Someone with ‘history’

Abílio Araujo was, and remains, the first historian to elaborate a full, nationalist history of Timor-Leste. His book “Os Loricos Voltaram a Cantar” was self-published in Lisbon in 1977/8. Unfortunately, it is out of print and even the Biblioteca Nacional in Lisbon does not possess a copy.


Now on the ticket of the Partido Nacionalista Timorense, a party he founded in 2001 while still based in Portugal, Araujo hopes to gain a seat in parliament. Raised in Aileu and a rising star in Fretilin after having studied in Portugal in the early 1970s, he left upon the Indonesian invasion and took the mantle of representative of Fretilin in Portugal. In the mid 1980s, as the photos on his own site show, he abandonned Fretilin and met repeatedly with Indonesian officials, and for that was considered a ‘traitor.’ In the 1990s, from all accounts, Araujo made his name as a businessman in the wine import/export business. A great deal has been spoken about Araujo’s recent dealings in Timor, but as I do not have reliable information, I will leave it to the reader to find out more. As always I welcome corrections on any information here.

His political interests are unclear, except perhaps having a seat in parliament. Here I quote from an interview he placed on the PNT’s website, where he assumes the posture which suits him best: nationalist historian. [This is my flawed translation from Portuguese. A Tetum version is also online.]

Can you comment on the orders and the actions observed during the protests which led to the destruction of houses and other personal property of the “lorosae” in which it came to proclaiming “Loromonu against Lorosae”?

I am really worried. Because I’m obliged to remember the year of 1974 when our Timorese Nationalist Front took on the transformation from ASDT to Fretilin. In that time, Fretilin did not have a Program or a Political Manuel which shed some light on our History of struggle against the Portuguese colonial system. I withdrew to Aileu, Café Laran (the coffee plantation that was destroyed during the Indonesian presence) with my wife, who is Portuguese. We both wrote the Program and Political manual of Fretilin.

A week after we returned to Dili and the Leadership of Fretilin met to hear and discuss the Program and the Manual we had written. In the end, the Leadership of Fretilin unanimously approved those documents without cutting out a single period or comma. I even remember that Ramos Horta began the immediate translation of it to English, because a delegation composed of him and Alarico Fernandes was preparing to leave for Australia where it would present Fretilin to our friends in Australia – parties, unions, intellectuals, etc. In that time Fretilin proclaimed that only colonialism wanted to divide the Timorese into “caladis” and “firacos.” Into “lorosae and loromonu.” We said then that the Nationalist Front was against “divisionism which weakens the People.”

When Indonesian initiated its invasion by way of the border on October 16, 1975, many of our lorosae members went to die on the border, they gave their lives and mixed their blood with their brothers from the border.

In 1976-77, when the beginning of the encirclement and annihilation campaigns on the northern and southern border, our People offered a strong resistance, many people died. The same happened with the encirclement and annihiliation campaigns passed through the central north, east and south regiosn. All of the People resisted and struggled. It cannot be said that the almost 200,000 dead were from just one region but from all of Timor-Leste. Because of this, when they say, although I have not myself actually heard it, that only this or that region conducted the struggle, this does not correspond to the truth and whoever says this has no knowledge of history and our struggle.

I want to remind further that in our Struggle of anti-colonial Resistance, there was not a single kingdom which did not take up arms. Our king of We-Hale took up arms against the Portuguese in 1642. The kingdom of Wehale was, in that time, a strong potentate that exercised influenced over the whole eastern part of Timo where two great houses Suai/Kamenasse and Luka/Vikeke distinguished themselves. It was a common practice and ritual for the kingdoms of Timor to go and marry princesses of We-Hale. For this fact alone one can imagine the degree of kinship that exists in all of Timor-Leste stemming from the socio-political and juridical system of “fetosa’an-umane.” Only in this way can the chain of successive revolts and general uprisings against colonial domination occurring between 1642 until the end of the Manufahi War, in 1912, be understood. This period I call in my book “Os Loricos voltaram a cantar” the “Period of the Wawrs of Independence.” I will cite and recall just a couple.

In 1708, the Portuguese imprisoned D. Mateus da Costa, liurai of Luka/Vikeke, while they advanced to attack the kingdom of Motael. The kingdom of Batugade was also in revolt. In 1719, all the liurais of Timor-Leste together with those of West Timor met at Suai/Kamenasse and signed the “Pact of Kamenasse,” which was described by Portuguese historians, with the purpose of expelling the Portuguese. In 1726. the kingdoms of Lamak Hitu, Kailaku, Leo Hitu, Saniri, Atsabe, Lei Mean, Ai Funaro, Deribate, Ermera revolted at the same tim. In 1729-31, Vikeke, Samoro (Soibada) and Klako also revolted. The kingdom of Luka was at war for 28 years, from 1779 to 1807. As a result of this war, the kingdom of Luka lost Venilale which no longer submitted to Luka. In 1812, Lakluta and Maubara revolted while Laleia, Beimau, Dote, Alas, Kova and Sealare refused to pay taxes to the colonial government.

In 1851, Faturo and Sarau initiated a great revolt which resulted in their destruction and total decimation. Many other revolts occurred in this period following the transition from the cycle of sandalwood to coffee. The introduction of coffee required a new colonial policy. From the colonizer/merchant of the sandalwood era to the phase of settling the colonist on the land. New necessities of the colonial presence required new policies applied by fire. There was the need to occupy lands, delimit properties of the kingdoms and today claimed by the colonial power. In 1861, they began work on the construction of a Palace of the Governor in Lahane. The construction had only just started and the kingdoms of Fatuahi, Lacló, Hera and Ulmera had taken up arms. The kingdom of Laga is attacked and destroyed, on June 18, 1863, its Liurai Daholo flees to the mountains. In 1865, Ková, Sanir and Balibó revolt. It’s also the turn of Laklubar to revolt also. In 1878, Laleia also revolts. In this same year, Laklubar rises up against the colonial power. In 1887, there is a revolt in Dili and the Portuguese Governor Lacerda Maia is killed by his military escort, in Aiteka Laran, the intersection for Taibesse. Following this assassination, the liurai of Motael was arrested and tied to one of the masts of the steamship ‘Dili’ anchored in the bay of Dili. With the liurai of Motael many nobles and their assistants were also arrested. From 1895 to 1912, we have the great War of Manufahi directed by Liurai D. Boaventura, a war against the colonial power in which the all of the kingdoms of Timor just as much Lorosae as Loromonu participated.


Pumpkins and skyscrapers


Finally some back and forth on the issue of oil revenue spending and oversight between CNRT and Fretilin. With only days to go, the inter-related issues of poverty reduction, governance, transparency and the use of Timor’s unrenewable mina-rai are taking center stage.

The CNRT announces at Lao Hamutuk’s debate on oil revenues that its plan to deal with transparency and accountability relating to oil revenues is to decentralise power. What this means is unclear. Devolve all development monies to district offices? Is there minimal capacity for budget planning and execution at the district level? The CNRT’s program online hints at District legislatures. Is what Timor needs thirteen times more elected officials?

Or do they have in mind a construction procurement office in Betano, agricultural development in Lospalos and Auditor General in Fatumaca?

Perhaps this is why they have suggested that Xanana will be the President of Parliament. There he can keep tabs on things and grow pumpkins at the same time.

Decentralisation is just a word. Like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’ But it needs to be thoroughly thought through and elaborated. All CNRT has to do is look to similar processes in (ahem) Mozambique and other African countries to know that it is no panacea.

Moreover, I’m not sure if the skyscraper banners that CNRT has put in Dili really convey very well the idea of ‘decentralization.’ Especially given Ramos Horta’s early wish to put Timor on a Singapore-like trajectory.

I like many never bought the Fretilin theory of a four year capitalist-imperialist cabal against them. But I do believe they constitute the only party with the experience and strategic vision of sovereign development.

(That said, their idea for Petrotil should be questioned and open for real public debate. And of course, I entirely reject that those guilty of crimes last year be pardoned.)

Here’s to hoping that next year there will be vigorous debates, not pumpkins, in parliament.

You go girls

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After writing my post on women in the election, friends in Timor brought to my attention that Rede Feto, Alola and UNIFEM (among many others) have all been doing a great job of keeping the issue of women’s participation in the election in the forefront. The Platform for Women by Womens Organizations in Politics for the Parliamentary Election should be available in English soon, in the meantime here is Tetum.

CNRT and Fretilin have both made press releases promising increased attention to gender in policy. (Although only Fretilin wrote on the issue of representation of women on party lists. Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Girl in the election

“Peter said to be Paul you know all those words we wrote were the rules of the game, and the rules are the first to go”
“Girl in the War,” Josh Ritter

I’ve been waiting for the party lists to appear on the net, and after some searching on the CNE website, I was able to examine the prospects for female representation in the next parliament.

Lists seem to be no more than the “rules of the game,” so with this in mind, some preliminary observations.

Praise to CNRT, which has the highest ratio of potentially electable women. In its top 21, there are 8 women.

UDT is the boldest ‘major’ party, with Sabina da Fonseca as its number 2, following João Carrascalão.

The consequence of the ASDT-PSD coalition is rather surprisingly that three of the top eight on the list are women, and at least Lucia Lobato and Maria da Paixão de Jesus da Costa are likely to be MPs. Lucia is one of the stronger voices representing women and children in Timor, and hopefully will mature over the next term to become a real force in Timorese politics.

PD is the most unimpressive opposition party in terms of female representation with three women in the top 15 on the list.

Fretilin disappoints with only six women in the top 24, which optimistically will be elected. However I believe Fretilin’s list is merely tentative, as many of the women listed were Ministers and would be called to Cabinet positions. For example Aziza Magno of Fretilin has bounced down the list, but if Pessoa, Da Conceição and Boavida once again take cabinet positions, she could be an MP again.

And on the same token, the prominent position of women on the CNRT list could be diminished with changes given cabinet appointments.

With the waning influence of donors and the UN, I am optimistic that women’s representation will continue to be a major concern in elections. For in the end, do we really believe that all the UN noise about ‘gender mainstreaming’ was responsible for the representation of women in parliament? The Timorese leadership, as a whole, believed women’s voices to be fundamental in a just state.

That said, continued pressure must come from the Timorese electorate. Timor already does better than many western democracies, let’s hope that this trend will only deepen in this election.