East Timorese hero murdered
By Filomena da Silva
other Timorese freedom fighter has fallen. David Alex Daitula,
46 years old, was Falintil deputy chief of staff, regional
commander in the Bacau area, and one of the earliest fighters for
Timorese nationalism with the Fretilin resistance movement.
For more than 21 years David Alex had learned to cope with the
death of many thousands of his fellows, the mysterious
disappearance and the imprisonment of many others. He had endured
the famine of the encirclement campaign of the 1970s, the
bombings, the disease and all the sufferings inflicted by the
Indonesian military on the Timorese people. His morale was
Countless attacks by the occupying military have been launched
trying to capture the guerrilla commanders. Many times David Alex
had been surrounded in the jungles, but he learned how to trick
the Indonesians. He taught his fighters how to survive in the
harshest of conditions.
His guerrilla skills were first documented by film maker Max
Stahl, the first foreigner to reach one of David Alex's dugout
shelters in the mountains. The guerrillas spoke in low tones and
whispers, and operated in small groups to provide maximum
maneouverability and to minimise the exposure of the population
to retaliation, Stahl said in a report published in the
Australian Magazine in January 1993. His amazing story touched
the hearts and minds of many people abroad.
In August last year, Jill Jolliffe succeeded in getting a camera
operator to East Timor. A guerrilla action was filmed live for
the first time. David Alex and his men courageously carried out
an attack in Assailatula/Bacau, killing two Indonesian soldiers
and then fought their way out before the arrival of troop
reinforcements. This film - Blockade - premiered on SBS
television on 7 December to mark the 22nd anniversary of the
Indonesian invasion of East Timor and the awarding of the Nobel
Peace prize to Bishop Belo and Timorese diplomat Jose Ramos
In January, an Australian journalist, Ivan Smith, spent four days
in the guerrillas' hidden bush camp. David, although sick and
physically weak, spoke with the same passion of the `70s with no
signs of giving up.
In May, on the eve of the Indonesian election, Falintil
intensified attacks to destabilise the Indonesian occupation
forces, attract international support and pressure Indonesia to
accept an act of self-determination in East Timor under United
Nations supervision. The security forces retaliated randomly
against civilians. They intensified military operations to
capture the guerrillas.
On Wednesday, 25 June, occupation forces under the command of
Colonel Slamet Sidabutar captured David Alex. According to many
sources, he was shot and captured in Kaibada, Bacau at 10am.
Colonel Sidabutar, who was interviewed by RDP Portuguese radio,
claims that David Alex died of wounds. The Timorese resistance
claims that he died during interrogation.
For the Timorese resistance, death of a captured guerrilla is an
expected fate. In 1978, we lost Nicolau Lobato, president of
Fretilin and commander in chief of Falintil, among many others.
Today the resistance is not confined to armed struggle. An
underground network has developed in the cities and villages that
has deep connections with the armed resistance. Young people have
rejected the so-called ``development'' and have joined the
liberation movement, including the armed struggle. The entire
population has now reached a point where life is only worth
something if we can live in dignity in a free country and raise
our children under our own cultural values.
In a recorded message in January, David Alex said: ``It was 21
years ago that we committed ourselves to liberating our country.
Many have died or been killed. They gave their lives for an ideal
that we all shared. We keep fighting for our country and to
avenge our comrades.''
Filomena da Silva is from the NSW Fretilin's Information
Section. This article first appeared in Green Left Weekly,