September 1999: Gusmao moves to Darwin ready for return
Gusmao, leader of East Timor's pro-independence movement,
left Indonesia for Darwin in northern Australia at the weekend
to prepare for a return to his homeland.
Gusmao, who may well become East Timor's first president,
is expected to make Darwin the headquarters-in-exile of CNRT,
an umbrella organisation of pro-independence groups and the
Fretilin resistance movement he has headed for years.
move returns Mr Gusmao to the limelight after years of detention
that had left him marginalised. He was released from house
arrest this month and had stayed at the British embassy in
his last interview in Indonesia, Mr Gusmao said little about
his plans for a transitional government but called for rapid
deployment of international troops and relief for the 150,000
East Timorese in camps in West Timor, more than 60,000 hiding
in the mountains of East Timor and thousands scattered across
day of delay can cause more destruction and more dead from
disease and starvation," Mr Gusmao said.
said his commanders in East Timor had told him the Indonesian
military appeared to be concentrating on the northern coast,
which supports Indonesian claims that the soldiers are being
withdrawn to West Timor and other parts of Indonesia. But
Mr Gusmao said many towns were still under Indonesian military
control and accused troops of shelling refugees in their hide-outs
in the hills.
Gusmao's detention in Jakarta since 1992 has turned him into
a very cautious, diplomatic politician. He was sometimes too
diplomatic for his own commanders, whom he kept under orders
to refrain from attacking soldiers even as they deported and
killed thousands of Timorese. Mr Gusmao indicated he felt
the military, who far outnumber the guerrillas, would seize
on any attack to launch a massive offensive and delay their
we want to reply immediately it causes more suffering, more
dead," he said. "This decision is a political decision, a
strategic decision." His has been a strategy of public relations,
also, in which his CNRT has managed to keep the moral highground
by abstaining from violence, pledging to tolerate its opponents
and sounding a tone of compromise with Indonesia. Similarly,
Mr Gusmao was loath to criticise the United Nations for pushing
ahead with the independence referendum even though it led
the military and affiliated local militias to massacre many
of his people.
accept every sacrifice," he said. "If there had been a delay
it would be the same, unless we faced a democratic government
in Indonesia without (an active political role of the military).
We just feel sad because we are unable to avoid it but we
never regret it. We cry but we never regret it."
(C) Financial Times Ltd, 1982-1997