapons or supplies. It was never much of a threat to anyone, but FALINTIL's mere survival came to symbolize East Timorese resistance. Today the Indonesians are gone. The United Nations has been administering East Timor for the past eight months. But for FALINTIL, the difference has not brought much change. Reese Erlich reports.

REESE ERLICH reporting:

FALINTIL guerrillas, dressed in camouflage and carrying assault rifles, rest in the shade on a 92-degree, muggy day. One guerrilla strums a guitar as others sing an old marching song. They have little else to do.

Unidentified Men: (Singing in foreign language)

ERLICH: Last year, as part of a UN-sponsored agreement to hold elections on independence for East Timor , FALINTIL agreed to stop fighting and restrict its 1,500 men to certain areas. Today, eight months after the Indonesian withdrawal, FALINTIL guerrillas are still restricted to the town of Ilayo(ph), about 50 miles south of the capital. Living conditions are grim, worse than those facing many Timorese civilians.

(Soundbite of pots and pans clanging; unintelligible conversation)

ERLICH: Some guerrillas live in a former jail. A hundred sixty men of FALINTIL's first company live in this abandoned school. Commander Ja Marondo(ph) walks into a makeshift kitchen--an empty classroom with two rice pots and an open fire.

Commander JA MARONDO: (Through Translator) There's nothing else other than what you see here. We don't have vegetables because we don't have money to spend on such things.

ERLICH: How about meat or fish or chicken?

Comm. MARONDO: (Through Translator) We get meat every one or two months and that's when it's the local people who give it to us.

(Soundbite of thumping)

ERLICH: Not too far away, FALINTIL has a medical clinic. It has one bench, one desk and one metal gurney with no mattress or sheets. There are no doctors and only a few boxes of medicine. While the guerrillas can get some medical treatment at a nearby civilian clinic, it only has two doctors who are already serving 15,000 townspeople. FALINTIL nurse Marielle Disilva(ph).

Mr. MARIELLE DISILVA (Nurse): (Through Translator) The problem is that we have nowhere to lie a sick person, we have no beds, and we also have limited electricity. Most of the rooms don't have electric light.

ERLICH: Disilva has appealed for help numerous times to representatives of the UN and various international aid agencies.

Mr. DISILVA: (Through Translator) We've put in requests for medicine, for a doctor and for beds. We've had various teams come through and we don't hear a reply.

ERLICH: Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN's chief administrator in East Timor , agrees that living conditions for the guerrillas are appalling.

Mr. SERGIO VIEIRA de MELLO (Chief Administrator, United Nations): The main problem is that humanitarian organizations have a principle, which is not to assist combatants, even in the case of the FALINTIL. So we have been trying to find all kinds of measures--half-measures, roundabout ways in which to provide assistance to them.

ERLICH: The real problem, leaders of FALINTIL and UN officials agree, is that the guerrillas' future in an independent East Timor remains unclear. When the UN first took over administration of East Timor , UN and East Timorese leaders considered not forming a military. But because of cross-border raids by militia groups based in Indonesian-controlled West Timor , a consensus has developed that there must be some kind of defense force.

Xanana Gusmao, East Timor 's main independence leader, proposes that FALINTIL form the core of a 3,000-person military force. The UN is still discussing how large the defense force should be and how many of the soldiers should be from FALINTIL. Vieira de Mello, the UN administrator here, says it's been difficult to negotiate FALINTIL's future because the UN Security Council resolution on East Timor offers no guidelines on that issue.

Mr. VIEIRA de MELLO (United Nations Administrator): Resolution 1272 of the Security Council does not give us any mandate except to maintain security in East Timor using international military forces, but there is no mention of the FALINTIL, there is no mention of disarming the FALINTIL or demobilizing them or transforming them into something new.

ERLICH: A team of British military experts, operating under the UN mandate, will soon visit East Timor to assess its defense needs. Vieira de Mello says he expects after the team's report is presented in the fall, FALINTIL's future role will be closer to resolution.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

ERLICH: That's of little comfort to the bored, disgruntled guerrillas in camp here in Ilayo. Because of poor living conditions, about half the FALINTIL guerrillas have laid down their weapons and gone home. Those remaining say they urgently need humanitarian aid while their political future is being debated. For National Public Radio, I'm Reese Erlich, in Ilayo, East Timor .

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Men: (Singing in foreign language)

Article 49 Previous ArticleNext ArticleReturn to Headlines

News Timor Needs Stability - Downer 06/16/2000 Illawarra Mercury Page 15 Copyright of John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stressed the commercial need for stability in the Timor Sea as East Timorese leaders yesterday argued for a larger share of oil and gas royalties.

East Timor 's leadership held talks with Australian officials yesterday to argue for the dismantling of the Timor Gap treaty and a new maritime boundary that would put virtually all the Australia-Indonesia joint development area under East Timor 's control.

The National Council of East Timorese Resistance (CNRT), the new nation's government-in-waiting, wants a fresh agreement with Canberra on a new international boundary by the time East Timor 's first independent government is established as early as next year.

Mr Downer, who flew to Suva yesterday on a Commonwealth mission, said his Government was prepared to listen to the East Timorese case.

``The Timor Gap Treaty arrangements will be a matter for agreement in due course between Australia and East Timor ,'' Mr Downer's spokesman said.

``But both parties are fully aware of the commercial importance of maintaining stability in the Timor Gap regime.''

Mr Downer met representatives of the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) and CNRT on March 20.

The first round of detailed discussions on the treaty's future were held in Canberra over three days in March.

CNRT economic planning chief Mari'e Alkatiri, who took part in negotiations yesterday, insisted on a new sea-bed boundary drawn an equal distance between East Timor and Australia becoming the starting point for a new revenue-sharing deal.

``We are doing everything we can to have this settled and ready to be signed by the first elected leader of the new East Timor ,'' Mr Alkatiri said.

``We are not thinking of ( Timor Gap Treaty) renegotiation but a new treaty.

``Of course some of the terms will be the same but the starting point needs to be the drawing of a maritime boundary between our countries and that means the treaty would not have any effect any more.''

Indonesia signed over its rights under the treaty to UNTAET after East Timor voted for independence in an August ballot.

Some analysts said Australia had been too generous when the treaty was negotiated in 1989.

UNTAET was represented at talks yesterday by political affairs director Peter Gailbraith and Jon Prentice, also of political affairs.

The Australian Government was represented by officials from the Foreign Affairs and Trade Department, Attorney-General's Department and Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

An Attorney-General's Department spokeswoman said the negotiations were ongoing and confidential.

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