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Gusmao critical of action on freedom fighter benefits

Lusa - December 15, 2005

Dili – President Xanana Gusmco Thursday criticized the East Timorese government's decision to begin paying benefits to former guerrilla freedom fighters as premature and destined to provoke "more confusion".

Gusmco, speaking in parliament, said the government's move and the debate under way in the legislature on a veterans' benefit bill would "contribute to instability and more confusion".

He questioned the government's "criteria" and procedures in identifying the first group of independence war veterans that is to begin getting benefits this month.

The president, who commanded East Timor's anti-Indonesian fighters for many years before being captured and imprisoned in Jakarta, noted that one political party based on disaffected former guerrillas had already surfaced.

Other parties of the same sort could emerge, he cautioned, if the benefits issue was not dealt with properly.

The government of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri announced last month that the first 37 former fighters had been identified and would begin receiving veterans' benefits in December.

Parliament Speaker Francisco Guterres and Alkatiri were also scheduled to address parliament on the issue before a vote is taken.