CNRT/National Congress Presidency



On the occasion of the Symposium on 
"Reconciliation, Tolerance, Human Rights and Elections"

National Council Dili, 12 February 2001

I. Social-historical considerations (before and after the 25 April 1974)

The history of the desire of the Timorese people for independence from Portuguese control includes many struggles reaching their highest point with the Great Rebellion of Manufahi in 1912.

Divided into kingdoms, the Timorese People affirmed themselves as a warring nation; unpredictable in their relations with the Portuguese. We believe that after the rebellion of Manufahi, the Timorese, although still divided into kingdoms, had improved relationships among themselves up until the period before the Japanese invasion.

The Japanese invasion, from 1942 to 1945, was another test of the courage of the Timorese people who simultaneously managed to live with the invaders while maintaining a determination to oppose their presence.

I am from the generation born after the Japanese invasion. In the thirty years that past from this time until the Indonesian invasion, our people were able to relax a little. One may think that this was due to trauma of the war and of the suffering from human and physical losses, leading to an apparent acceptance of the Portuguese presence by our People.

I belong to a generation who often heard that "the Timorese are (that is, they were) a peaceful people". In a way that was true! And, as a matter of fact, until the 1960s there was not a Portuguese military or political police presence in Timor. But even later, with the presence of a large Portuguese military force and the presence of PIDE (Portuguese Political Police), the Timorese continued to demonstrate very tolerant behavior. Whenever violent disputes to resolve conflicts did take place, namely regarding property rights or problems concerning the traditional culture of family values, these acts were not carried out by organized groups but by individuals against other individuals.

The Timorese People, by nature, are peaceful and tolerant. A magnificent example of this trait was in the way the Timorese acted and reacted in their co-existance with the invaders for 25 years and, above all, in the final year, which was a decisive period of the struggle leading to the referendum. It is also true that, individuals or groups, resort to violence when they thought that reason was on their side, consciously or unconsciously, that is, consciously or manipulated by third parties.

It is also important to realize another thing that defines the character of the Timorese people is their aggressive reactions.

It was this aggressive characteristic that was displayed when the civil war broke out in 1975. As a consequence of the political freedom granted by Portugal in 1974, political parties began to defend naturally opposed ideologies, which emphasised the existing differences within Timorese society. Another crucial error of this time was the fact that the political parties adopted a policy of distributing membership cards to the whole population, thus dividing the people; within districts to sub-districts, which rose as strongholds of one party or another. This happened even at suco level, in villages and even amongst members of the same family.

This resulted in the resurgence of old quarrels (about property, land and also concerning cultural-traditional relations) and consequently creating a desire for vengeance. Attacks and counter attacks, between the two main parties or nationalist movements, both with their existing ideological struggles, was taken advantage of by some to carry out acts of violence, hatred and vengeance. However, and it is important to state, that soon after this period, calm once again prevailed throughout the whole territory. Besides the arrests that took place, people quickly went back to their day-to-day life without much concern about who belonged to this or that party.

I want to emphasise this fact in order to prove, again, that the Timorese people, are by nature peaceful and tolerant.

I also want to restate that, as in other situations of widespread violence, acts of violence are carried out by individuals or identified groups and not by the population as a whole. I would also like to call attention to the influence and manipulation exerted by third parties during these situations. II Violence in the present context (the colonial system: repressive and divisive)

1. It is often said that totalitarian regimes are governed by the principle of divide et impera. Until the rebellion of Manufahi, Portuguese control was contested by all the kingdoms but when armed conflict took place it was usually only one kingdom, or maybe a small group of kingdoms, that actually took the initiative. In the context of divide and rule the Portuguese would then use other kingdoms to counter-attack.

After the Japanese occupation, I believe that human losses and physical destruction were some of the factors behind the reduction in the use of this principle as strictly as it had been in the past. Up to the 25 April 1974, an environment of much tolerance and tranquility existed among the populations.

2. The retreat of almost 90% of the population to the mountains, who took part in a three-year guerrilla resistance, halted for a while the situation in which political enemies were being eradicated. This was halted once again from the end of 1977, after the invading forces began destroying, one by one, the six existing bases of resistance that covered the country. Senior politicians and military people saved their own lives at the expense of hundreds of arms and hundreds of lives of Falintil guerrilla fighters who were handed over and later assassinated by the enemy. Moreover, from the middle cadres, down to the rank and file, educated Timorese were also massacred.

Through the late seventies the hunt for the resistance by our enemy continued while the clandestine organization took its first steps. In 1980 the first strike against the clandestine network took place, in Dili. In 1981, it also happened in Baucau. Torture, imprisonment and expatriation resulted in terrible situations that distressed people. In these situations many chose to assist the occupants, thus initiating the creation of an intelligence network use by the invader.

People began receiving money in exchange for information on the resistance. As a consequence, the breakdown of the resistance network, although only on a small scale, began to take place almost everywhere.

The children of 1975 grew up and became a Youth who suffered exactly as their parents had; a Youth who felt the repression of the invader. In October 1989, during the visit of the Pope, and in early 1990, during the visit by the American Ambassador in Jakarta, the Youth began to appear as a force to be reconned with. The Youth resistance organization was, at the time, more or less unified and their activities reached a peak with the events of 12 November 1991; a massive demonstration with an extraordinary political and diplomatic impact.

It is important to recall that more than one third of the population had died over these years either from the bombing, through gunshot wounds, hunger, disease or in collective massacres, and that the majority of this one third were adults.

The Youth appeared then, in the eyes of the invaders, as the most dangerous segment of society. After the events of 12 November and, as a response to the breakdown of resistance strongholds, the Youth began to divide into smaller groups. Simultaneously to this breakdown into smaller groups, the number of youth members as a whole was growing each year.

Knowing that physical elimination was not the most prudent path to follow, although still necessary at times, the invader chose to destroy the Youth by distorting their character.

3. To better understand the ability of the invader to successfully create in Timor a culture of violence, one must look to Indonesian society during the Soeharto regime, in which the Indonesian youth took part in violence on the street (particularly between secondary level schools). The Indonesian military intelligence engineered these situations, even financing ethnic gangs, perverting them and manipulating them into fighting each other fiercely. After Soeharto's fall, the destruction that took place throughout Indonesia, and in particular in Jakarta, tested the morale of a segment of the Indonesian Youth. This segment was made up of the marginal elements of Indonesian society.

In Timor, although the Youth was increasing in numbers there was not enough employment opportunities to absorb those coming out of school. This created a fertile ground for the invader to pervert the morals of many young people by promoting gambling and disorder and facilitating payment for acts of political persecution and surveillance.

The principle of divide et impera was very much present in the invader's policies and was particularly applied to the generation born and raised under its control. The Indonesian military, more than anywhere in the world, regarded the Youth as the promise of its future in East Timor. The result was the open violence that became institutionalized following the period after Soeharto's fall, the beginning of reform in Indonesia, until the Popular Consultation.

4. What effects did the Indonesian military occupation did have on the Timorese Youth? The occupation resulted in a common conscience of repression, a consequence of foreign domination. Given the characteristics of the resistance, there was a clear division in the youth sector: between those on the margins protected and paid by the Indonesian Intelligence, and those who were nationalists. Due to systematic repression the nationalists were profoundly divided into different groups, small and large, although all contributed in their own manner to the struggle.

Some groups organized and differentiated themselves by their type of skills in martial arts. It is also important to emphasise the existence of organizations that defended particular neighborhoods. These differences were often overcome over the years because there was a common goal and the same thing happened with the youth groups.

At the political level, after the referendum and especially in the second half of last year, politicians felt and still feel that there is no place for a common unity of goals. Therefore some politicians prefer to emphasize the differences. At a sociological level this also happened amongst the youth organizations.

They all fought as a whole, but each group saw its contribution as a major part of the end result. It is same with individuals: when debates become heated these different viewpoints are reflected.

III The challenges of change (Aspects: economic, civic and political)

1. Considering all that I have said here, and due to the total destruction of the few goods accumulated throughout the years, the sense of freedom that we have has a sour taste, not just because of the events of September but also because of the current expectations.

This was strongly felt at the end of 1999 and reached its peak at the end of April last year when this situation disapated a little. Our differences, pushed aside and apparently forgotten during these events, especially during the bloody month of September, have surfaced again. The level of participation of each group in the bloody events, still prominent in the memory of the clandestine, has been evoked, by some to describe a greater participation on their part, versus that of others, instead of trying to emphasise the value of the actual sacrifices made. This has even resulted in some regional conflicts, with such slogans as "firakus fought more than kaladis" (Note: "firakus" are those Timorese from east side of Manatuto's district; "kaladis" are the ethnic groups from the west side of Manatuto's district).

The total destruction of Dili has led to the occupation of abandoned buildings without any sort of organisation. The difficult situation in the interior of Timor also provoked an exodus to Dili, aggravated by those refugees returning from West Timor who, for whatever reasons, have decided to stay in Dili. A trend been identified that this exodus was mainly made up of "firakus", who have moved primarily to the area between Becora and Taci Tolu, controlling all of the Old Market.

2. During the Indonesian occupation, it was said that there were gangs commanded by Eurico Guterres (who worked for the enemy's intelligence and later became the second supreme commander of the pro-integration militias). These gangs were often made up of elements from the western region of the country. Today there is feeling that some cases of violence are being provoked by those, not from the clandestine organizations, but by those who belonged to these gangs.

I would like to continue to discuss these incidents of violence and note that they have been caused by known groups. We have not been able to put an end to these conflicts because those who control these groups have no genuine will to conciliate. Instead each group feels that they are the "strongest" or the "most able" or the "one who did the most". There has never been a willingness to acknowledge their own mistakes and efforts towards dialogue have failed as each group makes higher demands and shows no will to compromise. Whatever solution that has been reached always leads to nothing.

The issue here is the lack of a political conscience by elements of these groups and what is fundamentally wrong ise the egocentrism or ignorance of the leaders.

3. From the beginning there has been a major concern with the uncontrolled return of the refugees and consequently the possible infiltration of militias, intelligence agents from the Indonesian military and elements of criminal gangs.

For instance, in the first half of last year there was a lot of talk about the pornographic music, CDs and appeals from Eurico Guterres that were easily available in the Old Market. In the market exists those from West Timor sent here to create disturbances. Currently the Old Market is a decadent place showing signs of moral decadence where freedom is often mistaken with anarchy. There are many reports of young people carrying guns and grenades. In internal fights groups have demonstrated the knowledge of molotoff cocktails. Moreover, some of these groups of youngsters also carry guns known as "rakitan" (= home made, not a Timorese tradition but introduced by militia). There are also rumors of illegal importation of guns (hidden inside spare tires) and ammunitions.

This particular section of the Youth, acting as an instrument disturbing the process must be included when we discuss violence either today or in the near future.

4. Completely forgetting the events of 1975, which caused so much suffering to the people of East Timor, some groups or political parties, outside CNRT, are committed to repeating the policy of trying to control the population.

The rush to power by some groups or political parties combined with their lack of awareness of the difficulties of governing Timor (in the first period after the proclamation of independence) is blinding some parties. These parties continue to pursue the policy of trying to control the population, in an overwhelming desire to prove that they have majority support in the forthcoming elections.

The CPD-RDTL, made up of lunatics and incipient politicians that has already been disturbing the people in certain towns. CPD-RDTL has demonstrated an ability to manipulate young people, many of whom were not a part of the clandestine, to act violently. In Dili, they have been promoting to young people the use of violence and disrespect toward law and order.

There is a great potential for a new eruption of violence commanded from a far.

Many factors indicate this possibility: 

  • Socially - peoples expectations are much higher than what is realistic; 
  • Economically - the lack of jobs and the great need for a non-existant qualified work force is a serious problem; 
  • Politically - some parties have chosen to act alone in the fear that they will not obtain enough votes.

5. To avoid or control the likelihood of violence arising there are several means if properly used that could reduce existing tensions and will also help in the promotion of a collective awareness about the need to encourage a tolerant society in the country:

A. A greater involvement of young people in open discussions about social problems; B. A greater involvement of the civil society in public debates on these same problems; C. A greater involvement by political parties leaders in Youth education; and D. A greater involvement of the media in the civic education process.

It is possible to strengthen the overall awareness about the difficulties of the process, the expectation of development and the role that each individual or group can play in the building of the nation through the implementation of a specific program to speed up the development of society. Be it in Dili or at Districts level.

In the medium term only the establishment of an adequate strategic development program can demonstrate to everyone the possibility that they will have a role in the future. Concurrently, it would be important to immediately define professional training programs, aimed at young people, so that each one of them will know that they will one day have the qualifications necessary for a job in the future and be able to participate in the development process.

Finally, I hope that the political parties do not take advantage of the Youth and use them as a political tool for disturbance, because when the Youth are politically unprepared, it will make it difficult to build a society based on tolerance and mutual respect.

The President of CNRT 
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão

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