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CNRT accused of violence

Australian Associated Press - February 16, 2000

Canberra – East Timor's main political organisation, the National Council for East Timorese Resistance (CNRT), was attacking some of the people it had fought to protect, it was reported today.

Evidence had also emerged that the CNRT was acting as a de facto government in defiance of the United Nations mandate to administer the former Indonesian territory's move to independence, according to an SBS TV report.

Jean Christian Cady, a spokesman for the UN's administrative force in East Timor (UNTAET), said the CNRT was playing a big role in how East Timor was being run. "We are in constant contact with the CNRT in order to make the measures that we are proposing approved by the largest majority of the East Timorese population," he told SBS.

But the CNRT had been accused of stand-over tactics and violence against its own people. Interfet chief of staff Colonel Bruce Armstrong said violence was often being wrongly blamed on militias.

"It seems to be quite common that whenever there is any disagreement between the East Timorese, one will say, 'he is militia'," Col Armstrong said. "And then we investigate it turns they had nothing to do with the militia."

Humanitarian worker Alexandre Pires, just returned from Atabai, about 100km west of Dili, said refugees crossing back from West Timor were being targeted by CNRT. "They are terrified to talk," he said. "The local Atabai police will beat them and possibly kill them. I know, because I am from Atabai and because of my work."

Human rights activist Joaquim Fonseca said some CNRT bosses, like the militias, must be brought to justice. "It is regrettable that at this stage the CNRT is acting in contravention to the principle they have defended for years," he said.

There were reports of CNRT officers ordering the confiscation of personal assets for what they described as state work. Such an order would directly contravene the UN's mandate to govern the country. CNRT chief and independence fighter Xanana Gusmao said he was not aware of any such orders. "If they are ... hurting people, confiscating buildings or cars, I will take action." Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo said he was concerned about the CNRT's actions. "I've had meetings with young people, with different groups in the church and we talk openly about this," he said.