Subject: Irish Times: Dili has biggest political rally in decades
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 08:37:05 EDT

Irish Times [Dublin] Thursday, August 26, 1999

Dili has biggest political rally in decades

By David Shanks, in Dili "Viva Xanana, Viva Falintil," chanted independence campaigners as their caravan of trucks toured the streets of what they hope will soon be a national capital. Journalists disagreed about the numbers but agreed it was the largest political rally Dili has seen since 1975.

It was a day of symbolism that started at 7 a.m. and went on into the late afternoon. Defiance of pro-Jakarta militias was the order of the day by campaigners for next Monday's "popular consultation" on autonomy.

Militia members kept a vigil in a street behind the offices of the National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT), where the rally started in Woodstock style. As the day went on it was like being among Sandinistas in the 1980s.

"Today is your day, take it in your hand," one of the songs said. A dozen sour-looking soldiers at the entrance to the Warrior Rifle Unit C 744 barracks, near the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) headquarters, watched them pass.

A year ago the speeches were in Bahasa, the Indonesian language, as well as Tetun, Timorese, but yesterday it was all Tetun. There was an appearance by Mr Matan Ruak, the commander of the FALINTIL guerrilla army in the absence of Mr Xanana Gusmao, who is under house arrest in Jakarta. The crowd heard a taperecorded speech from their leader, whose framed picture was held aloft.

Assuming victory, he yesterday announced in Jakarta an amnesty for "political crimes" to promote reconciliation. He called for an immediate end to violence. So did the UN Security Council in a statement rejecting calls to again postpone Monday's ballot.

According to Mr Manuel Carrascalao, a National Council for Timorese Resistance (CNRT) leader, UNAMET's presence in East Timor will be needed beyond next Monday's vote. But he supported also sending UN peacekeeping troops to East Timor to control the Indonesian military.

If the military was still here after the vote "there will be violence", said Mr Carrascalao, whose teenage son, Manuelito, was among 20 people shot dead by pro-Jakarta militia members last April during a visit by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews.

Mr Carrascalao claimed that what Indonesia called "special autonomy" was a lie. Really it was a continuation of integration. Then he interrupted the interview saying: "We can't go through [the street behind] because Aitarak [militia] are waiting for us."

Nearby there was a man with a bleeding head. In the street behind, which was blocked to traffic by riot police with plastic shields, a man wearing an FPDK baseball cap spoke of "our big commandant", Mr Eurico Guterres, leader of Aitarak (or Thorn). FPDK - United Front for East Timorese Autonomy - is the "political wing" of the autonomy or pro-integration campaign.

Yesterday the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project (IFET-OP) said it had written to the UN SecretaryGeneral saying that elements of the Indonesian security apparatus and pro-integration militias were "intimidating voters to such an extent as to throw into question the legitimacy of the ballot".

There were "persuasive and credible fears" that these forces would "launch a wave of terror around the time of the vote in an effort to derail the UN ballot," said IFET-OP, which has over 100 observers in 14 teams around the territory.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrews, left Dublin yesterday for East Timor in his role as the EU President's personal representative. He will lead a group of EU officials who will observe the referendum. Mr Andrews will spend his first few days in Jakarta and then travel to Dili.

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