Subject: SMH: Timor hero's grand-daughter yearns for justice

Sydney Morning Herald May 3, 2003

Timor hero's grand-daughter yearns for justice

By Tony Stephens

Teresinha Maia's grandfather, Loloulo, helped Australian commandos fight the Japanese in Timor during World War II. Believing he had saved their lives, the Australians gave him a slouch hat.

Loloulo wore it for years. It rests now in what Mrs Maia calls a holy place in East Timor.

After the Australians were evacuated in 1942, the RAAF dropped leaflets to the East Timorese, saying: "We will remember you." At the end of the war, however, between 40,000 and 50,000 Timorese in a population of only 650,000 had been killed or starved to death, mostly for helping the Australians.

Now Mrs Maia is coming to the last round of her own battle - to stay with her family in Australia. And the few commando survivors are fighting with her.

Teresinha was 10 when Fretilin forces kidnapped her two younger sisters and mother in 1974, during the civil war. She believes they were murdered. Their home in Lete Foho was burned down. She fled with her grandparents.

Her father has not been seen since attending the 1991 memorial service at Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, when 200 people were massacred. Indonesian forces beat and jailed her Chinese Timorese husband, Chung Chong Lee.

The family, with four children, fled the continuing unrest at the end of 1994. A fifth child, Ami, was born in Sydney six years ago and they have been living in Cabramatta on bridging visas.

The Refugee Review Tribunal finally rejected their case four weeks ago, on the grounds that East Timor was now an independent nation to which they could return. Mrs Maia has appealed to the Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock. About 1500 East Timorese are in a similar position.

Andy Pirie, president of the Australian Commando Association, wrote to the Prime Minister and Mr Ruddock on April 7, pointing out that the 500 commandos of the 2/2nd and 2/4th independent companies conducting a guerilla campaign against 20,000 Japanese would have been wiped out except for the East Timorese support.

"These kind and loyal people saved our commandos' lives," Mr Pirie wrote. "For this Australia owes a debt of gratitude. Australia has never honoured the debt." Mr Pirie had not received a reply yesterday.

John "Paddy" Kenneally fought with the 2/2nd, a unit attached to 2/40th Battalion, the famous Sparrow Force which lost many men on the Burma-Thailand "Death" Railway.

Mr Kenneally, now 87 and living in Yagoona, fought in the mountains where Loloulo and his people helped. He said: "The Timorese fed and sheltered us. They carried the wounded and sick. They were the eyes and ears of the 2/2nd. They paid dearly. The tracks round Mindelo were littered with dead Timorese."

Mrs Maia has worked since arriving in Australia. Her husband helps look after the children and the housework but, since the tribunal decision, they have had to rely on charity for food.

"I lost my family and my education," Mrs Maia said. "I don't want that to happen to my beautiful children."

photo: Debt goes back to World War II ... former commando Paddy Kenneally with Teresinha Maia, her husband Chung Chong Lee, and three of their five children: Francelina, 10, Miguel, 8, and Ami, 6. Photo: Rick Stevens

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