10.1 - RESISTANCE ‘ A Childhood Fighting for East Timor...

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Unformatted text preview: RESISTANCE ‘ A Childhood Fighting for East Timor a. NALDO REI n 19‘8 _ RESISTANCE with cars set on fire, buildings alight and many bloody casualties. Indonesian military forces from different provinces were concen- trated inside Jakarta to handle the demonstrators but the people were no longer intimidated. ‘Bring down Soeharto! Democracy or Death!‘ read their banners and was their slogan on long marches. Tanks and other. military war equipment were brought out to block— ade the demonstrators but they were unstoppable. In the thirty—two years since Soeharto had come to power more than two million of his own people had been killed, mostly of Chinese background, plus more than 200,000 East Timorese. His time for judgement had arrived. In May 1998 Soeharto fell and was replaced by the vice president,- Habibie. In early 1999, Habibie announced that Indonesia was prepared to hold a referendum to determine whether the people of East Timor wanted to remain part of Indonesia or become independent. It was the only chance East Timor had, but we knew freedom would come at a high price. Before they withdrew they would destroy our country. In an interview with the Australian newspaper in May 1999 after Habibie’s announcement, I predicted that Indonesia could never win the ballot so the Indonesian army . would give guns to those East Timorese who were pro-integration to kill their own brothers and sisters. Soeharto was gone but his people remained in control of the government. Killing was still, in their minds, the best way to get what they wanted. Roughly 10 per cent of East Timorese had been cooperating with Indonesian rule to make a living. The Indonesian regime also created another element within East Timor, the militia. They were drawn from these local sympathisers, West Timorese and other Melanesian minority groups, who were then inculcated into extremely violent behaviour through brutalisation and drugs. They were also paid high amounts of money, which they did not realise until later was fake. The militia would be the new Indonesian weapon. CHANGES IN_ INDONESIA 199 The day after Indonesian Independence Day on 17 August 1999, the ‘Dialogues‘ Campaign’ began in East Timor. On the first day the two groups, pro-independence and pro-integration with Indonesia, campaigned together with no violence, as had been agreed. The next day the pro-Indonesian group began campaigning around the whole of East Timor. Using millions of dollars provided by the Indonesian government, the pro-integration {euphemistically called ‘pro—autonomy’) movement forced people to attend rallies under threat of violence. Many villagers had flocked into Dili for the campaign period despite militia blockades to keep them out and the capturing of truckloads of villagers who were ‘disappeared’. When pro-independence started to campaign many people turned up with their Fretilin banner claiming ‘Independencin on Morte’ (‘Independence or Death’). Then the Indonesian government realised that pro-independence would be hard to defeat so the army started handing out guns to the pro-autonomy militia to kill their own people. Eurico Guterres, the leader of the Aitarak militia, announced, ‘Whoever is against proLauton'omy, just shoot them. In East Timor power is in my hands.’ He had been an Indonesian prisoner and badly beaten, and had witnessed his own family shot in front of him as a child. But as an adult he had developed a serious gambling problem and the regime was able to use financial means to win him over. I do not know how much money the Indonesian government gave him but his patriotism vanished. The power they gave him led Guterres to become a ruthless killer and he became a savage dog, mad with power, attacking anyone. For almost three months ABRI saturated the country with their propaganda. The Indonesian army instructed people to shout out ‘Viva red and white flag! Viva Republic of indon esia’ and everybody imitated and raised a clenched fist. They ran three practice elections and each time 100 per cent of the Matthew pe0ple voted for integration. During the election training period the indonesian army 200 ' RESISTANCE provided food and drink and first aid, and served the population well. My contacts told me this training was covered extensively by the media in Indonesia as ‘teaching East Timorese how to vote’. In my town, Lospalos, people were also instructed by ABRI. ‘Everybody has to vote for the red and white flag for autonomy, okay? Like the rest of East Timor, around 30 per cent of the people were illiterate but they knew the colours of the flags. The Paljntil flag is mainly the red of the struggle with a left—hand black-border under the white star of peace. Fretilin, the word, dominates the yellow stripe that represents colonialism. ‘This is our flag,’ they said in their hearts, ‘the flag of the guerrillas who have fOught for our freedom.’ In Lospalos nearly 75 per cent of the women were widows because their husbands had been killed by the Indonesian army, most when going about their ordinary lives but some dying in the jungle as guerrilla fighters. They remained unimpressed when, as the referendum drew nearer, the Indonesians began making promises to them if they voted for integration. Based on the cooperation shown during the practice elec- tions, ABRI was confident that in the referendum 100 per cent of people would vote for ‘autonomy’ and to remain part of Indonesia. They informed Jakarta that it was time for the referendum to be held because pro—independence had no chance of winning. 80 the Indonesian government announced they were prepared to accept the results of the referendum. The arrogance and racism of the Indonesian government and army made them blind. East Timorese had learnt much from their years of suffering and could not be manipulated so easily. - The Maubere people knew what to do and-which flag we would vote for. We wanted freedom from the tyrant and would remember our loved ones by voting on the real choice, ‘independence or death’. The martyrs, the sacred land, the rocks and the trees rose up to join us in the.vote for independence. This was our last chance for life. CHANGES IN INDONESIA 201 Mun txau wele, hora txau weIe, txal pal ihumam ini hompe tu ina tahi tali ciale apur ha! efai. The land, the rocks, the spirit of our ancestors join with us to fight against the colonialists. Mua txau wele, hora txauwele im’ hiui, inn utim porolcen lese, inm hia nau mi The land, the rock is ours; we Struggle until in the end we die. This was our pledge in Fataluku to the land of East Timor. From Australia I watched in horror as what I had predicted played out on the TV news. The killing started before the vote. The militia were threatening people that if they did not vote for ‘autonorny’ the country would be destroyed and all pro—independence voters slaughtered. I felt helpless, powerless, so far from my people at this critical time. Sleep became impossible. I received a call from my brother Ioaozito who spoke to me, in the traditional Fataiuku way of saying a final farewell, with a prediction about the future. ‘Puto, maybe you and Bere are the only ones in our family who will survive this war. When you come back to a free East Timor there will be no-one in our family alive to welcome you, but you will tell the whole story to your kids. When you come to Iralafai there will be only wild animals still surviving. The birds will whistle at you and the rooster will crow on top of the harm trees to welcome you back, my brother. When you come, please visit all our family graves. Now the militias and the Indonesian army forces surround us. You take care of yourself and stay healthy.’ And he rang off. I kept saying ‘hello, hello, hello’ but there was silence like the grave. CHAPTER 32 After the referendum I caught a train into the city and tried to calm myself by walking around the green oasis of the Sydney'Botanical Gardens. On the. harbour the boats and ferries were gliding peacefully in front of me but the anger and frustration in my head was like a bomb about to explode. I was so far from home. I wished I could sprout wings like a bird to fly to East Timor to see my mum, my brothers, mysisters and all my relatives before they died. For many years I had not seen any of them. Both of my grandmothers had died while I was in-prison in 1993 and I did not know until I was released. They are. still in my longing, in my memory, iri‘my love. Iralafai, the village where I was born, is only five hours from Dili but I had not been able to go back home to see any of the living or the dead for nearly fifteen years. | ‘ People thought I did not have a family. The war had completely changed my life and I had become part of a different kind of family. People who were the same age as my mum and my dad, I called my parents. 'Older or younger than me, I called my brothers and sisters. This was painful for my mum when she heard it, but she had to accept it even though it broke her heart. I did it because I-missed her, my brothers and my sisters. I loved the people who looked after me, who Worked hard to keep me alive. In Australia also had no AFTER THE REFERENDUM 203 blood relatives and the family who looked after me were people I knew in the struggle for an independent East Timor. 7 I had written my mother a letter when I was in Dili, but the young man I gave it to, lose, gave it to Indonesian Intelligence instead, which meant she was targeted by them. This is the second letter that I wrote to my mum, on the PRD computer, just before I left for Australia. It was smuggled to her from Indonesia by Xanana's courier, Sico Dias. I had not been able to be with her since I was nine and alWays worried about her safety and health. From my place of hiding, 20 April 1997. To my dear mother, Hello and a warm hug for my beloved mother. May God bless every step-of our struggle. -' Mother, it has been a long time since I heard your voice and saw your face. I don’t know how long, it cannot be measured. I hope that you always pray that I return again to rest in your embrace, because I hope for the same. I want to be always beside you and my l family in my beloved country... ' When Iwas still living with you, you appeared happy and healthy and your face was always shining, but when my father was killed, your face became pale and twisted. I have received news from a friend that'your hair now has white in it, and you are often ill. I am worried about your health. Since I left you, I have had many experiences that I have stored away and hope one day to be able ' to tell you, but will that be possible? I have gained many lessons from you, mother, which I used when I was in the jungle. Mother, you always taught me love and peace. I still remember this. When ‘ABRI murdered my father and my comrades and family, you said to me ‘Cbild, continue the struggle’. I have to follow my father’s footsteps. 204 RESISTANCE Now I realise, mother, that defending those who are oppressed and whose rights have been stolen is not an easy task, and even more so, surrendering my soul for my people. Mother, I have studied much about these issues, and this is what has separated me from you and my brothers and sisters. I know that they also heard news that I had been murdered by ABRI. But I have risen again, mother, so please tell them that I am still alive and that I live to struggle against the Soeharto regime. ABRI’S behaviour is barbaric, especially when they come to our house, asking after my whereabouts. They want to I force you to point out my hiding place. Mother, if they come again, tell them that I will never forget the torture that they have inflicted upon me. One dayl will return to East Timor, bringing victory for the Maubere people. i A Mother, I am in a healthy condition in this hiding place of mine and I now have many friends. They love and care about me very much, in the same way as you did,‘ mother, when I was a child. They have become like my own brothers and sisters, and the older ones are like my own mother and father. I realise this may be difficult for you to accept, but it is something thatI have been forced to do to comfort-myself, and maybe one day I will be able to explain this to you, mother, when the newdawn has come. I am certain that you will he able‘to understand, mother, and forgive me, your child that always makes you suffer. -I hope that you will always pray for me. I will try to keep in touch. Motherland or Death! The Struggle Continues! To Resist is to Win! Regards in the struggle, and a warm hug for you mother. From your child in his place of hiding. Ratumimiraka. AFTER THE REFERENDUM 205 I sat under one of the spreading Moreton Bay fig trees in the Gardens, remembering the time I was in Lospalos for clandestine work, hiding inside a house, when I peeked through a gap in the bamboo walls. There was my mum, her woven bag dangling from her shoulder, and my uncle Lamberto, carrying a big white rooster in the crook of his arm. It was Sunday and they were heading for the markets. ‘Nulul’ (‘Muml’) I called silently to her sad face, a sharp pain stabbing my heart. My mum was so close, only 2 metres away, but I could not talk to her or touch her. I watched their every step until they disappeared from sight. ‘This is war,’ I told my heart grimly. Time moved fast as I paced around the Gardens, the day slipping away behind the Harbour Bridge to make space for the night. At midnight, back in my room in Cabramatta, my eyes were still open. I could not sleep for worry and stress. Three years I had been living here in kangaroo country, I told myself. but nothing had changed. Although I had a TPV (Temporary Protection Visa) the government would not recognise my refugee status. I had no hope, no future. My country was invaded, my people were being massacred. Could the people, in the face of such threat, take up this last chance to vote for independence? The result was announced on 4 September 1999. The independ- ence movement won the referendum with an overwhelming 78.8 per cent. My comrades and I were jubilant but at the same time my heart was heavy with foreboding, knowing that retribution would follow swiftly. The land of Timor would be set on fire and burned, the clouds would'be full of ashes and the people would live in terror. The media in Australia was covering what was happening in East Timor and I was constantly receiving phone calls from Dili. I left my studies to help lead the rallies to pressure the Australian government I into intervening in East Timor. It is impossible to study when your people are being slaughtered. In the rallies organised over that period 206 ‘ RESISTANCE thousands of people came to demand that the Australian army be sent to EastTimor to help. The Prime Minister, John Howard, said ‘We trust-the Indonesian security so'everything will be okay!’ I thought Mr Howard must be blind if he did not see what was happening in East Timor with the militias burning all the houses and killing the people, as the rest of the world could see daily on their television. It was exactly the same blindness that Australia showed when it accepted the denial of Ali Alatas, the former Indonesian Foreign Minister, that no—one had died on 12 November 1991 at Santa Cruz cemetery. After pressure from the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Alatas finally agreed that a few people had died from the actions of undisciplined army members. He never admitted to a planned military massacre. In the early hours of the morning before a number of the Sydney rallies, I began to get calls from ASIO, saying that they were going to arrest me and kick me out of Australia. They continued this harassment by calling me on both my home phone and-my mobile, whosenumbers they had intercepted and were monitoring. I told them that I was not scared of A510 or GIA or any other Intelligence agency. They threatened to capture me at the rally, saying they knew who I was. This was not very clever of them as I continued leading the chanting at the rallies around Sydney and my face appeared often in newspapers and on television. I cared nothing about them, only about my people, my nation and their freedom. Australia was a place I found temporary refuge but I did not want to stay here. I told ASIO, ‘When my country is free I will-go back home. Is this the way you treat people, by using your power to intimidate them?” After a while they stopped. I felt like I was in Indonesia or East Timor where Indonesian Intelligence pursued me after each demonstration. In Timor the jungle again became the main place to hide, the same as in 1975 when the Indonesian army forces invaded East Timor. People were also throwing their children over the barbed wire-fence AFTER THE REFERENDUM 207 of the United Nations compound and scrambling over themselves, despite. the damage to their bodies, so they could survive. There was gunfire everywhere. The lucky ones made it to the jungle or the UN compound in Dili but the rest were waiting for the bullets. Some people hid inside their houses and the militias burnt down the houses with them inside. Others ran to the churches for sanctuary but in Liquica more than 100 people and in Suai approximately 200 were massacred inside. the churches. Many women were raped before they were killed by the Indonesian army and militias, and those who survived gave testimony later to the brutality of this.16 For myself the worst thing I saw on television was when the militias chased an activist, Marcelino Fausto de Oliveira, down the street in Dili, cutting him down like an animal being butchered for meat. Two other young activists slaughtered with Marcelino were Roger Bonaparte and loao Fernandes. They burned Marcelino’s body in I the street. When I saw this I knew East Timor had become a hell. Oh God, why has this been allowed to happen? ‘The world has closed its eyes to what is happening. There’s no feeling any more for other human beings,’ I raged to myself. The tiny island of Timor was on fire, grey clouds of smoke billowing into the atmosphere, but no government in the world was willing to help. People around the world began demonstrating to send a peacekeeping force (PKF) to East Timor but no government responded. Roughly 250,000 East Timorese were forced by the Indonesian army into trucks and sent to Kupang and all over West Timor, while many children were separated from their families and sent to Java to orphanages for ‘re-education’ as Muslims. People who jumped the United Nations fence were being evacuated by the United Nations and sent to Darwin, Perth, Melbourne and ‘5 UN report on East Timor, ‘Chegafi Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) in East Timor 2001—5. 208 . ' RESISTANCE Sydney, Australia. The Australian government kept saying, ‘We’re still waiting for a reaction from other countries: such a contrast to their discussions about East Timorese oil when they never sought the opinion of other countries. It was a time of dreadful pressure for me because I did not know if my loved ones had survived or not. It was very difficult to sleep or think about anything else. I was haunted by my brother Ioaozito’s words that Bere and I might be the only ones in my family to survive. Maybe that was what God wanted. I would be alone for . the rest of my life. What would freedom mean if it was only for me? I could not eat or sleep. Fretilin in Australia, led at this time by Estanislau Da Silva and Harold Moucho, organised many meetings that I attended with unions, solidarity groups and the combined East Timorese parties in Australia under CNRT.17 Eventually the Australian government, after great pressure from its people, agreed to lead the UN. Peace Keeping Force but waited an agonising length .of time to begin, supposedly-for Indonesian government acceptance of the PKF. So the slaughter continued unabated, from 4 September to 20 September. Finally the Australian peacekeeping forces landed and entered the devastated streets-of'hell and the killing stopped. By the time Australian troops landed in Dili, it was too late. How many more East Timorese people had been killed who could have been saved? Nineteen ninety-nine was the peak year for killings with an extra 3,000 people lost, especially during'the militia rampage.18 The Australian government was greedy about East Timorese oil but did not care about the lives of its people, I told myself. How many millions of dollars had they made from the 1989 agreement with Indonesia which created a joint exploration of the oil in-the Timor Sea? The natural resources of the East Timorese had been divided ‘7 CNRT is the National Council of East Timorese Resistance. 1“ UN report on East Timor,‘Chega1', p. 2. AFTER THE REFERENDUM 209 between foreign countries, Australia and Indonesia. The owners of the land and natural resources received not-hing, having no value as human beings. I received a call from my brother Bere, who had kept in. touch since he reached Portugal and was accepted as a refugee, saying that he had joined the Portuguese army for compulsory military service and would go to East Timor in the beginning of Ianuary 2000, as part of the PKF under the United Nations. I was happy he could carry out his duty in East Timor to help his people but this initiative was also too late. The Portuguese always claimed East Timor as still under their administrative pOWer but their government seemed to take no responsibility to end this crisis. The Portuguese had colonised East Timor for 450 years, and grovvn rich from our natural resources, but did little for East Timorese people; for example, 80 per cent of East Timorese in 1975 were illiterate. On 25April 1974, when the armed forces revolt overthrew the Marcelo Caetano regime in Portugal and the process of decolonisation of Portugal’s African and Asian colonies began, East Timor was abandoned. Colonialists care first about themselves, I raged to myself, not the people or the nation they colonise. ' ' ‘Tell your commander that the Portuguese government is blind if it has not seen what’s been happening in East Timor,’ I told Bere. I He sighed deeply at my ranting and 'said, ‘My duty willbe for six months. I will call you again when I arrive in Dili.‘ He would try to find out what had happened to our family but it would not be easy because there was no communication system between my village and Dili. I would just have to live with the uncer- tainty until then. ...
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10.1 - RESISTANCE ‘ A Childhood Fighting for East Timor...

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