Timor again (sorry Lou)

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at SPAMqut.edu.au
Sat Nov 20 13:44:34 MST 1999

Once more another thank you for this, Joao.



At 11:43  20/11/99 +0000, you wrote:

>James M. Blaut wrote:
> > What I'm saying is:
> >
> > 1. I find it disturbing that you talk about Timorese with phrases like
> > --Guzmao "a romantic and sentimental character,"
> >
> > --Beloved "to the point of worship,"
> >
> > --"The east-timorese are very sensitive to this kind of nobility
> > and distinguish it with blind loyalty and ritual submission."
> >
> > --"They are kind of monarchic."
> >
> > --" these are cultural traits very difficult to eradicate."
>I still have problems understanding what's so disturbing about these
>(at least now you seem to be dropping the charges of psychoanalysis). Of
>course, some of them - particularly the last three - would need further
>developments. But that's the same with about anything one may say on any
>subject. I can only renew my offer of exposing in some detail the traditional
>organization of east-timorese society. I hope this won't be necessary, for it
>will take me some time and I don't think it is absolutely indispensable to
>understand in broad outline the political issues at stake today. Nicolau
>(who, incidentally, was born into a timorese royal family) was most
>emphatic in
>his struggle against the privileges of traditional chiefs, superstition and
>ritualized reverences. I have had news that some members of the new leadership
>are not so scrupulous on this regard.
>After a bit of reflection, I think I know what made you so upset. You probably
>abhor the good old entomology of the savages that goes by the name of
>anthropology. Well, don't worry with me about that, for I have little of such
>eurocentric arrogance. I believe each people has its own history, which
>translates into a cultural memory, a certain set of institutions and acquired
>social gestures. And some of them do indeed need eradication. (I'm not an
>eurocentric "progressive" but I'm certainly not a conservationist either.) For
>instance, I am very much interested in eradicating a most backward and
>disgusting western custom that consists in exploiting the labor of other
>for the accumulation of private wealth. And the superstitions, fetichism and
>ritual submission that go with it too.
> > 2. When detailed information is provided to me on a complex political
> > situation, I would like to know if the writer (a) knows what he or she is
> > talking about and (b) is not giving me the view of some particular sect/or
> > of the Left that would not be seen as factual by the Left in general. We
> > are all sensitive to this problem from having read such accounts -- often
> > very detailed -- in various party publications.
>You want my party identity papers, is that it? I have none for a long time. I
>have belonged to the Portuguese Communist Party from 1982 to 1987. The PCP was
>not a sect. It was a mass party, hegemonic in the labor movement. It could
>command up to 20% of the votes in national elections. I never belonged to a
>sect and have no ideas of adhering to any. I'm an independent marxist, a
>communist and a revolutionary in the tradition set by Lenin. Not a
>"marxist-leninist". For what they are worth, I make my own political judgments
>so on reading them you may be assured that it's all home-made, not pre-cooked
>sectarian fast meals.
>As for my sources of knowledge of east-timorese affairs, I'm probably much
>privileged over you since I live in Portugal, where media attention is now
>permanently focused on what's happening in that faraway island. I also draw on
>books, naturally. Most of them strictly portuguese editions, but also some
>you can probably have access to. Try, for instance: John G. Taylor,
>'Indonesia's forgotten war' or José Ramos-Horta, 'Tomorrow in Dili'. There are
>also resources on the web, for instance at http://www.easttimor.com/ (with
>links). Of the sources I have NOT consulted, the most authoritative seem to be
>the ones Warwick Fry has mentioned: Jill Jolliffe and Geoffrey C. Gunn.
>also J. S. Dunn. The bibliography is in fact vast.
>You know, when you participate in a list such as 'Marxism', you just have to
>decide for yourself, over time (and you have been here long enough), which are
>the participants you find reliable and which are not. You don't go about
>people "Who the fuck are you?", "What's your damn little sect?" and "What
>you're saying seems to be bullshit, how can I be certain it is not?" This is
>very bad netiquette. But I'm in a patient mood today.
> > 3. What did you mean by "...is now urging Xanana Gusmao to please stop
> > acting like Fidel Castro"?
>Why don't you ask Mário Carrascalão? He is the author of the request and I
>little access to his  thoughts. To my judgment, Xanana is no Fidel. But
>apparently his attachment for grass-roots mobilization and democratic
>is judged to be too radical by some.
> > 4. You describe a bewildering number of political formations. Those of us
> > who know relatively little about East Timor tend to think that FRETILIN is
> > essentially the unitary liberation movement. Are we wrong?
>Yes, you are wrong and I have explained this before.
>The unitary liberation movement since 1981 is a broad front that now calls
>itself the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT). It is composed
>mainly of the two largest and oldest of east-timorese parties, the FRETILIN
>(one time marxist-leninist, now left-of-center) and U.D.T. (right-wing).
>It has
>always been the dream of Ramos-Horta to unify these two parties, who
>engaged in
>a civil war back in 1975. It was finally done in exile over laborious
>But there are political parties outside the CNRT too.
>The Nationalist Party, led by Abílio Araújo, defended the indonesian proposed
>autonomy in the referendum of August 30. Araújo now defends the portuguese as
>official language of the new nation and the portuguese escudo or the
>rupia as transitional currency. Nevertheless, he is nostalgically
>advocating an
>"intransigent defense of the true independence proclaimed in November of 1975"
>and animating a Popular Council for the Defense of the Democratic Republic of
>East-Timor (CPD-RDTL). He is also making proposals for a very inclusive
>The more hard-core pro-indonesians may make a come back as well. Next week
>there will be a four day meeting of reconciliation in Singapore between the
>CNRT and various integrationist leaders like Francisco Lopes da Cruz, Domingos
>Soares, Armindo Mariano and João Tavares (a notorious militia leader).
>Reconciliation with Indonesia is now very high on the agenda of the CNRT and
>there is a very good atmosphere. Xanana Gusmão and José Ramos-Horta will be in
>Jakarta on November 30 "to pay tribute to the wisdom and vision of Abdurrahman
>Wahid and begin the process of reconciliation and rebuilding of relations".
>Everybody in Dili seems to be enamorated with the new indonesian president
>these days. I think this may be a good sign.
>And there is the Socialist Party of Timor, of which I have already said about
>all I know on several occasions.
> > 5. It would help if you would call the people "Timorese" once in a while,
> > insteadf of always calling them "East Timorese." Of course, in terms of
> > modern political history the two parts of Timor are distinct, but I suspect
> > that we should view Timor as a nation and be ready to support what will
> > probably become a Timorese fight for a unified independent nation-state.
> >
>Completely out of the question. There may be pro-indonesians in East-Timor but
>there are no pan-timorese in Western Timor to my knowledge. On the other hand,
>the east-timorese don't have any irredentist claims to the rest of the island
>and absolutely no interest in starting another fight with Indonesia.
>In fact, this was one of the main sources of incomprehension of the
>east-timorese struggle throughout these years. Why are these people fighting
>for half an island? Isn't it absurd?
>The western and eastern part of the island of Timor already had a distinct
>ethnic make-up at the time of the arrival of the europeans, on the XVI
>This is still visible today, on language, architecture, folklore, etc.. Of
>course, the marked differences between dutch and portuguese colonization have
>only exacerbated these original differences. It's not even mainly a
>question of
>the different cultural imprints imposed by two very distinct european nations.
>It's that the very different regimes of colonial domination have created
>divergent in-built historical dynamics on the development of the timorese
>social fabric, East and West. Over four centuries this has made quite a
>difference. In most of Africa colonial domination lasted for a mere 80 years
>and its frontiers are still considered untouchable.
>João Paulo Monteiro

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