Xanana Gusmão par lui-même

Extraits de sa biographie, parue en 1994 à Lisbonne en portugais. Choix des extraits, sous-titres, traduction anglaise, commentaires: Commissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere (CDPM).

Today, 17 November, at the Timor Centre in Lisbon, the launch of Xanana Gusmão's autobiography will be taking place. To mark the occasion, following is the translated excerpt from the book, entitled "East Timor: One People, One Fatherland", published by the newspaper "Publico" in a supplement.

Some friends asked him for background for a biography. Xanana Gusmão offered them the story of his life, up to the time he became Commander of the Timorese resistance movement in 1981. In his prison cell in Cipinang, where he serves a 20-year sentence, he compiled memories of his childhood in Manatuto and Ossu, adolescent years in the seminary and later at Dili secondary school, the hardships of construction jobs and work as a civil servant, until the "fright" of 25 April 1974, which led him to emigrate to Australia - a move from which he was dissuaded at the last minute by his politically active friends. Then follows a description, full of hitherto unpublished data, of the most controversial chapter in East Timor's recent history: the hesitation over choice of political camp, the civil war of August 1975, the acts of vengeance, the inebriation with power, the obsession with betrayal that gradually possessed Fretilin leaders, the temptation to give up, sickness, arduous marches eastwards which just four guerrillas survived, dissidence ("my brothers were abandoning me"), the tough political apprenticeship by the light of beeswax candles. In his description of how Jose Alexandre Gusmão became Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, Commander of the Falintil and mythical figure of the Resistance, the 47-year-old Timorese leader presents himself as a kind of Fernao Mendes Pinto anti- hero. He writes in Portuguese, the language of his childhood to which this son of an "assimilated" schoolmaster (who "spoke of Salazar as if he had met him in Soibada") is still faithful today, like so many his compatriots, who brandish the language of Camoes and the Catholic faith like battle-axes in their fight against the occupation of their native country by Indonesia. The long text (excerpts of which Publico publishes today), was sent a few days ago to Portugal, and constitutes two chapters of the book "Timor- Leste: Um Povo, Uma Patria" (East Timor: One People, One Fatherland), which is to be launched by Editora Colibri on 17th November at 18.OO hrs. at Lisbon's Timor Centre (Espaco por Timor).


I was born in Manatuto. May mother said it was either on the night of 20th or in the early hours of 21st June, in the scorching heat that matures the rice in the paddies.

By then, my sister Felismina, born two years earlier, was probably enjoying the delights of other children, in the warm afternoons of a coastal village: an earthen bowl of steaming chicken soup, with locust from the plains at harvest time, or with "balchao", or with seafood preserves whose aroma of algae would waft even into a child's dreams, amid stories of crocodiles and shrieks of fright at the sticky touch of dead octopus.

Father the schoolmaster father

My father subscribed to (or received) Catholic magazines, "Flama", "Noticias de Portugal" and others. He used to read, he really used to love reading. And I started to read with him... little tales. My mother used to tell stories about the Japanese occupation, about my grandparents, and my uncle, a brother of hers, a telephonist who had managed to land himself a job in Dili, and he was to be our chance... to break away from that small world and, according to my father, become a good Portuguese. My father had accumulated "the benefits of civilization" which, although not many, had, nonetheless, allowed him to have several children, and clothe and educate them all.

By nature I was already a rebel, and the beatings of my education were just passing pain. My father had a part time job as inspector in Mr. Ricardo's cheese and butter factory. A happy childhood, full of presents... godparents and godchildren... and the schoolmaster. My father discussed the Development Plan with his own circle of friends... In the town, where there were few "assimilated" Timorese, he spoke of Salazar as if he had actually met him in Soibada. I admired my father, at the time. He bought a horse and off he went to some elections or other in Viqueque. He was not political, he had become an "assimilated" Timorese, and tried to sever the links between his children and a barefoot culture. My father was not proud (...)

My father belongs to a specific link in the chain of East Timor's colonial presence. At a particular time, the post war period, a handful of schoolmasters, earning a pittance, aided colonial power to recultivate a nation and, imperceptibly, reinforce the domination of cross and sword, side by side with the feudal authority.

Many is the time I witnessed prisoners at the administrative post being whipped as they groaned on the pebbled ground, out in the scorching sun with feet shackled. Sometimes, escaping with the sons of the "liurais", school friends, I also saw orderlies or local people setting off in search parties, or returning with the "band" bringing back bloodied offenders who had not shown up for the forced labour on the roads, or the obligatory service as manual labourer in the homes of the colonialists, Chinese, and the "assimilated" Timorese.

"You are going to the seminary!"

One day, when I got home from school, I saw my mother weeping inconsolably. My uncle, the telephonist - and possibly my only hope of a future, because he owned a house in Dili where I could have stayed while continuing my studies - had died. After taking my 4th year exams, my worried father, who wanted his only son (there were seven of us) to be someone, said there was no alternative: "You are going to the seminary!" But I did not want to be a priest. I had never seen a Timorese priest and the white priests frightened me, and I hated them for beating us so much at school. But I had to go along with it. (...)

Just as in primary school, I was not a diligent secondary school student. The nightly saying of the rosary, and constant novenas and prayers ... used to send me to sleep! I remember that I never got over 13 marks (and rarely got that for behaviour) at the seminary. I was never allowed to join (even if I had wanted to) the Sons of Mary. I took my revenge when I left the seminary by stealing one of the big ribbons reserved for the heavenly-minded, usually earned one or two years before going on to the larger seminary in Macau.

The first rebellion

My mother saved some money, so I was able to return to Dili the following year to try night classes at the secondary school there and look for work. However, my 3 years at the seminary were not recognised as being equivalent to 3 years of secondary school since there were considerable differences in the studies in both places. I should have started again in the first year... but there were other needs to consider... In the morning I did typing in the health service. In 1964, after a year's practice and over 6 months of work without pay, there were vacancies for 15 office workers. I was confident. I managed to get 12th place, but they only took on four!

The first of life's disappointments!... The first feelings of rebellion! Why should women, mestizos, and sons of important people get preferential treatment?

Many of my colleagues, after one year at the seminary, joined the CSM. Not for me though, I did not want to be a soldier. I went back to Manatuto.

Free ticket

That difficult youth was not all without its brighter side... My passion for sport helped me to acquire a "passport" to all the social events and parties. The Union was known as the "indigenous property" of stray players, drunks, and "koremetan", and was effectively a free ticket into any wedding party or birthday dance in any neighbourhood... and we were smiled upon... to the strains of Abril Metan's eloquent violin, that delighted in seeing old couples return to the time of their youth, in the midst of a different restless youth that was busy stealing away their daughters at the dances, and throwing vengeful punches after the parties.


In 1970, I got married in a registry office, after insulting the priests. Ever since 1968, Emilia had been forbidden by her father to continue our courtship. In 1969, he made her leave her home. Inexplicable... because I was just a soldier? Because I was poor? Because I was native? Only he knew and only he knows.

"Whites out"

It was usual for people starting a family to gradually leave behind the chat out in the street, and spend more time at home. However, a certain Justino Mota, along with a few others, always had time for talking... and grumbling. Another group of young people also started to gather outside, and they could usually be found in the avenue, deep in society gossip. The Chinese and their smiling diplomacy and envelopes, bosses and their integrity and professional abilities or otherwise, governors and their policies, taxes and prices, the "terrorism" in Africa, day to day life in the civil service, etc., were all topics they liked to discuss. The simplistic wish that the whites would go away was also spoken about, but without the slightest thought to anything beyond that.

The fright of 25 April

25th April 1974 came along. Paradoxically, I was frightened. Independence? How? That Timorese elite was no elite, but rather a bunch of civil servants who, in their everyday conversations, sinned by saying "for all intents and purposes" and "considering that...". I was surprised at the feverish enthusiasm of many of my friends and colleagues. I heard about RH (Ramos-Horta - today Xanana Gusmão's spokesman) who had begun to make speeches in public. He was not an idol, but I admired his courage, and his image of "official" non-conformist had made him well-known and respected.

That freedom of choice crippled my ability to think straight. I opted for the easiest solution - to get out. I did not even want to imagine those people running Timor. I left for Australia, to find work and save up some money, perhaps to return some day.

Thanks for the beer

I sympathised with Fretilin, but I was overwhelmed by worry about a future in the hands of our incapacity. However, I gradually started to give way to my colleagues' continuous "attacks" upon me. Chico (Francisco) Lopes (then leader of UDT, currently adviser to President Suharto) tried to persuade me to join UDT. I thanked him for the lunch and beers we had at Hotel Baucau.


I went to Moniz da Maia, as an apprentice electrical mechanic. My work mates were all Fretilin.

The political climate was now unpleasant. Hopes were dramatised by the exodus of the colonists, an army of long-haired soldiers crossed with "revolutionaries", the weakness of the government, dissatisfaction, and the general climate of instability. There was a confusion of aspirations put forward by small circles, but they were gradually smothered as Fretilin gained ground. UDT clung with all its might to the traditional authorities, which had already lost the prestige stubbornly being attributed to them still. The civil servants were not arguing the future of Timor, they were more concerned about the possibility of having to live without money, and most of them joined up with UDT. To be a civil servant meant having social status. For some, it just meant maintaining the social status the family already had. For many, it meant promotion to a secure life, money every month, a promise of a pension and, who knows, the reward of some nice holidays, that not everyone gets.

The weak and unproductive civil service did not have much choice really! A few frustrated and racist individuals went over to Apodeti!

Contemptible freedom

Violence was triggered... action! I inwardly struggled between getting involved and keeping to the sidelines of it all. I opted for the latter.

It was not that I did not want to join in, but I could see that the situation could easily run completely out of hand. Lari Sina insulted colonialism, while protesting about the delays in getting paid. I tried to point out the contradictions of such attitudes. I was no longer greeted with closed fists. I was a "UDT infiltrator". My friends avoided me... eventually, I identified myself politically, in writing, and once again was greeted, and could greet others, with closed fist!

At first, friends and colleagues in the UDT continued to raise their hands and greet me. Then came indifference, and, finally, it became obvious that we were avoiding each other. This really was not what I had wanted. UDT parents, Apodeti uncles, Fretilin children. What contemptible freedom this was!

Fretilin, the only way

I made a conscious decision, on 20 May 1975, in spite of my elders shedding tears and crying "ukun rasik an". If I wanted to fight for my homeland, there was only one way to do so: to join Fretilin! I never had a membership card, and never asked if my friends had. I followed the political developments of the situation and of the parties. I came to no conclusions; I was troubled.

UDT's coup

(...) Night of 10 August. Without realising it, the OPS (Organizacao Popular de Seguranca, Popular Security Organisation) had begun to trust me. It must have been nearly 19.00 hours. I received a message from the OPS: Alarico (A. Fernandes, who was to become Minister of Information and, later, surrender to the Indonesians) was in contact with Ponciano about an army uprising, and UDT was going to arrest our leaders. They were on their way, and members of the CC (Fretilin's Central Committee) were in danger.

We ran. We set up security along the road side. On the corner opposite the Santa Cruz cemetery, hooded figures were already emerging: Nicolau (N. Lobato, Fretilin's Vice-Chairman), Mari Alkatiri (today Fretilin's leader outside Timor), Carapinha, Hata, and others. Alarico jumped over into the cemetery and fired a shot as he fell. We rushed over to the headquarters. A quick meeting of the CC members present. Mari told me that UDT was planning a coup for that very same night, and that the CC members would have leave the city.

Beyond Becora, we heard shots being fired, and megaphones announcing the "revolutionary anti-communist coup". It came as no surprise to me. It was simply the logical and natural consequence... of that politics. That was all I knew.

The weapons the CC had for protection : a handgun, a hunting rifle, and two bombs made by the fishermen of Bidau. A temporary base: Mota Ulun. One line of communications, lookouts with fragile bamboo bows and arrows... Nicolau, Carvarino, Hata, Mari, Alarico Carapinha, etc.

The short, bald Staff Officer appeared ruminating threats. I looked at Venancio and the army baker. They were calm. Guido and Rogerio (R. Lobato, brother of Nicolau, later Minister of Defence, and currently in Portugal, where he is a supporter reconciliation led by Abilio Araujo) were there too. Then followed a quick interrogation, and a Portuguese officer and Rogerio painted a picture of the future for me: "The problem is communism!" "But I am not a communist!" "Some Fretilin leaders are! And Indonesia will not allow that, and will invade Timor." "We will respond to the war." "But you will be alone. Yes, you will have a few weapons, but you won't last for long. You won't have any spare parts, or ammunition!" "Then we'll use sticks and stones if necessary", I answered. He laughed, and said "If you meet up with the leadership of Fretilin, tell them that they had better talk with UDT."

(...) The dawn of a restless Sunday. As on previous days, the pervading calm tried to suffocate us with uncertainty. We hoisted the Fretilin flag and the Foho Ramelau (Fretilin anthem alluding to Timor's highest mountain) was comforting to hear, and momentarily allayed our fears. I was shouting helplessly at some soldiers from the detachment "Give us weapons...", when I was told I had visitors. I ran out. Pedro Melo had brought my father, Emilia and the children to see me. We hardly had time to embrace... the lookout came to warn us: "Trucks full of UDT soldiers are coming!"

I told everyone to disperse. Two trucks stopped. Maggiolo (Gouveia, Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief of Dili Police) stepped down, brandishing a whip and sending sparks of anger into the air. Mouzinho (Cesar) shouted hysterically, while he beat a boy who dared to linger there. There were three of us, including Chico Horta. Maggiolo, eyes bloodshot, fumed: "Lower that flag! Take down that rag!" Motionless, I looked at him. Joao (Carrascalao) came over: "Gusmão, take down the flag!" "Take it down yourself, if you want to. This is our headquarters, and we have a right to hoist our flag here", I replied. He took it down, and the three of us were ordered into the trucks.

(...) Maggiolo (who had announced on the radio that he had left the Portuguese army and joined UDT in order to "save Timor") dragged our Fretilin flag along the road.

In Palapaco, "the armed forces of Captain Lino" (another Portuguese army officer who joined UDT) were being acclaimed... That was UDT... All familiar faces! The important ones and a retinue of assimilated Timorese... I was lucky to pass by unnoticed because, as I entered the building where my comrades were being held as prisoners, I wasn't punched as most of them had been.

Friends, from UDT, came to ask if I needed anything. Many waved to me from outside. A big consolation... from politics which we had not managed to avoid. I myself despised my brother-in-law when I saw him armed. It was hard to admit that we had come to this!

(...) As Fretilin's forces advanced, the UDT leaders became increasingly nervous. Maggiolo's red eyes were popping out of his head as he came in, growling threats, beating the air with his whip. "Look at this. That Arab Mari says he's going to destroy Dili... and build houses with "palapa"" He was ranting, perhaps frustrated, perhaps regretting the biggest blunder he had made in his life. Some of us implored: "I am not communist, I don't know anything."

The festive atmosphere, elation and shouts of victory of the first few days after my arrival, gradually waned and disappeared altogether. Outside, signs of any movement were sporadic and fleeting.

We were deployed cleaning the latrines. We had to clean up UDT's shit with our hands, with bugs crawling up our arms. Many, the same familiar faces. Some friends apologised to me. Some had apprehension, or shame, or sometimes fear written all over their faces. What contemptible politics! The politics of quarrels, telling tales on each other, casting the first stone, of fists doing the talking, arrests, arming oneself, responding with violence.

Palapaco was being pounded by mortar fire. "Our side are now in Sang Tai Hoo and Casa Vitoria", "our side has occupied the docks"; I picked up and transmitted information to Sahe. (..)

Vengeance and corruption

Alarico and, later, Hermenegildo were real executioners. Frenzied thirst for vengeance. That hurt so much.

Just once, I went to visit the prisoners. Mouzinho was despondent, beaten. He asked me to look for his gold chain and give it to his mother. Maggiolo (who, with other prisoners, was executed by Fretilin in Aileu after the invasion) was quiet but sure of himself. I felt sorry for him but, at the same time, admired his attitude of still wanting to assert that he was who he was. Now, he was a different Maggiolo to the one I'd seen before, the frenzied Maggiolo, intoxicated with political hysteria. There he was, calm, head hung low, silent, perhaps feeling superior to his lamenting comrades.

Fernando Luz embraced me. Transformed. "Gusmão, I didn't kill anyone, I never gave orders to beat anyone. My hands are clean, I did my duty... you understand!" Years later, in Lospalos, they told me that he had even apologised for arresting... people!

Why is it that politics makes people become obsessed with crime, and gives them such an appetite for violence? (...)

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Dili became this threat. In the interior too, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth... and it saddened us, because it threatened danger. A state of war, painful, uncontrollable! Members of the CC with three, four cars, trips to the beach with girlfriends. I saw box loads of "555" in Filomeno Paixao's house. I took a packet and left despondently (...)

(...) Xavier (X. Amaral, Fretilin leader, first chairman of the self-proclaimed Democratic Republic of East Timor, later imprisoned for "treason", currently in Indonesia, a supporter of integration) was (not) the chairman, he was just symbolic, like a flame when it has not completely extinguished, and stubbornly stays alight but doesn't shine! The sergeants were not satisfied. The military was distancing itself. The militias were almost out of control and wanted to impose rules. Rogerio Lobato was too proud, and the PM turned into an elite.

It must be the same in all coup d'etat situations in third world countries. Excesses, corruption/privilege-seeking by politicians, discontent within the army, social disorder, and uncontrolled paramilitary forces.

Portugal is not coming back

There was general mobilisation to defend the fatherland which had finally become free. Free from whom? No one knew for sure. From Portugal? From capitalism, imperialism? From colonialism? Or... from itself?

What had seemed might vanish, reemerged in force, but it was apprehension that dominated the feelings of the people as a whole, because the real war was beginning, and it was calling their children to arms.

I was in charge of producing the paper "TimorLeste" which, understandably, revealed the shortcomings and was, necessarily, responding to a specific political situation, in which a liberation movement that was too young and, perhaps, immature, had come out the winner.

A victory that had been too easy... and easily won success always has its drawbacks. (...)

(...) Portugal did not want to come back. I realised then, for the first time, that the decolonisation process was just a way of playing for time. What I also had not understood before was that we had been hurled into the pit of independence. What for UDT had been a headache, the precious escudo... for purchases, for me became of vital importance to the life of the country... which had come to a halt, groaning in blood, its backward tranquility of Sunday markets in the interior, and the many shops of Dili... now closed, looted, broken into... because they were seen as the product of colonialism, imperialism, the exploitation of one man by another. Once, Emilia returned from attempts to put some order into the Education Services, and told me: "So many colleagues, relatives of CC members, have special cards and they go to the shops and just pick up cloth, and clothing..."

Independence disturbed

I was called one afternoon. We were at the home of Xavier Amaral. A few members of the CC, among them Nicolau, Hata, Mari. There was a need to make a unilateral declaration of independence and it would be made the following afternoon.

(...) If there was any joy, it was hidden in our hearts. It was a treasure that was hard to share. On people's faces, fear, reflecting the seriousness of the situation, and nobody asked about the future. They all had their feet firmly on the... grounds of the palace!

I filmed the act. Roger East (the Australian journalist working for Fretilin, who was killed by the Indonesians on the very day of the invasion, 7 December 1975) asked if he could launch it in Australia, but, stupidly, I said no. It was mine, a treasure, stolen from the future of our fatherland, a future in danger... with "whores" from Colmera occupying the bank's residences... satisfied with independence!

"While members of the FCC are driving around in their cars, and off to the beach with girls, doing nothing, my soldiers are dying at the border", shouted Rogerio Lobato during a meeting held just after independence! Although there was an element of truth in what he said, he shouldn't have generalised in that way. And I remembered getting a new car, taken from a Chinese individual by Leopoldo, which I exchanged two days later as I felt uneasy about driving it. Instead, I asked for an old vehicle that had belonged to the colonial government.

(...) Some days later, a message arrived. The first government was being formed. There were some new Ministers among us. Congratulations were tenuous expressions of solidarity. The atmosphere suddenly became heavier. "You, a Minister?", Antunes asked Sahe, Sera Key and Kruma in surprise. "Just let me touch the backside of a Minister!", he joked. There was a general feeling of disbelief, and that we were not quite ready to make our fatherland independent. That was a constant worry to me.

Indonesian invasion

We were awoken in Lois on 7 December by a strange incessant rumbling noise. It must have been about 3.30 or 4.00 in the morning. Heavy military aircraft were passing overhead, flying in an easterly direction, following the coastline.

That afternoon, we were told to go to the Command. "Indonesian paratroops have landed in Dili", Hermenegildo told us. A general silence ... the begged questions to which there were no answers. The following day, we were off in the old Land Rover through Railaco to Balibar, where Combat Management was located, with Nicolau in command. Whenever the Meriam and naval artillery allowed us to poke our heads out over a hill or out from behind a tree, we would look towards Dili.

Sebastiao Sarmento tried to aim at the ships anchored in the port. Eduardo dos Anjos brought out a huge pair of powerful binoculars. What we witnessed throughout those days was pillage. Bombardment weapons vomited flames over Dili's hillside, while cargo ships emptied the customhouse of its contents. They were loaded up with vehicles, load upon load, the cranes filled up those metal Indonesian bellies!

An interminable line of people streamed upwards. I saw no fear in their exhaustion. I saw resignation in their eyes, and anguish that must have been torturing their souls... but they smiled, as if that might somehow relieve their suffering. (...)

Mao and MRPP

May 1977. Meeting in Laline. Xavier, summoned several times, did not want to be there. He was quite happy in his kingdom, without any meetings. It was an historic occasion because Marxism was acclaimed.

There were changes: Domingos Ribeiro, Joao Bosco, Nascimento, seemed sincere about their political changeover. During that meeting, at which Nicolau and Joaquim Nascimento gave their coffee plantations over to the State, Hermenegildo Alves, an incorrigible drunk, said: "Any day now, the State will get my wife's gold earrings too." In the intervals at meetings, Eduardo dos Anjos, the inveterate Bohemian with whom I spent a good part of my youth in Dili, beer- drinking and partying, was still the attraction, telling endless anti-revolutionary jokes... which didn't amuse the DOPI (Department of Political and Ideological Orientation) in the slightest.

Sera Key tried hard to demonstrate he was a political theorist. He debated. In fact, he was the only one who livened up the meeting, until all the CPs (political commissars) were told to sit around the same table and organise the meeting. There was no more debate.

In late 1976, I had managed to get hold of the Thoughts of Chairman Mao, the only personal property I carried around with me. I read, and reread, trying to understand his simple way of describing such complex things. I tried emulate Sera Key, but not in order to debate. Through Mao's explanations, I tried to gain better understanding, because it was hard to spend hour after hour listening to dissertations on unknown concepts and glean anything from it. Hata asked me: "Where did you read all that?" "Don't think, Xanana, that we are all well-versed in theory. In Lisbon, I spent most of my time with the MRPP painting slogans on walls...!"

Revolutionary morality

(...) A resolution was passed allowing individuals, under certain conditions, to marry twice. Sera Key asked me to accompany him to Cribas, where his wife's family lived. "Are you going to get married?", he asked me. In Soibada, Laka and Solan, places full of young women, they had tried to change our attitudes towards free love. I had a serious talk about this with Sahe and Wewe, my very dear friends whom I shall always remember. And if, in the region where I was working, I managed to earn the trust of the elders and people on all levels, it was due to the puritanism that Sahe and Wewe taught me to practice.

"No. Before the meeting I received a letter from Emilia", I replied. "I am not getting married either", said Sera Key! A tough and prolonged war... was ahead of us, we realised that.

(...) We all moved on to Unidade 1. Solan went because he was "fataluku" and wanted to be in his familiar surroundings again. Sera Key and Txay went to say their goodbyes. Three nights in a row of modern dancing, at the headquarters. I was somewhat put out by this because, at my previous headquarters, I had never allowed such a thing. Dances were only allowed on national days, and in places where there was a population. From Sahe I had learned discipline and self-sacrifice, and to avoid behaviour that might end up in a marriage. Activists bent on going around the villages, choosing modern rather than traditional dance were punished. (...)

(...) I did get married in 1978. The decision to face a long tough war had been taken. Would I be capable of keeping up the Puritanism which I prided myself on (because it had been an important factor in gaining political trust) in a region... as difficult as my previous area of activities had been?

No, that wasn't my motive! In the meantime, Ma'Huno (who succeeded Xanana after the latter's arrest, and is currently living in East Timor, apparently resigned to Indonesian occupation) was left to take care of his baby, after his wife died.

Betrayal and punishment

Sera Key told me about the atrocities committed in Aikurus. At first, he was horrified, but later convinced himself of the need for "revolutionary violence". All kinds of torture was practiced; burning coals were laid on top of people's stomachs, and they were left to rot... I could not believe my ears. Sera Key changed: he accepted it and was convinced of the need for it.

"You know your men. You know the situation in your sector. The most appropriate decision must be made by you alone." And I reminded him of the Aquiles affair, the violence used in the Baucau region, and how I had arrested a certain Adelino Carvalho, Fernando Sousa and some leaders (liurais) from Uatu Karbau. I reminded him of the three individuals from Iliomar, also involved in the Aquiles case, who, after being arrested in Baguia, were sent to Uatu Karbau to await their return to Iliomar. Francisco Hornay and his two companions cried as they begged not to be handed over to the PL, as they would be killed. I contacted the Secretary of the Iliomar zone (today a Commander) and insisted that the three should not be ill-treated before being turned over to some member of the CC. On the other side of the Uatu Karbau/Iliomar border, the three men were beaten and killed. I told him I disliked vengeance and that, in the region I superintended, I would go in person to attend cases of "reaction" and "treason" so as to stop confessions being extracted by infliction of pain.

"But this is a problem that concerns national security", he said. Alfonso Savio was arrested. All the members of the former PL were called to Unit 2 headquarters in Matebian. Then Adao Amaral, Jose dos Santos, Pedro Sanches, Gil Fernandes, Raul dos Santos, Victor Gandara were all arrested. Sera Key, Ma'Huno and Txay were conducting the questioning. On the third day, I could let it go on no longer, and asked them to stop the interrogations for a meeting of the four CC members.

"I do not approve of this violence. I find it unacceptable that a member of the CC inflict torture in this way... and that Adao Amaral and Jose dos Santos die under torture. Just look at the physical and mental state of Pedro Sanches. When he is in pain he says yes. Afterwards, he admits that he said yes because he could not stand the pain any longer. I will not allow this to happen here in my unit. Take them and kill them in your own unit!"

Sera Key's decisions had never been questioned before. He looked at me, dumbfounded. The meeting was interrupted.

The long march...

(...) I returned to the west of Matebian, climbing the hill. Sad silence, desolation, grass spreading its cover over short-cuts and paths, struggling to smother the cabbages and potatoes, the only sign a human hand had ever been there. Every ridge, every stone, every brook and tree had witnessed such tremendous suffering. The seven of us marched on in silence. All the scenes of past months rushed back into mind. We could feel the voices of the dead, the same voices that cause that sensation of respect felt when entering a "lulik" house! Matebian was our Big Home. The fine rain and thick mist made us sweat beneath our uniforms.

(...) I ordered Commander Olo Gari to go to the centres to see if there was any sign of resistance. I took some officers and a company back east to take part in a meeting on the reorganisation of the forces.

Marching and fighting in the rain. I was already unwell, physically weak. By the time we reached south of Legu Mau we had run out of food. On the third day, two platoons deserted. The others looked at me, waiting for an order to turn back, clearly not prepared to put up with hunger and marches through unknown areas. I asked for five volunteers, and the six of us carried on marching. I was the only one who knew the terrain. All around, the countryside had changed, so different to when there had been people living there with their plots, animals, houses, villages.

We arrived to the Iliomar area. Only "Aibubur" (a kind of eucalyptus)!!! When we got back we had less than ten "kuan" (kind of white sweet potato) tubers to show for our unfruitful search. Commander Zei Moto, who had tried to hunt for something, had come back with a "hudi kain" (banana tree stalk). Removing it from the black water in my plate, I said to the Commander "We are all going to die if we carry on eating this mush that even pigs wouldn't eat". He looked at me pouring away the contents of my plate, swallowed up the remains of that black water tinged with purple, smiling, and winked his eye.

(...) In Iliomar (after confirmation came through that the Resistance leader Nicolau Lobato had been killed in combat, on the last day of 1978) the structural bases for an organised resistance were established, in an intimate bond between guerrillas and the people of the towns temporarily occupied.

It was also decided that I would go as far as I could to try to contact some member of the FCC. The sector was left in the hands of Ma'Huno, while Kilik and Bere Malay Laka took command of the forces. Another journey to the west of Matebian. Six weeks of kidney pain and daily fighting. I couldn't sit down, couldn't stay standing up, and I couldn't bear to lie down. I used to roll around on the ground as if possessed. How I cried! Many is the time I wanted to commit suicide. I couldn't stand that terrible pain, that horrible discomfort. I used to drink huge amounts of tea made from leaves, peelings, and roots.

The sympathy in the eyes of my warriors offended me. I would avoid the ineffectiveness of their words. I tried all possible and imaginary cures. I put up with hot tins and boiling steam from tubers and leaves heating my anus...The explanation was that I was suffering from a "woman's sickness". Vanquished, beaten, I carried that "cure" around in a "asa liki" (pouch). Not that I really believed that steaming remedy would enter through the intestines and warm up the kidneys!... I knew that I just needed to believe in something in order to keep on going...

In May 1980, I went to the mid-eastern region with 60 armed men. I gradually got better along the way... A difficult march. The forces west of Matebian, where there was still a lot of food, were not prepared to withstand hunger and fatigue.

Often, at nightfall, I would leave them down by some riverbank, because they refused to carry on to spend the night in a higher place. Only the "fatalukus", disciplined men, handpicked by Dinis Carvalho, would follow me without a word of protest. I have bawled them out so many times, at meetings, showing them the way back. Then they're too embarrassed to talk to me. As soon as things are back to normal, the complaining and lamenting starts again...

And towards leadership

The old men embraced me and cried! "Son, carry on the fight! Don't ever surrender! You are our only hope!" The guerrillas were moved by this, and swore to die for the homeland. After that, they were an example of abnegation, discipline, sincerity and solidarity to all the Falintil! They were all killed. Right now, there are only three or four survivors out of that group, which we baptized the National Unification Detachment.

Back in Remexio, Lo'o Susu continued south towards the border areas with his half. I stayed with the other half. I needed to prepare myself for the Conference on Reorganisation of the Fight, planned for between October and December.

After gathering more information supplied by Dili, I decided to take up leadership. Ma'Huno was more senior, a founding member of the ASDT. But I knew him well and thought it would be irresponsible to agree that he should lead the fight because he was a veteran.

I called Holly and Ko'o Susu. I explained the issues to them, asked for their views, and pointed out my reservations. "You can count on us to help in whatever way we can." They gave me their hands, and I squeezed them tightly as I felt the heavy burden of responsibility on my shoulders.

(...) I became the "Commander of the Fight" to all my warriors. For them, my decisions, and even just my words, took on a new importance, becoming "the Commander of the Fight's decisions" and "the Commander of the Fight says". And they did their duty, those brave selfless companions, knowing that they had been born to die under my command for their fatherland.

I took stock of the revolutionary process. At the meeting of the political committee in Aikurus, Hata took on responsibility for the ideological training of the FCC members, and I so much wanted to be involved... I remembered the nightly talks Sahe and I used to have in Makadike/Uatu Lari, in August 1977, when he would help me out with political theory, and we would prepare for the time when a revolutionary party would be formed. We would be Maoists. At least they were Maoists, and considered the CPs of the Soviet Union and Western Europe all social-imperialists. Sahe also admired the "purity" of the Albanian revolution and the internationalist militancy of the Cuban revolution. He asked me that night: "Would you agree join the party?" My ideas still muddled, I said no. He looked at me, shocked: "Xanana, I never expected this from you!" Then I explained to him that I was prepared to be a militant but not a member of the CC... I wasn't ready!

Now, I still wasn't ready. But I had a duty to fulfill: to carry on the work of my predecessors. I could not conceive of liberating our fatherland without liberating our people. This was the prime objective!

I spent my nights studying by the light of candles made from the wax of those Timorese bees that, once, had been introduced to me as "our forces" by the "luliks" of Sananain, where we used to gather before attacking Manatuto (where we were chased out by tanks and mortar fire). I found those beehives on the same branches as before.

(...) Security was perfect. The total silence was a sign of solidarity from my warriors, who understood that if their "big brother" was tearing at his hair, it was because he was finding it hard to understand some concept or other; if he cried it was because he was asking himself "why did it all come to this"; if he asked for stronger coffee, it was because he wanted to spend the whole night studying; if he was up and walking around, it was because he was tired; if he asked for cigarettes, it was because he had smoked all his own...

"Why must it be me?" I did so much wish that at least one other member of the CC was alive on the two borders (...)

In prison, 13 years later

Ma'Huno arrived with the second column of officers. His salute took me by surprise. In a few months I had forgotten what he was like! At night, or in between my attempts to organise my thoughts about our revolutionary process and our war, I would go and spend some time with the personnel who, with one exception (Mau Hodu) were all from the far east.

I was saddened by their completely changed attitude towards me! My brothers were abandoning me. My companions were keeping me at a distance! I cried as I talked to them, and asked them please not to spoil me, not to let power to go to my head, not to plant the seed of ambition in my soul, and not to kindle pride in my spirit, and satisfaction at being leader and Commander of the Falintil.

In March 1981, the I National Conference on Reorganisation of the Country. Today, in Cipinang, 13 years later, I am still learning with the same fighting spirit, with the same will to win, and with the same awareness that I am just serving my fatherland.

Cipinang, 30 September 1994

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