The death by accident of the Commander of FALINTIL - National Armed Forces of East Timor - NINO KONIS SANTANA, on 11 March 1998, in Ainaro, constitutes a tragic loss for the People of East Timor.

NINO KONIS SANTANA was born in Lospalos, 39 years ago. A leader of UNETIM (East Timorese Students' Organisation) until 1975, associated with FRETILIN. Konis Santana worked as a schoolteacher in a village in that same region before the invasion. He was a member of the Commission, which prepared, in 1974, the electoral process in Lospalos. After the Indonesian invasion and occupation he left for the mountains and was appointed assistant to the Lospalos Military Region. In 1981, after the dismantling of the Base Camps he was appointed member of the Liaison Group led by Xanana Gusmão. In the beginning of 1992, after Mau Hodu was captured, he was appointed Political Assistant to Xanana Gusmão. With the capture of Xanana Gusmão, in November 1992, NINO KONIS SANTANA is appointed member of the Military Political Committee headed by Ma'Huno. In 1993, after Ma'Huno was captured by the occupant forces, NINO KONIS SANTANA became the operational Commander of FALINTIL and re-organised the Resistance by establishing the Executive Council of the Armed Struggle and of the Clandestine Front, which co-ordinates all the Resistance's activity inside the territory. NINO KONIS SANTANA was Secretary of the Directive Committee of FRETILIN.

NINO KONIS SANTANA was not only leader of the armed wing of the Resistance together with Xanana Gusmão but also an architect of East Timorese National Unity, reconciliation and tolerance.

He worked tirelessly forging national consensus and unity. Although he was the operational leader of FALINTIL, NINO KONIS SANTANA was also a peacemaker, a diplomat and statesman.

He was acutely aware of the international dimension of the East Timorese struggle and was always fully aware and kept abreast of international developments. As one of his closest comrades and representative abroad, I was always impressed by the clarity of his thinking, intellect and vision.

NINO KONIS SANTANA was always an unconditional supporter of the three-phased CNRM Peace Initiative.

The Peace Initiative was presented to the European Parliament Sub-Committee on Human Rights in 1993 and aimed at assisting the UN Secretary General to find a solution to the East Timor conflict. In its first phase, the Resistance proposes the withdrawal of the occupant's military presence in East Timor and several measures to ensure the respect for human rights in the territory. The second phase prepares the conditions for the East Timorese to establish its autonomous political and social structures and, finally, a referendum on self-determination would be held in the third phase.

His death prompts us to renew our determination to pursue this noble combat for Peace and Freedom in every front with every legitimate means available to us.

I reiterate my personal commitment and determination to seek a peaceful end, based on the respect for the right of the People of East Timor to self-determination as well as understanding Indonesia's national interest and pride.

As Indonesia faces the most serious economic, financial and political crisis in the 32 years of the regime, I hope that those in power in Jakarta realise that now there is a window of opportunity for Indonesia to cut its losses and withdraw from East Timor with honour and dignity.

We will all honour the memory and legacy of NINO KONIS SANTANA who will inspire us to forge ahead until Peace and Freedom are brought our Motherland: EAST TIMOR.

José Ramos-Horta
Special Representative of the CNRM
Personal Representative of Xanana Gusmão
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Lisbon, 30 March 1998

For any further information please contact:
Roque Rodrigues
East Timorese Resistance Representative in Portugal
Phone: + 351 - 1 - 886 37 27
Fax: + 351 - 1 - 886 37 91
Mobile: + 351 - 936 2812230
E-mail: np98g@mail.telepac.pt