Subject: SCMP: Militia chief scorns 'sellout' Gusmao

South China Morning Post Wednesday, January 10, 2001


Militia chief scorns 'sellout' Gusmao

Photo: Surrounded by guards who call him 'commander', jailed Guterres accuses his nemesis of treachery


Speaking out: East Timorese anti-independence leader Eurico Guterres delivers a tirade outside court in Jakarta yesterday. Associated Press photo

Sitting in jail waiting to hear his fate, feared East Timor militia chief Eurico Guterres is accusing his nemesis Xanana Gusmao of selling out his people.

Sarcastically, he accuses the independence hero of trying to turn the former Portuguese colony to his own personal profit, to create "Xanana Oil", a reference to the future nation's main economic asset - the undersea oilfields in the Timor Sea.

"Xanana's aim for independence is only for personal interests," Guterres said in an interview from Jakarta's Salemba jail.

"Now East Timor is wrecked. But he runs angrily to Australia because he has an Australian wife," said Guterres.

"How is that for a national leader?

"He leaves his legal wife just like that and his children, who are as big as me, and remarries an Australian," he said.

"I think the future of East Timor will be like the second Aborigines, like in Australia. And it has already started to happen. East Timor, if I can say so, will later be like hell on earth. For Xanana, eating rocks doesn't matter, as long as there is independence."

This is a far cry from Mr Gusmao's conciliatory tone. Not long ago, he offered to make Guterres defence minister in a post-UN government, which Mr Gusmao is expected to lead as president. The much younger Guterres, just 26, spurned the offer.

Things have moved on since then. Now Guterres is on trial in Indonesia on incitement charges and faces up to six years in jail if convicted. Ironically, just behind Salemba jail is a small house where Mr Gusmao was once held under house arrest.

In 1999, Guterres was the voice of the integration camp. He was the deputy commander of pro-integration forces and his own Aitarak militia is widely accused of carrying out much of the destruction of Dili in September that year.

Ahead of UN-sanctioned military intervention to stop a wave of violence, he fled with his family to West Timor, where they are still based. Next month he faces questioning by Indonesian investigators on those events. Many people would like to see him tried as a war criminal.

But Guterres is charged with something totally different - inciting his supporters not to hand in weapons during a disarmament ceremony in West Timor last September, attended by Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

It is the second criminal case he has faced since fleeing East Timor. An earlier charge of illegal possession of a firearm was thrown out.

Yet Guterres suggests his militia days are about over. Although he has appeared in military fatigues in court, he says he really just wants to get back to his wife and three children.

If acquitted, he wants to go back to college and finish his studies in economics and management. Later he might start a business, he says.

"Because of this case of mine, I must be far from my family, especially my wife and children, and to date their fate is not clear. This makes me sad," he said.

"If I as an Indonesian citizen am in the wrong according to the law, I am prepared to be tried and sentenced. Even if it is 100 years I want to do it. Not even that, I want to be hanged, to be killed at once - if indeed I am proven guilty. But if I am proven not guilty I have to be freed. I will try to find food to feed my family. I have children and a wife who need a future."

Although he expresses mixed feelings about the judges who will decide his fate, he trusts in God. For all that his predicament has not totally cramped his style. With his trademark long locks, rippling biceps and a black vest and trousers, prison life does not seem to be treating Guterres too badly. He still has a mobile phone. He also has his own cell. The prison guards looked relaxed with him, patting him on the back and fondly calling him "commander".

For many Indonesians, Guterres is a hero who risked all to keep East Timor within their country. But he denies he gets any special privileges in jail. "Everyone is the same. The facilities are the same and the service is the same. There is nothing special," he said. "I am fine with them. Although I am East Timorese I must struggle to Indonesianise myself.

"At least they understand me and I understand them. There is a family feeling among us. We watch out for each other."

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