Social and Pastoral BulletinNo. 94 15 Feb.2000
From SHIMONOSEKI (16)


MY JOURNEY TO EAST TIMOR


Hayashi Hisashi ( Jesuit Labor Education Center )


The situation in East Timor is often very fluid. The East Timorese in West Timor are also living unstable lives. All of Indonesia is in big turmoil, nothing to be astonished at, and judging from the ups and downs of the flowing information, there is concern that the country could drown. Although I am aware that my report on my last visit to East Timor at the end of November 1999, could somehow miss the point, I will share my thoughts here.

My Shimonoseki friends saw me off at Kansai International Airport on November 19. Via Brisbane (Australia) I got on a UN chartered plane and through Baucau I reached Dili airport. The Multinational Forces are now administrating the place, and there is no tension as it used to be under the former Indonesian rule, but things have completely changed. Anyway, taking advantage of available transportation of the Japanese Ngo "AFMET", I went to a Salesian School in Comoro. The place had been destroyed and half of the buildings had been set on fire. There were many refugees sheltered there.
Since I heard that the Seminary was safe I went there. On my way to the Seminary I saw the center of the city, destroyed and burned down. A while ago I had had the same sight from the sky. The morning market with the fruit vendors on the street relieved me somehow, but the destruction of the town continued till Valide. There was practically no traffic in town, but the faces of people, especially children, looked joyful. When I met the Jesuits I breathed freely. The Seminary could escape arson and destruction and remains one of the best buildings in Dili. I heard there that that could happen only because of the desperate efforts of Fr. Jovito and his companions.

My first task was to pay respects to the tomb of Fr. Karim Albrecht who was killed on September 11. A seminarian called Bagus accompanied me to the Jesuit residence of Taibesi. There I, painfully, remembered Fr. Karim's farewell words before my departure at the end of August from Coromo airport: "Next time you come, I will not be here." When Fr. Karim became 60 year old, he received a new mission to become the rector of Lahane old seminary in East Timor. Our friendship had just started and I had expected that it was about to produce good results for East Timor. I felt that something like a vacuum had occurred. But, the process goes on and there is no other way but to proceed on inheriting the heart he had for the East Timorese people.

In the Jesuit-run St Joseph High School with 200 boarders, I met Fr. Edu who was living under the same roof with them. I had met him in the past several times, but, this time, the face of this man from Florez looked as if a powerful experience had made deep marks. The sound of his flute will certainly transmit joy mixed with sadness.
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Fr. Felgueiras, Portuguese, had grown a stout mustache. It was the first time, since 1991, that I tasted the calmness of their missionary presence. Jacob Filomeno was extremely busy at that time. He had gone through a very busy schedule and painful tensions before the general elections, and he was now under the pressure of paying attention to a multitude of issues, in order to rebuild everything from chaotic destruction. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was steadily expanding.

When one looks at the earnest interest and expanding activities of Ngos and the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), that focus on providing the basic human needs of the East Timorese so that their basic human rights are fulfilled, one should feel joy for the liberation and emerging freedoms. Nevertheless, the apex of all shamefulness is that, in spite of the overwhelming popular victory of the historical ballot, the world closed its eyes to the violent revenge and destruction that followed it. In the field of social involvement, the 20th century has intensified international solidarity and solicitude for the environment. But, at the same time, as the case of East Timor shows, it has exposed human fragility and violent rage.

I proceeded on to Ermera, entering the same road of Letefoho where I had been on August 22, the day fixed for the general ballot that had to be postponed. On the way we passed through Gleno, a town where Mr. Kuroda, one of the main staff members of UNAMET was wounded after 2 months of duty, trying to protect some local members of the organization.
The place is in ruins and we could only see sporadically people walking in the rain. Ermera is similar, the people were forced to go to West Timor and they have not come back yet. After all, transport facilities have been badly damaged. Foreign Ngos and UN organizations use their own vehicles, but local people, the ones who know better places in need and what is going on, stay idle with folded arms for lack of transport. The real issue is who does the work of reconstruction? Is it the assisting organizations? Or is it the people themselves who, knowing their needs cooperate in their own ways with the aid organizations? This reminded me of some worried person who said: "Most probably, East Timor is going to become a pasture land for international Ngos and the UN organizations."

There are already in the country car salesmen and rent-a-car foreign companies. Although guesthouses and PX super markets have started business, people need special IDs to enter. Most people live in destitution, happy to get some rice and vegetables, maybe one egg per week, and, of course, without being able to drink beer, while aid agencies live totally different lives. This is the same everywhere, but something must be done. On the other hand, Soldiers must get hungry going around, day and night, carrying heavy automatic rifles. Although the multinational forces arrived late they threw out the violent militia and the Indonesian army. As Xanana has said, the use of arms to keep public order should be kept at a minimum, so that efforts for civil reconstruction could be promoted, as soon as possible.
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Right after the ballot, people who had celebrated with hopeful joy the overwhelming results, were strongly hit in their hearts at the assassination of the members of their families that were done in the open. I could not find words to console them. Private bodies and countries should be brought to trial for all the crimes committed against the human rights of the East Timorese, during the last 25 years. I, personally, feel that the complicity in such crimes of the Japanese government and of the Japanese, regarding the violation of human rights in East Timor, has to be clarified. My lack of interest and of action should be made clear, with humility, no matter how much compensation could be done. Local groups of women have risen to their feet to heal the traumas of women who have been sexually or otherwise abused, and to recover their human dignity. During my visit, I could observe the remains of the former Japanese domination and spoke with elder Timorese women who had been abused by the Japanese military. Then, I had a strong feeling that a way must be found to pay back for the long period of colonization and human immaturity of the 20th century.

I met one day in Filoro, a nurse from a medical Ngo who was working in a small clinic with a local staff. The patients were so numerous that they had to wait in line for more than 3 hours. There was no doctor there and she could not speak well the language, but she worked the hardest in the clinic.
"What people most need are clean water and better nutrition", she said, but instead, all kinds of antibiotics and medicines that people of East Timor have seldom seen, keep coming in. She continued, "I would like somebody to explain to the staff that they should be careful not to continue the same medical treatment. Timorese people are in danger of becoming medicine addicts." I think that if, the motivation of this nurse, working in the front line, were shared also by many Japanese, many people in Japan would enjoy more human satisfaction.

A military doctor of the multinational forces, taking care of public order in that region, was attending the hospital from time to time. The town was big and had been destroyed, and crowds of people were coming to the half-ruined hospital for treatment. After receiving some medicine they walked back home in the heavy rain. I wished we could have picked up an old Japanese abandoned car, repair it and send it there to bring patients and food from far away villages. In Los Palos, I could see in the eyes of people, gathered around the burned buildings, the envy of the men at the sight of new cars brought from Darwin by Ngos.

We took in our car a child with high fever and a mother with her child. The child looked nervous and I gave him a candy, but he put in his pocket. Then I had myself a candy and gave it to him to eat it.
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Again he put it in his pocket, although, most certainly, he did not have any meal that morning. When we arrived at his house, in ruins, I understood everything. Several brothers and sisters came running to meet him. Their father had been killed. He did not eat the candies to share them with his brothers and sisters.

I gave also candies to the mother and daughter who had come by foot on a mountain path from Los Palos and crawled up to the car. They needed sugar to overcome their fatigue. Their eyes danced in joy. The mother took the candies with a smile, gave one to her child and put the other one in her mouth. After one hour by car we reached a village in the middle of a destroyed jungle. Children and many other persons gathered around us. When they got off we helped them to unload their goods. I could see on top of one a half-licked candy wrapped in old cloth. The mother started to eat the precious candy to relieve her fatigue, but she had stopped eating it remembering her children at home. There I learned a painful lesson: "There is a way of life to share again with people the food that I consider mine."

Once in Lore I tried to speak in the Tetum language with the children and people that gathered around us. They could not understand me. English was, of course, useless. I can not understand Portuguese, so Indonesian was the only understandable means.
The language problem is naturally important. How will East Timor solve it? They will continue to use Tetum, Portuguese, English, Indonesian languages as means of communication, but unless people raised abroad are careful in the selection of English or Portuguese, as national languages, colonial influence is bound to continue. While in Darwin, I attended an international conference, where English-speaking participants took the lead. The East Timorese were the concerned party, but they only expressed themselves at the end, after being asked to do so. I, always, feel the need of selecting a language where the persons concerned feel at home, because translation is often difficult and usually the language in use is the one of aid donors and strong countries. In an abandoned building in Dili there were many young people attending English and Portuguese classes, After all, local people are trying to learn their mother tongues to participate in the rebuilding process.

Things are gradually changing from an emergency situation towards long range programs. I ended my short visit, without being able to answer the demands from Shimonoseki and other places in Japan to look for future ways of assistance. I left Dili earlier than I had planned, because of a seat left open by World Food Program at the last moment. I returned to Darwin without being able to visit Suai, the town where Fr. Dewanto had offered his life, and I could not observe the tensions still going on in the border with West Timor.
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