Fwd: GLW EAST TIMOR: Fretilin conference plans for the future

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun May 28 07:02:27 MDT 2000

The following article is from the May 31st issue of Green Left Weekly:

EAST TIMOR: Fretilin conference plans for the future

>From May 15 to 20, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor
(Fretilin) held a conference in Dili, East Timor. It was the first Fretilin
conference in East Timor since the end of the Indonesian occupation.

Some 1250 delegates discussed and debated issues of the past, as well as
the future direction of Fretilin. “One of the main issues discussed was
what Fretilin's relationship should be with CPD-RDTL [Council for the
Popular Defence of the Proclamation of the Democratic Republic of East
Timor], a new organisation here in Timor, as well as with Falintil and CNRT
[National Council of Timorese Resistance]”, Fretilin representative Harold
Moucho told Green Left Weekly.

Moucho indicated that, for the time being, Fretilin sees itself remaining
within the CNRT structure. “As Fretilin reorganises, from the grass roots
all the way up to the leadership, this will strengthen both Fretilin's and
CNRT's position during the transitional period”, Moucho explained. “The
delegates at the conference see Fretilin as playing the role of the first
government in East Timor.”

The CPD-RDTL, which formed last year, calls for the re-establishment of the
Democratic Republic declared by Fretilin on November 28, 1975 (that
declaration was aimed at gaining international recognition for East Timor
as Indonesian military forces prepared to invade). This reflects a
widespread public sentiment in East Timor, including among current and
former Fretilin members, who were disheartened by Fretilin and other
independence forces' decision in the mid-1980s to “de-recognise” the 1975

The declaration of the republic was the theme of a speech to the Fretilin
conference by Avelino da Silva, secretary-general of the Timorese Socialist
Party (PST). Da Silva told Green Left Weekly: “The message the PST brought
to the conference was, first, it is important for Fretilin to define its
position on issues like the proclamation of independence and the
establishment of the Democratic Republic. Secondly, Fretilin is faced with
the decision of whether to remain a front or become a party.”

Moucho said that a lot of the conference time was spent on reconciliation
within Fretilin. “We haven't had a chance to have this type of meeting in
East Timor before, so it was necessary to get all the cadres together,
discuss different issues and problems, and try to resolve them.”

The discussion about reconciliation included recognition by the Fretilin
leadership that acts of retribution were carried out by Fretilin members
against political opponents in the aftermath of the civil war in August
1975. The violence and pressure of the early years of the Indonesian
occupation also resulted in “revolutionary justice” being meted out against
those suspected of undermining the independence struggle or collaborating
with the Indonesian military.

Another sensitive issue raised at the conference was language. “There was a
lot of participation from young delegates who were very concerned about
Portuguese being chosen as the official language”, explained Moucho.
“Fretilin's position at the moment is that Portuguese should be the
official language, but we have also made it clear that programs should be
established to modernise and develop Tetum, and that Indonesian should
still be used in education and government departments.”

Moucho stressed that the main perspective coming out of the conference was
the reorganisation of Fretilin and its associated organisations. “From the
village level up to the national level, we are going to develop our mass
organisations, including women's and youth organisations. Political
education programs will be organised in all areas of East Timor, involving
the dissemination of the Fretilin political program.”

Before the election of the new government, Moucho said, “Fretilin will be
campaigning around the policies in the political program”. He added that
the 1998 program (a more moderate program than the one it replaced) will
need new policies, “because when the program was finished in 1998, it was
dealing with an East Timor that was still under Indonesian occupation. New
policies are needed for youth and women's issues in particular.”

The other key task that delegates discussed was preparing for the election
of a new Fretilin leadership. “A special commission will be established to
organise a congress, which will probably be held in the first three months
of next year. A new central committee and national leadership will be
elected at the congress”, Moucho told Green Left Weekly. “ The main concern
for us is to be able to gather around all the cadres to make sure the
structures are functioning, so that everyone can participate in the process
of preparing for the congress.”


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