1992 Xanana capture: Indonesian records

23 May 2011

Xanana Gusmao moments after his capture. Dili, 20 November 1992

Indonesian video footage of the 1992 capture of East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao is the tip of an iceberg of still-secret Indonesian records about its military invasion and occupation of East Timor.

Aired on Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service program, Dateline, on 22 May 2011, the footage shows Indonesian preparations for the raid on a house in Dili where Xanana was known to be hiding, the armed raid and arrest and parts of a later exchange between Xanana and the head of the Indonesian military, General Try Sutrisno, who flew to Dili on news of the capture. The footage also shows Xanana’s belongings – including weapons and documents.

Questions arising
Several obvious questions arise from viewing this footage: What was the origin of the footage used by SBS and is other material available from that source; will this material be made available to East Timorese institutions for long-term preservation and access; given the relatively poor quality of the footage, does a better master exist; are the documents and weapons captured with Xanana still kept in Indonesia and if so, will they ever be repatriated to East Timor?

Xanana interrogation in Bali – more detail
A further pointer to Indonesian records of the Xanana capture can be found in a 2007 account of Xanana’s interrogation in Bali just days after his arrest in Dili.

Xanana with his interrogator, Lieut-Col. Nurhana, Bali, 1992

Nurhana Tirtaamijaya, an Indonesian military police commander in 1992 and Xanana’s principal interrogator, published in 2007 a personal account of his encounters with the prized political prisoner. Pak Nurhana’s account, while emphasising his claimed ‘victory’ over Xanana, also gives some insight into the sequence of events between the resistance leader’s arrest and his incarceration in Cipinang Prison.

Australian researcher Ernie Chamberlain has translated the Nurhana text. A small selection of images from the interrogation, including captions identifying participants, can be found on Nurhana’s website (scroll through images). See also:
Xanana & Nurhana : Xanana writing : Xanana with laughing interrogators : Xanana laughing

Tapping into Indonesian records
Pak Nurhana says the story he tells was once a State top secret. Hopefully, his preparedness to tell his story publicly means other knowledgeable Indonesians may be prepared to also release their Timor information.

The task of seeking, finding and securing primary records of Indonesia’s East Timor history is large and urgent. We hope this task will be taken up by the people who can best do this – interested and concerned Indonesians.

Sources
Thanks to Ernie Chamberlain for drawing my attention to the Nurhana article and, especially, for his translation.

Thanks to Sara Niner for the use of her Xanana capture image – taken from her blog item on the topic.

Nurhana Tirtaamijaya website

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Australian Archives: Access to ‘secret’ materials

29 March 2011

Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has allowed the partial release of previously secret Timor materials held by the National Archives of Australia (NAA).

This 28 March 2011 decision appears to confirm what many researchers believe – that restrictions on access to some NAA-held materials are unwarranted.

Researchers of modern Timor history will welcome this release of hitherto restricted materials from the resource-rich National Archives of Australia. They will also wonder what secrets remain hidden in this and other archives and will continue to question the validity of some reasons for the secrecy.

Clinton Fernandes versus NAA
In 2007, former army intelligence officer and now very active Timor researcher, academic and author Clinton Fernandes sought access to NAA-held records from Australia’s Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO; now called the Defence Intelligence Organisation). The request, while initially broad, focussed on late-1975 post-civil war reports on developments inside East Timor, covering pre-invasion Indonesian military interventions and the killing of journalists at Balibo.

Redacted page released to Clinton Fernandes

Following what AAT President, Justice Downes, described as “significant and unfortunate” delays, Fernandes sought in late 2009 a ruling on what appeared to be a virtual denial of access by NAA. After further delays, NAA released 42 documents to Fernandes, each of which had sections ‘redacted’ (blacked out).

Fernandes appealed against the redacting of the released documents. The AAT decided, after a number of (largely closed) sessions, that 64 redacted passages across 25 documents should no longer be kept secret.

Reasons for secrecy
Australian law requires that some government archival material be kept secret beyond the standard 30-year “closed period”.*

In the case of foreign affairs and defence matters, items which are exempt from release are those which could cause damage to Australia’s security, defence or international relations. The AAT decided that “much of the material” originally redacted on these grounds should remain secret but that a number of passages could be released.

Another reason for witholding access is if the materials were received in confidence from a foreign government or international organisation. The AAT decided on these grounds that redactions made on two pages of each of three documents should remain secret.

The JIO Timor documents
A list of the 42 documents in question and the access decisions on each of them can be found in the full text of the AAT decision.

A larger list of 115 documents in the same series of JIO documents on Timor can be found on NAA’s RecordSearch facility. [Click on the number 115 under Items in this series to see the list]. None of these items have yet been digitised by NAA for public online access.

We hope Clinton Fernandes or others with easy access to the Canberra-held materials at NAA will eventually do a critical analysis of the released texts and what it reveals about the original decisions to deny access.

* The closed period was recently changed to 20 years but will be phased in over the next decade. See earlier Timor Archives article on this change.

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SEE ALSO:
1. Lively comment on the decision on the Open and Shut blog.

2. Clinton Fernandes interview on ABC Radio’s National Interest programme, 8 April 2011

3. Clinton Fernandes analysis of released materials. New Matilda, 14 April 2011.


Vale Penny Tweedie

24 January 2011

Penny Tweedie, one of a select group of professional photographers who have contributed irreplaceable images to the documentary record of East Timor’s modern history, died tragically in England on 09 January 2011.

Her photographs of events and people in East Timor in the immediate aftermath of the dramatic 1975 civil war will be especially important to future generations of East Timorese. Her contribution to East Timor’s archival record will live on in these images.

Some details of her extraordinary working life can be found in an obituary in The Guardian (UK).

Timor images
A small number of Penny’s 1975 Timor images are well-known – though often circulated on the internet without any attribution to, or knowledge of, the original creator.

Penny was very protective of her professional copyright and was unhappy with unauthorised use of her work. For this reason, we have not reproduced any of those images here.

A number of agencies handle commercial distribution of Penny’s work and carry samples of her Timor photographs on their websites. The most comprehensive set of 1975 images can be found at Panos.

The Alamy agency also displays some of her 1975 images, along with work from a 2007 visit to Timor Leste. A subset of the Alamy images can be seen at Corbis.

Arriving in East Timor after 1975 civil war. (From left) Bob Hannan, Jose Ramos-Horta, Penny Tweedie, Clive Scollay

Many 1975 images still unseen
A much larger number of images from her 1975 visit to East Timor have yet to be seen publicly. In personal communications with CHART in 2009-10, Penny advised she had some 50 rolls of black and white film.

Penny agreed to a CHART request to place copies of all these images on this website;  the mechanics of achieving this must now await later discussions with her Estate.

Tweedie materials already in Timor Leste
Official copies of some of Penny Tweedie’s key images from 1975 are already held in Timor. Some are in the collection of the Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation (CAVR). We know from correspondence with Penny that the office of President Jose Ramos-Horta was given high resolution scans of some 190 images in early 2010.

CHART hopes these images will one day be accessible to all Timorese. We will endeavour to ensure all the as-yet-unseen images from Penny Tweedie’s  Timor work eventually become accessible in Timor-Leste as a lasting testimonial to her part in recording the country’s troubled recent history.

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Credits

Penny Tweedie image: Self-portrait taken from her own website.

1975 image: Courtesy of Bob Hannan.

POSTSCRIPT
More Penny Tweedie obituaries and reflections online

Panos Pictures. 21 January 2011

Lisa Hogben Blog. 23 January 2011

Editorial Photographers (UK). 24 January 2011

Australian Geographic. 25 January 2011

Funeral Eulogy – Duncan Campbell. 27 January 2011

BBC4 audio. “Last Word”. 28 January 2011. Speakers include John Pilger and her son, Ben Tweedie. Segment begins at 15 minutes into program.

The Australian. 31 January 2011

Sydney Memorial Event (20 February) – Media Release. 06 February 2011


Chega! Launched in Indonesia

11 October 2010

Principal editor, Rani Elsanti, with the product of three years work

Chega!, the monumental 2005 report of Timor Leste’s Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) is set to be widely circulated inside Indonesia.

Something like a Domesday Book for Timor Leste, Chega! is the benchmark account of the dramatic and tragic history of Timor’s struggle for self-determination, 1974-1999.

The Indonesian-language, five volume, 3,500 page boxed set of Chega! was published in Jakarta last week by KPG (Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia) after more than three years’ work. The Indonesian edition also includes a 100-page summary volume and an electronic version of the whole report text on CD.

Publication was funded by the governments of Ireland and Germany.

Jakarta launch of Chega
The National Library of Indonesia hosted the well-attended book launch in Jakarta on the evening of 7 October 2010. East Timorese were represented at the launch by the current director of the Post-CAVR Secretariat in Dili, Agustinho de Vasconselos, and two of his senior staff.

Speakers at the launch included Benny Harman (Chair of the Indonesian House of Representatives Committee III) and Indonesian historian Hilmar Farid

Facebook members can see images from the book launch on KPG’s Facebook Album.

Chega! ‘A gift to humanity’
Hilmar Farid noted that there was nothing comparable to Chega! in Indonesia, hailing it as benchmark for what Indonesia needs on its own history.

‘A gift to humanity’ was MP Benny Harman’s judgement of the report.  He said Chega! meant that everything Indonesians had been told about Timor-Leste in the past was a lie and that it should be made available to the Indonesian public through the education system.

Pax Benedanto, General Manager of KPG, said publishing Chega! was KPG’s largest ever project and a source of pride and honour for the firm. He expressed the hope that it would be received in Indonesia “dengan hati besar dan kepala dingin” (with a big heart and a cool head).

Obtaining Chega!
Information on how to obtain this newly published Indonesian version of Chega! will be provided here as soon as the information is to hand.

The set is listed for sale in Indonesia at about AUD$100 through KPG’s online store, but as of 12 October, stocks are not yet available.

The original 2005 electronic versions of the report can be accessed in English and Portuguese on the Post-CAVR Secretariat website. They are not yet available in printed form.

Chega! and archives
The print publication of Chega! in Indonesia draws new attention to this extraordinary resource. In turn, its launch again highlights the crucial task of preserving the complete original source material on which Chega is based.

The future of the CAVR archive, a national treasure in its own right, is a key question underlying long-delayed and controversial legislation now before the parliament of Timor Leste. We can only hope that the final decision of the legislators recognises the long-term importance of the archive to the nation and the people of Timor Leste. We hope the legislation will decree professional archival management of, and public access to, the CAVR archives.

See earlier blog post on the future of the CAVR archives here.

Credits
Many thanks to Patrick Walsh, former special advisor to CAVR (2002-2010), for information and images on the Jakarta launch.


East Timor News 1977-1985: Now online

23 September 2010

Issues of East Timor News (ETN) are now available in digitised form through the Timor Archives: Newsletters website.

ETN was an Australian newsletter in the top rank of influential Timor solidarity newsletters in the early post-invasion years. In its first two years, it was the principal international vehicle for publicising, in English, radio communications from the Fretilin-led resistance inside Indonesian-occupied East Timor.

It began as a fortnightly publication in a newspaper format of ‘tabloid’ size. Like most comparable Timor newsletters of the time, publication became less frequent in later years.

After the loss of radio contact with the resistance in early December 1978, ETN continued production with analyses of available information and reproduction of significant reports, including mainstream print media articles.

Origins
ETN was produced in Sydney in the name of the East Timor News Agency (ETNA), 1977-1985. The driving force behind ETN was prominent Timor independence activist Denis Freney (1936-1995).

Denis Freney was a leading member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) at the time. He travelled to East Timor in 1974, soon after the formation of ASDT, the forerunner of Fretilin. He was the key figure in the Sydney branch of the solidarity organisation, Campaign for Independent East Timor (CIET), which had branches in most Australian states.

The Sydney CIET office was located in the old Boilermakers Hall in Castlereagh Street where, from 1975, Freney issued prodigious volumes of news and commentary on Timor using the roneo technology of the time. ETN began in 1977 as a more formal vehicle for Freney’s output; it was he who largely planned and prepared the newsletter. ETN was printed at the CPA printer at Forest Lodge and mailed out to subscribers by CIET volunteers.

Compiling the news input for ETN was a team effort – especially when it came to handling radio communications from the resistance. That work involved the clandestine radio team, transfers of tapes in Darwin and transcription in Sydney.  This team also transcribed Fretilin’s encoded communications and telexed them to the Fretilin External Delegation in Maputo, Mozambique.

Fretilin connection
Denis Freney worked very closely with Fretilin and was a confidant of senior members of the Fretilin external delegation in the early years.

From this distance, it is unclear whether the East Timor News Agency which published East Timor News is a direct successor to the ETNA created by Fretilin in East Timor in late 1975. The first issue of ETN in February 1977 is ambiguous on this question, but does talk of the ‘re-establishment’ of the 1975 ETNA.

Either way, Denis Freney’s strong, unambiguous commitment to Fretilin was reflected in the style and content of East Timor News. His identification with both the CPA and Fretilin meant that ETN, while widely valued in solidarity circles for its news content in particular, was often treated with scepticism by Australian mainstream media, many politicians and non-government organisations.

East Timor News has an important place in the archival record of Australian support for the East Timorese struggle for self-determination. We are delighted to make it available here.

Credits
Thanks to Cecily Gilbert for her work to convert the brittle and fading original newsletters into the digital form.

Thanks to Peter Murphy for some background information on ETN. Peter was a member of the original ETN editorial collective and currently coordinator/secretary of a CPA successor organisation, the Search Foundation.

Other sources:
A valuable record of the work of CIET and Denis Freney can be found in his surviving papers at the National Library of Australia (NLA). Library Reference: MS9535

The Freney papers at the NLA include a comprehensive set of his aforementioned roneo-format productions. In 2004 a copy of this set went to Timor’s Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation (CAVR) in Dili. When resources permit, Timor Archives will digitise Freney roneod material surviving in the Timor Information Service archives in Melbourne.

Insider accounts of the clandestine radio team mentioned have been recorded by two participants, Brian Manning and Chris Elenor.


Digitising East Timor newsletters

17 September 2010

The CHART Project has established a new website to view copies of 1974-1999 East Timor newsletters.

Newsletters produced internationally by solidarity activists and non-government organisations, along with the Timorese external resistance and broader Timorese diaspora, were a key means of circulating information about East Timor. They were especially important and influential in the pre-internet days of the 1970s and 1980s.

Digitising for access

Timor Archives: Newsletters is designed as an interim access point for newsletters digitised in a larger scanning project by CHART.

The new website now holds a full set of Timor Information Service (TIS), 1975-1983. This word-searchable digital set of TIS supersedes the newsletter samples described on this Blog in June.

More to come

We hope to include as many newsletters as possible on the website – subject to the availability of original print copies and agreement from the original creators.

Newsletters currently in the scanning pipeline include the Denis Freney / ETNA  East Timor News newspaper, the Pat Walsh / ACFOA East Timor Report and Timor Link from the (British) Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR, now known as Progressio, has an active presence in Timor Leste today).

Still early days, but more to come.

If your organisation would like to include its newsletter in this collection, please email us: blog [at] timorarchives.info


Resistance Archive & Museum: New database access

17 September 2010

The Arquivo & Museu da Resistencia (AMRT) in Dili continues to lead the way on access to digitised archives of the East Timorese struggle for independence.

In a new development, the online search facility has been re-designed to improve access to the well-established collection of digitised documents.

The centrepiece of the AMRT collection is internal resistance documents gathered from individuals throughout Timor-Leste since 2002.

Browsing document folders
Researchers now find documents by entering  simple search terms or navigating the collection’s database through browsing the underlying document folder structure. Previously, only visitors to the Archive in Dili could access the document folders on a dedicated stand-alone computer.

The predominant Timorese resistance document collections are arranged in folders by year; each year folder contains up to 10 standard sub-folders (see graphic).

The other main sections of the folder structure are Photographs and a Digital Library. The photographs folder contains a vast assemblage of images of the internal resistance and international solidarity campaigning. The digital library folder contains copies of published materials – from pamphlets to whole books. Many of these items come from the collection of Antonio Barbedo de Magalhães.

New document presentation
The onscreen presentation of documents has also changed. Instead of whole PDF documents being delivered from search results, documents are viewed page-by-page via navigation buttons. Database information about the origins and content of each document (metadata) is displayed alongside the page view. Page images can be enlarged for better readability.

Researchers’ gems
Some very useful items caught the eye of this researcher while browsing the folders. They include:
The guide to Jill Jolliffe’s well-known microfiche collection of Timor documents. (57 pages)
List of acronyms (9 pages)
List of resistance members’ names and pseudonyms (52 pages)

The latter two were probably internal AMRT documents developed during the course of building its database.

Comments
The new design of the search facility is a great improvement over the earlier version. I like browsing the folder structure and the new delivery method of search results – a summary of types of documents and their quantity – is welcome. While the facility is currently restricted to Portuguese language, this is no serious barrier to using the database.

On my wish list for a future improvements would be an advanced search screen which allowed searching for terms in a particular field of the database. At present a word is searched simultaneously across all database fields, sometimes producing too many results to easily browse. It does not seem possible, for example, to search for all items from a particular donor’s collection (Fundo).

Data accuracy & ‘crowd sourcing’
Large databases such as this inevitably contain typographical or informational errors. Having the data online provides the opportunity for end users to spot errors or offer valuable additional information to document data. Getting data help from end-users has the trendy title of ‘crowd sourcing’.

There are errors and holes in the AMRT database. Sadly, data corrections offered in the crowd-sourcing spirit by CHART in 2009 have yet to appear in the database. Perhaps when resources allow, the AMRT will consider establishing a formal method for end-users to submit data suggestions/corrections.

That said, the AMRT digitisation program, and making the material accessible online, is marvellous. AMRT is setting a fine example to all of us interested in making archival material accessible to present and future generations of Timorese and the international community.