Subject: FT: The Dili Dynasty

The Dili dynasty By Eric Ellis site; May 31, 2002

For most of the chic clientele at Dili's City Cafı, the awesome struggle facing the Democratic Republic of Timor Lorosa'e seems the least of their concerns. The cafı caters to the 8,000 or so "internationals" who staff the United Nations mission in East Timor, and a score of them are enjoying a coffee break from Dili's 36ıC swelter.

The animated talk is of weekends in nearby Bali, of buying Mediterranean condos with their ample, lightly taxed UN salaries, and of which blighted hotspot will next require their nation-saving skills.

The scene, watched over by a 70-year-old East Timor man lingering over a coffee, is in marked contrast to the reality outside. Two weeks earlier, East Timor's independence was formally proclaimed but, in spite of hopes of a petro-dollar bonanza in the neary Timor Sea, Dili is by no means Dallas. For most Timorese, even after three years of the UN's benevolent dictatorship, life is a precarious hand-to-mouth hardship.

But, at least the killing has stopped. Abandoned by Indonesia when it finally accepted East Timor was a lost cause, the militias that trashed Dili after the UN-sponsored independence referendum in 1999 have dispersed.

The 70-year-old man strokes his long, grey beard. Three years ago, and two doors from where Manuel Carrascalao now reflects over his coffee, his youngest son, Manuelito, 17, was mutilated by the Aitarak militia in the Carrascalao family home.

The eldest son of 14 Carrascalao children, Manuel has vowed to his family, East Timor's grandest and richest clan, that he won't trim his magnificent beard until his boy's killers are convicted.

That may be a while. The Aitarak's leaders are sheltered by their Indonesian sponsors in Jakarta and neighbouring West Timor. And the East Timorese are being urged by their new president, the Mandela-Che composite Xanana Gusmao, to forgive past inhumanities with South African-style reconciliation.

The Carrascalao family is well-schooled at fashioning triumph from adversity. Its members have been doing it for a century, against a ceaselessly shifting backdrop of civil war, revolution, intrigues and exiles in Portugal, Australia, Indonesia, Africa, Macau and now, full circle, to an independent East Timor.

The family's story begins two continents away in the tiny Portuguese village of Sa~o Brıs de Alportel on the Algarve.

The early 1900s were turbulent times for Portugal. Civil war and a politicised clergy had crippled the First Republic. Portugal suffered 45 governments in 16 years and, by 1926, the military had lost patience. Five decades of rightwing dictatorship - 40 years of it led by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar - had begun.

Manuel Viegas Carrascalao, the original patriarch and father of the coffee-drinking Manuel, moved to Lisbon and found work as a printer. By the mid-1920s, and impatient for change, this tall, young anarchist with a persuasive oratory had become a leader of Portugal's biggest trade union. Lisbon's generals accused him of rebellion. They jailed him, tortured him and, in 1927, deported him to East Timor, Portugal's penal colony in the East Indies.

But, even in Dili where he worked on a coffee plantation, Manuel Viegas did not follow the rules. In 1928, he met Marcelina Guterres, daughter of a Timorese nobleman, a liaison that discomfited the authorities. A Portuguese man could take a Timorese mistress but to be so public and, worse, to marry her, was intolerable.

Ostracised but undeterred, they began a family: Dora born in 1929, then Maria, Manuel (of the beard), Ermelinda, Mario, Artur, Alice and Jose, born during Japan's brutal occupation of East Timor. "My father refused to go to Australia with the other Portuguese. He stayed in East Timor to resist the Japanese," says 10th-born Joao.

The Carrascalaos later returned to Salazar's Portugal. Manuel Viegas was now regarded as a hero for keeping the Portuguese faith in Japanese-occupied East Timor. He was received by the wily Salazar, who wanted him to return to Dili. Manuel Viegas negotiated terms with the dictator, winning title over a 386-hectare East Timor coffee estate and returning rehabilitated in 1946 with state honours, later becoming Dili's mayor. The charismatic radical Lisbon had once reviled was now part of Portugal's landed establishment in East Timor.

In 1954, after 26 years of child-bearing, in which four more children were born, the family was complete. Twenty years of relative peace followed in Portugal's sleepy Asian backwater.

But, on April 25 1974, Portugal's military ousted Salazar's heir, Marcello Caetano, creating a vacuum in East Timor and an opportunity for Indonesia - and for the talented Carrascalao children, who had inherited their father's restlessness.

Three main political parties emerged in East Timor: the Jakarta-backed Apodeti sought integration with neighbouring Indonesia; the Frente Revolucionaria de Timor L'este Independente, or Fretilin, demanded a Marxist independence; while the Uniao Democratica Timorese, organised by three of the patriarch's children (Manuel, Mario and Joao Carrascalao) and the landowners' party, favoured a gradual pro-Lisbon independence.

But, in 1975, Lisbon reneged on a referendum. The Carrascalaos' UDT seized power on August 11 only to be ousted nine days later by Fretilin's guerrillas. East Timor was engulfed in a short but nasty civil war that ended on December 7 that year when Indonesian marines stormed Dili's front beach (the rusted landing craft are still there today). With tacit approval from a Washington anxious to prevent communism's spread in post-Vietnam Asia, East Timor would be Indonesia's 27th province for 24 years.

The old don Manuel Viegas, meanwhile, was in Lisbon. A four-packs-a-day smoker, he had come to Portugal in early 1975 for treatment for lung cancer, intending to return to Dili when he recovered. But this once-towering man of East Timor, now wizened by his own excess, could do nothing as his adopted homeland was brutalised. His family were now displaced - the boys were prisoners of the Indonesians, the girls stranded in Lisbon. In 1976, Manuel Viegas died penniless and defeated.

"He wanted to come back to East Timor to die but the Indonesians wouldn't let him," says his son Joao. "He didn't even have enough money to buy cigarettes. Completely broke, no house, no property anywhere else except East Timor and now that was gone."

The next 24 years were difficult. Manuel Viegas' wife Marcelina never saw her family together again after 1975. Dora died of cancer in 1980 in a Portuguese refugee camp. Joao, his wife Rosa and her brother, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, were exiled to Sydney with Ermelinda, Artur and Francisco. Gabriela became a journalist in Melbourne. Alice, living in the Mozambican colonial capital, Lourenıo Marques (modern-day Maputo), divorced her Portuguese banker husband and joined her sisters in Australia.

Manuel, however, stayed in Indonesian East Timor, doing contract work for the military, living in the family home in Dili until it was destroyed in the 1999 militia violence. The coffee estate was trashed, but 175 hectares of farmland outside Dili, where Marcelina had raised produce to feed her family, became an Indonesian military barracks. (Today, it is a Carrascalao-owned apartment complex for foreigners, one of Dili's most lucrative businesses.)

Power also nourished the Carrascalaos. The UDT party attempted a coup, fought and lost a civil war. Some family members joined Fretilin and later the exiled resistance group, CNRT. In-law Ramos-Horta is East Timor's foreign minister. The opportunist Manuel was a parliamentarian for Portugal and Indonesia and, when the independence tide turned in East Timor, joined the CNRT.

Of the three last-born children, the youngest Natalia is a centre-left MP in Lisbon, sisters Angela is a prominent Aids campaigner and Gabriela runs TV Timor Lorosa'e, East Timor's public broadcaster.

Other members of the family have also fared well. Maria's son Vasco runs Portugal's government-owned Banco Nacional Ultramarino in Dili. Former Portuguese prime minister Anibal Cavaco da Silva is a distant cousin, as is Joao Tavares, the militia leader whose thugs destroyed Dili in 1999 and who sports the watch of one of the five Australian-British journalists murdered by the Indonesian military in 1975.

So it seems almost natural that the guerrilla leader-cum-president Gusmao is a distant cousin on Marcelina's side.

Mario, one of the UDT founders, followed a different path. He married a Portuguese woman, and became Indonesian and a highly paid foreign ministry official. Improbably, he was appointed Jakarta's ambassador to Romania. His daughter, Sonia, is an Indonesian soap opera queen who starred in Blue Skies Again, a 1991 Indonesian propaganda film about East Timor. Son Pedro is an oil man active in the Timor Sea negotiations.

In 1982, Mario agreed to become Jakarta's governor in Dili, presiding over a directive that banned the Portuguese language. Not long after, he told Gusmao in a jungle rendezvous that his liberation movement was doomed.

Mario's governorship draws mixed reviews. Arch-nationalists condemned him as Jakarta's stooge. Moderates, including Gusmao, insist he was a necessary buffer in Jakarta for East Timor when actual power rested with the rapacious Indonesian military. One western diplomat remembers Mario "as almost a fifth columnist in the great Iberian tradition" leaking details of atrocities, notably the 1991 Santa Cruz cemetery massacre in Dili when Jakarta's military murdered 250 people, the turning point for Indonesian legitimacy in East Timor.

Disgusted, Mario resigned the following year. Ramos-Horta calls him "a man of integrity", adding that he "saved a lot of people during those years". Today, this great East Timorese survivor leads an opposition party in East Timor's parliament. He's a moral authority and advises Gusmao but has little direct power. "My real family is the Timorese people," he says.

High in the sierra west of Dili sits a sprawling plantation house. Nine of 14 Carrascalao children were born in this earthy yet elegant setting, named for their father's ancestral home a lifetime away in Portugal. With its cool air and breathtaking vistas, Fazenda Algarve has been lovingly tended by generations of feudal retainers, their teeth stained betel-red. The estate's grounds burst with wild poinsettia, bougainvillea and hibiscus, the surrounding spurs studded with arabica coffee plants.

The Carrascalaos will once again gather here later this year. The talk will be of the family's renewed interests - in banking, hotels, property, coffee and oil - and the ceremony as meaningful to them as last month's independence party in Dili. The ashes of Don Manuel Viegas Carrascalao, transported from Portugal, will finally be interred in his adopted soil. Marcelina will be buried beside him. The patriarch's deathbed wish will have been fulfilled.

And, for this remarkable family, in an independent East Timor, there will at last be some closure. At least for the time being.

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