The Guardian July 17, 2002

East Timor's courageous people look to the future

by Andy Alcock
Chairperson, Australia East Timor Friendship Association (SA) Inc On May 19-20, 2002, I was one of the privileged people invited to East Timor for that nation's independence celebrations. I was in good company as six members of the Australian East Timor Friendship Association (SA) [formerly the Campaign for an Independent East Timor (SA) (CIET)] also went.
For those who attended, it was not only a jubilant celebration with people who had survived 24 years of genocidal hell at the hands of the Indonesian military, it was a celebration of politics with a human face displayed by Xanana Gusmao, Jose Ramos Horta and the other East Timorese leaders. The celebrations were extremely successful. About 250,000 people gathered at Taci Tolu, a plain about 17km west from the centre of Dili. This is the place where Pope John Paul II conducted an open air mass during his visit to East Timor in 1989. It is also the site of mass graves where hundreds of East Timorese victims of the Indonesian genocide are buried. International guests included Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN; the President and the PM of Portugal; the NZ PM, Helen Clark; the Australian PM and Foreign Minister and President Megawati of Indonesia. The celebrations were preceded by a mass which was very moving, particularly because it featured traditional East Timorese music much of which had been promoted by the resistance over the 24 years of occupation. The conductor was Simao Barreto, an East Timorese national who is Professor of Music at the University of Macau and father of David Barreto, who was a member of the CIET (SA) Committee for many years. The celebrations were not deterred by the arrogant and intimidating behaviour of the Indonesian military (TNI). Six warships were sent to East Timor several days before the main celebrations, supposedly to accompany and provide security to President Megawati during her brief visit of three hours. One of the warships had 2000 troops on board. To encourage Megawati to be there, Xanana left the celebrations at Taci Tolu to be with her while she travelled from the Comoro Airport to the Indonesian Heroes' Cemetery in Dili. Because he committed himself to accompany her, he missed that part of the program devoted to the national heroes, the FALANTIL resistance veterans. This was very important to him personally because he was the FALANTIL supreme commander for 14 of the 24 years of the Indonesian occupation. For this part of the program, the lights were dimmed. About 200 young people in white gowns carried candles into the performance arena. As they did so, Kdadalak (Small Streams) was played. This is a powerful song set to haunting music, which although composed during the independence struggle is in the style of East Timorese traditional music. The words written by martyred poet Borja da Costa, call for all East Timorese to unite. The power of the people is compared to streams, which, when they come together present a powerful force. Streams flowing together become rivers When rivers unite what can oppose them? Refrain: O hele o, o hele ole, o hele le, O hele o, o hele o hele, le hele o So must the Timorese unite Unite to resist the wind that blows from the sea The wind that blows from the sea whips the Kabala Whips our eyes, whips our backs Makes our tears roll down, our sweat flow down. Sucks the fat from our earth, the fat from our bodies. Streams flowing together become rivers Timorese united, let us sustain our fatherland. This song represents the spirit of the East Timorese to resist the Indonesian military's cruel oppression. Then the FALINTIL resistance veterans entered the arena. At first, they came slowly, not marching, but walking at an easy pace. The tempo then changed as the music changed from Kdadalak to Funu Nain FALINTIL (The FALINTIL Fighter). The pace of the veterans quickened to the beat of this stirring song. Day and night In the dry and rainy seasons, the FALINTIL fighter bravely impedes the wind that blows from the sea. FALINTIL fighter! He defends The white star of FRETILIN Which is shining brightly over East Timor. With weapons in both hands He endures hardship and hunger. But he is determined to carry out a long war, Because he knows, one day he will win. FALINTIL fighter! As in the past he has resisted every aggression, With his blood, With his body, He now firmly impedes the Indonesian fascists. The whole world is astounded At the strength of the Maubere people. Like bamboo trees, FALINTIL and the peasants are one. Indonesia will never dominate us! The East Timorese leadership showed great forbearance despite the intimidating provocation of the TNI and the negative and disapproving demeanour of President Megawati Sukarnoputri who dressed in black for the occasion. The East Timorese people generally showed that they were not going to allow the Indonesian generals to diminish the jubilation of the occasion. Xanana's message to Megawati was in Indonesian and basically was this. Our nations have had their differences, but now is the time for reconciliation and forgiveness. Indonesia and East Timor must co-operate to bring about peace and social justice in the region. When Xanana raised their entwined hands, there was thunderous applause. Jose Ramos Horta thanked the various leaders for their support towards their independence. He made no mention of the betrayal by many Western nations that sought to profit from the Indonesian dictatorship's occupation of East Timor. Other features of the celebrations included dancing from the 13 regions of the nation, a display of warriors in traditional costume riding Timor ponies, a tribute to international solidarity with East Timor and a children's contribution. Towards the end of the celebrations, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, formally handed over the administration of the country to East Timor's President Elect, Xanana Gusmao. The President of the National Assembly and former FALANTIL commander, Francisco Guterres (Lu' Olu) swore in the new President and made the only unscheduled speech. He paid tribute to FALINTIL and especially to the leaders who lost their lives in the struggle and spoke about the crimes committed against the people of East Timor by the TNI. There was a spirited rendition of East Timor's new national anthem, Patria, Patria and the lowering of the UN flag and the raising of the Democratic Republic of East Timor flag. A new nation is born The celebrations ended with a massive fireworks display conducted by the pyrotechnicians who arranged the fireworks for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The new nation of East Timor was born. At 9am on the same morning, outside the government offices, the Ministers of the first independent government were sworn in. This was followed by a jubilant parade of school students and people wearing traditional costumes through the streets of Dili. Against all the predictions of the disciples of realpolitik and the prophets of doom, the tiny and courageous nation of East Timor had finally won its liberation against the genocidal regime of the Indonesian generals. Incredible as it may seem, however, veterans of liberation struggles tell us that the easy part of the struggle has only been won. Now comes the hard part, which is to build a viable nation from the destruction that the invaders left behind. This means that the international solidarity must continue for along time to come to ensure that this goal will be realised. All of us will need to play our part. Viva Xanana! Viva Timor Loro Sae Independente!
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Kabala a piece of Timorese traditional clothing worn around the waist. Maubere refers to the poor, hill people of East Timor. Initially, this was considered a derisive term, but FRETILIN has made it a proud one.

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