Subject: KY: E Timor's Falintil guerrilla army marks 25th anniversary

Kyodo News Service August 20, 2000, Sunday

E. Timor's Falintil guerrilla army marks 25th anniversary Tess Cerojano

AILEU, East Timor, Aug. 20 Kyodo

BODY: Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao on Sunday turned over his post as commander in chief of the National Liberation Armed Forces of East Timor (Falintil) to his deputy, Taur Matan Ruak, at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the guerrilla army.

As Falintil soldiers stood at attention in a field in Aileu, southwest of East Timor's capital Dili, a tearful Gusmao remembered those who died in the Falintil's struggle for independence from Indonesia and the army's many trials.

Speaking in Portuguese and Tetun, he praised the soldiers for their discipline, conviction and sacrifices that he said earned them the sympathy and respect of East Timorese.

He said he was happy that a year after the historic East Timor referendum on Aug. 30, in which East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia, the Falintil could celebrate its founding with the people. Under Indonesia, such celebrations had to be secret.

Gusmao, president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), is widely considered East Timor's president in waiting. CNRT is an umbrella organization of political parties and civic groups.

In a speech at the gathering, Sergio Vieira de Mello, head of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor, praised the turnover of command as a symbolic but important act, as it affirmed the democratic principle of the separation of military and civilian powers.

He also praised the Falintil for its tolerance and humanitarianism in facilitating the return of East Timorese refugees from West Timor who had supported autonomy but not independence from Indonesia.

'You are a force of conciliation, goodwill, common sense, peace and stability,' he told his audience.

De Mello announced that the 1,500-member Falintil will form the core of the new defense force that will be established in East Timor, and that Falintil members will be asked for their views before a decision is made on the final structure of the force.

Nobel laureate and CNRT Vice President Jose Ramos Horta gave his 1996 Nobel Peace Prize to the Falintil at the ceremony, saying the award belonged to the guerrillas and the Timorese people for their sacrifices for East Timorese independence.

Ramos Horta also announced he has created a micro-credit program for East Timor's poor with the cash prize he shared with co-winner East Timor Bishop Ximenes Belo. He urged foreign friends to contribute to the fund to fight poverty in the territory.

Belo called on East Timorese to guard their new freedom, saying that leaving matters to politicians could squander their gains.

Falintil members are currently in cantonment in Aileu pending the determination of their new role after East Timor becomes a full-fledged state. It is now under U.N. administration as it goes through the transition to complete independence.

The Aug. 30 referendum resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia, but was followed by a wave of violence and destruction by pro-Indonesian militias.

The violence was quelled in September when international forces arrived in the territory.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it as province in 1976.

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