Artista Nia "Lian-Nonok" Ba Ukun-nain Sira  

quinta-feira, 1 de julho de 2010


(BY Fr. Jose Cancio Costa Gomes)


Everything is contingent and nothing is eternal in this changing world. The exodus experience finally came to an end though it left bitter memories behind. There were always some remnants who would tell their history later on. The expectation for freedom at last and a better life was blurry. It is very hard to describe such an experience. All events had happened like episodes of a dream in a deep sleep. New day brought new events that broke the serenity of Nature. Everything changed dramatically in a morning. As usual everybody was just waking up to prepare something to eat in order to continue looking for food for the subsistence suddenly we were attacked by the alien troops (enemies). We were really under siege in that quiet and beautiful morning. I heard gunshots nearby and monkeys were crying and jumping above trees around. The Enemies invaded our lonely hideout at about 7 o´clock in the morning of December 5, 1978.

We were caught by the Indonesian Army from the joint Battalion Infantries 744 and 745, with some Timorese men doing Indonesian Military service, in our hideout around the Birak Mountain. Gunshots were overhead in that deep jungle on a plain slope of the Bolkomu Mountain. I saw my brother running out of the house straight thru a palm tree down toward the river. Once I was about to move, suddenly I heard a voice shouted at me “don´t run”, it was a Timorese soldier serving in the Indonesian military. However, I didn´t care about him; I was so stubborn, as usually for a little boy, spontaneously running after my older brother. When I reached at a distance about 50 meters away, the alien soldier was firing gun toward my direction. I was sure that the soldier who shouted at me then was the one firing after me. Luckily I could escape from the bullets hitting palm tree over me. My brother disappeared in the scene, I was left along. Then I decided hiding under a tree nearby. I heard the refugees, about 5 families at that hideout place, all were relatives from Bucoli, were calling one another in confusion in order to give up themselves to the aliens. They were already caught by the enemies and children were screaming all over. Gunshots were echoing all over the sloppy-valley. Most of the men were escaping away from the attack, some with their children. I recalled a friend died with his daughter by bullets at that day.

After some minutes I returned to surrender myself to them. Luckily I was still a little boy, so they spared my life. We were insulted and mocked by a soldier, especially one of those Timorese who were serving Indonesian military duty then. He treated us as if we were all sons and daughters of bitches. Everybody was fearful hearing such insults and mockeries patiently. Trembling and fear overburdened us. I was walking alongside with such a coward soldier who did so. We were gathered in a small plain and after sometimes they brought us down to the valley alongside of a rice-field. We stayed at the edge of the river flowing to Manlede Coast. I recalled those moments of the past three years ago in the house of “Avó Rosa”, including the beautiful experience of guarding the rice from the attack of birds. Exactly in that rice field I first enjoyed drinking “tua mutin” (white wine made of palm tree) even getting drunk at the first year in the forest.

A group of the invader soldiers was showing us the Fretilin flag saying that they already killed Marciano dos Reis, the younger brother of Vicente Reis. At that moment they killed also other civilians, including some children, in the valley between both mountains of Bolkomu and Birak. They controlled our hideout before firing here and there echoing all over the mountainsides. The alien troops, the enemies, took control the shelter of the Timorese resistant fighters in between both mountains. They were observing us closely the whole night before in the opposite side of the mountain and most probably along the river valley bellow us. Therefore, the attack came unexpectedly in that early morning. All those resistant fighters had fled away and some were killed, including Mr. Marciano.

There were some soldiers taking bath naked publicly upon arriving in river. it was something strange for many of us. In my surprise there were many ladies and children moving around washing and cooking in the camp. The naked soldiers even invited some young ladies to fetch water saying “don´t worry, come here”. I saw their genitals like snakes ready to consume the prey. At the same time I recalled the incident at the Waimori village before, when I first saw the snake of an adult, then imagining its shape and measure. It was normal for an innocent boy as I was then to imagine in such a way.

There were some remaining “kumbili”. We cooked them for lunch while waiting for the order from the military commander to proceed. After the lunch we were accompanied by some soldiers (a platoon) advancing toward the Manlede Bridge near Vemasse eastern coast. We walked passing through the river in direction to the Sea of Manulede. Once we arrived to the bridge it was already late afternoon, the Sun almost died away from the scene. An empty truck was awaiting us on the roadside of the bridge in order to transport us to Bucoli. Only one truck could not afford all of us, therefore, a soldier said that only the ladies and children could ride it. Therefore, I immediately slipped into the car with Mom and my other 3 siblings. He drove us to Wailakama sub-village. Upon arriving to Wailamakama, populated by the refugees, we went to fetch water in the river. While on our way to the spring of water, a soldier approached us holding the hand of a young lady in our group of five pushing her away with him to the nearby bush, while telling us that he was intending to give her clothe. After some moments (about 15 minutes) she was released and reporting that she was raped by such a coward Indonesian soldier. She came back joining us tearfully at that night. The case was reported to the “Dan Pos” (commander of the local military post), then investigation was underway. She became victim of sexual violence with consummation.

We stayed overnight at Wailakama then. The following day, December 6, 1978, they had accompanied us on foot going to Bucoli, our loving birthplace. After three years becoming wild in the forest-jungle and mountain-valleys and caves, finally the remnants came back home with tears of joy and longing. Everything we left behind three years ago (December 8, 1975 to December 6, 1978) was in ruin. Around the Church were full of barracks (houses) for the returnees or the remnants of all the Bucoli Village. Even the Church building itself had been used for sometimes as temporary shelter within such a concentration camp. People were occupying the church because there was no other means. Nobody was allowed to stay far from the camp. We were accepted to stay under a small part of a veranda while cooking under a small tree near the playground for volleyball. Even one day a ball was rolling over our cooking utensil pouring down all the food inside it. Every day business was to gather dry corns under military trucks, then taking them to wash before cooking. After some days we were invited by tia Pascoela Boavida (a cousin of Dad) to stay with them together with tio Mariano, the “Liurai” (head of the village). Tia Pascoela, alias tia Kela, as a catechist, gathered the people to pray every night in front a statue of Our Lady Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the Village. Even today she is still faithful to her job as catechist. We had meal together for about one month before Daddy was released. The image of the Virgin Mary was recovered by the people from its hiding place somewhere around the Hahoso Mountain. At the beginning of war 1975 the faithful of the Village took the statue to hide with them. Later on they abandoned it in a cave because the situation did not allow carrying along with them such a big statue (about 1m high). However, after three years (when they returned) they came to get it back with them. The war and political ideology then did not kill the Catholic faith of the villagers.

As consequence of such concentration of crowded people caused a very poor hygiene, lack of fresh air and sanitation; diarrhea and various kinds of diseases were all over the camp. People were using a common toilet in the open air at the river and even at night using the road as toilet for both children and adults, because we were not allowed to go beyond certain distance otherwise we would be gunned down at the spot. Even more in the night we had to ask permission from the military post nearby in order to go to WC. During the day our movement could not go beyond two kilometers. We had coconut and breadfruit (Kulu) plantations in the vicinity farms, however, they were owned by all (public). If we wanted to go beyond the vicinity we should be accompanied by the armed men, otherwise we might be shot at once. Just going from Bucoli to Baucau city, one needed “surat jalan” from the military. This was an official letter for license trip signed by the head of the village (liurai/kepala desa) as well as the police and military officials assigned in the village.

After two days of our arrival from hiding, suddenly came tio Januário Reis, who was the head of People Representatives (Ketua DPRD I) of the Timor Timur Province, from Dili. He came to fetch his family (Tia Maria and the three daughters) to stay with him in Dili. As a father tio Janu had really missed his daughters after three years separating from him hiding in the forest and mountain valleys. With overwhelm joy he embraced and fondled his loving daughters kissing them repeatedly and tearfully. There was really chaos of joy and sadness. However, he was still missing a daughter (named Lindalva alias Lili) died in the forest (Waimory) two years before and a son (primo Janito died years later in Jodgya/Indonesia) who was still hiding in the forest then. After an hour they left us going to stay in Dili. As time was passing, one day my older brother Angelo surrendered himself together with a group of Timorese fighters, led by primo Marito Reis, at the Ostico Village on February 4, 1979. It was the fruit of a peaceful contact between commander Marito Reis and a group of the Indonesian Commando led by Major (I could not recall his name). Among them was primo Janito. So, my brother came back joining us again after the contact. Life was going on, the soldiers gathered children to teach Indonesian Language, Bahasa Indonesia, then, and I didn´t attend because no one invited me.

We had such miserable experience about six months, then, all the people were allowed to stay alongside the road from “Haemoni” (western side toward Wailakama) up to the nearby Airport, which they named “Angkasa/Rasawali”. After being released from the prison, Daddy built a house at the upper-side of the Church building. Then lately, after a year, he built another house in our farm (kintal) downside the road, near the river. There we have developed our life condition up to the present day. It was from December 1978 throughout the year 1979. The whole year life had been very difficult for us. In the year 1980 we could enjoy fresh air. Toward the end of the year 1979 I was asked to go to school though I didn´t know Indonesia language adequately. However, I only started having classes formally at the beginning of the school year of 1980/1981 with some Timorese teachers guided by the Indonesian soldiers. It was a new beginning for me. I attended classes timidly, lack of Indonesian expressions, and yet I knew some Portuguese words learnt from the previous years before the war. The ray of hope for me and for other young Timorese was like a blooming flower. First year was quite hard because of the strange language, even during the test I mixed up some words in Tetun (Timorese language), as well as the Portuguese learnt from previous years before the invasion, with the Indonesian Language. In my surprise everybody in the class was also getting hard to express themselves. It was just in the beginning of a long struggle toward a successful experience leaving behind the ignorance. The year 1980 was the departing point in the episode of my personal life.


There are several things that need to be highlighted from those experiences. The war was already over in the year 1999, yet it left behind scars in the minds of so many Timorese. The great lost could not be recovered anymore. We could not meet again our beloved brothers and sisters died in the forest, except hoping for the mercy of God, who will reunite all of us again in the World to come. In a certain point of view, the invasion was successful and the invaders could conquer mental attitude of many Timorese though they did not touch the spirit of those heroes who had fought for the independence. From these experiences we could think about several fundamental issues, such as human life and dignity and the war and suffering as opposing elements. Who is to be blamed for the suffering of the innocent people around the Globe, including the Timorese people? This question is very universal because it implies all peoples whose lives and dignities are under threat. The banes remain unsettled although they are transformed into challenges for our development today.

The consequence of war is “lost”. This lost implies all aspects of human life. The lost that could never been recuperated is the essence and existence of human being itself. Could the life and dignity of the Timorese People then be restored? It seems useless. The super-powers are always the only people whose dignities are highly considered and elevated. What about the suffering people, the lowly, the poor and powerless? The war is a competition of power struggle among those who are oppressing the lowly ones all over the world. They have power to control the societies and the world. They created needs in order to gain profits and yet caused lost for the weak ones. They have sold their products to others who have been in conflicts, and even they are the one provoking such a situation to happen. They gain much but mercilessly killing their fellow humans as well as the Nature. They destroy the dignity of other peoples, ending lives of many people around the Globe. They have caused banes in the poor societies turning them into miserable and changing the Nature into chaos. After all they justified themselves either with their national interest or group interest. Even they justified their acts as the right options.

That is a reality in the world today. Humans have oppressed other humans mercilessly. Who invaded East Timor were not just the Indonesian troops. The Indonesian and East Timorese Peoples were merely instruments for the power struggle of the superpowers at those times. Poor Indonesians and East Timorese were fighting each other while the other capitalist countries had enjoyed the profits excessively from the selling of arms or military equipments for war. They had gained political influences toward the Indonesian regime at that time to attack the tiny East Timorese. They even had gained double profits either politically or economically. Now they enjoyed life and the Timorese, including the Indonesian widows and orphans caused by the war, are still suffering the consequences of their acts. The same thing also happened to other poor peoples in Africa, Asia and South America.

The great lost during those two decades for the Timorese People would never be found or recompensed again. Justice will never be done for the cries of lost of the Timorese People. The victims on the Mountain of Matebian, in Aileu – Maubessi and other places in East Timor, cannot be forgotten. The cries of those screaming people who lost their lives in those valleys around the countryside, some were buried alive inside the caves by bombs, in the forests and bushes, are still echoing strongly to our minds. Bloodshed and tears are letting thousands of people inconsolable.

In my opinion, neither the Timorese People nor the Indonesian People won the game; both of them lost and gained nothing, except the regime at those times together with its generals who could conquer mental attitude of the most Timorese. Logically it was the third party, especially some western capitalists, who won the game and afforded so much profit from our suffering. Like any other wars around the world, the long battle in East Timor was a very good market for the business guys who had kept on selling weapons and all materials of war to the Indonesian Troops. It was a golden opportunity for the factories and industries that have been producing machine guns, bombs, and other materials of war. They enjoy life from the misery of their fellow humans. Now they are gaining from the Timorese hydrocarbons in the Timor Sea, and even still demanding that the pipe lines of the Greater Sunrise should be going to their country though in reality all the wealth in those areas belongs to the Timorese People. It is really absurd. The position of the Australian Government during the Indonesian Invasion was clearly behind the American Government (USA) Foreign Policy. Both regimes were hiding at the back of the Indonesian Regime invading East Timor; even most of the war materials used by the Indonesian Armies in East Timor at those times were “Made in America”. We may conclude that the banes of powerless are turning into the boons of the powerful ones.

Strictly speaking, the only boon for us Timorese People is merely our freedom or the independence as a country, though we did not deserve to gain it through war. However, such a freedom is still incomplete and it is just the beginning of a very long process. It seems we are not only economically controlled and overpowered by the same peoples who had played us against one another but at the same time politically we are still controlled by them. Now we Timorese should work hard in order to be free at last. Our struggle today is to settle the issues from the past, and at the same time to set ourselves free though it´s not wholly but certainly if we have a serious determination in the mind. We didn´t enjoy our past because our childhood experience was full of troubles. However, we can heal our wounds and brokenness as we are building up the future.

The end

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