In those times, one of the difficulties we experienced was precisely in the area of communication. However, I think, had technology became as advanced as it is today, perhaps it could have created more difficulties for our resistance struggle. In those times, what we often used was various forms of camouflages which they used in order to enter into the prison and visit us. Many times we had to pass letters outside of the prison and in the beginning, it was very difficult, we had to put the letters inside shampoo bottles in order for the letters to arrive to us inside the prison, we had to – those friends who came inside had to try to hide letters, information which they took in to us, using many various ways, and one other way in the communication was we took advantage, I don’t want to use the word “use”, our Indonesian friends. They go in and out of the prison freely.
And we also have the relays. Those who go into the prison to meet us, when he come out another one would take the information to Dili using another way and if the situation does not permit, he will take to a point and then from there this other person will take until its destination, just as when we communicate to the outside.
Mostly, we did in writing, and sometimes we did recordings in cassettes, and we send outside. With regards to smuggling the communications instruments into the prison, it was indeed difficult, but because we had assistance from our Indonesian friends and activists and even the security guards of the prison, whose names I will not mention as I do not want them to have any problems, it was due to all of their support that ensured for us…, Xanana Gusmão, and I, as a supporter, but more towards the student group, ensured that we managed to direct the work from inside the prison.
Later on, telephone – mobile phones managed to be smuggled into the prison but we had to hide it. When we are to use, then we give to Xanana and then we had to take quickly to hide in the chicken cage in places which we felt, if a raid was made, they will not discover. Later on, the road became more widely open after Soeharto’s fall, it begun to open up, and the Indonesian society also continued to think that – many began to say realize that those Timorese people indeed have a right to determine their own political future.
And many other things we did like this. We had to have our own secret codes. In RENETIL we used to communicate to each other by sending each other telegrams, we used to say, for example saying “quickly send me this book” or “we need such money” but what we meant was something else, such as “people are about to apprehend you, be careful” for that we said “your book is not very good, you have to quickly revise this book quickly. This shows that the situation of this friend of ours is not good, we communicated through telegrams, freely, as the Indonesians did not know what was going on as we change our codes. The military who reads our telegrams simply saw a normal communication between students, talking about the studies, about the lecture materials, about books, but they could not decipher our hidden communication in it.
We define all these things by ourselves, we managed to avoid detection. The same thing goes when we do through the telephones, sometimes we spoke about other ordinary things, but the significance was something else. These are some small manners, which we used during the time of Indonesian occupation.
Fernando de Araújo (1963 – 2015), also known as “Lasama,” was a politician from East Timor.
He was born in 1963 in a mountainous district of what was then Portuguese Timor. In 1975, East Timor was granted independence by Portugal, but Indonesia invaded the country and claimed it as an Indonesian province until 2002. During the 1975 Indonesian invasion, Araújo saw the Indonesian Army kill 18 members of his family.
As a university student, he became an activist for Timorese independence and was selected as the first secretary general of the East Timor Students’ National Resistance (RENETIL). As a result of his student activism, he was arrested in 1991 and taken to Jakarta where he was tried and sentenced to six years and four months of imprisonment.
After his release, Araújo remained in Jakarta and continued to work for self-determination and democracy in East Timor, working closely with Indonesian human rights defenders and democracy advocates. He returned to Timor and in 2001 and founded and led the Democratic Party.
He was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency in the April 2007 elections. In the June 2007 legislative elections, he was elected to parliament.
Araújo was elected President of the National Parliament in 2007 and served in that role until 2012. In 2008, he briefly served as acting president after an attempt on the life of President José Ramos-Horta. From 2012 to 2015, he served as Deputy Prime Minister, and was named Minister for Social Affairs and Education in April 2015.
He died from a stroke on June 2, 2015.
East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, is a country of 1.1 million people in the East Indies. It was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century and was an exporter of sandalwood and coffee. As the Portuguese economy struggled in the first part of the 20th century, the nation attempted to extract more resources from its colonies, including East Timor. This increase in Portuguese business control and demands was met with resistance by inhabitants. After Portugal announced in 1975 that the colony would soon become independent and began the process of decolonization, fighting broke out between rival Timorese factions. The Indonesian Army invaded and occupied East Timor in December of that year, and a few months later the country was formally annexed by Indonesia.
The Indonesian occupation was marked by repression and brutality. Under the dictatorship of Suharto, who ruled Indonesia from 1967 to 1998, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly were denied throughout Indonesia, including in occupied East Timor. Timorese who were suspected of harboring separatist sympathies—particularly those suspected of association with the small but resilient guerrilla resistance movement—were routinely arrested, imprisoned and tortured. Extrajudicial killings were common. The 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian troops killed an estimated 200 men, women, and children who had participated in a funeral procession for a pro-independence activist, focused world attention on the continuing denial of democracy and self-determination in East Timor. The massacre and associated events also highlighted the importance of the Catholic Church, both as a focus of Timorese identity and as the only institution that could sometimes afford a measure of protection from government-sponsored violence.
In 1998, shortly after the fall of the Indonesian dictator Suharto, the new President B.J. Habibie announced a “consultation” by which the people of East Timor would be permitted to choose either autonomy within Indonesia or outright independence. The consultation took place in the form of a U.N.-supervised referendum in August 1999 in which 79 percent of the voters chose independence. In the weeks after the announcement of the vote, the departing Indonesian army and its associated Timorese militias destroyed most of the country’s infrastructure and killed over a thousand people. That December, a United Nations peacekeeping force was established, and a U.N. mission administered the country until the restoration of independence in 2002. East Timor and Indonesia are now both multiparty parliamentary democracies.
Violence has continued since East Timor gained independence. Violent clashes in 2006 between rioters and police forces led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri. Police and rioters clashed once again leading up to the 2007 elections. The election required three separate ballots due to irregularities and accusations of fraud. Additionally, assassination attempts on both candidates and elected leaders occurred. In 2012, East Timor held both presidential and primary elections considered successful, free, and fair. At the end of that year, the UN ended its peacekeeping mission in the nation.
East Timor’s economy remains heavily dependent on commodities such as oil, coffee, and sandalwood.
Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom in the World Report lists East Timor as “partly free.” The country earned a freedom rating of 3 with 7 being the least free. East Timor also received civil liberties rating and political rights ratings of 3. The country still struggles with corruption and nepotism as well as a weak rule of law. Additionally, there is a lack of transparency surrounding the government and law regulates demonstrations that “question constitutional order” or could damage the reputation of the nation’s leaders. Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2014 report assigned a “Partly Free” rating to East Timor.See all East Timor videos