“I feel like my soul flew away from my body”

Today is both the anniversary of the 1999 Referendum and the International Day of the Disappeared.

Researcher Simon Robins wrote this assessment of the needs of families of the disappeared in East Timor earlier this year (pdfs in English and in Tetum). He quotes a representative of a womens group from Liquiça

I watched very closely the needs of victims‘ families; firstly it is important to have justice, secondly to have reparation for the victim’s family, that way they can live and carry on with their lives. Through reparation, the person can continue her life, look forward to the future and to be back again as she used to be. Looking at the side of education this time the Government has done some part of its duty as well as some payment for mothers to pay children school fees, again not all are getting this, only some of them. Another issue is the economic and especially health: why is that, because during this period, some of the victim’s family, wives are the most affected mentally. For these women, what they saw and what they’ve been through was notorious and they took it badly. A person like that had trauma and what will we do to heal that or to help them out of trouble? If there exists a treatment or counselling that can help her out so that person can continue her life normally.

And the father of a young man from Bobanaro killed in 1999

I have told you that the most important thing for me is; first, write his name in the list of [those who made] struggle; second, make his grave. The living can make the grave but his name is most important because we can write his name in the history of Timor-Leste.

Robins provides statistical data on the families’ needs and thoughts about their disappeared loved ones. But the most powerful parts of this report are the voices of the families themselves.

And many families, especially those in towns says Robins, are tired of being interviewed and consulted by international agencies and researchers. He quotes on victim’s family

As we said before the Red Cross also came here, collected all our names, they brought the entire list but where are they now; they have probably thrown them away or thrown them in the garbage. That is why we as the family of the victims, we find it hard to meet or talk to you people, as if you came now. Because so many interviews on the same topics have been made with us as the victims‘ family but they never yield any result.

And another victim’s family

We do not demand anything but it is like the Red Cross is opening our wound again after a long time sealed. It’s like our pain, our wound is open again. We don’t demand that after an interview you have to give something to us, no. We don’t demand, instead you take the report to the Government and, since the Government is facing lots of problems, it will remain there until the next Government comes along…


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