BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor  home February news

"As your [Falintil's] former companion who shared the same difficulties in the mountains, who failed in leading you while we were reduced to less than one hundred men where as under the clear leadership of your Commander, Taur Matan Ruak, who enabled you to become an army of over one thousand five hundred soldiers  I can only but express here, today, my admiration for the spirit of self-sacrifice that you showed by bearing yet another year of hardship in Aileu." Xanana Gusmao, President, CNRT/CN

CNRT/Congresso Nacional Presidência


1 February 2001, Aileu

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Sérgio Vieira de Mello

PKF Commander, Lieutenant-General Nuimpradit Boonsrang

Ambassadors and Diplomatic Representatives

Our friend Sarah Cliffe, World Bank Representative

Reverend Bishop D. Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo

Members of the Cabinet of the East Timor Transitional Administration

Distinguished Members of the National Council

Vice-President of the CNRT/CN, Mr. Mário Viegas Carrascalão

Presidents of the Political Parties and Members of the CNRT/CN Permanent Council

Dear Brothers, valiant cadres of the CNRT/CN

Mr. Roque Rodrigues, CNRT/CN member in charge of Defence Issues

FALINTIL Commander-in-Chief, Taur Matan Ruak

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Commanders and Guerrilla Soldiers!

I greet you, fighters of our Homeland, I greet you, guerrilla soldiers of the mountains of East Timor!

I will not address a speech paying tribute to you, because I know that you are tired of the many compliments made on the noble and fundamental role that you played during the extremely difficult years of the armed struggle. We remember the meetings we had here in Aileu, to solve your problems and to speak about the future of FALINTIL.

Today is a special day for our Homeland and for the People; today is a special day for FALINTIL! We have come a long and difficult way, on our own, until we achieved recognition of FALINTIL’s status. Now, that FALINTIL is preparing itself to face the future realistically and modestly, some weak and orthodox-minded people, speaking a lot but with nothing to offer, appear and wish to exert political influence over FALINTIL.

The whole liberation process in East Timor has followed and should follow the path of innovation and transformation because this progress demands that we overcome any psychological and political obstacles which still reside in our minds, that are unable to break with the past so that tomorrow maybe different from yesterday’s adventures. Unfortunately, today there are still those who threaten the people with reprisals from FALINTIL if they do not join a given political party. This is completely unacceptable especially when we are talking so often of freedom ... in organising the People at the grassroots.

We recall the unique decision, of great political impact, to make FALINTIL a non-partisan army in December 1987. Some in the bush never even noticed the change because they were weak and lived under the constant protection of the guerrilla fighters; others, living abroad appeared only in East Timor after the violence of September 1999, using the CNRT name. The new Armed Forces of East Timor, about to begin training, are in the eyes of our People and of the International Community an army aware of its responsibility before the Rule of Law, which is what we are currently establishing. The fundamentals freedoms of individuals and of society inherent in the principle Rule of Law will act as the guarantee of a multiparty democratic system. Your magnificent experiences of the resistance period, surpassing all and every party and factional dispute, is the cornerstone of the trust that the people and society of East Timor bestow upon you.

This trust is the ‘symbolic capital’ that you have and you should always honour it in any circumstance!

When the political parties take up governance we will demand that due tribute is paid to all those who were killed during the war and that assistance is rendered to the widows, orphans, war veterans and those handicapped as a consequence of the war.

As your former companion who shared the same difficulties in the mountains, who failed in leading you while we were reduced to less than one hundred men where as under the clear leadership of your Commander, Taur Matan Ruak, who enabled you to become an army of over one thousand five hundred soldiers  I can only but express here, today, my admiration for the spirit of self-sacrifice that you showed by bearing yet another year of hardship in Aileu.

The reconstruction period is difficult and as you all know. Still as President of the moribund CNRT (I know many of you will be pleased to hear the expression ‘moribund’) I must, on behalf of the People of East Timor, express our gratitude to the donor countries which promptly assisted the establishment of the new East Timor Defence Force, in particular Portugal and Australia. Our appreciation is also due to King’s College for the valuable study they committed themselves to carry out which facilitated the
recognition of the needs our country.

We express a special word of gratitude to the UN Secretary-General, Dr. Kofi Annan who promptly understood the situation and responded positively to our demands. To Sérgio Vieira de Mello we express our enormous appreciation for his unwavering support to FALINTIL and General Mike Smith who, from the very first moment, shared our concerns.

We also wish to express our sincere gratitude to the World Bank. Since October 1999, the World Bank, together with IOM and USAID, has shown its will to support the demobilised FALINTIL soldiers.

Finally, to the NGOs, to the Humanitarian Agencies, individuals and solidarity groups, to UNTAET, to the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Guterres, our profound gratitude for the support rendered to FALINTIL and for providing for the subsistence of the guerrilla soldiers over the last year.

Commanders and Guerrilla soldiers,

To all those who, for different reasons, did not wish to or could not join the new East Timor Defence Force, I can only but urge you to understand the difficulties our process faces. You know that IOM and the World Bank will assist you.

I wish to use this opportunity to inform you that, since 1990, UGT (General Workers Union) of Portugal made a donation to our guerrilla fighters and that this money has never been used. During my most recent visit to Portugal I had a meeting with Mr. Rui Oliveira de Costa and Mr. Álvaro Beleza, UGT representatives, who informed me that the funds together with the accrued interest rate since it was raised had now reached the sum of USD$ 208, 000. I told them that this sum will be of great help to create a micro-credit scheme for war veterans thus guaranteeing a more dignified future to the men and women who gave their very best to the struggle.

Therefore, I wish to inform you that a small team of 5 to 7 people will be established to manage the scheme. Because this is not a very big sum, the initial assistance will be granted mostly to the elderly and the handicapped. The support to be provided by the World Bank and IOM will be of crucial importance to solve many of the problems which will continue until the independent state of East Timor is capable of adopting a serious policy on this issue.

In ending this chapter on FALINTIL’s participation in the struggle, keeping the resistance flame burning during the difficult years, I wish to address a few more words as a man who was never a good guerrilla fighter and who never intended, nor intends, to be a politician.

I wish to raise an issue here so that everyone, in the country and abroad, may have time to think about it in an objective way, so that any doubts that may still exist will be dissipated. I will raise this issue because there are still some people who think I am playing obscure political games or that I am misleading the international community.

During the most difficult period of the resistance struggle, when our faith in victory was at its lowest, I made an oath to those who had been killed and before the handful of men who believed in me, that I would never accept any reward for I was only working in the service of an ideal shared by us all, nor would I ever foster ambition for an office or position, for I was not struggling for that reason. I hereby declare that I will abide by this sacred oath made to the guerrilla fighters, to those who died and to those who survived and that I will keep the promise recently made to the CNRT/CN cadres!

My capacity was only that of keeping myself lucid enough to understand what my role is. The virtues often mentioned about me are untrue. I am not what so many think of me; I am not the hero and least of all the capable person you depict.

The Commanders present here today and those who died during the war are the true heroes. The structure of the Clandestine Network was the intelligent and astute central cog in the machine of the struggle; they became masters in the art of waging guerrilla warfare while living side by side with the enemy.

My political leadership duties in the resistance ended with the CNRT Congress. I and other illiterate cadres of the CNRT still respect our moral duty to stand along side the People, to educate them so that they become the genuine actor in this current process but this commitment will only last until the first elections in East Timor.

The country needs new leaders, new blood and new vigour.

My capacity is extremely limited and I urge you all not to overvalue attributes that I do not even possess. I am and will continue to be aware of my responsibility as a common citizen, equal to every other citizen, and will not change in my decision to not participate in the future political life of the country.

It is time to change our mentality at all levels and I truly wish to contribute to this change.

I urge the International Community to assist the People of East Timor by believing in the political system we are about to build and to believe in the determination of these people to overcome the most difficult obstacles. To the dear and thousand times heroic People of East Timor, I urge you to trust your most capable sons and daughters and, above all, to believe in your own will, to believe in the democratic system we will establish and consolidate together, to believe in this future which will be a difficult experience to go through but I believe it will be a future of smiles.

To all those who are about to enter the East Timor Defence Force: I wish you every success in your mission. You will need to be true professionals in the independent East Timor but you will also need to develop a greater military capacity to protect our population from threats to destabilise the country.

To you who will leave FALINTIL: I urge you to look towards the future with courage, the same courage you showed when, during the war, you faced the new year without ever knowing when it would all be over. You will be kept in the memory of our People, you will be part of our oral tradition and that is worth more than any material reward. I will always be with you ... as the companions we have always been, and continue sharing our own stories.

Viva the Most Glorious FALINTIL! Viva the new EAST TIMOR DEFENCE FORCE!

Aileu, 1st February 2001.

President of the CNRT/CN

See Also:

Feb 1 Taur Matan Ruak: Speech at Falintil transition ceremony  Speech
"Our final words are reserved to express our deepest and most respectful tribute to the People of East Timor: for their determination and their steadfastness which motivated us; for the love that you always gave in feeding us, nursing us and encouraging us; for the heroism in resisting which inspired us; and for teaching us to be humble and to fulfil our duty to defend our Homeland." Commander Taur Matan Ruak, Falintil

Jan 1 CNRT: Xanana's New Year's Message
Dec 25 CNRT: Mary Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Dec 5-6 CNRT/CNP: Brussels donor's meeting - opening speech by the CNRT's rep
Dec 5 XG: President Xanana Gusmao open letter to East Timorese
Dec 2 CNRT/NC: Xanana's Resignation Denied
Nov 11 2000 & Oct 1990 RN: Xanana Gusmao interviews

National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT)
The CNRT was established as the peak body of the East Timorese people's resistance to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Its members are drawn from all walks of life and political viewpoints, including the major political parties. Now that Indonesia has left and the administration of East Timor is being taken over by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), CNRT is restructuring itself to play a new role. This involves moving from opposition to proposition and the facilitation of transition to self-government and independence. See: Nov 1999 The CNRT in Transition & Aug 2000 CNRT National Congress: Draft resolution on human rights

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