Timor-Leste’s Resistance veterans to participate in ANZAC day events
This ANZAC Day history will be made when more than 40 veterans of Timor-Leste’s independence struggle visit Australia to participate in events with Australian and New Zealand veterans.
Delegations from Timor-Leste will be based in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Visits will also be made to Newcastle and Toowoomba.
Four of the veterans marching in Sydney on ANZAC day participated in all 24 years of the Timorese struggle from 1975 to 1999.
They are former President and Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and current Minister for Planning and Strategic Investment H.E. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, the Commander of Timor-Leste’s Defence Force Major General Lere Anan Timur, veterans advocate Gil da Costa Monteiro and former leader of FALINTIL Jose Antonio da Costa.
Also in the visiting delegation are war widows who will continue their interaction with the War Widows Guild of Australia.
To achieve the restoration of their independence it is estimated that up to 183,000 Timorese lost their lives through violence, starvation and torture, accounting for as much as 25% of the population of Timor-Leste at that time.
All of this happened on Australia’s doorstep, a one-hour flight north of Darwin.
The RSL has begun a partnership with Timor’s veterans to advise on Timor’s own Veterans Organization. RSL representatives have travelled to Dili to develop this relationship and a small delegation of veterans from Timor-Leste visited last year around ANZAC day.
Last week the law establishing Timor-Leste’s Council of Combatants of National Liberation was approved in the Council of Ministers.
For the Resistance Veterans this trip will be to learn, to build on an already strong friendship and to pay their own respects to the ANZACs in this special 100-year anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli.
Debt of Honour
Bonds between the defence community of Timor-Leste and Australia run deep with a ‘debt of honor’ being recognized by Australian veterans after the Timorese support of Australian soldiers, especially those of the 2/2 and 2/4 Commandoes, in World War II. This support saved the lives of Australians operating guerilla-style in the rugged hill country of Timor. Veterans put it plainly, “we wouldn’t have lasted a week without their protection.”
But the Timorese paid dearly for their assistance. Australian commandoes were withdrawn by January of 1943. During the Japanese occupation it is estimated that 40,000 - 60,000 Timorese lost their lives. Many lethal reprisals were carried out on the families and villages of those suspected of assisting Australians.
The official Timor-Leste Government Media Release is here.