Authenticating Documents (3)

Continuing our series of articles on the authenticity of rare materials from the early years of occupied East Timor, we briefly examine a 1980 resistance newsletter, ‘Nakroma’.

nakroma-1980-cover

Nakroma, 1980: Click image to read

Any document which might throw some light on the state of the Fretilin-led resistance after the military defeats of 1978-79 but before the historic 1981 reorganisation is of considerable interest. One such document which has recently come to CHART’s attention is a 31-page late-1980 newsletter  entitled Nakroma. Written in Portuguese-language over the name of Bere Malay Laka, the document reports and reflects on recent history and events and includes information on Fretilin.

CHART does not have the knowledge or resources to translate and fully analyse the document. We invite readers to examine the document (click image above) and offer comments on its content and whether there is any reason to doubt its authenticity.

Where does the document come from?

The 1980 Nakroma newsletter can be found in an Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) file* held by the National Archives (NAA) in Canberra.

According to the file records, the document was passed to Australia’s Jakarta embassy sometime on or before 30 November 1981. Embassy staff reported that the item was given to them by ‘a church source’ with the information that it had been circulating in East Timor in hand-written form. No information is given on how this typescript version came into the hands of the un-named church source.

The DFAT file also records embassy staff talking with two different Catholic Church sources around this time – Father Zegwaard from the Indonesian Bishop’s Conference (MAWI) and the Vatican’s envoy to Jakarta, Monsignor Pablo Puente, an occasional visitor to East Timor. Both men were in regular contact with the Australian Embassy; either could have been the source.

Newsletter contents

The file shows that the DFAT head office in Canberra sent the document to its Lisbon Embassy for pointers to significant content, resulting in an English-language summary.

Of particular interest to CHART is the Lisbon Embassy’s translation of Nakroma‘s claims about military events during 1979-80 and a backgrounder on Fretilin. Especially notable in the latter is the naming of Fretilin as the Partido Marxista-Leninista “Fretilin”. 

Assuming the newsletter is authentic and was written in December 1980, this is the earliest public documentary reference to Fretilin’s formal adoption of Marxism-Leninism yet seen by CHART. It precedes the now well-known March 1981 reorganisation meeting records.

In addition to requests for comments made earlier, CHART also invites comments or corrections on the Lisbon Embassy’s translation and discussion on what this document adds to knowledge of the resistance before the March 1981 reorganisation.

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NAA File Reference:  NAA 1838 3038-2-1 Part 21. See digitised copy.

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One Response to Authenticating Documents (3)

  1. Edie Bowles says:

    Just to add on the Nakroma newsletter, which mentions Bere Malae Laka (Frederico da Costa) by name at the end. Bere Malae Laka was a survivor of the 1978/1979 period who became a member of the Central Committee of Fretilin during the 1981 meeting. He was killed in fighting in the late 1980s. Originally from Lautem District and a former seminarian, he spoke English and French as well as Portuguese. He played a key role in monitoring international news stations, including providing written translations of key items. He was first a member of DOPI ( Departemento da Orientação Política e Ideológica, DOPI) and then later Secretary of DIAP (Departmento da Informacao, Agitacao e Propaganda). He notably served as interpreter during the 1983 ceasefire meetings, at least some of which were conducted in English, and appears in several of the well known pictures of the ceasefire negotiations.

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