Subject: DPA: Tears flow, cheers ring out as East Timor marks anniversary of vote

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

August 30, 2000, Thursday

Tears flow, cheers ring out as East Timor marks anniversary of vote

Dili, East Timor

Tens of thousands of people across East Timor on Wednesday marked the first anniversary of its vote of independence from Indonesia with tearful memorial services and joyful celebrations of its successful 24-year resistance movement.

The mood was one of both joy at successfully breaking away from harsh Indonesian military rule, and sorrow at remembering the hundreds of thousands of East Timorese who perished resisting the occupation.

The anniversary is also inexplicably linked to the horrific murder, rape and arson spree by pro-Indonesian militias and Indonesian military units last September after it was announced that about 80 per cent of the territory had voted for independence on August 30, 1999.

United Nations military and police forces stepped up security this week in anticipation of possible attacks by more than 100 die-hard militiamen who continue to launch raids into the half-island territory from neighbouring Indonesian West Timor.

No incidents of violence were reported.

In the capital Dili, nearly 10,000 people gathered outside the headquarters of the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET) to hear resounding speeches by independence leader Xanana Gusmao, U.N. officials and representatives of Australia, the United States, China and Portugal.

UNTAET chief Sergio Viera de Mello, who heads the second-largest U.N. mission in the world, brought personal greetings from Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"Today I salute the courage of every East Timorese citizen and the memories of those brave East Timorese men and women who perished so that you could have your freedom," Annan said in a statement read by de Mello. "Today I join you in celebrating the rebirth of East Timor as a democratic nation dedicated to making sure all citizens enjoy justice and prosperity."

East Timor is a former Portugese colony that Indonesia invaded and annexed in the mid-1970s, a move never recognised by the U.N. Indonesia last year agreed to a referendum on the territory's future, and its military and militia groups ran wild after the results were announced.

The U.N. is administering the territory as it prepares for its first-ever national elections next year, and has assumed everything from peacekeeping to mail service to trash collection. The reconstruction task is considered immense as most of the territory's 800,000 people live in poverty and most buildings and homes were destroyed by the militias.

Foreign donors have pledged 360 million dollars for East Timor's reconstruction, and both Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin said their countries would continue to support the territory long after statehood.

"Australia will not let you down," Downer said to cheers of "Viva East Timor" by the crowds.

East Timor's resistance movement, the National Council on Timorese Resistance (CNRT) concluded its first-ever national congress to discuss its new role, as political parties will begin forming next month for elections.

The congress ended Wednesday morning by passing a number of resolutions expected to be part of an East Timor constitution, including naming Portuguese as its official language and approving a bill on human rights.

Gusman, who spent 16 years as a guerrilla commander fighting Indonesian soldiers before being captured and jailed in 1992, called on the territory to unite as it builds a democratic country.

"The implementation of tolerance and democracy will be done by the political parties," he told the cheering crowd. "Although we have different opinions and go in different directions, let us reach out to each other to build a future for our children."

The anniversary ceremonies began Wednesday morning when around 4,000 people packed Dili's Catholic cathedral for a somber mass led by Bishop Carlos Belo, East Timor's spiritual leader and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Local leaders and foreign guest then went to Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery and laid flowers at a memorial to those who died in the resistence movement.

The cemetery became a major symbol of East Timor's resistance a decade ago when Indonesian soldiers massacred dozens of East Timorese attending a funeral there who had unrolled posters supporting the movement.

Celebrations including live music and performances were scheduled to run through late Wednesday. dpa jc wp


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