Subject: Irish Times interview with David Ximenes
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:40:24 +0000
From: "East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign" <>

Source: The Irish Times Date: Thursday 17th June 1999


Independence fighters say they would sit down with opponents to promote reconciliation, writes Conor O'Clery

Going to meet David Ximenes, chairman of the National Council of the Timorese Resistance (CNRT), involved intricate planning beforehand. When the appointed time came his colleague Leandro Isaak, mobile phone to his ear, drove past the safe house in a quiet avenue in Dili to ensure that no members of the pro-Indonesia militias were around, then came back and turned smartly into the yard of a metal workshop.

Mr Ximenes sleeps in a different house in the capital of the former Portuguese colony every night. He asked that no photographs be taken of the building so that it could not be identified. The veteran resistance leader narrowly escaped death when militia members fired on his car outside the Makhota Hotel in Dili on April 17th, the day they killed over 20 independence sympathisers.

"The military want to keep the status quo, that is why they formed the militias on January 1st," said Mr Ximenes, speaking in English. "Since the UN came the situation in Dili looks like it is improving. The militia are not so active. But it is virtually impossible for CNRT to come out of hiding to do its work. The police said they would guarantee our security but how can they do that when the militia are everywhere and the Indonesian police are still involved in an offensive against our people."

As evidence of this he said that when a militia group last week attacked members of the resistance near Liquica, one assailant who was captured (and later released) turned out to be a policeman. Last week the Indonesian police recruited the militia into unarmed civil defence units, but as to the suggestion that this might neutralise them, Mr Ximenes had one word: "bullshit!"

The UN mission head, Mr Ian Martin, is currently negotiating with the police to enable the CNRT to open offices in all East Timor towns in preparation for the "popular consultation" on August 8th in which 400,000 East Timorese will be asked whether they accept autonomy within Indonesia or choose independence. But Mr Ximenes is not happy with the size of the civilian UN police force being sent to East Timor to provide security at the referendum.

The first 38 civilian police officers - 15 Australians, 10 New Zealanders, 10 Spaniards, two Irishmen and a Zimbabwean - of a 274-member UN police force are due to arrive in Dili on Saturday. Indonesia sent 452 extra police on May 31st, and another 821 left yesterday for Dili. Known as the "Larosae Contingent" they are to guarantee security for both sides during the referendum campaign under the UN agreement.

The UN force is inadequate "bearing in mind there are already over 20,000 Indonesian soldiers here, some in plain clothes, some in military uniform," Mr Ximenes said. He has refused to accept the safety guarantee offered by the Indonesian military commander overseeing East Timor, Major General Adam Damiri, to members of the armed wing of CNRT, which is headed by Xanana Gusmao, at present under house arrest in Jakarta.

Falintil has conducted a 24-year campaign of resistance against Indonesian military occupation but it is presently on ceasefire. "The Indonesians wanted conflict so they can say to us there is civil war, and that East Timor needs the Indonesian army - that is why there is no resistance," said Mr Ximenes. "Even if they have been killing us we do not respond."

He insisted that the murder of a militia member near Dili on Friday night was not done by his side. "A man called José from the Aitarak (Thorn) militia killed him because he was mentally crazy and every day shouted insults at the military," he said.

Nevertheless East Timor's most prominent independence leader on the island acknowledged that the referendum process is still at the beginning and he did not want to say that a fair vote could not take place. The pendulum is swinging away from the pro-integration forces.

The veteran fighter in short grey beard and gold-rimmed glasses was able to come out of hiding briefly on June 3rd and appear among thousands of pro-independence supporters who turned up to cheer the flag-raising of the UN mission in East Timor (UNAMET). Despite the campaign of terror against them, CNRT is prepared to sit down with its opponents to discuss a pre-referendum reconciliation under a dialogue proposed by Bishop Belo, Mr Ximenes said. "Reconciliation is necessary but it depends on Indonesia also because Indonesia has a big influence over the pro-integration people. They are like robots."

If the vote was free, secret, honest and just he would be prepared to accept the result even if it meant autonomy. On the other hand, if the majority preferred separation from Indonesia, the pro-integration groups would have to accept the outcome. In any eventuality he would be prepared to sit down with militia leaders like Eurico Guterres who had led the April 17th rampage in Dili. "There would be reconciliation," he said with some emphasis. "We need them for the future. The resistance wants to finish the war."

Back to June Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99