BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Chinese Vietnamese Burmese Thai Indonesian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Asia-Pacific  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 07:43 GMT 08:43 UK
Eyewitness: Resistance worker rejoices
Aitarak militia members on the rampage in Dili in 1999
Madalena informed on the violent Aitarak militia
BBC News Online talks to Madalena Filipe who worked for the resistance during East Timor's struggle for independence. As the fledgling nation elects its first president, she reflects on its struggle for freedom and future challenges.

Thirty-one-year-old Madalena made a tough personal sacrifice in the fight for her country's freedom - she chose to inform on a member of her own family.


It was a terrible time. I try to do the best I can to forget the time. Even now, if I hear the sound of a gun I run.

He was the second in command of Aitarak, or "Thorn", a feared pro-Indonesia militia led by the notorious Eurico Guterres, who is now wanted by the United Nations on charges of crimes against humanity.

The militia member was also her cousin.

Madalena, a student at the time, pretended to be sympathetic to his views and then fed the information he gave her to Fretilin's guerrillas fighting for independence and journalists.

Madalena and her husband
Madalena and her husband. They married while refugees in Australia.

"Sometimes I wanted to cry in front of him because he did something very different to what I did," she said.

"It was a terrible time. I try to do the best I can to forget the time. Even now, if I hear the sound of a gun I run."

But she said that even at the worst times, when she and her then-fiancÚ felt they had no room to move, "we still had something inside that we would become free".

Warning ignored

As the vote for independence in August 1999 approached, Madalena learned from her cousin that the pro-Indonesia militias were planning to wreak terrible violence if the poll did not go their way.

Eurico Guterres
Eurico Guterres: The feared leader of Aitarak

She said her partner, a journalist, tried to warn the UN in East Timor that a massacre would ensue. But the UN insisted that Indonesia, as a member of the United Nations, would respect East Timor's right to choose.

Fearing the worst, on the day before the vote Madalena packed her bags and sought refuge in the UN compound in Dili.

There she learned that East Timor had won the right to independence.

"I cried, not only because I was happy, but because [I thought] we were not going to live because they would kill us."

Like hundreds of others, she was evacuated to Darwin, Australia, and feared she would never return to East Timor. She did, in December that year, to discover her house had been burned by the furious militias.

Plea for help

Now, as the new East Timor celebrates the election of its first leader and prepares for full independence on 20 May, "I'm very proud because we never lost the spirit to win the struggle for independence".

East Timorese evacuate their homes in 1999
Like many others Madalena packed and fled

In successfully running the presidential election, "we show we have political maturity", said Madalena.

But, as an employee now of East Timor's Foreign Affairs Ministry, she warns that the country must work hard to ensure its plight does not fall off the international news agenda.

"Because after independence this might change as journalists change their attention to other countries, such as Afghanistan or DR Congo."

"We should try to promote... not just the political side... for example, we have many tourism resources.

"With the international community's help, we can go forward."


Key stories

Independence day

Background

Key people

TALKING POINT

FORUM
See also:

16 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
26 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
12 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes