The strong links between Australian and Timorese people received an extra boost at the centenary of ANZAC in April 2015. Each capital city was fortunate to welcome a number of Timorese veterans in the very well-attended marches held on Anzac Day itself. The veterans came to Australia with His Excellency Kay Rala “Xanana” Gusmão, the Minister for Investment and Strategic Planning.
Mr Gusmão had been arrested in 1992 and spent 7 years in an Indonesian jail, until the referendum of 1999 saw his return as an honoured hero. He served as the President of Timor-Leste when independence was restored in 2002, and recently relinquished his next role as Prime Minister, in favour of bringing new blood into the Parliament.
Recognition of the role of the veterans in the recent history of East Timor was fitting at the Anzac celebrations. These courageous men and women kept the flame of hope alive in East Timor during the Indonesian occupation 1975 – 1999, and they spent years in the mountains as an effective and feared guerrilla force. They were supported by villagers throughout the country, often at the cost of the villagers’ lives. The tales of the endurance and patriotism of the Timorese people are testimony to the love of their people and their culture, and their presence in Australia at this special time was an honour for the people of both nations.
Accompanying Mr Gusmão was Major General Lere Anan Timor, the commander of the F-FDTL, the Timorese military, who himself had a distinguished history as a guerrilla leader during the occupation.