After the attack on this blog, I am reposting some deleted articles.
APHEDA 2011 Timor-Leste Study Tour
by Chris White
Timor-Leste is one hour 10 minutes flight north-west from Darwin over the Timor Sea. It has the same tropical climate and gum trees as Northern Australia but very mountainous.
Our study tour of seven Australian unionists, APHEDA members, on Saturday 6th August 2011 flew from Darwin to Dili, capital of
Timor-Leste. We visited APHEDA projects in Dili and then travelled east to
Baucau and to villages in the mountains and then west to the town of Liquica.
This first story is of a community learning centre. We drove east from Dili for
four hours along very rough dusty roads damaged not yet repaired – there is still
little infrastructure – beside beautiful beaches and the steep mountainside, through small poor villages to Baucau, the next biggest town.
We drove to the APHEDA ‘Place of Learning’ up on the mountainside in the village of
Dauburubaha, near Viqueque town. We meet women working with our partner, Groupo Feto Foinsa’e Timor Lorosa’e (GFFTL), who teach literacy and income generation skills to rural women. GFFTL is an organisation of women students
from the National University of Timor-Leste who conduct literacy training.
Women in the village after independence said they wanted to learn to read, write
and count. These literacy lessons in Tetum have been going well for a few years.
On arrival the women were at their lessons. They greeted us warmly with introductions all around and we discussed through translation their classes. We eat and drank tea. We noted the women’s need for better shelter from the rain in their ‘classroom area’. We purchased their traditional crafts and Tais.
Timore-Leste people are small in numbers only over a million who have been very vulnerable to invaders and suffered genocide before winning independence. As a new nation Timor-Leste faces immense challenges, is still very poor, surviving and optimistic just beginning slowly for their people’s development.
One challenge is that 2/3rds of adult rural women under the Portuguese colonialists and the Indonesian army never attended any school (similarly with men). With high illiteracy, learning to read and write and count is vital so they can participate in their new lives and in their democracy. APHEDA supports people to organise themselves to meet their needs.
APHEDA is the Australian unions ACTU overseas aid organisation. Union Aid Abroad works worldwide with local NGO partners and donors assisting poverty stricken people in training projects and for workers’ rights. The APHEDA strategy is to work in projects with enduring self-management. We saw how this
I report below on APHEDA supporting unions. Our group learnt about the government’s development plans with their oil and gas money. The Timor-Leste budget is 90% dependent on such income. A pipeline is operating by the companies into Darwin, but not yet to Timor-Leste.
I listened to the politics. Xanana Gusmao, elected as the first President, is now
the PM and the President is Jose Ramos-Horta. FRETILIN the first government
with Mari Alkatiri as PM is now in opposition.
We visited a bamboo cooperative in the mountains with workers planting seeds
to making finished bamboo products, such as bamboo beds on order. The village head
told their history from 2001 and NGO leaders explained how they are sustainable and share income in the cooperative.
We visited other projects where women learn sewing. They now make and sell products, school-shirts etc.
We drive west from Dili to Liquica, where we meet women from two Community Learning Centres (a KBH project). The Community Learning
Centres (CLCs) form a central part of APHEDA’s vocational education training program. The 5 CLCs are developed with the local communities, and KBH works closely with the group members to develop and implement training. KBH work
with local trainers to provide training in skills such as sewing and embroidery,
organic agriculture, making tempe (a fermented soybean product), managing kiosks and mini-restaurants, chicken farming and handicraft production.
On the first day in Dili we visited the Labour Advocacy Institute for Timor-Leste.
After introductions to Clemente the owner and others, we hear of the carpentry
training in their workshop. Clemente has been successful in running his
business, and receives orders from the government, Timorese customers and
other NGOs. He works as a trainer with the other carpentry groups in the rural
The teachings include business management skills for project planning and
management, writing reports and bookkeeping. APHEDA leaders Elisabeth de
Araujo and Tanya Karliychuk report on this:
APHEDA and unions support a TL theatre group. Dynamic young actors making
people laugh performed a play about ethics in the workplace. This Expressional
Arts Project sees story telling as most important to present new workplace rights
in this theatrical form. PM Xanana Gusmao is a poet, supports the arts, opened
an Arts Academy and wants young people to train as artists.
We visited the community radio-station Radio Lorico Lian in Dili we support
and listened to how volunteers put on their programmes. We donated Australian
music, CDs. Community radio is a powerful medium in Timor-Leste due to low
levels of literacy in the community and the passion for the historic and local
language, Tetum. Radio Lorico Lian broadcasts on average between 12 and 16
hours per day in Dili and at community events/meetings outside Dili when
possible. Radio Lorico Lian has a well developed network of broadcasting
volunteers and producers, and relies heavily on the time and effort of these
volunteers to sustain the station. Their experience of broadcasting continuously
for the past several years in Dili makes them one of the oldest community
broadcasters in Timor-Leste. They have had training in station and equipment
management, equipment repair and maintenance, program production, ethics in
journalism (including defamation), and the role of independent media, which
was especially useful during the constituent assembly campaign and
parliamentary elections. The Coordinator of Radio Lorico Lian, Nono, is also the
President of ARKTL, the Timor- Leste Community Radio Association.
We were proud to attend the new APHEDA office opening in Dili with APHEDA leader Elisabeth de Araujo and staff. Everyone enjoyed delicious Timor-Leste food and drank beer. We met volunteer workers and supporters.
Last year APHEDA trained over 400 people, mostly women.
The priest officially blessed the APHEDA office. Timor-Leste is 96% Catholic.
When the Portuguese left in 1975 only about 35% of the population was Catholic
(the rest followed traditional religions). The Portuguese did not forcibly convert,
it was the Indonesian State ideology Pancasila that made the population declare
for one of the five approved religions (atheism was not allowed as it implied
communism). The Church played a key role in the struggle, Archbishop Bello
receiving the Nobel peace prize with Ramos-Horta. The Church is strong, culturally, in everyday life and politically influential. A huge Statue of Christ is on the Dili hilltop.
We visited the Santa Cruze Cemetery where young protesters were massacred by
the TNI Indonesian army but secretly filmed and publicly exposed on our TV screens.
This protest generation is now critical of post-independence as Jill Jolliffe (see
books in Appendix) found in ‘Postcolonial Blues East Timor’s Lost Generation’ in
the august 2011 Monthly http://www.themonthly.com.au/jill-jolliffe
She interviews Lemos, a contemporary famous singer and in the West in the music
for the film Balibo.
‘Known as generation foun (‘the new generation’), Lemos’ contemporaries are
remembered principally for staging the pro-independence demonstration at
Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991, in the East Timor capital of Dili, which ended in a
massacre by the Indonesian army. The movement in fact began in 1989 during a
visit by Pope John Paul II when students held a demonstration and hit world
headlines. Before that, the brunt of resistance to Jakarta’s occupation forces had
been borne by the resistance army FALINTIL (the Armed Forces for the National
Liberation of East Timor) fighting from the mountains.
Many of the students were captured and viciously tortured by the Indonesian
military, but their actions heralded an urban uprising that provided crucial relief
for the hard-pressed guerrilla army. Moreover, they spelled doom for military
planners in Jakarta, who realised that all attempts to indoctrinate the younger
generation had failed and that a second generation of resistance fighters would
replace the old.’ Jolliffe’s current report underlies the new personal struggles for
living in Timor-Leste today.
I now return to meeting the unions.
On the first Saturday our union group met with the unions who only started organising this century. Workers were not allowed by the Indonesians or the Portuguese to bargain in unions. Since independence, with some ILO principles as a first Labour Code, workers have labour laws that allow the right to be in
unions and to organise and to bargain with the right to strike (that is in the TL
Constitution). Workers are becoming involved. From 1999 until now workers
have been forming unions and now collectively bargaining and settle disputes.
We exchanged greetings with the Timor Teachers Union (ETTU), the Timor-Leste
Nurses Association (AETL), the Public Sector Union (SFP-TL), the Maritime,
Energy & Transport Union of Timor-Leste (METU-TL), the Agricultural Workers
Nurses Association (AETL), the Public Sector Union (SFP-TL), the Maritime,
Energy & Transport Union of Timor-Leste (METU-TL), the Agricultural Workers
Union (SATL), the Construction Workers Union (UCTL) and the General Workers Union (UGTL) (covering Security workers, Hospitality & Retail workers). The Public Sector Union held their inaugural Congress in September
2007. The Teachers Union (ETTU) was inactive after their office was destroyed by
fire in April 2006 but new leadership was elected and KSTL has helped to
reinvigorate the ETTU. The Maritime, Energy and Transport Union have more
than doubled in size to over 500 members.
Unions joined together in the 2002 Congress of 130 delegates into the peak union
organisation the KSTL – Konfederasaun Sindikatu Timor-Leste.
We expressed solidarity from Australian unions with KSTL’s President Zito da Costa. He explained KSTL history. I presented solidarity letters from Unions NT and unions in Darwin. He replied with his letter of solidarity and thanks as they remember the help already from Australian unionists.
We listened to their workplace issues and disputes over no pay. On unfair dismissals the KSTL wants reinstatement as a remedy not compensation and this is disputed. They are negotiating collective agreements. We learnt how unions are strengthening and have 10,500 members, but not many financial.
The KSTL General Secretary Rigo Monterio was away working that day but I met him later at dinner the last night at Elizabeth’s. I continued discussions with Zito,
a wise and practiced leader, and listened to recent industrial disputes.
Jobs a priority
Zito said a major union issue is job creation given the 43% unemployment. The
KSTL is to put making jobs particularly in the rural areas with Dili funding Provincial governments as demands to all political parties before the 2012 election.
Timor-Leste political parties accept workers’ rights and the role of effective unions to assist economic development. Employers support the tripartism. Timor-Leste is yet to have an anti-union party like Howard/Abbott.
The unrest that began in April 2006 was very traumatic for East Timorese people,
and rebuilding the confidence of people to participate in democratic civil society
will be a long-term process. Central to this is building strong democratic and
representative organisations, such as trade unions, that can keep people informed of decision-making by elected representatives. Pleasing growth and progress is being made in many of these unions.
The New Labour Code
The Timor-Leste Parliament is debating amendments to the 2002 Labour Code
for worker’s rights. Where nations establish labour rights and have wage increases, then these flow into the local economy and assists poor communities. The unions were involved with business and the government in the tripartite discussions.
The new Code is much more acceptable than the old one for the union movement in Timor-Leste. It covers OH&S issues, migrant workers, reforms on contracts of employment, casualisation, collective bargaining, right to strike provisions, the setting of the minimum wage, new Labour Department institutions, and
processes on unfair dismissal and the right to reinstatement. Strong debate ensures on the details. Some sections are more favourable to workers than our Fair Work Act.
We met Mr. Bendito Freitas the Secretary of State for Vocational Training and
Employment who is responsible for the Labour Code. His press release says:
‘Labour legislation, besides being a priority for the Government, is a fundamental tool to establish the rules in this area. The Labour Code is currently in the National Parliament, with Commissions A and H and awaits approval.
In Timor-Leste there are many cases of national workers living a precarious job
situation or are just unemployed. Many of these cases are the result of the lack of
an employment contract with the company, a contract that leaves them unable to
enforce their rights as workers.
Currently, unemployment faced by young men and women force them to accept
proposals for work in conditions that may not be ideal. Bendito de Freitas
believes that they tend to accept what is offered to them without negotiating and
without asserting their rights as workers.
Another important aspect is the entry of international workers who end up
competing with national workers, and in this aspect the Labour Code will also
regulate the protection, defence and rights of all workers. This is also one of the
responsibilities of the Secretariat of State, to regulate and supervise the work of
foreigners in Timor-Leste and assist workers and employers in matters involving
To enforce the principles of equality in accordance with the International Labour
Standards and support the implementation of the Labour Code, DL 19/2010 of
December 1st, establishes the status of the General-Inspectorate of Labour (LGI),
under the responsibility of SoSPTE. The LGI is a public service that controls the
compliance with the standards for working conditions, prevention of
occupational hazards, social security, employment and unemployment
protection and employment of foreigners.’
These new workplace laws will come into operation. Government labour
regulation institutions are then to be formed and within an ILO-type tripartite
framework, familiar in other countries. With the economy in growth with
government contracts for re-building, Australian unions will work step by step
for Timor-Leste to have basic workers’ rights.
Mr. Bendito Freitas explained his plans linking vocational training to economic
works funded from the Human Development fund. Youth unrest, protests, gangs
and violence is still occurring with high unemployment, but now more young
people are trained to go into jobs and to be able to work on government tenders.
Politics is raised. I am asked about PM Julia Gillard our first woman PM and the
unions and the Labor government.
The KSTL at their 2011 Congress on Politics and Trade Unions resolved that they
and the unions are independent of the political parties (unlike most Australian
unions under ALP government hegemony).
Working Women’s Centre
We visited the new Working Women’s Centre Timor-Leste in the APHEDA office. Jessica Sequeira (WWCTL) came with us on the tour.
This introductory video clip is by Shabnam Hameed Trade Union Advisor to the
KSTL and for Working Women’s Centre Timor-Leste.
Ged Kearney ACTU President launched on September 1 the WWCTL at the
conference ‘Our Work Our Lives’ in Dili. This has the support of the Australian
National Network of Working Women’s Centres, the University of South
Australia and the Queensland University of Technology and includes:
‘Speaking Book – the oral histories of women working in Timor-Leste. Agora
panel discussion – of the Australian and Timorese experience of building
sustainable communities through women’s workforce participation. The themes
cover women in precarious or vulnerable work, women’s access to their rights
and entitlements, decent work in the Asia Pacific and building sustainable
communities through women’s workforce participation.’
We met with the President of their National Parliament Mr. Fernando Lasama,
one of the historic resistance fighters. Like many of Timor-Leste’s leadership, Mr Lasama paid heavily for his role in the independence struggle, arrested and incarcerated in Indonesia.
Mr Fernando Lasama described how the Parliament worked with nine political
parties. He is the leader of the Democratic Party and in the parliamentary
majority alliance government (AMP) with PM Xanana Gusmao and his CNRT party. PM Xanana Gusmao had just presented the National Development Strategic Plan to Parliament. I asked why it was rushed through Parliament in
one day with the opposition FRETLIN walking out in protest. This he said was just politics as there had been much consultation.
He plans to run again for President in the 2012 elections.
Mr. Alfredo Pires the Secretary of State for Natural Resources gave an interesting
powerpoint presentation on energy security. He and his family lived in Melbourne and have a strong relationship with Australia. His sister is Finance Minister.
He explained how Timor-Leste wants to have maximum participation in deciding on the oil/gas. Young new tertiary educated overseas Timor-Leste oil/gas professionals are now working for him.
He showed plans for energy security and how they want to use the oil/gas
money so that they can develop on the south coast – and have electricity and gas
going to all villages, towns, homes and businesses. The government must finance
basic infrastructure for basic needs in ending poverty and move to human
development for all. The government has impressive plans from revenues from
the oil/gas income from what they have and in the future what they can negotiate. The money goes into the Petroleum Fund. See the National Petroleum Authority
The Minister is proud of their transparency structure. The money from the PF goes into the Budget that must be approved by Parliament. The 13-day Budget debate was televised and on radio as education about spending on development is a priority. In some of the mountain villages we saw solar panels, linked to the receiver dish and to the TV for community viewing. In March 2011 the
government launched the Transparency Portal on budgets and procurement.
As a petroleum-rich country, Timor-Leste is vigilant in maintaining good governance to avoid the resource curse prevalent in many resource-rich countries. The Government adopted a legal framework based on Norway for
petroleum production, taxation, and revenue management that is considered
international best practice: the EITI Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
He was proud that Timor Leste was accepted as an EITI Compliant country on 1
Democratic principles are important for this new nation. What various groups think of this sees different reactions.
That pipeline still contested…
That pipeline contest has been going for many years (See Cleary’s book ‘Shakedown’ in the Appendix).
Mr. Alfredo Pires explained the government’s policy for a pipeline to go from the
oil/gas fields in the Timor Sea saying it can be done despite the deep trough and
at a lower cost than originally stated. The giant companies Woodside and Shell
and the Australian government still reject this pipeline as too costly.
Their alternative is that the technological capacity is for a new expensive FLNG
floating natural gas corporate development in the Timor Sea and not needing the
pipeline. Before visiting, I read Australian oil/gas advisors arguments against
the pipeline and for the FLNG. But the Timor-Leste government rejects the FLNG
as too risky.
The issue is still contested in negotiations with the companies who have an interest that include ConocoPhilips, Inpex (Japan), Petronas, Eni, Woodside and Shell. The Australian government Minister Rudd is backing the FLNG.
A recent article by Pedro Seabra is ‘Timor-Leste and Woodside: time for take
two?’ from the Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security
For 30 years in the unions and East Timor solidarity groups I, with thousands of
other Australians, supported independence struggles for a new nation free from
the Indonesian army. The people just survived despite after the 1999 Yes
referendum vote for Independence, when the Indonesian army responded again
with slaughter, burning 90% of homes and buildings and forcibly removing
thousands, until the UN forces restored stability.
East Timor people suffered a history of Portugal as colonial masters for 400
years, then in WW11 the Japanese invasion when thousands died and since 1975
the brutal occupation by the Indonesians for 24 years of planned genocide,
tortures, rapes, killing of villagers and repressive military control. This truth and
reconciliation process was essential.
The Indonesians were defeated by guerrilla struggles led by Xanana Gusmao and
by the people and externally diplomatically by Ramos-Horta who received the
Nobel Peace Prize and by FRETILIN leaders like Mari Alkatiri. Clinton Fernandes’ new book (in Appendix) shows the Australian and international solidarity groups were crucial.
We visited in Dili the Alola Foundation that is a not for profit non-governmental
organisation operating in Timor-Leste to improve the lives of women and
children. Founded in 2001 by the then First Lady, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, this
organisation seeks to nurture women leaders and advocate for the rights of
women. ‘Our mission is Feto Forte Nasaun Forte – Strong Women, Strong Nation.’
‘A Woman of Independence’ by Kirsty Sword Gusmao (Macmillan) is a must
read. The first lady of East Timor describes her work as an undercover activist in
Jakarta, her contact with jailed leader of the resistance movement Xanana Gusmao, the unlikely romance and marriage that ensued, the events that saw East Timor freed from Indonesian occupation, and the slow and painful rebuilding of the country. Here is a review
At the Tais markets I bought the traditional weaving Tais to raffle at APHEDA
fundraisers, as I am Secretary of APHEDA NT.
We enjoyed good meals at all the recommended local restaurants, the fish great.
Why hadn’t I enjoyed buffalo before?
Everywhere we went places have stories of killings and of resistance and this is
where this murder happened etc. When relaxing in Bacau we knew at the rear of
the hotel of the torture rooms. But for some supporters of this successful
struggle, Timor-Leste (we hope) is in a post-conflict era and peace tourism tours
is one venture. Eco-tourism is active.
Finally a brief description on politics in the lead up to the 2012 elections.
In the first 2001 election, FRETILIN the organization that lead the movement in
the 1970s and proclaimed Independence with the support of the majority of the
people was elected the government with Mari Alkatiri PM. In the Presidential election Xanana Gusmao was overwhelmingly elected President.
After the 2006/7 crisis and then the 2008 attempted assassination of Ramos-
Horta, in the following Presidential and parliamentary elections no political
institution or leader from the national liberation struggle won a clear majority
based on program, ideas or leadership. No party scored more than 29% in either the first round of the Presidential elections or the parliamentary elections.
In the parliamentary elections both Xanana’s party CNRT, the same initials as the
umbrella organization in the Resistance but now called the National Reconstruction of TL and Alkatari’s FRETILIN scored less than 30%. FRETILIN 29% to CNRT’s 25%. Xanana as PM now governs with an alliance of smaller
parties the AMP in the Parliament with FRETILIN the opposition. The Democratic Party and the ASDT scored less than 20%. The small left Socialist Party of Timor (PST) has its leader Avelino da Silva in Parliament and a Minister in the alliance government. I briefly met the FRETILIN spokesperson and former
Minister Jose Texeria.
We watch with interest the 2012 elections. Overseas volunteers are to assist in a
And so we return to Darwin
I praise the wonderful, intelligent, hard-working optimistic group leaders
Thushara Dibley and Elizabeth de Araujo with their professional debriefings and
Abere and Aje our drivers and all in the APHEDA organisation and the seven
wonderful friends on the 2011 Timor-Leste tour.
APHEDA established in 1984 is an active associate member of the Australian
Council for Overseas Aid and a registered charity. APHEDA operates 60 projects
in the Pacific, South East Asia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Lao and
Vietnam, Africa and the Middle East. You can join an APHEDA study trip next
Now Australian people – not our governments – have been able to support the people of Timor-Leste for independence.
We can still assist for their human
development in this troubling world economy. Australian unions continue to work with Timor-Leste non-government groups and unionists to assist people’s needs.
This is my first general Report on 17th august 2011, updated 30th august.
Learn more at http://www.apheda.org.au
Join Global Rights at Work http://www.gJoin Global Rights at Work http://www.globalrightsatwork.org.au
Support Millennium Development goals www.un.org/milleniumgoals
Receive daily reports from East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
on justice, democracy, rights http://www.etan.org
The Government of Timor-Leste http://www.timor-leste.gov.tl
Government Tourism department http://www.turismotimorleste.com/
Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguide/east,timor/
La’o Hamutuk, East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring
Virtual Tais of Timor http://www.etimortais.org/index.htm
I am Patron of the AETFA-SA We began as Campaign for an Independent East
Timor, SA Inc in 1975. The name changed to Australia East Timor Friendship
Association, SA Inc in 2002. We work for ongoing self-determination of the East
Timorese people; to assist to rebuild their country and their lives; and to promote
public awareness in Australia of the history, culture and contemporary situation
in Timor-Leste. http://www.aetfa.org.au/
I strongly recommend these books on the independence struggle and their
exposes of Australian governments.
‘The Circle of Silence’ by Shirley Shackleton ‘A personal testimony before, during
and after Balibo.’ (2010) Shirley Shackleton’s searing portrayal won the prestigious Walkley Award 2010 for her dramatic story seeking the truth about her husband journalist Greg killed at Balibo in 1975 by the invading Indonesians.
Her fight against the fascist Indonesian military and to bring them to account led
to the Australian Inquest showing the Australian government’s cover-up. The
criminal inadequacies of Liberal-National and Labor governments and the deliberate pro-Indonesian dictatorship are exposed… but the circle of silence continues. See Andy Alcock & Cathy Heptinstall review
‘Finding Santana’ by Jill Jolliffe (Wakefield Press) 2011.
An exciting adventure from journalist Jill Jolliffe telling of her perilous journey to
meet Comandante Nino Konis Santana, one of East Timor’s honoured guerrilla
heroes. She begins with the secret planning needed, travelling inside Indonesia,
with long waits, cat and mouse with the Indonesian secret police and meeting
with the guerrillas and Comandante Nino Konis Santana and her story. Book II is
her return, capture and interrogation. She returns home mending broken pieces.
An amazing tale that marks what a professional journalist does for a real story to
report the truth that the resistance continued.
Jill Jolliffe’s earlier book ‘Balibo’ is now the film. Featuring six additional
chapters, this revised edition reveals the provocative story of one of the most
shameful episodes in Australia’s history, providing a firsthand account of the
1975 deaths of five young television reporters killed by the Indonesian military in
the East Timor border town of Balibo. Chronicling how the reporters died as well
as the eventual execution of a sixth reporter who attempted to investigate their
fate, this gripping depiction also documents the personal narratives behind the
families of the victims and their heartbreaking struggle for the truth. Contending that the Australian government was always aware of the circumstances of the
killings, this argument maintains that their cover-up was a key factor in Indonesia’s decision to invade and occupy East Timor. With a striking collection of photographs from its thrilling companion film, this searing recollection is as much an investigation of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor as it is a case study of the Balibo killings.
Jill Jolliffe writes now on ‘Psychological Healing As A Prerequisite To Good
Governance In East Timor’ in ‘Democratic Governance in Timor-Leste: Reconciling the Local and the National’ edited by David Mearns (2008 Charles Darwin University publication).
‘Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia and the independence of East Timor’ (Scribe 2004) by Clinton Fernandes explodes the myth that Howard and Downer took the initiative in the fight for East Timorese self-determination – the reality is the opposite. Exposing the role of the so-called Jakarta Lobby–Australian officials whose policies supported the Indonesian military regime and public
commentators who defend these policies in the public sphere – this inquiry contends that under their influence, John Howard worked assiduously to support Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, trying hard to prevent a ballot of independence. That it was only pressure from activists and the broader public
that forced the Howard government to send a peacekeeping force and reluctantly
help East Timor to achieve independence is also revealed.
Clinton Fernandes’ new book is a must read: ‘The Independence of East Timor:
Multidimensional perspectives – Occupation, Resistance and International
Political Activism’, (Sussex Academic Press, UK, 2011).
‘He tells the struggle for independence. Guerrilla warfare and clandestine
resistance for 24 years against the occupation is documented as a continuum of
effort between the armed freedom fighters in the mountains, the resilience of
urban supporters, and international activism and support that eventually
brought about liberation in September 1999. The Timor rebels did not have a
land border with a friendly state, had no external supplier of weapons and no
liberated area in which to recover between guerrilla operations, so their successful resistance is unique in the history of guerrilla warfare and independence struggles.
Equally uncommon was an unexpected weapon in the struggle – a remarkable display of strategic non-violent action.
Fernandes integrates the major factors. His multi-dimensional perspectives include Indonesian, US and Australian diplomacy; Indonesian military operations and activities against the populace; East Timorese resistance at all social levels; human rights abuses; the issue of oil; and international diplomacy
resulting from global solidarity activism.’
‘Shakedown: Australia’s Grab For Timor Oil’ by Paul Cleary (Allen & Unwin 2007).
‘In 2000 one of the poorest nations on earth began negotiations with Australia
over rights to the lucrative oil and gas resources of the Timor Sea. With the
revenue from the oil and gas fields, the young democracy of East Timor would
have a chance to secure its economic future. If Australia would allow it. In an
ironic twist of fate, East Timor found that Australia, the country which had
delivered freedom to the Timorese by intervening against Indonesia’s bloody
attacks in 1999, was now trying to deny it a fair share of the profits.
This is the inside story of Australia’s attempts to bully East Timor out of a
promising future in the Timor Sea oil dispute. Paul Cleary, a former East Timor
government adviser, gives a gripping insider’s account of the six years of bruising negotiations between Australia and East Timor that followed the independence ballot.
He saw how the Timorese pulled off one of the great David and Goliath feats of the region but then were unable to lay the foundations for a peaceful future. In this compelling insight into Australia’s international operations, Cleary exposes the heroes and villains who emerged in a one-hundred-billion-dollar shakedown.’
‘The Men Who Came Out Of The Ground A Gripping Account of Australia’s First Commando Campaign: Timor 1942’ by Paul Cleary (Hachette 2010).
‘The exciting story of a small force of Australian Special Forces commandos that
launched relentless hit and run raids on far superior Japanese forces in East Timor for most of 1942. These were the men of the 2/2nd Australian Independent Company. Initially stranded without radio contact to Australia, the Japanese declared these bearded warriors ‘outlaws’ and warned they would be
executed immediately if captured. The Australians drawn mainly from the bush
were chosen for their ability to operate independently and survive in hostile
These men wrote an epic of guerrilla warfare. Expertly researched by Paul
Cleary, a must read and order for libraries.’
Sara Niner ‘Xanana Leader of the Struggle for Independent Timor-Leste’ (2009
Australian Scholarly Publishing) is the political biography of Xanana Gusmao resistance leader and for unifying East Timorese nationalism from his childhood
to First President and now PM. This book is an emotional read as Xanana copes
with the Indonesian genocide. During the brutal 24-year war with Indonesia, he
was transformed through crisis from being a young apolitical outsider into a
hardened guerrilla commander and keen political strategist, who ultimately
became the central unifying figure of east Timorese nationalism. This book
focuses on his years in leadership and seeks to explain how the events of the time
affected the development of his ideas, policies and strategies. The traumas after
Sarah Niner edited ‘To Resist is to Win The Autobiography of Xanana Gusmao’ (Aurora Books 2000). See review http://chriswhiteonline.org/2010/01/xanana/
‘Step by Step: Women of East Timor, Stories of Resistance and Survival’ edited by Jude Conway (Charles Darwin University Press, 2010) presents 13 oral histories from Timorese women, with each story accompanied by photographic snapshots from their lives. The collection of stories reveal the role women played in East Timor’s independence struggle on the guerrilla front, the diplomatic front
and in the student movement inside and outside the country and afterwards.
‘The Crisis in Timor-Leste: Understanding the Past, Imagining the Future’ edited
by Dennis Shoesmith (2007 Charles Darwin University Press) is from a symposium in 2006 explaining the 2006 violence and rebellion in a larger context and examines the social and developmental strategies.
‘Locating Democracy: Representation, Elections and Governance in Timor-Leste’ edited by Steven Farram (2010 Charles Darwin University Press) is from a symposium in Dili April 2010 on the difficulties facing TL in reform for new municipal assemblies with the aim of making democracy more representative.
‘East Timor A Western Made Tragedy’ by Mark Aarons and Robert Domm (1992
Left Book Club) is a damming indictment of Indonesia’s annexation and
genocide with acceptance from Australia.
‘Free East Timor: Australia’s Culpability in East Timor’s genocide’ edited by Jim
Aubrey (1998 Vintage).
‘East Timor: making Amends? Analysing Australia’s role in reconstructing East
‘East Timor: making Amends? Analysing Australia’s role in reconstructing East
Timor’ edited by Lansell Taudevin and Jefferson Lee (2000 Australia-East Timor
Association Otford press.)
‘If you leave us here, we will die: how genocide was stopped in East Timor’
by Geoffrey Robinson.
In this intimate, informed account, historian Robinson (The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in Bali), examines the tumultuous events surrounding East Timor’s 1999 attempt to gain independence from Indonesia.
With expertise and an insider’s perspective-a principal researcher for Amnesty
International in the 1990s, Robinson joined the UN mission overseeing East
Timor’s independence referendum-the author offers rare insight into the
country’s internal turmoil. Particularly riveting are Robinson’s descriptions of
the days preceding the historic vote to separate from Indonesia: “dressed in their
Sunday best, some [East Timorese] left home in the middle of the night to reach
the polling station by dawn.” The importance of that vote, in which “98.6 percent
of those who had registered cast ballots,” is hard to overstate; just hours after
voting ended, however, pro-Indonesian militia groups erupted in a violent
backlash that would kill approximately 1,500 civilians and send 400,000 fleeing
the country. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the story, and a bleak
assessment of actions from the UN and international community (as much a part
of the problem as the solution), Robinson manages to cap his detailed report with
a hopeful note. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
‘East Timor: a Nation’s Bitter Dawn’ by Irena Cristalis.
This book tells the story of the traumatic creation of Asia’s youngest country,
East Timor, which has been struggling to rebuild itself ever since the mayhem of
Indonesia’s reluctant withdrawal in 1999. The author, one of a mere handful of
journalists who refused to be evacuated in the final days of the Indonesian
occupation, gives a vivid first-hand account of the lives of individual Timorese
during the occupation, their struggle for freedom and their endeavours to
rebuild their homeland. Based on years of research, and lengthy interviews with
East Timor ‘s leaders, priests, nuns, students and guerrilla fighters, this moving
and extremely readable book is at the same time also an exploration of the
complexities of the country’s internal politics. This author actually went with Jill
Jolliffe on her second effort to meet up with Santana. This story is her version of
‘Resistance: a childhood fighting for East Timor’ by Naldo Rei.
Naldo Rei was just six months old when Indonesia invaded East Timor in
December 1975. He spent the first three years of his life in the jungle, where his
family had fled for safety. After his father was murdered for his work in the
resistance movement, nine-year-old Naldo was recruited by the clandestine
FRETILIN network and began his own extraordinary journey fighting for East
Timor’s freedom. Throughout his teenage years, Naldo was imprisoned and FRETILIN network and began his own extraordinary journey fighting for East
Timor’s freedom. Throughout his teenage years, Naldo was imprisoned and
tortured regularly for his covert resistance to the brutal Indonesian regime.
Eventually, in too much danger to remain in his homeland, he escaped to
Indonesia and then Australia for several years. Now living in an independent East Timor, Naldo Rei can tell his incredible story. His life is proof that no amount of danger and loss can crush the human spirit.
‘East Timor: Beyond Independence’ edited by Damien Kingsbury and Michael
Leach (2007 Monash University Press).
Gaining full independence in 2002 only after a brutal occupation by Indonesia of
over three decades and having the lowest per capita gross domestic product in
the world, East Timor clearly faces a host of development challenges.
This collection of 19 papers was put together by Kingsbury (international and
political studies, Deakin U.) and Leach (Institute for Citizenship and
Globalisation, Deakin U.) in order to address some of the most significant of those challenges and related issues, including state-building, migration, development, maritime boundaries, border security, the possible role of forensic archaeology and anthropology for post-conflict justice, petroleum fund
management, food security and agriculture, adult education and development, language policy and language rights, and raising literacy.
‘Last flight out of Dili: memoirs of an accidental activist in the triumph of East
Timor’ by David Scott, a really interesting read that also covers the political
efforts and some intrigues associated with the key overseas activists Horta and Alkatiri.
‘Timor lives! speeches of freedom and independence’ by Xanana Gusmao.
‘East Timor: a rough passage to independence’ by James Dunn.
With expert analysis and clarity of writing, James Dunn highlights the disturbing
gap between the noble rhetoric and the heartless reality of international
commitment and resolve.