Subject: The Australian: Naldo Rei: Raised On A Nation's Fight For
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Raised on a nation's fight for freedom
NALDO Rei was nine years old when he crept into the jungle on his first
mission for the East Timorese resistance movement. Like so many in East
Timor, he spent decades fighting for freedom.
Now a 32-year-old public information officer in the troubled new
nation, Rei says the 24 years of danger and bloody struggle have yet to
deliver peace and stability.
The tiny country is now riven by regional loyalties. Tens of thousands
of dispirited East Timorese live in tents, fearing to rebuild their burned
and destroyed homes. Worse still, earlier this year rebels tried to kill
the East Timorese President, Jose Ramos Horta.
``We wanted peace, stability, a democratic society,'' Rei said. ``We
don't want to live in violence and fearing everyone all the time.''
In Australia to promote his memoir, Resistance, a Childhood Fighting
for East Timor, Rei is scheduled to appear at the Northern Territory and
Sydney writers' festivals.
He spent his difficult youth working towards East Timor's independence
from Indonesia, dodging the Indonesian military and trying to endure both
torture and jail.
``My involvement in the struggle began when I was born,'' he said,
referring to an infancy spent in hiding. ``But I really began helping the
clandestine movement when I was nine. I was a messenger; everybody was
controlled by the Indonesian army, so we helped by leaving messages in
different places. It was dangerous, but my parents did it all the time.''
Shocked by the synchronised rebel attack earlier this year on Mr Ramos
Horta and the nation's once revered guerilla leader Prime Minister Xanana
Gusmao, Rei said he blamed the international forces stationed in East
The Australian troops, he said, had ``surrounded'' rebel leader Alfredo
Reinado for two years. ``We were really upset with the Australian army,''
he said. ``How could Reinado escape from Ermera (hill district)? How could
it happen? How come they didn't prevent the action to try and kill the
President? It's just incredible.''
Rei also slammed East Timor's Government, criticising its internal
squabbling and repeated interference in the judicial process. ``People
have to believe in the Government, it has to have legitimacy,'' he said,
adding the nation's leaders must begin to co-operate to solve seemingly
intractable problems, such as the thousands of tent-dwellers who refused
Despite years battling the oppressive Indonesian military, Rei said he
bore no grudge towards Indonesians. ``I also love Indonesian people, but
not the Government; we always had a problem with the Indonesian Government
and the military.''
Indonesians, he said, were fighting for democracy at the same time as
East Timorese were fighting for independence. Now both goals have been
achieved, yet many East Timorese were unhappy.
``Everybody should sit down together and solve the problem,'' he said.
``Timor is so small, not over one million people. Why don't they sit down?
We know they can do it. In the 24 years (of struggle) there was no other
country to help us.''
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