Subject: East Timor lives in memories of survivors

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The World Today - East Timor lives in memories of survivors [This is the print version of story]

The World Today - Tuesday, 2 December , 2008 12:46:00 Reporter: Sarah Hawke

ELEANOR HALL: In their country's quarter of a century long struggle for independence, around 10,000 East Timorese people were taken as political prisoners by Indonesia. Nearly half of them were women and many of them were tortured, died or disappeared. But many of those who did survive have been telling their stories as part of East Timor's Living Memory Project. Sarah Hawke has our report. (A Timorese woman speaking) SARAH HAWKE: This is the story of Maria da Silva Benfica. In 1977, the then 23-year-old was captured by the Indonesians for sending supporters to help the Timorese guerrillas. Maria was imprisoned for over a year. She was beaten and punched, and at one stage, says she forced to be in a cell with a corpse. Maria has told her story on video, as part of The Living Memory Project. She's one of 52 video testimonies from ex-prisoners recorded so far. Veteran journalist on East Timor Jill Jolliffe is directing the project. She says not only are the recordings important for history but also for the healing process. JILL JOLLIFFE: We find that violence is repeated and mimicked as a result of unhealed trauma, and children are affected. So it's really a very large proportion of the East Timorese population. SARAH HAWKE: Olga do Amaral was student in 1997 when she took part in an Independence demonstration. She was captured and imprisoned for a year.

OLGA DO AMARAL(translated): She got sexual violence, she got beat and punching. SARAH HAWKE: On release she went and joined the guerrilla fighters in the mountains until Independence.

Olga is now pregnant with her fourth child and later this month will be decorated for her efforts in the resistance. She says recognition and support of the continuing struggle of ex-prisoners by the Government is important.

OLGA DO AMARAL(translated): When she get married it's always, something that from her husband, always say that you are from this background and something that she still thinking about this, but there is no recognition from the Government. SARAH HAWKE: Jill Jolliffe says the push for support is a struggle but inroads are being made. JILL JOLLIFFE: I think there's a long way to go and we do have, we have been accepted as one of the, as belonging to a group known as the Psychosocial Group of NGOs. We consider the, the filming itself is rather a healing process, a therapeutic process. Our core work is producing the archive but we get sufficient funds, we would also develop the health aspect at the same time. SARAH HAWKE: Is there any desire for other care and assistance for the political prisoners at this stage, or is it mainly the recognition? JILL JOLLIFFE: I mean, our project is quite ambitious and our ambitions aren't generally realised but we would like to also establish a social centre where they can develop their sense of common identity and also where older ex-prisoners can come, and many of them are isolated, they're getting old, they're getting sick, so we'd like to get a little room where they can come and play chess and read the daily newspapers, have a coffee, chew the fat, do what older people do and younger people and maybe give some assistance to their children, also in school work, where having access to the computers and the Internet and books.

ELEANOR HALL: The Director of East Timor's Living Memory Project Jill Jolliffe speaking with Sarah Hawke.

© 2008 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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