Timor archives of Anthony Goldstone (1945-2016)

19 February 2018

Anthony Goldstone’s skills as researcher, analyst and writer put him in the top rank of international actors who uncovered the full drama and tragedy of Timor-Leste under Indonesian occupation from 1975. Guest contributor, Edie Bowles, writes of her experience sorting Anthony’s Timor papers for long-term preservation and public access. Her account provides a valuable insight into Anthony Goldstone’s archive and stands as a fitting tribute to him and his Timor work.

Anthony Goldstone, Timor-Leste, 2005 [Source: Pat Walsh]

On September 7, 2016, the community of scholars, activists, and researchers on Timor-Leste lost one of its oldest and most knowledgeable friends, Anthony Goldstone.

Since the mid-1970s, Anthony had written and conducted research on Timor-Leste and Indonesia, first as a journalist for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Jakarta and then as staff at Amnesty International from 1978 to 1985. From 1999 he served on successive UN missions. Between 2003 and 2005 he was general co-editor of Chega!, the 3,000-page report of Timor-Leste’s Commission on Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation (CAVR). On learning of his final illness, the then Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Dr. Rui Araujo, wrote to Anthony to express gratitude for his long commitment to the country.

Sorting the archive
In mid-May 2017, Rebecca Engel, Luiz Viera, and I gathered at the home of Anthony and his wife Georgina Wilde in Sheffield, England to sort and organise Anthony’s papers, so that they could be preserved in a permanent archive. Anthony had been a friend and mentor to us all, when we worked together in Timor-Leste in the 2000s and in the years after. We all wanted to ensure that original documents in his possession and his own contributions would be accessible to future researchers in both digital and paper form.

Edie Bowles, Rebecca Engel and Luiz Viera examining Anthony’s archives, 2017. Lola the dog cosily attending. [Source: Georgina Wilde]

Going through his papers was a humbling journey through Timor-Leste’s modern history and Anthony’s own moral and intellectual engagement with it. Georgina’s warm welcome gave the task added joy and poignancy. Each evening was a warm mix of discussion of the day’s findings, reminiscences of Anthony, and stories from the outsized little country that had brought us all together. By email from Australia, John Waddingham and Pat Walsh provided excellent technical advice.

Archives, and the story behind them…
This note is an overview of the archive and its most historically significant contents. Anthony worked on Timor-Leste for decades, and some of his most original contributions were made in the 1980s when he was a researcher at Amnesty International. Compared to the levels of international solidarity and attention in the 1970s and 1990s, there were relatively few international individuals and organisations working on Timor-Leste at that time.

The significance of the documentary record from this period lies not just in the substance it contains but in the way that it shows how researchers, journalists, and activists pieced the story together. To work on Timor-Leste during this period researchers had to track, digest, and turn into an ethically and intellectually coherent narrative fragmentary information from a country they could not visit, in the era before cell phones and email. The files contained many lengths of faded fax paper from researchers and journalists, particularly Jill Jolliffe and Arnold Kohen, as they exchanged and triangulated information with Anthony.

Major materials
Two of Anthony’s most important efforts were his translation of a set of Indonesian military manuals from 1982 and writing Amnesty International’s first full-length report on human rights violations in Timor-Leste.

Interrogation manual. Click image to view.

The nine-volume set of manuals was captured by Fretilin in late 1982 near Baucau and sent via Church channels to Abilio Araujo and the Fretilin representatives in Lisbon. Recognising their value, journalist Jill Jolliffe brought them to London where Anthony and others translated them from Bahasa Indonesia to English. In his files were tattered copies of the originals from which he had worked. His own margin notes co-mingle with those made by Xanana Gusmão before the documents were sent from Timor-Leste. Also in the files were copies of the correspondence between Anthony and other Indonesia experts aimed at authenticating the documents.

The ‘torture manuals’
The manuals explicitly legitimated the use of torture in interrogation and draconian population control measures. They therefore became an important piece of evidence in human rights campaigns against Indonesia’s refrain of a peaceful, happily integrated Timor-Leste. They became known as the ‘torture manuals,’ despite the fact that neither Anthony nor Amnesty International used this term (see Amnesty Media release). Their content and significance were actually far larger, including as they did extensive, even respectful descriptions of Fretilin/Falintil’s political and military capabilities. The English translations were reproduced in Carmel Budiardjo and Soei Liong Liem’s The War Against East Timor, published in 1984 (see extract here).

Amnesty International Report, 1985
The slim blue volume that was Amnesty’s 1985 report on human rights abuses in Timor-Leste was a remarkable achievement, considering the lack of access to the country. It contains lists of the names of those executed or disappeared, with the dates and circumstances of each death. The vast majority of this information was subsequently re-confirmed by the CAVR’s research after the end of the occupation.

In Anthony’s files were letters from the Church, individuals, other odd-lot, first-hand accounts, and reports from the Timorese resistance, which were smuggled out of the country, primarily by the Church, in the early 1980s. These documents, together with interviews from Timorese refugees in Portugal, were essential sources of information for the 1985 report.

As part of his research Anthony went to Portugal and interviewed Timorese refugees, and some of the transcripts from the interviews were in his files. Among the most significant of these were interviews with Justino Mota and Antonio Barbosa, both of whom had been Fretilin Central Committee members in 1975. They were among the few who survived the 1970s and managed to leave for Portugal in the early 1980s.

There is also an interview with Virginia de Cruz Dias Quintas (see extract) which deals at length with executions in Los Palos, including the case of Joao Branco and the 41 others executed with him in mid-1979. This was among the best known and most notorious of the 1979 wave of executions, because Branco and his company were nominally serving under the Indonesian forces at the time of their execution. These documents are also likely to be in Amnesty International’s own archive.

1999 and beyond
Approximately two-thirds of the material stemmed from 1999 and after, from Anthony’s work with successive UN missions in Timor-Leste: UNAMET; UNTAET; UNMISET; UNOTIL; and of course the CAVR. From the CAVR were copies of the community profiles, violations, victim statements, records of public hearings, and event data sheets, which document individual human rights.

CAVR Commissioners reviewing Chega! report text, Dili, 2005. Anthony at centre-rear. [Source: Pat Walsh]

Among the files relating to the UN, the most significant are materials related to the creation of Timor-Leste’s police force and army over the course of 2000 – 2002, the negotiations with Indonesia over the border regime, analysis of the 2006 crisis, and human rights, notably Indonesia’s Ad Hoc Human Rights Court, which ran from 2000 to 2003.

Anthony also served on the King’s College London team, which developed recommendations for the transformation of Falintil into the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor Leste (F-FDTL) in 2000 – 2001.

Seeing Anthony through his archive
Throughout his files was evidence not just of the depth of knowledge but also the humanity and intellectual rigor that made Anthony such a fine researcher, analyst, and colleague. Accompanying the documents relating to the 1985 Amnesty report are notes, cross-references, drafts, and translations from Indonesian and Portuguese. With the post-1999 documents are notes linking contemporary events with historical documents, books, and speeches, indicating where accounts connect and diverge.

In the post-1999 world, Anthony resisted the easy consensus and ahistorical analysis that sometimes fogged international thinking around Timor-Leste, whether in the heady days of the early 2000s or during the grim, messy aftermath of the 2006 crisis. Discreet notes of ‘tosh!’ flag the assertions of the empirically lazy. At the forefront was always an understanding that both history and justice rest on truth, and truth was often only to be found in the labor-intensive mining of difficult documents and contradictory stories.

It was for this reason that Anthony’s knowledge of source material was excellent. He not only knew the history but also knew where it was squirreled away in letters, radio transmissions, and documents from the 1980s and 90s. Of the transformative political debates within the Timorese resistance, he knew who had said what, when, and where it was to be found in documents. He could explain errors and inconsistencies that had entered the historical record and why. With humor and humility, he happily recounted what he and others had gotten wrong over the years. Evidenced in his files were not only his knowledge but also his deep sense of justice.

Click to view article

Far Eastern Economic Review, November 1974

Among the earliest documents are copies of articles he had written for the Far Eastern Economic Review in the 1970s. There was a copy of a long letter to his editor at the paper about the imperative of documenting the abuses of the Suharto regime and its preparation for the invasion of Timor-Leste. He was eventually expelled from Indonesia for these views. His rather less rigorous commitment to filing was also on display, as documents from the 1980s and boarding passes from 2000 mingled in the same files.

Access to Anthony Goldstone’s archive
Anthony’s archive will go to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) / University of London. Once the agreement is finalised and documents transferred, the next step will be digitisation and cross-referencing materials with the holdings of CAVR, now the Centro Nacional Chega in Dili, Amnesty International, and other archives. Thankfully much of Anthony’s effort and knowledge, built over decades of work, went into the 3,000 page-long Chega! and dozens of other documents and books that are in the public domain.

His archive is the back-story to that work, the raw information, the building blocks, questions, and correspondence that led to accurate, morally compelling reports. It is these building blocks that will be of importance to future researchers and students as they not only learn the subject matter of Timorese history but also how stories of human rights and justice are put together.

Edie Bowles

Edie Bowles worked in Timor-Leste from 2000 to 2008, first for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives and then the World Bank. She is currently writing a book on the history of the Timorese resistance.

Rebecca Engel lived and worked in Timor-Leste between 2002 and 2010 where she directed programming for Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution. She is currently living in London and is a Lecturer in Post-War Reconstruction at the University of York.

Luiz Vieira was the Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration in Timor-Leste from 2002 to 2010. He is currently the Coordinator of the Bretton Woods Project in London.


Access to CHART digital files

5 September 2017

We are delighted to announce the launch of CHART Digital – a website to access digital materials created by Clearing House for Archival Records on Timor (CHART) Inc.

CHART Digital is a project to provide access to some digital files on Timor-Leste history, 1974-1999. The digital files were created in the course of CHART work on privately-held Australian collections.

CHART Digital is an interim access step. The original physical collections must ultimately be secured in a public library or archive. CHART Digital provides access to digital copies of some of these materials while decisions are made about where to permanently house the physical collections.

We expect CHART Digital to provide a unique Australian supplement to the extensive online collections already available through the Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum and CIDAC.

Modest beginnings
This online resource begins with one collection – the Timor papers of former Senator Gordon McIntosh. Many of the working files of McIntosh’s time in the Australian Senate (1974-1987) have been digitised and are accessible on CHART Digital. We also selected a small number of individual documents to exhibit the range of material to be found in the larger collection.

Digital files from other collections will be added to the website as time and resources permit. These include, for example, materials from Timor Information Service (1975-1983) and the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) Human Rights office, 1978-2000.

Feedback wanted
We are calling CHART Digital a pilot project. We are keen to get feedback from researchers on the design of the website and any difficulties experienced in finding or accessing material.

Please let us know what you think by way of a ‘Comment’ (see below) or emailing us at: chart[at] timorarchives.info

Photographs: Creators, context, content

24 June 2016

Photographs are an important primary source of information in Timor history but information on their creators is often lost. We post a few such images here and ask: Who were the photographers and where are the original hard copies?

Thousands of Timor images for the 1974-1999 period can be found in private archives or online on social media or in archival databases* – but seldom with any record of the key information needed to extract their full historical value. Photographs are most valuable when we know the photographer’s identity, when they were created and where.

Identifying the photographer  serves a number of purposes. It assists in determining the date, location and context of the images. It increases the probability that the image is depicting real events and is not fake. It also ensures proper attribution or credit to the original creator of the photo.

In many cases however, the actual photographer may never be known. This is particularly so with photos from inside occupied East Timor such as the many available images of the armed resistance. To establish authenticity of such images, we can draw on whatever knowledge we have about the ‘chain of custody’ or the first identifiable owner of the photographs.

Central Register?
In the interests of long-term historical knowledge and research, a case can be made for a central online register of historical photographs of the 1974-1999 era. Such a register would enable researchers and publishers to identify the origins of a particular image. It would also provide an opportunity for missing information to be provided by anyone with such knowledge; so-called ‘crowd-sourcing’ the data.

Ideally, such a register would be established and maintained by a relevant institution in Timor-Leste.

Who took these photos? Do you know?
We present here a few images for which we would like to establish the name of the photographer and any known location of original prints or negatives.

We invite you, the ‘crowd’, to assist us in this task by making a public comment on this post or emailing us at: blog[at]timorarchives.info

IMAGE A: FRETILIN rally. 1975?

IMAGE A: Fretilin rally. 1975?

IMAGE B: Fretilin rally. 1975?

IMAGE B: Fretilin rally. 1975?

IMAGE C: Nicolau Lobato. 28 November 1975? Photographer could be Jill Jolliffe or Michael Richardson?

IMAGE C: Nicolau Lobato. 28 November 1975? Photographer could be Jill Jolliffe or Michael Richardson?

IMAGE D: First RDTL Government. Photographer could be Jill Jolliffe or Michael Richardson.

IMAGE D: First RDTL Government. Photographer could be Jill Jolliffe or Michael Richardson?

IMAGE E: Fretilin resistance members meet Australian parliamentary delegation leader, Bill Morrison. July 1983.

IMAGE E: Fretilin resistance members meet Australian parliamentary delegation leader, Bill Morrison. July 1983.

_ _ _ _ _

*  Some image sets can be found online through the following links:

1975 Australian professional photographers Oliver Strewe, Penny Tweedie and Bob Hannan.

Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum

Facebook Albums on FALINTIL and Indonesian invasion.

McIntosh Ulun Toos

1 May 2016

Almost thirty years after it was written, a letter from resistance leader Xanana Gusmao to Australian senator Gordon McIntosh has come to light. The correspondence provides a detailed insight into 1980s resistance thinking. It also indicates the particularly high regard in which McIntosh was held for his support for East Timorese self-determination.


Xanana Gusmao’s 1988 letter to Senator Gordon McIntosh is an extensive and passionate exposition of the East Timorese resistance leader’s views on the internal and international aspects of the Indonesian occupation at that time.  Key areas covered by the letter include:

  • An outline of the driving force of resistance – the fight to protect and preserve the distinctive cultural identity of the Maubere people (pages 1-3);
  • The changes in the political direction of the organised resistance (p.4);
  • Strong criticism of Australian, Indonesian and other arguments against East Timorese independence (pp. 5-9);
  • Resistance proposals, based on the 1983 Fretilin peace plan, for resolution of the conflict (pp. 10-11)

The 1988 letter refers several times to the Hawke government’s Timor Gap interest as a driver of Australian policy against the Timorese. This is a striking harbinger of Xanana Gusmao’s current advocacy against Australia’s maritime boundary policy in 2016.

Click links here to see the 1988 Xanana Gusmao letter, official Timor-Leste Tetun and English translations and a somewhat-more literal private English translation.*

Late delivery, late reply
Unhappily, Gordon McIntosh never received this important letter in 1988. A photocopy of the letter was discovered in August 2015 in a private collection being processed by CHART. With the collection-owner’s agreement, a photograph of the copy was forwarded to McIntosh. In turn, McIntosh’s belated reply to the letter was handed to Xanana Gusmao in Melbourne in December 2015.

The reason why the original letter never got to McIntosh is unclear. One possibility is that it went astray in the postal system; perhaps not reaching McIntosh who had already ceased being a Senator before the letter was sent.

Gordon McIntosh told CHART that he was most disappointed not to have received the letter in 1988. “I would have been able to communicate it to other East Timor supporters in Australia and elsewhere and used it in speeches I gave about East Timor in my post-Senate years”, he said.

Click here to see Gordon McIntosh’s reply, 30 November 2015.

Ulun Toos
An associated letter was also found with the 1988 copy – a Xanana Gusmao letter to Agio Pereira (then a key external resistance contact in Australia and now senior minister in the Timor-Leste government). This letter explains why McIntosh was chosen by Xanana to be the recipient of the 1988 exposition.

Xanana notes the admiration the resistance felt for Gordon McIntosh when he refused in 1983 to endorse the report of the Australian Parliamentary delegation to East Timor**. He recalls the affectionate name the guerillas gave to McIntosh after this event: ‘McIntosh Ulun Toos‘ – literally ‘hard-headed’ or ‘stubborn’; the Tetum word Toos rhyming with ‘-tosh’.

Click links here to see text of the covering letter and an English translation.

Xanana Gusmao with Gordon McIntosh and Lere Anan Timur, Dili, March 2016. [Source: Max Stahl]

Xanana Gusmao with Gordon McIntosh and Lere Anan Timur, Dili, March 2016. [Source: Max Stahl]

On receipt of McIntosh’s reply in December 2015, Xanana Gusmao invited him to Timor-Leste as a guest of the nation. McIntosh, accompanied by his son Craig, visited Timor in March 2-7 and was an honoured guest at a Veterans Conference on March 3. He was emotionally received by many veterans who knew his name from the occupation years.

He also met up with East Timorese who had risked their own safety to pass documents to him to carry out of Timor in 1983. McIntosh donated to the the Resistance Archive and Museum digital copies of his personal archives on the 1983 parliamentary delegation visit – including a document from the then-prison island of Atauro listing political prisoner deaths and disappearances.


* Private translation work by Atoki Madeira, Graeme Edis and Luis Pinto. Official translations by the National Directorate of Translation, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Government of Timor-Leste.

** The 1983 Australian Parliamentary delegation, which included Gordon McIntosh, was seen by activists at the time to be a part of a Hawke government strategy to dismiss Labor Party policy supporting East Timorese self-determination. McIntosh’s decision to dissent from the delegation report, combined with a resumption of military hostilities in August-September 1983, undermined the strategy.

Gordon McIntosh archives: Preliminary list.

Resistance radio 1975-1978

21 April 2016

Recordings of radio communications and broadcasts from the Fretilin-led resistance in the early occupation years are rare historical primary-source materials. We present information on known surviving copies and introduce a project to give access to them in Timor-Leste.

Alarico Fernandes, November 1975. The main voice of resistance radio until his surrender/capture with the radio in late 1978. [Photo: Jim Dunn]

Alarico Fernandes, November 1975. The main voice of resistance radio until his surrender/capture in late 1978. [Photo: Jim Dunn]

Alarico Fernandes’ desperate radio transmission (see sample below) from Dili on 7 December 1975, describing the full-scale Indonesian invasion of the newly-declared Democratic Republic of East Timor (RDTL), marked the beginning of three years of direct resistance contact with Australia and the outside world. The radio communications were the only regular source of information from East Timor not controlled by the Indonesian military in those early years.

Australian and East Timorese activists in Darwin conducted clandestine, coded, two-way radio contact for communications between the internal and external wings of the resistance. Occasional uncoded contacts and regular broadcasts from East Timor under the name of Radio Maubere, were also recorded by the activists for later transcription and reporting to solidarity groups and mainstream media.

The public transmissions from Timor reported on all aspects of occupation and resistance inside the territory. Extracts or summaries of then-public material can now be found online in the CHART-digitised, pre-1979 copies of CIET mimeographs, East Timor News and Timor Information Service.

While a definitive history of this part of the broader Timor story has yet to be written, published accounts of the transmission and recording operations at the Australian end can be found in the writings of activist participants Brian Manning, Chris Elenor and Rob Wesley-Smith.

Surviving recordings
Some 250 audiocassettes of resistance radio material is known by CHART to survive in Australia. Almost all surviving tapes are recordings of public radio material; very few internal or coded messages are known. The largest public collection comes from the archives of Melbourne’s Timor Information Service (TIS) and is held at the National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA) in Canberra (see partial list on NFSA catalogue). Other material is still held privately, including a few items owned by Rob Wesley-Smith who recorded them with his own receiver.


Numbers of radio transmission recordings known to CHART to still exist in Australia.

As the figure above shows, we know of no recordings from the very early post-invasion months and the record of the controversial last period of contact in late 1978 is incomplete. It remains to be seen whether more recordings will emerge within Australia or from the archives of the Fretilin external leadership at that time.

We present here a few fragments of radio transmissions recorded in Australia. Click red ‘play’ button to listen.

Short fragment of Alarico Fernandes reporting full-scale Indonesian invasion of Dili. 00:13 (mins:secs). Source: East Timor Calling/Rod Harris collection. 

The opening segment of a standard Radio Maubere broadcast. 05:41. Source: Rob Wesley-Smith

Alarico Fernandes dictates a message from East Timor Red Cross in resistance-held areas to be forwarded to International Red Cross. 01:51. Source: Rob Wesley-Smith.

Excerpt from Nicolau Lobato speech following the 1977  arrest and expulsion of Xavier do Amaral from his positions as President of Fretilin and the Democratic Republic of East Timor. 05:20. Source: Timor Information Service / NFSA

Small fragments from the final days of radio contact. (1) Coded message from Alarico Fernandes; (2) Awkward two-way exchange between Fernandes and the Australian activist operator; (3) Rogerio Lobato sending repeated message to (unsuccesfully) re-establish radio contact with Timor. 02:57. Source: Rob Wesley-Smith.

Access in Timor-Leste
In concert with Australia’s NFSA and Timor’s Resistance Archive and Museum (AMRT), CHART has initiated a project to make radio recordings available for research and exhibition in Timor-Leste.

The TIS collection of some 200 recordings was deposited with NFSA in 2002. These recordings were given to TIS in the late 1970s by key Timor and radio contact activist, Denis Freney. All recordings have since been professionally digitised by NFSA for long-term preservation and access.

In July 2015, CHART and AMRT signed an agreement for a pilot project on transfer of recordings to Timor-Leste. In exchange for digital copies of recordings, AMRT staff will create, and copy to NFSA, textual summaries of recording content to assist researcher access. At the conclusion of the pilot project some time in 2016, the parties will review the process and decide on the next steps to ensure eventual access in Timor-Leste to available radio recordings.

Max Stahl archive in peril?

13 April 2016

In the second of our reports on 2016 archival developments, we report on the fragile circumstances surrounding the Max Stahl Audiovisual Archive Center for Timor Leste (CAMSTL) and the need for urgent action by all concerned parties.

Difficult times - but still working. Max Stahl with CAMST-L staff Gilberto and Eddy Paraujo. [Source: CAMSTL]

Difficult times – but still working. Max Stahl with CAMSTL staff Gilberto Neves and Eddy Paraujo. [Source: CAMSTL]

CAMSTL was established in 2003 with assistance from UNESCO. The focus of the centre is to (1) preserve historical Max Stahl footage on the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre and records of resistance from then until 1999 and (2) create audiovisual recordings and productions on all aspects of life in now-independent Timor-Leste. The historical materials are inscribed on UNESCO’s prestigious Memory of the World Register under the title On the birth of a Nation.

When we visited CAMSTL in 2015, we reported optimistically on the institution’s future. Newly equipped with government-funded, high-cost digital audiovisual preservation systems and awaiting completion of a dedicated building, CAMSTL’s founder, Max Stahl, could see the emergence of Timor-Leste’s national audiovisual archive.

Sadly, these optimistic prospects are now in trouble. The immediate sign of this is a cessation of Timor-Leste Government funding. In the absence of any specific statement from the parties, the reasons for the funding cessation are difficult to determine.

Possible factors
It is known that some in government circles are asking the question: Who owns the CAMSTL collection and what is Timor-Leste getting from its funding of the archive?

Another likely factor in the current situation is the status of the new audiovisual building attached to the Resistance Archive and Museum (AMRT). Originally envisaged for housing CAMSTL, there are signs that a move to the building may be conditional on some form of merger with the AMRT. Given the continuing strong official commitment to AMRT, the merging of CAMSTL with AMRT on one building site might seem simultaneously helpful to CAMSTL and financially attractive to government.

Whatever the reasons, there is evidently a communication breakdown between CAMSTL and the Government.

Current CAMSTL-occupied building. Barely fit for audiovisual archives.

Current CAMSTL-occupied building. Barely fit for audiovisual archives.

The CAMSTL collection and ongoing work is of inestimable value to Timor-Leste. Protection of the integrity of the collection and access to it for historical, educational and community purposes is paramount.

Whatever the actual reasons for the funding cessation, the current situation is untenable. The future of the collection is at risk and CAMSTL needs at least some bridging finance to maintain basic functions until the problems are resolved. It also needs an urgent improvement to storage and working conditions; the present building seems to us quite unfit for audiovisual archive purposes.

There appears to be some mutual lack of confidence between CAMSTL and the Government. Both parties have a responsibility to do all they can to correct this. Perhaps finding a mutually agreeable mediator will help re-establish understanding and communication between the parties.

The centrality of Max Stahl to CAMSTL is both its strength and a prospective weakness. He has somewhat single-handedly driven the development of this high-value archive and he has trained many East Timorese in archival and audiovisual processes and production. However, it seems evident that the institutional basis of CAMSTL, especially its management structure, needs to be expanded and consolidated. The present difficulties are amplified by Max’s continuing health condition.

Despite the possible administrative attraction to government of merging CAMSTL with AMRT, this needs very cautious consideration. The 2016 edition of UNESCO’s authoritative Audiovisual Archiving: Philosophy and Principles draws attention to the particularly difficult technological and management challenges of audiovisual archives. In the area of governance, it recommends on the basis of international experience, semi-autonomy of the audiovisual archive as a desirable minimum (our emphasis).*

Given our knowledge of the present management styles at AMRT and CAMSTL, we doubt they could work easily together and a ‘forced’ merger would likely fail. We also doubt AMRT, by itself, currently has the range of expertise to successfully manage the CAMSTL collection and program. While the pre-independence historical materials at CAMSTL are relevant to the resistance theme, much of the post-1999 material seems to be outside the Resistance Archive’s collection purpose and mandate.

We can envisage one practical interim solution: the relocation of CAMSTL into the AMRT-connected, newly-constructed audiovisual building. The two institutions could perhaps share some facilities in common but with each institution retaining separate identities and management systems.

Sooner or later, however, Timor-Leste will need to establish a dedicated, technically specialised national audio-visual archive. In addition to holding nationally significant audio-visual materials, such an institution could provide guidance and assistance to other institutions with fragile materials. Given the specialised work and systems already established at CAMSTL, it is a prime candidate for becoming a distinct national institution.

Resolving the current difficulties is an urgent priority for all concerned. We urge that all parties keep in mind the immense value of the CAMSTL collection and program to present and future generations of Timor-Leste’s citizens .


*  See Section 4.7 Governance and autonomy, pages 49-51.

Background info:

CAMSTL Website (on Facebook).


Cafe Pacific/David Robie 2014 backgrounder

Timor’s National Archive advancing

8 April 2016

CHART’s John Waddingham visited Timor-Leste in March 2016 to assess recent archival developments. In the first of several articles, he reports on continuing activity at Timor-Leste’s first but least well-known institution, the National Archive.

Hive of activity: National Archives staff cleaning and rehousing historical files.

Hive of activity: National Archives staff cleaning and rehousing historical files. [CHART photo]

Timor-Leste’s National Archive collects and preserves the records of government and administration dating forward from the Portuguese colonial era. Observations in 2015 that the National Archive appeared to be emerging from a decade of obscurity were confirmed in March 2016. The archive is now a hive of activity and senior staff are optimistic about its immediate future development.

Compared to other archives in Timor, the Archive operates on a relatively small budget (USD$259,000 in 2016). There are indications that the current responsible Minister for State Administration, Dionisio Babo Soares, is championing the expansion of the Archive, including a significant capital injection for a new purpose-built repository.

Current activities observed at the Archive included cleaning and re-housing a very large volume of Indonesian-era administration records and conservation/repair work on fragile collection items. The latter work arises from recent training and equipment donations from the National Archive of Brazil. The Archive has also put itself more in the public eye through a display of some of its historical materials in the exhibition space at the Resistance Archive & Museum.

In addition to the Brasil connection, the Archive is establishing relationships with other National Archives, including Portugal and Indonesia. A previous connection to Australian archives – a donation of archival storage materials to the Archive in the early 2000s – has not yet been revived. However, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology equipped and trained Archive staff to scan Portuguese-era weather records to be added to international climate change data.

Renewed activity in recent years to draw-up the legislative framework for the National Archive functions and responsibilities has yet to be finalised. And in common with all Timor-Leste archives, the National Archive has few if any staff with formal archival qualifications. We understand this is seen by the National Archive as a critical issue and it is exploring options for change.

Collection Access
The National Archive holds an extensive collection of Portuguese-era administrative records some of which, reportedly, are not even held in official Portuguese archives. Other holdings include yet-to-be described Indonesian and United Nations administration records and an unknown volume of post-2002 Timor-Leste government materials.

The Archive does not yet appear to have formal public documentation on conditions for access but researchers have been able, on application, to access Portuguese-era records. Creation of a dedicated researcher-access room within the existing facility is planned. The large backlog of unprocessed post-Portuguese-era records means they will not be accessible to researchers in the near future.