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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Fernando "Lasama" de Araújo

Interviewed January 8, 2011

Many of our colleagues were apprehended, all were apprehended; approximately, 72 students were apprehended while they were demonstrating in front of the Embassies of Australia and Germany. They were apprehended and taken to the police stations and were imprisoned. At that time, they were asked, who organized them, who was the leader behind those actions, and many of our colleagues could not cope because there were a lot of pressures from the military, from the investigators, and so they revealed “Fernando de Araújo, whose code name is “La Sama”, he was the who organized everything from behind.”

I actually did not participate in the demonstrations, I was in Bali. They were apprehended on 19 November 1991 in Jakarta, and then on 24 November, very early in the morning, it was a Sunday, the military came to get me in my residence in Bali. They surrounded the house where I was staying, with guns, there were many armed troops, from the intelligence, police, Indonesian military, all of them together came to apprehend me in my residence. I then suffered a very intense investigation. They asked everything. They wanted me to confess everything. I probably declared some things but I did not reveal everything as it was part of the principle which we held firm; ie. not to reveal our works to our enemy.

I slept by myself in a very big prison cell. After my friends were released, I remained alone there. I then became sick, almost died, I could not even get up. And in those times, I started to write down notes, little by little, about my thoughts, and what the police and military officers were doing daily. I began to take notes, using the papers which they used to wrap my food, the “nasi bungkus” to write. But I felt that I was going to die, since I was so sick and could not get up, so I thought if I died, they would take all my notes, and would manage to discover more things about our resistance struggle, so I crawled to the bathroom, mashed all my notes with water, and then flush it all down the toilet.

And then I was given a little bit of treatment, I was taken to the police hospital called Keramat Jati. There, they treated me, but it was not very good treatment. I slept on top of blood, it was a place where police took wounded criminals who were shot. I was taken there and it was very smelly. I went to sleep there so that it can be said that I had been treated. After two days, I asked to be taken back to my prison cell, because that hospital was worse and smellier than my prison cell.

Then they took me to Salemba for a few months, from March to September, in a prison in Jakarta called Salemba, and then my trial during the times I stayed in Salemba prison. And after this, once they had made a decision in the District Court, where I was sentenced to 9 years in prison, they moved me to a prison called Cipinang in Jakarta. I was taken there, and in those times, the prosecutors asked me to ask pardon to President Soeharto, so that I could obtain pardon quickly from Soeharto. Obtain pardon so that I could get out of prison.

In those times, I said: “No, I never contemplated asking pardon to the President of the Republic of Indonesia, because it was Soeharto who went to kill my people and seize my land, and […. Unclear…] and so it is Soeharto who should have asked for my pardon. I cannot ask Soeharto’s pardon because it was not I who disturbed the situation of the people of Indonesia. I did not seize the territories of Indonesia. It was Soeharto who went to Timor-Leste and committed very serious crimes.” Then they told me “ok, you can stop now. No more. We cannot talk further.” So I told them that I was ready to face the jail, and that I was not going to ask for pardons.

I wanted to say that although I was in prison, we continued to work, continued to organize the Resistance movement. Our colleagues continued to consider me as the Secretary-General of the organization, of RENETIL, they continued to ask for directions from me and I worked together with other comrades, especially with Commander Xanana in the prison, and continued to lead the resistance from the prison. That was the summary of my experience as a student, as a prisoner, an activist. And then, in the end, we obtained very good support from Indonesian students, Indonesian NGOs , individual Indonesians and the university. In those times, we also started to do open actions together with the other Indonesian students there.