Timor again (sorry Lou)

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at SPAMmail.telepac.pt
Tue Nov 16 16:38:30 MST 1999

Nestor Gorojovsky wrote:

> I only hope you are right. AS everyone on the list
> knows, my fears are great. But if the East Timorese
> can actually develop an independent, Third World
> policy, and have the Australian imperialist troops
> out, then we shall perhaps see interesting
> developments not only in East Asia but in Australia.

Australia doesn't have a constituency among the east-timorese elites and
absolutely no appeal on the imagination of the popular masses. There is
a sizable community of east-timorese on exile in Australia but they have
no sympathy for the country, except for some groups that have been
active organizing solidarity with them, such as the DSP. I believe very
few (if any at all) are economically active there, sending remittances
home. The australian dollar is unknown in East-Timor. It's a world too
distant and completely appart. At least that's my impression. Maybe some
australian comrades could give us more complete information on this.

The main political sensibilities of the east-timorese remain the UDT and

The UDT is the bourgeois party but it doesn't lean on Australia in the
least. On the contrary. One section of it - dominated by the Carrascalão
brothers - is composed staunch lusophones, disdainful, suspicious and
despeitful of anything australian. The other section - led by Francisco
Lopes da Cruz - is too compromised with the indonesian occupation and is
not expected to return so soon. Anyway, at least for now, they have no
contacts with Australia either.

The Carrascalão family is a traditional bourgeois family. They used to
own coffee plantations (I'm not sure what is the state of their earnings
these days). They can be considered the present representants of a very
ancient colonial tradition in East-Timor - the tradition of the
*topasses*. The dutch called them black portuguese. The topasses - the
word means interpreter in the tetum language - were powerful mixed race
families who, in spite of their private status, represented the
authority of the portuguese crown. For centuries, along with some
religious missions, the topasses were the only face of portuguese
colonial presence.

The eldest of the brothers is Mário Carrascalão, who has a curious
political trajectory. In the early 70's he was the head of the local
branch of ANP, the fascist party led by prime-minister Marcelo Caetano.
For most of the 80's he was the appointed governor of the indonesian
province of Timor-Timur, where he gain some credibility as an able
administrator and fair man. He has also been deputy on the indonesian
parliament, special advisor of president Suharto and indonesian
ambassador in Romania. Recently he has adhered to the CNRT (the
east-timorese nationalist front), where he is vice-president and rumored
to be the next east-timorese prime-minister.

João Carrascalão has always been the president of UDT and he is not so
compromised with the indonesian occupation. He has been in exile for
many years and represents a line of a certain nationalist integrity,
though clearly anti-communist. Manuel Carrascalão is only notable for
his long white beard, patriarchal looks, blunt pronouncements and
charges at Ramos-Horta. There is also a sister who is now deputy in the
portuguese parliament by the right-wing PSD.

The UDT never managed to reach the peasant masses. It has always been
the party of the notables: the literate higher echelons of the former
portuguese administration and some traditional tribal chiefs (liurais),
on whose cooperation that administration rested. It represents de
backbone of the colonial establishment.

By contrast, the FRETILIN has managed to create and animate a powerful
and popular mass movement. It has thus led the push for independence and
the resistance to the occupation. It has done so under the banner of the
maubere people. Maubere is a word in a local dialect that means the
common man. Maubere people is thus a kind of tautology but has
functioned as a powerful concept in the shaping of the east-timorese
national identity. It is also an ideologically charged expression. Mário
Carrascalão is now urging Xanana Gusmão to please stop acting like Fidel
Castro and abandon that dreadful maubere talk who has brought nothing
but disgrace to the land.

FRETILIN (or on its orbit) has also most of the educated cadre. People
like Mari Alkatiri, a jurist and representant of the movement in
Mozambique; Roque Rodrigues, representant in Portugal; Taur Matan Ruak,
the commander of the FALINTIL; Leandro Isaac and many younger people.

The president of the CNRT and most certainly the future president of
East-Timor is Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, who led the armed struggle from
1981 to the moment of his capture in 1992 (?). He belonged to the
central committee of FRETILIN but quit the party as soon as he assumed
the presidency of the nationalist front. However, that was mostly a
formal gesture since he remains strongly attached to the FRETILIN camp.
He is a romantic and sentimental character, writes poetry (not very
good, but fair for an amateur) and paints. He is compared to Nelson
Mandela and the comparison makes some sense. They are both candid
personalities, beloved by their people to the point of worship and with
a kind of acquired regal status by fact of heroic deeds. 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. This was not the lesson of the original FRETILIN but...
these are cultural traits very difficult to eradicate. Anyway, Xanana
(like Mandela) is a very agreeable character, loves his people and seems
prone to lead it on a path of national independence and dignity. And for
that he will be able to take bold gestures.

A special word on José Ramos-Horta. He is the grand-son of a portuguese
anarchist bomber and the son of a rebel sailor of 1936. Timor has always
been the destination of the most irrecoverable of  such cases. To his
credit, he never claimed to be a marxist. He once said he tried some
times to read Marx but couldn't understand a word of it. He has always
been a social-democrat, admirer of Willy Brandt and Olof Palme. He lived
many years in the U.S. and has a master degree in international
relations by some University there. He managed to have been oriented by
both Zbignew Brzezinsky and Noam Chomsky. Under his stiff pose, he is a
very ironic and astute man, accustomed to navigate in the swamps of
international diplomacy and real-politiks with skepticism but visible
delight. Vain and egocentrical. Fairly cultivated, he is also a good
chronicler of facts and atmospheres, which he depicts with a kind of
derisory fury a la Céline (minus the literary genius). He currently
lives in Australia and is probably the most anglophone of all
east-timorese leaders. But his bet now seems to be on a strong
portuguese presence and a balanced and diversified flow of international

To the left of FRETILIN, there is the Socialist Party of Timor (PST) who
split form it in 1991 advocating more self-reliance and a return to a
radical social program.

The pro-indonesian crowd is mostly composed of ex-foremen in the Suharto
enterprises and public servants in the indonesian administration. The
ones most active in the integrationist militias are now in Western
Timor. A more acceptable face is the one of Abílio Araújo, a former
maoist of FRETILIN who became pro-indonesian in the early 90's but now
adheres to independence. He is a likable fellow, with an agreeable and
elaborate discourse.

These are the political options on the table for East-Timor and
Australia is part of none of them. There are radical independentists,
socialists, pro-portuguese (and pro-European Union), pro-indonesians,
pro-ASEAN, pro-new world order and come what may, but no pro-australians
among the most credible east-timorese leaders.

If the australian government is convinced it will create a semi-colony
there, it will find harsh resistance and no local allies of any
credibility. I'm convinced the aussie army will finally withdraw, after
making some loud claims of its good deeds on behalf of the
"humanitarian" good name of the world imperialist order. After all, they
have no economic interests there worth the expenses and the risks of a
prolonged occupation on a hostile environment. Imperialist interventions
these days are not so much about gaining access to resources, markets or
pools of cheap labor. These are already secured by the global
imperialist order, institutionalized by IMF, WTO, the financial markets,
etc.. Armed intervention of the "humanitarian" kind is a weapon of
propaganda and dissuasion of potential defiance ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
It's a global spectacle for global purposes, not localized interests. In
this case, the australians have played the tune on behalf of Bill
Clinton and the humanitarian bombists, whose credentials had been a
little tarnished by the yugoslavian affair.

João Paulo Monteiro

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