Subject: SMH: Falintil armed with CDs, not guns

January 20, 2001 Sydney Morning Herald

Falintil armed with CDs, not guns, as the young talk lifestyle and love letters By Hamish McDonald

Next month the legendary guerilla army Falintil, an acronym for Armed Forces of the Liberation of East Timor, will cease to exist as its remaining active fighters are absorbed into the new army being formed for their emerging nation.

Old fighters, their lungs wheezy from long years in the cloud-wrapped mountains, their bodies showing up healed-over bullets on their x-rays, will be given work in a new fuel distribution company.

But the Falintil name lives on. Tune to 88.1 FM while in Dili, and you'll get Radio Falintil broadcasting a mix of hard and soft rock music, broken up by chatty lifestyle programs being pioneered by a bevy of young hosts.

Midnight on Saturday shows how much the armed struggle is over, and more personal concerns are preoccupying young people who once risked their lives in protest against Indonesian rule.

That's the time Ligia "Merry" Guterres, 23, and Madalena "Nica" Araujo, 25, come on air to read a selection of love letters sent in by listeners in their program given the English-language name Greets Memory.

Portraits of the independence leader Xanana Gusmao, slain Falintil chief Nicolau Lobato, and Metallica look down from the whitewashed walls of Radio Falintil's simple studio in a Dili house. An old airconditioner thrashes away on the window, occasionally making a lurching noise when the voltage drops.

Merry trained in Surabaya to work in a bank, but her day job now is a translator with the Serious Crimes Unit of the United Nations police, working on murders and rapes. Nica runs her own contracting business in the reconstruction of this devastated town.

On this particular night, Merry picks up a letter titled "Kisah sedih dalam hidupku" (Sad chapter in my life), decorated with a heart, and signed "by someone with the initial H".

Merry reads it in a sweet, breathy voice, while studio technician Jo Gusmao, a nephew of Xanana, deftly weaves in bursts of Kenny G's syrupy clarinet piece For Everyone.

Most of the letters are in Indonesian, the language of the educated young here, and come from girls and sometimes boys in the 17-18 age group, say the announcers. They talk of unrequited crushes, and broken-off relationships. Some are clearly group efforts, possibly from gossip sessions around the radio while the parents aren't around.

Occasionally letters get into more serious problems like unplanned pregnancies, family breakups or violence. "But that's another program," Nica says.


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