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Rebel commander supports Xanana's views

BBC World News - January 11, 1999

[The following is the text of a report by Portuguese radio on January 8.]

The Timorese resistance has put an end to the controversy over a letter from a commander who accused Xanana Gusmao [jailed Timorese resistance leader] of treason. In an interview today with RDP international [this station], the guerrilla leader, Taur Matan Ruak, reiterated his complete loyalty to Xanana. He said that the position of the Falintil's [East Timor National Liberation Armed Forces] number two did not reflect the position of the resistance. In a letter, revealed by the Socialist Party of Timor, Commander Lere said that Xanana had betrayed his brothers-in-arms by advocating a special autonomy for the territory within Indonesia. But today Taur Matan Ruak denies any change in the resistance's stance.

[Ruak] It is Commander Lere's personal position and it does not reflect the position of the army [guerrilla movement]. We have always, from the outset, fought under the leadership of Commander Xanana Gusmao and we respect and support him fully. I know Commander Lere very well. He said [changes thought], in fact about a month ago he spoke to me, asked me what would be our position if Commander Lere - sorry Commander Xanana - voiced opinions which did not reflect the aspirations of our people, and I told him, I told him that Commander Xanana had always been respected by our people. And in difficult situations he had led us here and it would not be now that he would bow before the Indonesians. [End of recording]

As for the autonomy transition period, Taur Matan Ruak said this was a matter for the negotiations between Portugal and Indonesia.

[Ruak] Everything will be discussed at the negotiating table, so I do not want to say any more. But in principle I accept totally Commander Xanana Gusmao's opinions. [End of recording]

In the interview, Taur Matan Ruak also said that Indonesia was strengthening its military presence in the territory: another six battalions, about 3,000 men, have arrived since Christmas.

[Ruak] From 23rd December until 4th January a total of six battalions have arrived. Three landed in (Laga?) and three others landed here near Dili. It is difficult to find their (location?) but they include the 144th, 145th battalions, [word indistinct] group five and three other battalions whose number and composition we do not know yet.