|Subject: DPA: E.Timor pro-independence party
launches political campaign
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 13:55:00 EDT
Deutsche Presse-Agentur Sunday, August 15, 1999,
East Timor pro-independence party launches political campaign
Dili, East Timor
More than 4,000 exuberant East Timorese crowded around a small waterfront office in Dili on Sunday as the pro-independence National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT) launched its political campaign.
The rally featured speechs and the public raising of East Timor's independence flag for the first time in 23 years.
"Now is the time for East Timorese to determine their own future. For the past 23 years Falintil has been fighting, not people with different views but people with weapons - a fight against Kopassus (Indonesian special forces) and the generals," said independence leader Xanana Gusmao in a pre-recorded speech.
Xanana is being held under house arrest in Jakarta after being released from jail earlier this year where he was serving a 20-year term for incitement.
The crowd roared their approval, waving banners, flags and flashing V for victory signals. The launch of the political campaign also coincided with the opening of a new office for the CNRT, the political wing of the pro-independence faction.
The opening ceremony dwarfed the pro-autonomy rally which opened on Saturday on a dusty, wind-blown football oval attracting a mostly rent-a-crowd of not more than 800 supporters.
Among the guests at the CNRT rally was independence activist Manuel Carrascalao whose 18-year old son, Manuelito was murdered on April 17 by supporters of the pro-Indonesian Aitarak (Thorn) militia led by Eurico Guterres.
"Voter registration proceeded largely in a peaceful manner. It is my hope that the political campaign will also proceed in a peaceful manner," said United Nations Chief Electoral Officer for East Timor, Geoff Fischer.
Despite the festival like atmosphere at the campaign launch security was tight. An interpreter for the Reuters news agency was asked to leave after being identified as an intelligence agent for the Indonesian authorities.
"We've seen the Indonesians try and crush the will of the people. I've come here on my own free will. I am confident we will win," said one young man who identified himself as Chris, a 30-year old contractor from Dili.
East Timorese will vote in a UN-supervised referendum on August 30 that will offer a choice of either continuing autonomy under Indonesian rule or outright independence.
Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portugese colony, in 1975 and incorporated the half-island territory as its 27th province the following year - a move which was never recognised by the international community. dpa md ma