Subject: SMH/E.Timor: Renegade party denies plot to kill Gusmao

Sydney Morning Herald March 10, 2001

Renegade party denies plot to kill Gusmao

By Mark Dodd, Herald Correspondent in Dili, and agencies

A small political party that claims allegiance to East Timor's first short-lived independent government has emerged as a thorn in the side of the United Nations administration and the country's main political grouping.

The party gained international attention this week with allegations that members were linked to a plot to assassinate independence leader Mr Xanana Gusmao - allegations yet to be substantiated and which the party strongly denies.

While it is difficult to gauge its support, the RDTL party has sought to exploit widespread local disenchantment, particularly among the young, with the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

The RDTL is the Portuguese acronym for the Democratic Republic of East Timor, proclaimed by the Fretilin party on November 28, 1975, nine days before the Indonesian invasion.

In recent months it has emerged as a major irritant of the UNTAET and the main pro-independence grouping, the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), which RDTL refuses to join.

"Our aim is to defend the republic," said Mr Cristiano da Costa, a senior RDTL official. "My point of view is the November 28 proclamation is still legitimate. We have a serious disagreement with the CNRT on policy matters."

Mr da Costa, who holds a political science degree from the University of NSW, strongly rejected CNRT allegations that the party has links to pro-Indonesian sources and plotted Mr Gusmao's assassination. Instead, he accused Mr Gusmao of seeking to discredit the party because he sees it as a political threat.

"These allegations and accusations launched by CNRT and other leaders are a complete manipulation of the facts. I do not have any relations with Indonesian generals - if I do, please name them," he said.

He said he was jailed and beaten by Indonesian forces in the 1980s.

Mr da Costa said UNTAET was a destabilising influence that had failed to address pressing social issues, including widespread youth unemployment.

RDTL has won strong youth support for its opposition to the demobilisation of the Falintil guerilla force and its transformation into the East Timor Defence Force.

This opposition is recognised by Mr Gusmao, who on Wednesday attended a meeting of students in Dili to explain why East Timor no longer needed a guerilla resistance but a regular defence force recognised by the international community. It was at the meeting that three RDTL activists were arrested, amid allegations of a plot to kill Mr Gusmao.

UN police are yet to press conspiracy charges against the three, who were scheduled to appear in court on lesser charges yesterday.

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