Subject: Death of Christopher Santos From: Rob Wesley-Smith

Death of Christopher Santos

Australian activists, from the 1970s to today, sincerely regret the sad and premature passing of Chris Santos. He was an early and dedicated worker in support of the rights of the East Timorese to be free of external invasion and occupation, a position that the Australian government and others caught up with 24 years later. He was the first Fretilin rep in Australia, and in recent years after working for ConocoPhillips in a liason role he became a media adviser to Jose Ramos Horta and then to Xanana Gusmao. It is sad but not uncommon for the pressures of such a working life to have claimed another victim. On behalf of all the Australian supporters of East Timor we sincerely mourn his passing and offer our condolences to his family and to those senior East Timorese leaders with whom he so ably worked.

further info and comment:

1. Such sad news about Chris. Deaths like his are all casualties of the Indonesian invasion. As with each murdered Timorese, these deaths involve the loss of many years - in these cases of Chris, Andrew and HT, some 20 or 30 years - of life, love and activism. TL is so diminished by their loss. Meanwhile the perpetrators flourish. The anger rises. Peter

2. A few words about Chris Santos, excerpted by CF from ATAOTNI :

"The experience of Chris Santos says a lot about how members of the Australian-based diaspora conducted themselves during the early years of the occupation . Santos arrived in Portuguese Timor in 1969 as a conscript in the Portuguese Army. When his period of conscription finished, he chose to stay in Timor rather than go back to Portugal. He married a Timorese woman and they had two children, both of whom were educated in the Timorese school system. In other words, Santos's Portuguese origin did not instil in him a sense of superiority over, or disdain for, the ordinary East Timorese. Santos joined the ASDT and later Fretilin, becoming a member of Fretilin's central committee. He participated as a combatant in the brief civil war. In mid-November 1975, he arrived in Sydney to join his wife and children, who had been evacuated there two months previously.

In the days before the Indonesian invasion, other East Timorese also left the territory for Australia. Since one needed a certain amount of money to get out, only the wealthier ones could afford to leave. As a consequence, Santos found that almost all the Timorese who came to Australia were UDT supporters, who were extremely hostile to him. He had to leave the hostel he was staying at in Coogee in order to avoid being attacked by them. In the months following the invasion, therefore, there were almost no East Timorese in the solidarity movement. If anything, they were supportive of Indonesia's military operations, which were decimating their erstwhile opponents.

Santos was named Fretilin's representative in Australia in December 1975 by Mari Alkatiri, Rogerio Lobato and Jose Ramos-Horta, who had themselves been evacuated only hours before the invasion. Alkatiri then left for Maputo in Mozambique, Lobato left for Angola and Ramos-Horta left for New York. As for Santos, he stayed in Denis Freney's house for four months before moving to Melbourne to look for work and to broaden the network of solidarity supporters. Life was austere at the time..."

3. Chris Santos died this morning. Apparently he was on his way to work and had a heart attack following vomiting. I don't have any further details, except to say that he appears regularly on TV behind the President, for whom he works, and always looks terrible, pale and drawn. As we all know these protracted months of conflict, tension and uncertainty have taken a terrible toll here, including at a personal level. Pat

4. Christopher Santos has died of a heart attack in Dili today 31st August. This is a very sad loss.

Chris was an activist East Timorese in Australia from late 1975, who worked with Denis Freney in Sydney for some months, in opposing the Indonesian invasion, and that was the context of me first meeting him.

Soon he was based in Melbourne with a young family, and was the Fretilin rep for Australia. I occasionally sent him some tapes from Radio Maubere direct, and some support, and his face profile was on a dramatic red black and yellow poster.

Later Chris became a PR consultant.

Later again he started working for ConocoPhillips assisting in negotiating with the East Timorese authorities, and I was greeted enthusiastically by him at a function in Darwin (20 years or so after our last meeting).

Soon after he became the PR officer for Jose Ramos Horta when he was foreign minister, and greatly lifted the professionalism of that aspect of that office. Since then he has continued to work for Xanana Gusmao.

All such Timor activists have had to deal with high stress levels, which tend to occlude the blood vessels and lead to heart attacks. We have lost Dr Andrew McNaughtan and HT Lee this way, whilst others have had narrow escapes. I find his death to be very sad, yet I suspect few knew him outside those very involved. He put his life towards helping his country. (At a guess he was 25ish in 1975 so would now have been 57ish)


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