sábado, 13 de março de 2010


(by Father José Câncio Costa Gomes)


Conflicts among the Timorese political parties in 1975 became background for the breaking-out of war together with the Indonesian occupation over than two decades or about one third century. In my opinion, such a division among the Timorese had opened the door for the military invasion, which caused a great lost. That so long period of war ended up with the blooded referendum in 1999 organized by the United Nations. Such a long occupation seems like a violent storm, which shook the whole East Timor, killing and threatening to annihilate many things such as properties and some kinds of fauna (like cockatoo) and flora (like sandalwood); even some families left nothing at all, letting no one behind that could tell their history anymore. Thus it was an experience of lost for us Timorese in general. The circumstances at those moments had built up various patterns of life, which aggravated bad custom and culture of death. Shortly, the war created confusions, caused damages and great lost. It had left behind many orphans and widows, even some families were vanished as I mention above; we may take examples from the blooded and mortal incidents at the tiny village of Crarás in Viqueque and in the valley of death at Lalene mountain in Manatuto, or else numerous incidents around the mountain of Matebian burying many people with their respective families inside the caves screaming till death, and many other unknown incidents all over East Timor at those years.

The invasion was the logical consequence of the division among the Timorese people. The right attitude to evaluate our past is self-introspection, looking deeply into ourselves, not just pointing fingers at others. Actually we were the ones created conditions for the invasion and the lost. Such a long and bitter experience became our black history. Therefore, although the Sun has already risen the past still remains in us, especially we who had been hiding in the forest and mountain caves and valleys. Everything is recorded in the memory as a dream and left in the mind, or body, as scars. So the past gives us memories, the present gives us challenges and opportunities, and yet the future gives us hope.

1) The Revolt of the “Timorese Democratic Union Party” (UDT/1975)

Usually every afternoon till late night falls at the tiny village, where I was born, was very quiet, peaceful and friendly. Fresh air caused by soft wind blowing down hillsides was a long lasting memory for me. The said village has been known as a peaceful and fertile land surrounded by the springs of water that make it forever green. It´s known as “Bucoli”, derived from the compound word “Boku-oli”, which means very fertile. This name exactly corresponds to such a reality. As usual in every afternoon children were roaming around, telling tales, jumping here and there like the deer beside both springs of water along the main road from Dili to Baucau, playing in the fields nearby while waiting for time to dine and to sleep. Many adults were engaging in talking while taking bath and dealing with their business. Ladies with young girls were passing back and forth to fetch water for the household needs. Gentlemen with young boys also had their own business for funs. Everybody enjoyed life together around both sources of life after the whole day exposing himself/herself to the Sun as usual for the life of farmers. It was the only means for funs of the villagers at those times because there was neither TV nor any other means which could provide respective funs for us, except some radios in a couple of houses. After enjoying funs together we went back home lulling eyes to sleep in order to welcome the next day. Mums sang lullaby to have babies get asleep on their laps before laying them down on the bed. As a little boy at the age below ten (10), I used to roam around looking for my playmate friends.

Such an amazing situation, which was full of joy and friendship, suddenly changed into a horror just in a glimpse at one night. At about 8 to 9 o´clock pm in a certain evening, I suddenly heard people were screaming, awaking cocks and hens even birds sleeping on trees, dogs were barking so noisy here and there, some crying cats were heard from afar, as if it had been the end of the world. Two cars came from Baucau loaded with people unknown who identified themselves as members of the Timorese Union Democratic Party (UDT). It was really frightening and horrible night. They shook the villagers of Bucoli with terrors in that blind night. They did so because the loving village then was the center of the FRETILIN movement (Frente Revolucionario de Timor Leste Independente or Revolutionary front of the East Timor Independent), which was considered as the opposition party. Both political parties were opposing each other in ideologies and principles, though they had the same objectives for the independence of Timor Portuguese sooner or later. The UDT party intended to be union with Portugal, actual government then, while waiting for the process toward freedom at last as an independent country, and the FRETILIN party intended to have an immediate independence for East Timor.

Stones were flying overhead at that blind night started in front of the Catholic Elementary School, where I began to learn how to read and to write, down to the well-spring (named “Waisemu”), where we gathered for relaxation. I fled to the side of another spring of water called “Kobu-wai”. People were insulting one another and suddenly gunfire was exploded, with about 2 or 3 bullets. I heard someone crying for help. It was really a pity for us kids, who were still with runny-nose, fleeing scatter in order to escape from the trouble. Then, with fear I didn´t realize anymore where the two cars going to.

That was the beginning of conflicts at the Bucoli village, started provocation from the Democratic Union Party (UDT). They (members of UDT party) destroyed our place for funs and turning it to the place of horror. After several days, there appeared a multitude of crowd carrying along with them some weapons, including several Portuguese made machine guns (G3 and Mauzer), I really didn´t know how many of them. They came from Baucau to attack Bucoli, burning houses nearby the main road linking Dili with Baucau and other two eastern districts of Lospalos and Viqueque. Their principal opponents were the leaders of the FRETILIN. However, they were also killing animals, and robbing every valuable thing owned by the villagers. They named themselves “scorpion of UDT from Gariwai” (Sakunar Gariwai UDT). Gariwai is a village situated in the mid-road from Baucau to Venilale (a sub-district of Baucau). I myself didn´t see the guys, I only heard some gun-shots over the school and saw smoke flying into the sky. We had to evacuate to the nearby village sides in order to hide ourselves. It had happened during the whole day from morning around 9 o´clock till the Sun set down. Another nightmare then, for the first time we had overnight in the jungle under a cave. We came back home in the following morning, after Daddy inquired Mr. Ezequiel, who was a member of the UDT party then, about the situation. Usually in the tiny village people are familiar to one another, related/closed to one another. It was an advantage to facilitate information at that moment.

The following day we returned home seeing the house remained firm, they didn´t burn. However, everything was scattered over here and there under the house and around the courtyard, some valuable things we had left behind were carried away by the attackers, either the UDT militants or the opportunist thieves. A big water-filter, made of limestone, including a big suitcase owned by our grandmother (Dad´s mother), full of cottons ready to weave for traditional cloth, all disappeared at once. Those cottons were very expensive in East Timor then, even at the present day. Ladies at that village were screaming and crying because of the lost. That was the consequence of the coup of the UDT party. At that moment I heard people used to sing “Fahi Luhan Bucoli, Lelang UDT, and Tabaku Caicido, Lanu UDT” (means, piggeries of Bucoli were emptied by the UDT, and Tobacco of Caicido drunk the UDT).

Days had gone and now then came other moments with uncertainties. Once in a beautiful day, exactly when the Sun was breaking into the sky, a crowd of the Catholic faithful gathered in the Church to pray, as usual in every Sunday, suddenly a pick-up jeep loaded with about five guys carrying 2 or 3 machine guns, known as G3 left by the Portuguese, arrived from Baucau. One of them was familiar to me. Jumping out from the car they immediately approached Daddy and invited him entering the car and they brought him to Baucau in order to be interrogated and jailed, because Daddy was the FRETILIN delegate then at that village. I still recall the place where they jailed Daddy together with other leaders of the FRETILIN movement from the whole district of Baucau. They put them together in a warehouse of a well-known Chinese, known as China Kelikai, in the central town of Baucau. Lately people used the place for rice cleaning. We were allowed to visit Daddy in the prison. I don´t know what really had happened to them in the jail because Daddy never told us about their lonely and bitter experiences there. He had kept everything in secret and it died with him. Perhaps some of them might be recalled but no one else left their memories behind even in oral form. I only describe what I remember.

2) The Revolt of the FRETILIN MOVEMENT (Frente Revolucionario de Timor Leste Independente)

One day, around midday, a strong crash continuously coming from the direction of the main road from Dili to Baucau. Experience of horror in the previous months was still fresh in my mind. We were really frightened by the burst of machine guns, as if there had been a great war. I used to sit down at our veranda counting cars at midday, in whatever occasion, when two, or at most three, buses, known as “carreira”, were lining up from Dili toward east. Our house was situated on a hilltop (around 500 to 600 meters above sea level), in the western side of the Church building, gazing at the Sea and the mountain of Ilimanu wonderfully. The gentle breeze from the sea was refreshing mind. Looking down to Vemasse, Laleia and Manatuto, were like viewing from an airplane above the sky. The landscape was really captivating the heart. Having a home on such a beautiful place was really a hypnotizing experience in our loving village. What happened at that day was a show of expression of joy from the FRETILIN movement. For me it was a sign of victory for them as well as a sign of farewell in a short time to come. I was deeply surprised by the great impact of their tremendous manifestation.

That day was something unusual, there were a lot of military trucks coming from Dili loaded with the FRETILIN troops. It was really very strange for us because during the control of UDT party the cars were rarely passing (running), even the four Chinese Bedford trucks invented to buses for transporting passengers daily from Dili to Baucau and other two districts (Viqueque and Lospalos), and vice versa, stopped operating. However, suddenly the situation was changed. Those Portuguese military trucks, full of men armed with automatic guns, were lining up from Wailakama (a smallest village in the border of Bucoli and Vemasse). That great day for the FRETILIN was really colored with expression of gunfire shooting to the sky of Bucoli. I have no idea at all how many bullets were fired up to the sky then. At first I was so scared and running to hide myself lying down in a cave under a small coconut tree. However, when the trucks were coming closer, I heard the passengers were singing the famous song of the FRETILIN, entitled “Foho Ramelau (Ramelau mountain, the highest mountain in East Timor),” and yelling “Viva FRETILIN” (long live FRETILIN) and the villagers were clapping hands, whistling and singing, and most of them were with the same yell running to welcome the troops. As a little and curious boy, though trembling then, I also jumped out from my hiding place running after the crowd through the main road passing the water spring toward them. Once arriving to the place where they stopped (at Waidei), exactly in front of the entrance to the house of the “Liurai Bucoli” (head of the village), I was in awe gazing at them recognizing many faces. As they gathered right at the entrance of the gate to the house of Vicente Reis (a main figure of the FRETILIN), they kept on singing and yelling until they left the place moving to attack Baucau occupied by the UDT party. The FRETILIN sympathizers were joining them dancing and singing loudly. It was an expression of joy celebrating their victory over the UDT party in Dili. They were singing and yelling so much so even to the point of losing their voices. I still recall the voice of “Tio Arturo”, the former catechist of Bucoli, who is our relative from Vemasse. He was very much alive then with a machine gun at hand (G3), even didn´t notice me there. They looked very tired then, but I admired with their spirit to keep on singing and yelling.

That was an amazing and joyful moment for the villagers of Bucoli. Then they were very much alive jumping like deer and cocks freed from the threat. It was the term of the villagers of Gariwai, who adhered to UDT party, to keep silence, from their part no one could move then. Once these soldiers arrived to Baucau firing at the UDT forces and caused them running in confusion letting the prisoners free. The FRETILIN troops caught most of the UDT leaders (organizers) and put them into prison where they jailed Daddy and his companions (comrades). In the following morning, Daddy was freed from jail coming back home and carrying along with him a short machine gun (pistola metralhadora).

There was an episode about a small boy insulting an old man in the prison. Both of them were relatives. The old man was related to the kid as grandfather, the uncle of his dad. As a powerless prisoner, he found himself insulted by a little kid still with runny nose. The kid shouted at the old man with a tone of playing down (blaming) on him. Such a shameless boy pointed finger at the old man and then once he saw the lunch, brought in from somewhere else in Baucau for the prisoners, he took advantage to approach the old man quietly taking meal with him without any invitation. The old man might be very much offended by the attitude of the boy, however, he didn´t care and not even realize about the matter. This happened to me once we visited the prisoners. I was the said boy and I could not remember anymore the old man, an uncle relative of my father.

During that short moment of the FRETILIN control the young FALINTIL were many gathering at Bucoli village, the center of the Movement, where resided our cousin Vicente Reis (the minister of foreign affairs then); he had become a well-known and vocal figure of the Movement since then until his death in Alas (southern coast). Among them, those faces I could still recall now were our cousin João Costa Pereira (alias Rakulaku), Nuno Horta (the younger brother of the actual President of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, Ramos Horta), Venancio (alias Oka), Valdemar, etc… Most of them (maybe all) died in the forest. As I recall most of the population of Bucoli were FRETILIN, except tio Januario Reis, alias tio Janu (deceased), and Miguel, alias Ba´a Mi (deceased), both were APUDETI (fought for autonomy within the Indonesia). These young politicians were really energetic and very much alive then. They used to sing famous songs and even some of them taught us to sing. All the teachers in the school were so excited with the change of power from the Portuguese to Timorese, though it was just in a shortest time.

I recall another episode told by Daddy one day. Once tio Janu took a rope giving it to his nephew Vicente Reis in order to tie him up, however, Vicente refused to do so. Then he turned to Daddy, who was his cousin, and said “Ernesto, please tie me up here!” However, once he approached his cousin, Daddy embraced him with tear saying nothing. It was really touching the heart of whoever might see them. Both of them were cousins because their grandmothers were siblings. The parties could divide them, or they were politically divided, but never divide their spirit and genetic codes which tied them together. Their sentiments as brothers were so strong then. That was also a common excellent attitude of the Bucoli villagers since then and now. The political parties might divide them into groups; however, as a family they remained attached to one another. As Waima´a people, the villagers of Bucoli don´t have mental attitude to destroy, unlike people from Gariwai and other villages of Makasa´e settings surrounding Baucau. One can notice such a virtue of that people during the UDT revolt; those of Gariwai came to Bucoli burning down and destroying many things, however, when the FRETILIN came into power no one from Bucoli was hateful towards them going to make revenge against the Gariwai people. Even during the Indonesian occupation the villagers of Bucoli never had any grave cases of annihilation or killing each other like what the other people did. There were several cases of killing, at least 4 villagers disappeared but the masterminds were people from outside.

The circumstance of joy at that moment of the FRETILIN control was going to be vanished in a short time. I could imagine later on that their expression of joy became nostalgia when people were dispelling to the countryside and scattering all over there and in abroad. It was really a farewell party, saying goodbye for a long period of time and many would never meet again in this world. The time was passing rapidly, and after the proclamation of the Independence on November 28, 1975 immediately just nine days (December 7, 1975) started another episode of life for the Timorese. When the baby country was just at the age of nine days, the Indonesian troops were invading it with land and marine troops supported by the air force with airplanes pouring down parachutists all over the airport of Baucau. Provocations had already begun since November the same year.

3) The APODETI Revolt and Simultaneous Indonesian Invasion

We can compare everything happened, then, as fogs or mists, which appeared too short, they suddenly vanished and were blown away by winds. Then appeared another huge darkest one, which was quite a long lasting together with lightening and thunders covering all over the tiny half Island. That is the history of a suffering people over than two decades. Nobody was expecting such an experience would happen so brutal. Talking about this episode of our history is quite long and was costly. It was unimaginable then that the situation would be going worst. Everything was running very fast. The change of political powers in an unreal competition caused damages and offered opportunities as well. Thus every circumstance, even the worst one, provides hope and a better outlook for the future. It´s all about faith, which is the only tool that creates hope in an uncertainty. I would like to describe boons and banes during those moments of struggling to survive in the past.

Once upon a time there was a boy sitting in an open air at night together with his siblings gazing to the sky counting the stars and inhaling tender breeze blowing friendly from the sea far away. The panorama of the sky and the sea beautified the village from afar in that calm evening. After the whole day working hard in the field, people tended to enjoy life together as a family not in front of the TV or computer but just sitting down together in the yard for relaxation. It was our experience after we had been terrified by the group named as scorpion of Gariwai previous months. The scorpion would bite us; however, its poison could never penetrate into our hearts. It caused pain but not death.

I am not politicizing it nor alluring it, but it´s merely a literary expression properly mine describing such an experience that had impressed me most. The wonderful nights we had shared moments of joy together not just counting the stars but also telling the stories and recalling sweet memories of Daddy, who had worked as the second line military service (segunda linha) in the border with Indonesia, or of mommy in the school. Each one of both told us children his or her memories, and sometimes talking about other things, though very rare they touched their love story. People at that time perceived love story as something very personal and taboo for the children. However, sometime they revealed and shared with us their experiences in order to educate us for better life. Almost every night was inspiring moment for us kids.

In another wonderful night we were horrified by a flash light like a star far away over the sea. We thought it was coming from any fishing boat. I myself imagined then as if it had been a giant glow-worm (firefly) flying over the northern sea of Caravela, a smallest sub-village of Vemasse, moving toward the seashore. I shouted in a loud voice, “Hey, it´s a giant flash light!” But the idea of any attack from the sea was far away from my mind. Then Daddy got inside the house carrying out his binocular to see what really was. He got used with it when they were on duty in border control guard of the Timor Portuguese. In our surprise Daddy identified that it was a big boat flashing light toward seashore, most probably a warship. It was the Indonesian warship propaganda alerting the immediate military invasion to the half Island (Timor Portuguese). In the following night the provocation became intensive with lancing long/medium range of artillery mortars and cannons toward coastal zones and mountain region as well. Everything was changed into nightmare. I saw several warships in the northern sea of the Baucau district. They were focusing the Airport of Baucau, which was the biggest one in East Timor even up to the present day. We had to rash out that blind night, with confusions, to a safety place named “Wailuu”. Then we came back home scarily in the morning. Since then every night there were always provocations from warships causing nightmares all the times. Our tremendous nights ended up with a day of doom caused by airplanes pouring down parachutists everywhere around the international airport of Baucau.

Exactly on the 7th day of December 1975, the Indonesian Marine-forces, known as TNI-AL (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Laut), invaded Wai-aka, one of Baucau´s coastal ports. They lanced heavy artilleries all over Baucau district causing panics at that night and we were fleeing to the safety place. Then, immediately in the next morning, December 8, at about 7 or 8 o´clock, the Indonesian airplanes flied toward the airport pouring down parachutists all over there. Everybody was running in confusions. As a kid at the age of six, I was very much scared and trembling. Over than tens of airplanes were flying overhead, including some helicopters, like eagles. As I recognized later on, they were not warplanes at all, however, they were frightening us though they were just ordinary airplanes. It was the first time that the Timorese sky was covered by numerous airplanes flying overhead. I didn´t notice any gunfire from them, except looking from afar something like colonies of ants were falling down from the sky over the airport. Later on I heard somebody said that many parachutists were scattered all over around the airport. I didn´t understand what parachutist was, so I didn´t care then. These parachutists were the ones fighting fiercely with the FRETILIN forces in the airport during the whole day. I was not sure then how they conquered the airport from the FRETILIN forces. It was like crazy, we had to move out from the house leaving our hometown behind.

To be continued…..

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