Subject: Timorese resistance leader's popularity never dimmed

The Age

Timorese resistance leader's popularity never dimmed

January 19, 2010

VIRGILIO dos ANJOS (ULAR)

GUERILLA HERO

14-5-1953 - 6-1-2010

By JILL JOLLIFFE

COLONEL Virgilio dos Anjos, one of the key leaders of East Timor's 24-year resistance struggle against Indonesian occupation, has died while being rushed to hospital after collapsing at his home at Manleuana, near Dili.

A lithe, sinewy man with a smile as big as he was tiny, he is the first of his generation of popular resistance leaders to die of natural causes in peacetime.

Born of a noble family in the Viqueque district on the south coast, he attended a Catholic school at Ossu. After completing his studies, he worked briefly as a teacher's aide before being conscripted into the Portuguese army, and served as a non-commissioned officer.

He did not initially support the radical Fretilin party with which he was identified later, but fought with the conservative UDT when civil war erupted briefly in August 1975.

After the 1992 capture of Xanana Gusmao, he was one of a handful of fighters who were guarantors of the military campaign that paved the way for Indonesia's 1999 withdrawal.

Under the nom de guerre ''Ular'', he fought alongside seasoned guerillas such as Taur Matan Ruak, David Alex, Nino Konis Santana, Falur Rate Laek, Sabika and Lere Anan Timor. Both Alex and Santana died in 1998, cheated of the fruits of victory; Ular and the others went on to become founders of East Timor's modern post-independence army (Falintil-FDTL) under the leadership of Major-General Taur Matan Ruak.

The dos Anjos family had a close bond with Australia through his father, Celestino, a local chieftain who had fought with Australian diggers cut off behind Japanese lines during World War II. After the war, Captain Arthur ''Steve'' Stevenson of the 2/4 Independent Company maintained his friendship with them, visiting regularly and lobbying Canberra for recognition of the Timorese who fought with Australian forces, successfully in the case of Celestino.

East Timor researcher Ernie Chamberlain recalls that Celestino dos Anjos was ''the only Timorese to be awarded an Australian WWII individual honour/award, the Loyal Service Medal, signed off by (General Thomas) Blamey in 1945, but due to administrative inefficiency not presented to him until February 1972. He was also the only Timorese to do a combat jump into Portuguese Timor …'' Celestino was parachuted in with Stevenson and another Australian officer to investigate the fate of Z Force soldiers infiltrated back into Timor after the main Australian withdrawal in 1943. Most perished due to Japanese capture of radio ciphers; Stevenson's party survived despite a two-month manhunt by the Japanese.

After the Indonesian invasion of December 1975, family contacts with Stevenson in Sydney was cut, until 1983 when Ular succeeded in smuggling a letter to him via Lisbon. It told of his father's execution by the Indonesian army, along with hundreds of Timorese from the district of Kraras after an uprising. Ular's wife, Hare Kaik, was shot alongside his father.

''I write to inform you that my father was killed by occupation forces on 27/9/83 as an act of reprisal against the position I, his son, took on August 8th,'' Ular wrote. ''Weeks later, the remaining population which had sought refuge in the mountains was newly captured, among them my father and my wife. They were all herded into the Klalerek Mutin area, stripped of everything. Benny Murdani's murdering forces took their knives and machetes, so they could not even cut bamboo to make huts or cut sago to eat.

''So it was, Mr Stevenson, that on 27/9/83 they summoned my father and my wife. Some distance from the camp they ordered my father to dig his grave and when it was deep enough fired a round and the poor old man with his last force tried to fit his body into it. After that they told my wife, who was pregnant, to dig another grave for herself, but she insisted she wanted to be with her father-in-law and placed herself in front of his grave. They pushed her in and killed her as they had killed him.''

The reputation of other former guerilla heroes slumped in the independence era, but Ular's popularity was undiminished after he became a regular military officer.

Ular was a major when he died, having been outstripped by his former resistance comrades-in-arms who had risen rapidly after independence to more illustrious ranks. But he received a posthumous promotion to colonel and was buried at the cemetery of National Heroes at Metinaro, east of Dili, following a funeral mass at Dili Cathedral that was attended by national leaders.

He is survived by his wife Judite, five children, and his mother Madalena.

Jill Jolliffe is the author of Cover-Up: The inside story of the Balibo Five.


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