The Living Memory Project

A few years ago, prison doors in Indonesia and East Timor swung open to release hundreds of East Timorese nationalists imprisoned for supporting their country's 24-year struggle for independence. The most famous was José Alexandre 'Xanana' Gusmão, today president of the Democratic Republic of East Timor who returned to his country to the acclaim of wildly-cheering crowds.

In the following period ex-prisoners organised themselves into the Associação dos ex-Prisoneiros Politícos do Timor-Leste (Association of former Political Prisoners of East Timor, ASEPPOL), which estimated that around 10,000 people living in East Timor today suffered imprisonment. Many of these had been tortured. Countless others died in prison or disappeared without a trace. For each person imprisoned, a wider circle of family and friends was affected — by the anguish of separation from the victim, by knowledge of his or her suffering, by the loss of a breadwinner, and by stigmatisation and political persecution arising from the relationship. Children were especially marked by the imprisonment of family members.

Working with ASEPPOL, the Living Memory project aims to create a video archive based on interviews with these ex-prisoners. Inspired in part by Stephen Spielberg's Shoah Visual History Foundation, the project will collect, preserve and catalogue testimony from political prisoners, to be held for future generations as part of East Timor's national heritage. The archive will also be accessible in various formats as an educational and media resource nationally and internationally.

Interviews will be formulated to elicit information on the impact of imprisonment on ex-prisoners' health, providing an invaluable database to plan strategies for treatment, especially in the case of torture victims.

The Living Memory Project at East Timor is managed by Jill Jolliffe and provides videos and images of ex-prisoners in East Timor.

Interview with Gregório da Cunha Saldaha
Gregório Saldanha was an organizer of the 12 November 1991 rally which preceded mass killings by the Indonesian army at Dili’s Santa Cruz cemetery. He was influenced as a child by listening to Xavier do Amaral, founder of the Fretilin independence movement. In 1989 he was imprisoned, tortured and held without trial for 6 months (at SGI Colmera in Dili) for his part in a demonstration during Pope John Paul II’s Dili visit. In 1991 Gregório was shot in the buttocks at the Santa Cruz demonstration and detained at Lahane hospital. Interrogated by red-beret special forces at a POLWIL post in Dili, he was later charged with subversion and sentenced to life in prison. His sentence was served incommunicado in Dili’s Balide prison and then in Semarang, central Java, where he was transported without his family’s knowledge. He was freed over a year after the fall of Suharto, on December 10, 1999., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Balide Prison, Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Cinematographer: Sophie Barry, Editing Michelle Soohoo, Transcription: Meno Ferreira, scanning Elvis Sarmento Guterres, archival database Maria da Silva Benfica and Olga do Amaral., Date of Birth: 1962-11-06; Prisons: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Captain, red-beret unit (Boinas Vermelhas : KOPASSUS / KOPASSANDHA); Perpetrators: SGI Colmera, Dili; Hospital Militar, Lahane; POLWIL, Dili; Comarca Balide; Becora prison, Dili; Semarang prison, cenral Java; Cipinang prison, Jakarta.
Interview with Simplício Celestino de Deus
Simplicio is a customs official in independent East Timor who lives with the trauma of torture he suffered during the 11 November 1991 massacre by the Indonesian military. He survived the massacre, in Dili’s Santa Cruz cemetery, but lives with images of his student friends who didn’t. His ear was cut off by a soldier at the height of the violence, he was later detained at Lahane hospital and Polda police barracks, Dili, before transfer to the eastern town of Lospalos, where he became a slave labourer for the elite Kostrad regiment during two years., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Notes: A note on the language of the interview: Simplício’s mother tongue is Tetum, and his preference was to be interviewed in it. Living Memory Project’s main working language is Portuguese, but the project also conducts interviews in translation from Tetum and other local languages. Because Simplício’s Portuguese was perfectly intelligible to us, and because a translator would break the valuable psychological rapport between interviewer and interviewed, we chose that language to give maximum impact to his story. Purists may object, but as a Portuguese colleague noted: ‘The important thing is that we communicate with each other’., Place of Interview: Santa Cruz cemetery and Lahane hospital, Dili, East Timor., Credits: Archival preparation: Maria da Silva Benfica Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe Filmed by: Nicola Daley Camera Assistant: Elvis Sarmento Guterres Text transcription: Filomeno Ferreira Editing: Velinda Wardell, Other Names: ‘Mau Huno of the city’; Date of Birth: 1961-09-25; Prisons: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Battalions 303; Brimob; TNI, army; Kopassus special forces; Martin; Kostrad battalion 503; Kostrad battalion 501; Saba; Profos. ; Perpetrators: Lahane hospital; Polda police barracks, Comoro, Dili; Kostrad barracks, Lospalos.
Interview with Madalena Soares (“Kasian”)
Madalena Soares is one of the few women who bore arms in East Timor’s 24-year guerrilla war against Indonesian military occupation. This interview is little more than a fragment, a fleeting glimpse of Madalena after the Living Memory crew came across her unexpectedly and decided to improvise. She described how she fought with the resistance army Falintil from 1975 until capture in the Ainaro district in 1991. A militant of the women’s movement Organização Popúlar das Mulheres de Timor (OPMT), Popular Organisation of Timorese Women, she was engaged in organising women to support the struggle and in training them in arms use. She was captured during an Indonesian offensive at Mauxiga and then taken to Ainaro, where she was held and interrogated at the barracks of Battalion 613, formerly a Portuguese army barracks. Her toes were crushed during the ‘chair torture’ to which prisoners were regularly subjected, and which she demonstrates here. It necessitated a later operation at Ainaro hospital, organised by a sympathetic Indonesian officer., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Mota Ulun, Liquiça District, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Cinematographer: Nicola Daley, Other Names: Kasian; Date of Birth: 1955-09-20; Prisons: Fahi Lebu, Mota Ulun, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Soldiers from Battalion 613, Ainaro.; Perpetrators: Battalion 613 barracks, Ainaro, East Timor; Battalion 613 barracks, Sector B, Ainaro de Cima, East Timor.
Interview with Maria da Silva Benfica
Maria da Silva Benfica was imprisoned as a 23-year-old for sending supplies to resistance guerrilla forces in 1977, two years after the Indonesian occupation began. She was interrogated in the notorious Sang Tai Ho centre in Dili and shuttled between there and the Comarca (Balide) prison, where she was singled out for brutal treatment, including torture, until her release in June 1978. Almost 30 years later, Maria’s life in independent East Timor is dedicated to assisting other ex-political prisoners and keeping the memory of their experiences alive., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Cinematographer: Nicola Daley, Date of Birth: 1954-02-08; Prisons: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Sihombing; Sinaga; red berets; Suleiman.; Perpetrators: Sang Tai Ho (Colmera, Dili); Comarca (Balide) prison, Dili; --Mau Buti cell; --Mau Besa cell.
Interview with Rosa Pereira do Rêgo
Rosa Pereira do Rêgo was arrested with four other women and detained briefly in June 1976, when she was seven months' pregnant. She was accused of aiding resistance guerrillas and assisting others to join them in the mountains., She was taken first to the Indonesian military Koramil post in the suburb of Colohun, run by red-beret commandos. There, she was interrogated and was administered electric shocks to her thighs., From there, she was moved to another interrogation centre in the Colmera-Mandarim district, where she was whipped under questioning. The building where she and other women were held was part of the complex of buildings known as SGI Colmera set up to serve as torture centres soon after Indonesian troops landed in Dili., Rosa describes the rape of a fellow-prisoner which she witnessed at a house in Audian, committed by one of the SGI commanders. Her baby survived, after a long, difficult home birth., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Cinematographer: Nicola Daley, Date of Birth: 1925-06-17; Prisons: Dili (?), East Timor (Timor-Leste];
Interview with Genoveva da Costa Martins
Genoveva da Costa Martins was a founder of the Popular Organisation of East Timorese Women, and is the widow of nationalist poet Francisco Borja da Costa, executed by the Indonesian army during the paratrooper landings in Dili in December 1975., She became politically active in the Ermera district, where she was born and later worked as a schoolteacher. As an early activist for the Fretilin party, she became interested in women's rights and worked alongside prominent colleagues of Borja, such as Vicente Sa'he, Mau Huno and Xanana Gusmão., In speaking of her prison experiences, Genoveva describes Francisco Borja da Costa and his work, and this Living Memory film is a tribute to him as well as to the suffering of this courageous widow., After his death Genoveva fled to the mountains to work with the resistance leadership, organising the women's movement and supporting its general activities. She describes teaching women fighters to read: in the absence of materials, they wrote in the dirt, or on banana leaves. Genoveva was captured and imprisoned for eight months in Ermera from October 1979, during which time she suffered torture. In 1992 she was imprisoned once again, for her association with captured guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmão., In 2001 Genoveva was elected to parliament for Fretilin in the country's first democratic elections, a post held until 2007. She appeals to East Timor's younger generation to study and learn from her generation's painful experience, and for women to take their rightful place in East Timor's new society., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Francisco Borja da Costa Park, Farol, Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Cinematographer: Nicola Daley, Date of Birth: 1956-01-03; Prisons: Ermera, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Indonesian army; Perpetrators: Ermera.
Interview with Joao Da Costa
Timorese nationalist and Baucau resident Joao da Costa was imprisoned by the Indonesian army in early 1976, soon after troops landed in his home town. A former soldier in Portugal’s colonial army he quickly joined resistance forces, but was denounced to Indonesian troops. From June 1976 he was held at the Flamboyan Hotel, a torture centre established by special force commandos from Ume unit. The Flamboyan is a luxury hotel today (the Baucau Pousada), which gives no clues to its past history. In this interview Da Costa describes the torture to which he and other prisoners were subject—electric shocks, the ‘chair’ torture, for example--and his subsequent transfer to Dili’s Comarca prison, where he was held for another three years. He and his baby grandson sing a song he learnt in prison which, from its content, must have been handed down to Timorese prisoners from ex-prisoners of Portugal’s Salazar regime., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Baucau, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe Cinematographer:Nicola Daley Interview transcription: Filomeno Ferreira Archivist: Maria Benfica, Date of Birth: 1953-01-31; Prisons: Baucau, East Timor ( Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Commandos das boinas vermelhas, exercito Indonesio/ red beret commandos, Indonesian army. Grupo Ume/ Group Ume; Perpetrators: Hotel Flamboyan Baucau (Pousada Baucau), Kota Baru (Vila Nova) Baucau, Companhia Ume Baucau, prisão CCC Dili (Cadeia Comarca Central), Sang Tai Ho, Dili.
Interview with Armandina Gusão
Armandina Gusmão, sister of Timor’s revolutionary hero Xanana Gusmão, tells the story of her imprisonment in the wake of his capture in November 1992. She and her husband Gilman were among scores of people who had hidden and protected the fugitive guerrilla leader who were then rounded up and interrogated at the notorious SGI building in the suburb of Colmera, in the East Timorese capital Dili. Forced to wear hoods during their transfer through Dili streets, Armandina and her husband were later separated at the SGI buildings and attacked by hooded secret police agents. In this interview Armandina reserves her right to silence over details. Armandina is a writer and an articulate defender of women’s rights, and Living Memory took the opportunity this interview offered to register also her graphic account of the first horrifying days of Indonesia’s December 1975 landing in Dili., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Dili, East Timor, (former office of Living Memory, and former SGI prison building, Colmera/ex- escritorio de Memoria Viva e ex-SGI prison building, Colmera), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe Cinematographer: Nicola Daley Interview transcription: Filomeno Ferreira Archivist: Maria da Silva Benfica, Other Names: Armandina Maria Gusmão; Date of Birth: 1956-03-22; Prisons: Ossú, Viqueque, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Ganap, Coronel Simbolon; Perpetrators: Kodim, SGI, Colmera.
Interview with Akui Leong
Akui Leong, also known as Francisco Lui, was born in Hatu Udo and raised in the Chinese community of Same in East Timor’s southern mountain region, which in Portuguese times was a relatively flourishing community, having its own school. As a young man he identified with the East Timorese nationalist cause and later decided to work for the resistance movement against the Indonesian occupation of 1975-1999., In the early 1990s he became the driver of resistance commander Xanana Gusmao, transporting him on perilous journeys from mountain camps to Dili, where he sometimes travelled to consult other resistance figures. In the interview with Living Memory he describes one such journey from the Kablaki mountains to the capital., He describes also his subsequent capture at his house in Dili by Indonesian soldiers in November 1992. He was taken to the SGI Colmera interrogation centre, where he suffered severe torture over several weeks from interrogators seeking to discover the whereabouts of Xanana Gusmao. He was later joined there in his suffering by fellow-resistants Mau Hudo (later to serve briefly as guerrilla commander), Henrique Belmiro and Vasco da Gama., Akui Leong tells how he withstood the torture, never revealing Gusmao’s whereabouts. He still suffers the after-effects, particularly in his feet, permanently damaged by the ‘chair torture’., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Cinematographer: Dean Adams, Other Names: Francisco Lui; Date of Birth: 1964-10-06; Prisons: Hato Udo, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Indoinesian commandos, SGI base Colmera.; Perpetrators: GI Colmera, Dili, Farol, Balide prison.
Interview with Chico Mau Lohi
Chico Mau Lohi , revolutionary songwriter, describes 1975 invasion; witnesses executions 9 Dec 1975; imprisoned and tortured in Tropical Hotel 28 Dec. 1975; sings to Col. Sinaga for his life; Feb. 1976 transferred to Balide Prison; wife dies at home 28 July 1976, attends funeral and returns to prison 2 more years; describes disappearance Orient Five band members; freed 1978, remarries., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Houses of Chico Mau Lohi and Francisco Xavier do Amaral, and Hotel Plaza, Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Cinematographer: Dean Adams, Other Names: Francisco De Jesus Brito; Date of Birth: 1948-12-25; Prisons: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste); Other Prisoners: Kodim; Sinaga; Angkatan Laut; INTEL; Perpetrators: Hotel Tropical, Dili, East Timor(Timor-Leste); Comarca Balide, Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste).
Interview with António dos Santos Matos
Anito Matos is a well-known Timorese pop singer with a social conscience. He was arrested in 1991 during Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, in the wake of the 12th November massacre of unarmed student protesters in Dili's Santa Cruz ceremony, during which around 200 young people died., At that time he was studying at a private university in Denpasar, Bali, where he belonged to RENETIL, an underground organisation of student nationalists led by Fernando La Sama (appointed East Timor's parliamentaty Speaker in 2007). Most of its members in Indonesia, including Anito Matos, were captured in thepolice round-up which followed. They were subject to extreme psychological pressure during interrogations, including deprivation of food and sleep. Anito and others were freed after two months because La Sama took legal reponsibility for his colleagues' actions, serving a term of 8 years in Cipinang prison, Jakarta alongside guerrilla commander Xanana Gusmao., After Indonesia's 1999 withdrawal from East Timor, Anito Matos's nationalist songs had a surge of popularity. He continues to sing, and became a senior official in the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2007., This item digitized and made available online with funds provided by United States Department of Education, TICFIA (Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information) Grant P337A05006., Place of Interview: Dili, East Timor (Timor-Leste), Credits: Interviewer: Jill Jolliffe, Interview Transcription: Filomeno Ferreira, Archivist: Maria da Silva Benfica, Date of Birth: 1962-05-08; Prisons: Dili; Other Prisoners: Col. Suntoro, Forças Inteligentes Indonesios; Perpetrators: Quartel General das Polícias, Polda Nusra, Denpasar Bali, Jacarta Polda Metro Jaya.