Subject: Nation (Bangkok): Gusmao vows to support Suu Kyi's party
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 1999 17:44:53 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <fbp@igc.apc.org>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

The Nation (Bangkok), 4 June 1999

Gusmao vows to support Suu Kyi's party

BY YINDEE LERTCHAROENCHOK

JAKARTA -- East Timor's jailed resistance leader Xanana Gusmao has expressed his strong sympathy and support for Burma's opposition movement, pledging a ''moral obligation'' to assist the Burmese people once his East Timorese homeland is free from Indonesian military occupation.

He said Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remained partly under house arrest in Rangoon despite her release by the military junta in July 1995, has been a strong inspiration for him and the whole Timorese resistance movement.

Because they have lived under repression by the Indonesian occupation, the East Timorese people could feel and share the suffering of the Burmese people, said Gusmao, who was transferred from Cipinang jail in Jakarta where he initially faced life imprisonment to house arrest three months ago.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese enclave in 1975 and annexed it in 1978. Human rights activists estimate that about 200,000 Timorese were killed during the occupation by Indonesia, whose sovereignty over the island has never been recognised by the United Nations.

''We know that nobody can feel happy if other brothers are still under repression. It will be our responsibility, our moral obligation -- not an act of gratitude -- that we wish to play a role as important and as big as this small island can be,'' the 53-year-old political prisoner told The Nation in an interview on Wednesday.

''When we are free from the Indonesian military dictatorship, we promise we will pay all attention to helping the Burmese people. That is a moral obligation and a solidarity with the Burmese people. We will try to help Aung San Suu Kyi, whom we admire and who has inspired us,'' he said with tears welling in his eyes as he emotionally and slowly described how the Timorese could feel the Burmese people's suffering.

Gusmao said once the struggle for East Timor's independence was achieved, its people will form ''a committee of solidarity'' with the Burmese to assist them in their struggle for democracy and human rights.

Comparing the presence of international observers at the Indonesian general elections on Monday and the United Nations-sanctioned referendum on the future of East Timor in August, Gusmao said he would one day become an international observer in Burma.

The jailed Timorese leader had written twice to the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner, the first in 1993 while both were still under solitary confinement. Gusmao recently sent his personal condolences to the Burmese democratic leader on the death of her husband Dr Michael Aris in March.

The Burmese military government had refused to grant Aris' dying wish to meet his wife in Rangoon.

Asked why he was so sympathetic to the Burmese cause, Gusmao said: ''It is a question of feeling the same suffering as the Burmese people.

''Because we, the East Timorese, suffer very much, we can understand this suffering of other people. As part of Asean and Asia, we are very grateful for the solidarity of the brother peoples of Asia,'' he added.

Gusmao was captured in the Timorese capital of Dili in November 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment in April 1993. Former president Suharto, who ordered the invasion of East Timor, reduced his jail term to 20 years in August the same year.

Apart from Gusmao, other East Timorese resistance leaders including the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ramos Horta have been in touch with the Burmese and ethnic opposition movements.

Ramos made a secret visit to Manerplaw on the Thai-Burmese border which was then the headquarters of the Karen guerrilla group and other exiled Burmese democratic forces.

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