During the campaign, Manuel Tilman was quoted in a fascinating article in Público claiming that he was a “socialist.” My translation of his lesson to the malais:
“…There were two confederations. That of Lorosomo, with 16 kingdoms, and that of the Belos, with 36. Each one had a king, but there was a treaty to divide the powers. Lorosomo had the political and religious power. The one of this side, the Belos, the military and administrative. That is why we are so irascible.”
They were two attributions which complemented each other, for this the island should be united. Not just the eastern part. “Politically we are separated. The Western side is Indonesian, and the eastern independent. But we are just one nation. I have a project of unification, but it is not for the moment.[…]
“I am descendent of the earlier kings of Timor.” He is, then, a monarchist. “Yes. One of the flags we adopted is that of the monarchy.” And is his party religious? “No. It’s a party of tradition and ethnology. Look at these symbols.” He approaches a sort of tree trunk with three branches next to a wooden cross. “This is an ‘aitos,’ adored since time immemorial. It symbolizes the fertility of the earth and the existance of one only God. We had this. The Christians brought that (the cross), that means that our God had already revealed himself in other parts of the world. The two complement each other. Politics mixes with culture. The cultural identity of the people is mystical. I want to recover this.”
In the Timorese political spectrum, Tilman is considered on the extreme-right. He denies it. “I am socialist. Not like in Portugal, where the Socialists are republicans and lay people, like Mario Soares says. Here, it’s necessary to adapt socialism to the cultural reality of Timor.”
Will mystical socialism work? “My dear friend, with so much money and such a small population, it would work to apply any ideology. As long as I have the people calm.”
Is there some experience in the world, of the application of this type of mystical socialism? “No, I’m forging my own path. I will implement it. Our ancestors had the same system. It was very effective.”
Is it any wonder then, that Tilman’s posters have a sky blue and white cloud background, both the colors of the Portuguese monarchical flag? Manuel Tilman was born in Maubisse of royal parents, his colleagues and founders of the KOTA party are from the royal family of Luca. Augusto Panão (1920) traces the links between the kings of Timor in articles called “Usos e Costumes” in the Revista Colonial, and surprise, surprise, arises the word “monarchico-socialist”:
As more than half of the island is Portuguese, it is intuitive that all of the indigenous who live under the flag of the quinas respect and obey the laws of the Republic, which does not prevent that among them they are… monarchico-socialists in their way, and they have hoisted, as a standard of rebellion, the blue and white flag in the fort of Fatu Boe in 1912, in place of any other. […]
The family tree of all of the nobility of the island has, as we have already said, has it roots in the same origin, in the celebrated family of ship-wrecked people who came from Timor Laut.
From this tree shot off two branches — the Bellos and the Bealis — which in turn, divided, transplating themselves here and there, taking the names Loros and Babulos.
So it is precisely from these sources that the people of Timor look to whenever they need to elect a chief, and quite principally when this chief is the king.
It is from the same origin that all of the “blue blood” of the Island descends.
That is, in the Portuguese part of the island or in the Dutch part, there are nine Loros and nine Babulos.
Nine Loros and nine Babulos on the Bello trunk and nine Loros and nine Babulos on the Behali trunk. Born from these different genealogical trunks after their separation in Quier’as, the Bello trunk going to plant roots in Luca, on the coast, where, spent and falling to bits, is still represented by the descendent of the king D. Clementino, recently deceased, and the Behali trunk create its roots in the border region of Bobanaro, where, they say, it is still strong and vigorous. […]
The truth is, at least according to me, that if it were not for the alliance by marriage that he obtained with certain kings from the border, the chief of the revolt D. Boaventura de Sotto Maior, with great difficulty could have sealed off entry to his kingdom Manufahi to the government troops, as he did at the beginning of operations.
It’s important to note that Panão’s main informant is from Ossu, hence the partiality to Luca over other kingdoms who also claim to be the “trunk” of Bello power in East Timor. He goes on to describe continued intermarriage in the 1910s between kings in the East and the West, all of whom claim to be descended from either the Behali or Bello trunk.
Another odd thing about Panão’s version is that Sorbian or Servião, often considered the West Timorese “trunk,” does not appear. (In Panão’s version the Dutch are left with virtually nothing.) Most often, elites tend to evoke the image of central ritual power in Wehale, with the Sorbian/Servião as the “Dutch” trunk and Luca/Suai as the “Portuguese” trunk. The notion of a Timor unified by divided by colonialism and these two (or three) “trunks” clearly has been used by the colonizers, but also imbued with great meaning by Timorese. There is no “authentic” pre-colonial Timor to be located in all of this! See Hans Hägerdal (.pdf) for more on colonial rivalry and geography of the island.
One thing that is clear in talking to elites in Timor is that this idea of a kinship between coastal kingdoms, and specifically Tetum-speaking places, is a widely held belief. Wehale, now in West Timor, is considered to have been a very important ritual center on the island before the Portuguese destroyed it in 1642. For more on Beali, or Wehale, see the work of Gerson Tom Therik.