RIP Avó Xavier

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.]

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5 thoughts on “RIP Avó Xavier

  1. I knew Xavier well. I spent a lot of time with him in the years 1999-2001. We spoke a lot about the old days and the time of UNTAET, as well as his time in Indonesia during the occupation. I always wanted to write a biography of him.

    I remember when he took me up to Turascai one weekend – maybe 3000 people had gathered to hear him speak. Another day he took me to a spot on the mountain above my house at Lalehan. We sat there and he described how this was the place he sat and watched the Indonesians dropping from the sky like giant umbrellas on the day of the invasion in 1975.

    He always spent time with my son, Tom, they spoke in Tetun, until Xavier started to teach him Mambai. Tom would then walk around (he was 11 at the time) and talk to old people in Dili in Mambai – they couldn’t believe it!

    He was a kind and educated man, whose place in history should never be forgotten.

  2. I met Pak Xavier, as his Indonesian friends respectfully called him, several times: in 1995, 1998 & 2009. He was a great patriot, loved his country despite being exile, detained for years and rightly proud of being RDTL founder. Indonesian generals treaatment of him was shameful. Should be noted in 1993 or 1994 he apparently intended to ask for asylum in the UK, but for reasons not clear to me he cancelled it. Was in his own way a historic figure. Selamat jalan, R.I.P Pak Xavier! (my obituary piece on him ‘ll hopefully be published in the Jakarta Post soon).

  3. Thank you for sharing your obituary – a valuable perspective. The more people that reflect and comment, the better – I am also waiting for more Timorese voices.

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