Subject: TP: There Is Not Enough Money To DevelopThe FDTL

Entrevista especial ho Chefe Estado Maior Falintil-FDTL Coronel Lere Anan Timor.

Special Interview with the Chief of Staff Falintil-FDTL, Colonel Lere Anan Timor.



Timor Post, 13 February 2003.

"We have formed our defense force Falintil-FDTL in the past two years, but now there is not enough money to develop it." This stated by Coronel Lere in an interview with the Timor Post yesterday morning.

Complete interview as follow:

TP: How many soldiers does F-FDTL have since you formed two years ago? LA: According to our objectives in forming the F-FDTL in the past 2 years we have recruited people to form the First Battalion with all of them being original Falintil, that had fought for 24, 10, 5, 3 or 2 years in the mountains, then afterwards followed the Second Battalion. We all know, the government knows, even the UN knows, that our force is very small, we have had to rebuild our nation and form our army depending on the possibilities and conditions of our government, and because the government does not have enough money to develop the nation, we just have 1500 members including the Second Battalion.

TP: Because the numbers of the soldiers are very limited, why are groups like CPD-RDTL demanding an increase in battalions to 12 or more? LA: The demands of CPD-RDTL are unrealistic, and not according to the real political situation in the country, of our capabilities and the difficulties that we are facing, and all should be clarified. I was in the National Dialog as an observer so I didn't say much, but I should have said more to CPD-RDTL. Because of democracy CPD-RDTL was free to talk about its wishes to increase the force to 15 000 or 20 000 soldiers or to 10 or 20 battalions.

TP: Some people have said before that we do not need an army, but now as we are experiencing trouble in the country, the population is demanding quick deployment of the Falintil-FDTL. Why is this? LA: Everybody knows that before some people had said that East Timor does not need an army, the police would be enough. But other people also put the question that we need an army to protect our sovereignty, an independent country needs an army like Australia and Indonesia. It is not good for East Timor as an independent nation not to have an army. Everybody knows as well that during the peaceful time the government just spends money on the force, they will just perform their duty when there is a war. And about the request from the CPD-RDTL, what will we do with 15.000 or 20.000 soldiers?

TP: If this is true, where will you deploy all these soldiers? LA: The soldiers according to numbers demanded by CDP-RDTL, has to be deployed around the whole East Timor. But as I have said, they do not see the reality in East Timor, the country/government is very poor, instead of having 15.000 or 20.000 battalions it is better to use the money in developing the country, taking care of widows, women, poverty, etc.

TP: What will our neighbours think if we have large force? LA: An example, if Indonesia or Australia wants to invade East Timor, can the soldiers fight and push the enemy out of the country? I think that, our strategy is to use again the guerrilla tactics, and take arms to the mountains, because if we have 15.000 soldiers in East Timor, it will be seen as a threat to Australia and Indonesia. The number that we have now, 1 500 is not a threat to anyone at all, and the government has to find a way to make this small army professional. Professional doesn't mean to go out and shoot at each other, it means to live with the people, we know that Falintil was the people's armed force and came from the people, had to respect the people, work together, etc. That is why we do not need 15 000 people, it's expensive, it is good enough to have a small but professional force. When there is a war, we will stand firm and try to fight the Indonesians or Australians out to the sea, and maybe they will push us to the mountains, then we will use the guerrilla tactics.

TP: Ok, we have just 1.500 soldiers, but we don't have enough facilities to house all of them. What do you think about it? LA: First I would like to say that we have problems with our budget, not enough facilities to house all our soldiers; we are very lucky that the Australians built the facility in Metinaro. As for the First Battalion they are worse off, they don't have transport/cars, they will have to use our/the official cars to transport them tomorrow from Astabe, and they do not have a proper place to sit and have their meals. And about the salary, some of them are married and receive just $80US. These are the difficulties we are facing right now, and the soldiers start to be undisciplined, if we had 15 000 20 000 soldiers the problems would be far bigger, maybe we would kill each other, we have to think properly, not to talk about things that we do not understand, there is a purpose to the government's expenditures.

TP: What do you think about the request from the population who lives in the border to deploy F-FDTL to help maintain the security? LA: We are not going to put any soldiers on the border. If we do that, of course the Indonesians will put their soldiers there as well. It will appear as a provocation. The border is a place to work together, to have good coordination, but not to have the army provoking and shooting each other, and will result in Indonesia condemning East Timor or vice-versa. So in the future we will just deploy the police to control the border. Maybe one day in a different situation like a war we can think to use the army, but there is no war anymore, our leaders and politicians have to find a way to create a good relation, understanding and good cooperation with Indonesia about the border. The border is not a place for confrontation.

TP: What are the criteria about the ranks from Brigadier, Colonel, Lt. Colonel, Major, Captain, superior officials, and medium officials, and how many are they? LA: Every army has ranks as General, Colonel, Lt. Colonel, uperior officials and medium officials, even Sergeants Privates etc, you are talking about ranks I'm talking about budgets. Right now our defence force has only one general which is Taur Matan Ruak, only one Coronel, myself, (Lere Anan Timor), 5 Lt. Col.., 7-8 Majors, Sergeants and Furiel, but we don't have Cabos because there is not enough in the budget to pay them, because if we promote them to Cabo but the salary is still the same as soldado, we create problems, so we don't have Cabos.

TP: How about the salary, how much for a month? LA: Our Brigadier General receives $300, I receive $200, we receive this amount because of our duty, our responsibility for the country, I have enough with the military life, I was in the army during the Portuguese time, during the struggle I was in the army and now after independence I continue in the army, so I have enough with being in the army, but is my duty to do it. And about the ranks, we have just one General, one Colonel, and this happens just in East Timor, in other countries as Indonesia they have thousands of Generals maybe the same number of their population, and Colonel number more than East Timor's population.

TP: Is there any plan to send soldiers to be training overseas? LA: Yes, 2 soldiers have been to Singapore, than followed by another 3, and 9 more to form a medical corps, a couple to Australia and one platoon to Mozambique to obtain experience in Commando and officer training.

TP: Who is paying for them? LA: The donors, they invite us, we go there without spending a cent, these soldiers will be paid by the invitees (foreign countries), fed, transported, and we do not pay a cent, as our Prime Minister Alkatiri has said, East Timor does not have a debt, but as CPD-RDTL demands to have 15 000-20 000 soldiers in the force, than we will have a very big debt in the future.

TP: How long will they stay in overseas? LA: Some will stay for 3 months, 6 moths and 1 person went to USA for 6 months to 1 year, to learn about legal affairs.

TP: What are the criteria for the next recruitment? Will it be the same or will there be some changes? LA: For the next recruitment, first we have to take advantage of those 23 year olds, who are strong and healthy to fulfill his duties, the intelligent/clever, what kind of force is this if we recruit our brothers/sisters that are illiterate, how can we recruit them. Second, they have to be original East Timorese not Indonesian, third if there is someone accused of being militia, the person has to present proof, complete information so that we can refuse the accused. I made a mistake in the past about the females, they did not inform us that they are married, after the recruitment we found out that they are pregnant, and have to rest. But now I had to make a decision, the ladies that we recruit are not allowed to get pregnant for 2 years, and if within the 2 years someone gets pregnant we will send them home. Now we have sent home 5 or 6 women home to rest because they are pregnant. The male soldiers had commented about the way we treat the females, some of these females had been recruited just for 2 or 3 months and just because they are pregnant are send home top rest, but is in the past, and in the future they cannot get pregnant during the first 2 years.

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