Another trip to Maliana, in the soft seats of a large bubbly Landcruiser intended for the bums of people with titles like “Representative” and “Coordinator.” Opening and closing the window, getting too hot in the sun and too cool in the blasting A/C.

Appreciating my driver, Andre: his professionalism and diamond earing. Definitely not a guy like the rest, ornery Commandante or Reckless Maniac, who we wrote three official letters of complaint about. Andre is just a guy, riding the line between tradition and modernity. A guy who is tired of buying buffaloes for distant relatives to get married, but goes up to the mountains and jokes with his grandmothers on the weekends. A guy who believes you should only have the number of children you can afford to provide tennis shoes for. A guy who drinks too much and has been known to drive drunk, but looks out for strangers and would do anything for a friend.

Andre sees the ‘wages’ of independence being paid to others, people who did little for the resistance. People who worked in “Battalion 702″ who arrived at work in Indonesian offices at 7, did 0 at work and went home a 2pm. Collaborators is too active a word for them. They passively benefited from the Indonesian occupation. Then there were those who were simply not in East Timor, living overseas in relative comfort.

Andre says he formed part of an urban network supplying materials to the guerrillas in the jungle. Each grouping within this network, often set-up ad-hoc through some familial connection with guerrillas, was called a ‘caixa,’ meaning box. The box symbolized both the supplies to be delivered to the guerrilla forces in the jungle (in a box) but the group of people behind that box. Sometimes the box would merely be cigarettes and aspirin. But Andre had a family member who worked as a receiver at an Army warehouse in Dili, and he would unload boxes of uniforms and boots on Andre from time to time.

One occasion Andre had to keep boxes full of stolen uniforms in his house for a couple of days until he could deliver them at night to the designated mountain location. He put his family at extreme risk by keeping the materials there. If anybody in the ‘caixa’ was ever found out, they faced torture, the abduction and rape/torture of family members, and imprisonment. So it’s easy to see how the ‘clandestine’ urban elements of the <a href=””>resistance</a&gt;, not just the guerrilla forces feel that their sacrifices should be acknowledged.

Prime Minister <a href=””>Mari Alkatiri</a>, who spent the whole period of the Indonesian occupation in exile, studying and teaching law in Mozambique, made a comment last year that will never be forgiven by people like Andre.

He said, “Caixa? What’s that? What’s the big deal about caixa? Like a caixao? [a big box]?” By minimizing the importance of the caixa, and derisively asking if its importance had to do with its size, Alkatiri committed a grave offense to the clandestine networks.

People turned the joke on him, saying, the only ‘caixao’ [big box] Alkatiri will know — and quite soon if he’s not careful — is a coffin. This was just one of many menacing jokes and comments I heard in my last weeks in Timor.


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