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.

rmtapes-summary

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.

Samples
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.

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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.

Comment
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 .

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

Background info:

CAMSTL Website (on Facebook).

CHART’s CAMSTL Page

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.


Timor-Leste archives: Development continues

28 March 2015

CHART archivist and manager John Waddingham has just completed his fourth visit to Timor Leste to learn about archival institutional developments there. He reports continuing progress in most of the emerging archives.

Audiovisual archive building under construction. Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum in background.

Audiovisual archive building under construction in Dili. The Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum in background.

Increasing national government investment in archives in Timor-Leste is clearly driving some of the more visible advances in archive developments in the country. Since my last visit in 2011, the splendid redevelopment of the Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum (AMRT) has been completed and construction of an adjacent purpose-built audio-visual archive building is well under way.

Somewhat less visible in Dili are the important archives of Timor-Leste’s Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation (CAVR) and the Arquivo Nacional which holds administration records from the Portuguese, Indonesian and independence eras.

Ten days in Dili is not sufficient time to develop an in-depth understanding of each of these institutions. But my impressions are offered here as an indicator of the direction and progress being made in this area in independent Timor-Leste.

Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum (AMRT)

Since its establishment in 2005, the AMRT has set the pace for archive developments in Timor. The Lisbon-based Fundacao Mario Soares (FMS) largely funded the original building, a large resistance documents digitisation project and online database. The Timor government-funded building redevelopment has turned the AMRT into a much-visited showcase of resistance history.

Fragments from the AMRT's permanent exhibition [Source: AMRT Brochure]

Fragments from the AMRT’s permanent exhibition [Source: AMRT Brochure]

In addition to an extensive multilingual permanent exhibition, the AMRT provides several workstations for researcher access to its digital document collection and a well-equipped auditorium for events and seminars.

Secure climate-controlled storage and processing areas are expected to facilitate the eventual return of resistance documents from Lisbon to Dili – an issue of considerable concern to some Timorese observers of archival developments. The AMRT is now actively soliciting for deposits of original materials from within Timor and outside.

The legal and administrative arrangements for the AMRT have progressed. In June 2014, Timor-Leste’s Council of Ministers approved a statute designating AMRT as a ‘Public Institution’, though I understand long-standing plans for a broad-based Timorese advisory board have stalled.

The AMRT, in common with all archival institutions in Timor, does not appear to yet have formally trained and qualified archivists among its staff. I believe there is a formal agreement mandating the FMS in Lisbon to continue its technical assistance and archival advice/training roles at AMRT.

 Arquivo Nacional

The Arquivo Nacional was the first formal archive to be established in newly-independent Timor-Leste, but it remains the least well-known. Few people seem to be aware of its existence or location.

Since its creation to preserve records of East Timor’s administrations, most of its effort has been devoted to arranging and describing the Portuguese-era records discovered in the attic of the Palacio do Governo after the 1999 independence ballot. This work has apparently been completed to a level allowing researcher access. However, there is not yet any publicly available guide to the archives contents.

In the stacks: Portuguese colonial records at the Arquivo Nacional. [Source: C. Prata]

Portuguese colonial records at the Arquivo Nacional. [Source: C. Prata]

I was pleased to hear that work has now begun to examine the huge volume of Indonesian-era administration records being held in very poor conditions by the archive. A lack of suitable work space and storage areas is likely to continue to hamper this work. An even bigger problem lies in how to preserve the key records of the State of Timor-Leste since 2002. Many boxes of unsorted records from Ministries have been seen at the archive since 2009. Temporary storage in stairwells and passageways being testament to the problem.

Earlier cautious leadership and static budgets since 2003, along with the absence of any public advocacy for the archive’s development, have contributed to the archive’s low profile. Compared to earlier visits, however, my 2015 impressions suggest this is about to change. There is a spring in the step of staff I spoke to; an apparent renewed sense of purpose and direction.

This change of atmosphere may be due to recent international contacts and cooperation. Archivists from the National Archive of Brasil have visited Dili several times since 2011 and produced reports and recommendations for archival development. Arising out of this process came draft legislation which defines the structure and purpose of Timor’s national archive and is expected to be finalised by June 2015.

Another important development is Arquivo Nacional work to design record-keeping systems which will be promoted and applied in all government ministries. This will facilitate the transfer from government departments of designated long-term archival materials to the Arquivo. It will also, of course, help in the development of much-needed record-keeping systems in the government ministries.

Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl (CAMS)

Continuing serious illness has not stopped Max Stahl’s ambitions for the preservation of Timor-Leste’s cultural and political audiovisual heritage. If anything, it has intensified his drive.

Never content with just preserving his own historic game-changing footage of the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre, Max Stahl has trained many Timorese in the art of recording interviews and cultural events in independent East Timor and then preserving and providing access to the materials.

Max Stahl (r) and his technical assistant, Tony, with the new CAMS server equipment.

Max Stahl (r) and his technical assistant, Tony, with the new CAMS server equipment.

Since we last visited Max in 2011, there have been a number of ups and downs. In 2013, historic Stahl footage was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register. However, CAMS had to move from its long-standing base in beach-side Farol and now occupies a less-salubrious unmarked building in the precinct of the national parliament, opposite the AMRT. Public controversy about the building owners’ opposition to the CAMS presence may yet require another move.

CAMS now receives significant financial support from the Timor-Leste government and has a more formal management structure than existed in earlier years. A formal relationship between CAMS and AMRT has been under construction for some time but there have been difficulties – the nature of which remain unclear and apparently unresolved.

The previously-established link between CAMS and the French national audiovisual institute, INA, continues to provide a secure, external archival storage facility. In Dili, CAMS has installed high-level computer server machinery and specialist audiovisual software to manage and provide online access to the digitised collection. Max envisages this latter development, combined with a move into the new building being constructed nearby, will pave the way for CAMS to become Timor-Leste’s national audiovisual archive.

CAVR Archives

The materials collected by Timor-Leste’s Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation (CAVR) during its operation from 2002 to 2005 include a unique and irreplaceable record of personal experience of thousands of East Timorese during civil war and occupation (1975-1999). These archives are the responsibility of the Post-CAVR Secretariat which was established to protect the archive, promote the CAVR report, Chega!, and to prepare the ground for a successor organisation to continue these tasks.

The Post-CAVR Secretariat reports to the Office of the President; its funding comes from the President’s overall budget.

CAVR Archives staff digitising audiocassettes.

CAVR Archives staff digitising audiocassettes.

It is fair to say that since our visit in 2011, the Secretariat has been in a state of limbo. Legislative instruments for the establishment of a successor body (Institute of Memory) lapsed with the 2012 elections and there are few public signs that the matter has received urgent attention since. This uncertainty seems also to be reflected in the day-to-day work of the Secretariat, including the management of the archives.

There has over recent years been some disquiet from researchers about access to the archives. Unlike some overseas visitor experience, however, East Timorese researchers told me they had no trouble accessing the archives. On the other hand, these same researchers found that the lack of printed or electronic guides to the collection content made it difficult for staff to locate requested archival materials.

That said, there have been positive developments in archival preservation, including:

  • Post-CAVR has established some links with Indonesia’s National Archive and recently purchased from there a large quantity of archive boxes to replace less suitable containers currently being used. It is not clear whether increased links with the Indonesian archive are planned.
  • More significantly, archives staff have begun in-house digitisation of thousands of audio-cassette recordings of individual testimonies and interviews. While the processes being employed do not meet generally-recognised archival standards, they do significantly enhance the protection of these unique materials.
  • A substantial number of records of CAVR public hearings have been digitised and lodged with the British Library – as a means of external backup and to facilitate access internationally.

We hope the reported interest of both  the President and the new Prime Minister in establishing a CAVR follow-up institution will be acted on by the Parliament in the near future. And we hope such legislation will include clear statements on the need to preserve the archives following recognised standards, add to them and make them more easily accessible for research.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Margarida Mesquita and Cristina Prata for their invaluable assistance in Dili.

Many thanks to management and staff at each of the institutions for giving me the time to discuss their programs. Any opinions or errors of fact and interpretation are, of course, my responsibility alone. JW

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Note: Other CHART notes on archives in Timor-Leste, including links to our 2003 and 2009 reports, can be found on this website’s Timorese Archives section.


Parliamentary Inquiry: CHART submission

15 May 2013

The Australian Parliament has begun a broad-ranging inquiry into Australia’s relationship with Timor-Leste. We present here a summary and full text of CHART’s submission to the inquiry.

CHART calls for a critical examination of current restrictions on access to Australian government archives about East Timor and calls for Australian support for emerging archival institutions in Timor-Leste.

On May 21, the Australian parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will commence public hearings on Australia’s relationship with Timor-Leste. The inquiry will examine government and non-government relationships and has attracted over seventy submissions – largely from Australian NGOs and individuals.

This is the third Australian parliamentary inquiry specifically on Timor in the current era, following Senate Committee inquiries in 1982-83 and 1999-2000. Historically these reports have had little obvious influence on the direction of government policy (the 1983 report was virtually ignored by the then Hawke Labor Government). However, such inquiries can provide a comprehensive insight into the thinking and actions of key players and are an important compendium of current information. The reports and the large volume of submissions and evidential transcripts also serve as a rich archival record for future generations.

CHART Submission
Our submission to the inquiry is based on an a view that the current many-faceted relationship between Australia and Timor-Leste arises directly out of the traumatic years of the Indonesian military occupation, 1975-1999. For this reason, Australians and East Timorese have a shared and abiding interest in access to historical archives about this period.

The Chart submission makes a series of recomendations in two areas: The right to the truth through access to archives, and the development of relationships between Australian and emerging East Timorese archival institutions.

Access to Australian archives on Timor
Drawing attention to the growing international interest in ‘the right to truth’, CHART makes a number of recommendations on access, including:

  • Timor records in the custody of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) be subject to a special program to expedite their release for public access
  • Processes for examining records for release be revised to speed up public access
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs’ restrictions on access be critically examined to establish whether they are over-cautious or unnecessarily restrictive.

Timor-Australia Archival relationships
Australia, as comparatively rich neighbour, is better placed than any other to cooperate with Timor-Leste in the development of sustainable archival institutions in Timor. While arguing against unsustainable, quick-fix, high technology assistance, the CHART submission recommends:

  • Exploratory relationship-building between National Archives of Australia and Timor-Leste’s Arquivo Nacional
  • Australian government support for Australian institutions with Timor archival holdings and programs
  • Australian archival institutions include in their Timor relationship programs, coordination with related Timor-engaged Australian non-government cultural initiatives
  • Programs to copy Australian-held Timor archival materials for eventual access in Timor-Leste.

CHART believes all these practical recommendations can be achieved over time and done in ways which are of relatively low cost.

Further information:
Full text of CHART submission
Links to all Inquiry submissions

[Note: More links to be added as Inquiry proceeds]


Falintil: Building the archival record

21 August 2012

August 20 is celebrated annually in Timor-Leste as the foundation day of Falintil*, the East Timorese resistance army. Falintil was founded in 1975, initially as a military wing of Fretilin, to fight in the brief civil war and then the many years of resistance to Indonesian military occupation which followed.

Timor Archives marks this event with a mention of two archival fragments on Falintil and some discussion on securing the archival record for future generations.

Snapshot of Tempo Semanal’s Falintil Album on Facebook.

To mark Falintil Day 2012, the East Timorese media organisation Tempo Semanal published almost 900 resistance-related images on its Facebook fan page. The photographs appear to range in time from 1975 to the early post-1999 referendum period. They include many portraits of Falintil leaders and troops and life in resistance areas.

Many of these historically important images are familiar; seen in private and public collections in Timor and internationally. Many of the images can also be seen in an online collection of East Timor’s Resistance Archive and Museum (AMRT). A 1975 set of images of Indonesian military forces in the album were featured last year on this website (see: Invasion 1975 – Photographs).

Long term archival questions
Tempo Semanal’s album is an eye-catching celebration and reminder of Falintil’s history. However, in common with similar collections of historical materials posted on Facebook and elsewhere, it is unlikely to serve as a reliable repository of archival information for future generations.

The problem with such collections is that they provide little or no information about image origins such as photographer, place, date and circumstance. Facebook users are invited or urged to add such information to the images in the online album. This is a marvellous opportunity to increase knowledge of the images, but who will take responsibility for making sure this data is kept for, and will be accessible to, future generations after Facebook disappears?

Timorese institutional solution?
Such information is most likely to be preserved by an archival institution equipped and dedicated to such tasks. Currently in Timor-Leste the AMRT leads the way in preserving and documenting archival records of the resistance, but it also has significant limitations. The Archive does not yet appear to have a regular system for seeking and recording additional information or data corrections from collection users.

What is needed is a system which not only displays archival collections but invites and allows knowledgeable users to submit missing information about individual items. Such a system needs institutional management and supervision and would be suited to organisations like the AMRT or the envisaged Institute of Memory or National Library.

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Alarico Fernandes on early Falintil
We also present here a unique fragment of Falintil-related history – an audio recording of Alarico Fernandes describing some of the events in Aileu in August 1975 which were part of the formation of Falintil at that time. To listen, Click ‘play’ arrow below.

Attending a Timor strategy conference with Jose Ramos-Horta in Melbourne on 22-23 November 1975, Alarico gave a short account of the civil war and post-civil war Fretilin organisation. At the time, he was Secretary for Internal Affairs and Security in the post-civil war Fretilin administration. While the audio fragment does not decisively add new data to the known historical record of Falintil’s formation, its power lies in hearing the voice of a significant person in Fretilin’s and Falintil’s 1975-78 history.

Capturing Falintil history
The Alarico Fernandes fragment is one of an unknown number of related audio items on resistance history. Some date from 1975, others are recorded interviews with veterans during the post 1999 independence years. Many of these recordings are yet to find their way into institutional repositories for long-term preservation and access.

Alarico Fernandes is still alive but reportedly fragile in body and spirit. He, in common with many of the surviving original Timorese resistance generation, will not be with us forever. It is a matter of considerable urgency that the knowledge of the resistance generation is captured as fully as possible while it remains possible.

Ultimately this is a task for enthusiastic East Timorese and their emerging professional archival institutions.

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NOTES:

* Falintil is the acronym for Forças Armadas da Libertação Nacional de Timor-Leste (Armed Forces for the National Liberation of East Timor).

Alarico Fernandes recording made by Timor Information Service, Melbourne, November 1975. Original in TIS archives.


National Library a step closer

3 March 2011

Plans to establish a National Library of Timor-Leste moved a step closer with the recent appointment of a library specialist to guide its development.

Karen Myers, an Australian librarian with significant East Timor working experience, began a 7-month contract in mid-January.

Her appointment follows international advertising in September 2010 through the Italian oil company, Eni, which is contributing substantial funds to the National Library project.

The broad shape of the new institution as a national coordinating body for all libraries in Timor-Leste is outlined in a recent government statement.

The contract library specialist tasks include input into design of physical infrastructure, legal framework for the library, cultural and educational policy statements, training requirements, human resources planning and collection and acquisition policies.

Karen Myers

Timor Experience
Prior to coming to Timor full-time in 2006, Karen worked in a public library service in Victoria and, from 2002, periodically did library work and training at the National University of Timor-Leste.

She worked through Australian Volunteers International in 2006-7 in advisory roles and course development work at the Dili Institute of Technology. In 2007-9 she was advisor to the Documentation Centre of the Post-CAVR Secretariat.

National Library and Archives
CHART has a special interest in the emergence of the National Library for three specific archives-related reasons.

What’s in a name?
The new institution is called the National Library and Archives on the Secretary of State for Culture website. There was some speculation in 2009 that the new institution might incorporate the existing government archives (Arquivo Nacional) and/or some other smaller special interest archives emerging in Timor-Leste (see our brief report here). We look forward to learning more about the expected archives functions in the new National Library.

CHART connection?
CHART is currently planning a significant digitisation program of Australian-held Timor archival materials. We hope to arrange public access to these files through emerging institutions in Timor-Leste. An archives function at the National Library would make the new institution a potential candidate for such an arrangement with CHART.

Today’s publications, tomorrow’s archives
Our 2003 report on archives developments in Timor-Leste noted that “there does not yet appear to be any institution committed to collecting output from today’s East Timor. Today’s newspapers, books, images, leaflets, radio broadcasts and so forth are tomorrow’s archival record of East Timorese civil society in its early life as an independent nation.” (p.11). We await with great interest to see whether the emerging National Library will take on this important role.