I cannot really summon the mental space to write as I would like to about the passing of Avó Xavier.
He was simultaneously an important historical figure and a down-to-earth man. I believe I met him first as an election observer, chatted to him once in a lobby event on child rights (!!), interviewed him as a researcher on late Portuguese colonialism, and lastly, I ran into him wearing shorts when I was on the way to Turiscai.
Perhaps malaes would understand best if I say he had a Yoda-like quality. (I mean no disrespect – entirely the opposite.)
Many people do not know that Xavier do Amaral crusaded in the 1960s and 1970s to open up night schools for adult students, and to force Portugal to create more educational opportunity for Timorese. He was a man of seeming contradictions – always interested and engaged with the outside, but strongly connected to his mountain roots.
I am very interested to watch Timor mourn Xavier over coming days – whether more sensitive issues come up (i.e. 1977), whether he is truly given his due as a founding father, whether his memory is abused with electioneering. I hope people in Dili and up in Maubisse and Turiscai properly document events – please take photos, videos, blog and let the world know about Avó Xavier’s send-off.
[Update: I recommend reading Damien Kingsbury’s political biography / obituary for Xavier on Crikey blog. Also, those who had no patience for Xavier’s populist politics, his views on race and women among other things should definitely be heard too.]