Timor Loro Sae: “Barrel of gunpowder”

1996 Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo has declared that East Timor (Timor Loro Sae) is a “barrel of gunpowder”, as Xanana Gusmao is declared president and the election is denounced as a fraud by the other candidate, Xavier do Amaral.

Bishop Ximenes Belo has denounced the existence of 23,000 armed men who intend to concentrate in May to march on the capital city, Dili. On a tour of Portugal, he announced that “There are groups of FALINTIL (ex-guerrillas, fighting for the freedom of East Timor against Indonesia) which are organising themselves outside the auspices of the official entities”. He claimed that the international community is not paying sufficient attention to this phenomenon.

Bishop Belo added that 23,000 men are planning to concentrate in Aileu in May and will then march on Dili. He said, “It is necessary to speak to them and to see what they intend to do”. During the peace process, it was decided to integrate FALINTIL guerrilla fighters into the Armed Forces of Timor Loro Sae. Some 800 were integrated, while several hundreds were left out.

Many hundreds of young men who had worked for the FALINTIL as informers have now grouped themselves into alternative forces, spurred on by unemployment. Other discontented citizens have joined this movement, which does not augur well for the first days of Xanana Gusmao’s presidency. This is perhaps the main reason why he was so reluctant to accept to be a candidate in the first place.

Bishop Belo claims that one of the leaders of this movement is “L-7”, an ex-commander of the FALINTIL who had refused to hand over his arms to the UNO at the end of 2000. During the fight against the Indonesian occupation, “L-7” was a leader of an animist religious group, called the “Sacred Family”, which indulged in witchcraft and spells as a means of making Jakarta’s soldiers abandon the territory.

Bishop Belo adds, “There may be a barrel of gunpowder waiting to explode. We have to be very calm and the government and president have to speak to these people. First, we must make an internal reconciliation”.

Xanana Gusmao seems to have his work cut out if Timor Loro Sae is not to descend into the anarchy of 1975, which saw the Indonesian troops rolling over the frontiers. 25 years of genocide was to ensue, in which a third of the Maubere population was massacred.


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