Subject: SMH: Respect Gusmao, general tells ex-soldiers

Sydney Morning Herald March 3, 2001

Respect Gusmao, general tells ex-soldiers


An Indonesian Army commander has told a group of East Timorese who served with the Indonesian military they should renounce violence and return to East Timor respecting the new independent nation's leadership.

Major-General Wilhelm da Costa, eastern region (Udayana) commander, told returned former soldiers they should now obey the East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao, who spent more than two decades either waging a guerilla war against Indonesia's occupation of East Timor or in Indonesian prisons.

The soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians aligned with Jakarta fled or were forced to leave the former Indonesian province after the bloody UN referendum of 1999 which gave East Timor its independence.

"There should be no more revenge," General da Costa said. "We are brothers. It makes sense to go back. Xanana is a very good man. That's why I did not kill him when he was caught.

"Now God has blessed him as the new leader so please obey him."

General da Costa's speech was notable for its emphasis on reconciliation between East Timorese supporters of independence and former supporters of integration with Indonesia.

He told 40 demobilised Indonesian soldiers of Timorese descent who were heading home yesterday that Indonesia and East Timor were in the process of normalising relations, and he predicted it would not be long before people on both sides of the border could cross freely.

Despite General da Costa's reconciliatory comments, officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said intimidation in the camps was virtually unchecked.

Many refugees returning to East Timor have friends and relatives on the other half of the island in West Timor but are concerned that once they leave the Indonesian side they will not be able to return.

Meanwhile, the International Organisation for Migration said yesterday that more than 700 refugees, including 240 former soldiers and their families, had registered for repatriation.

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