Formation of East-Timorese political associations

During Portuguese dictatorship, civilians were prohibited to gather for political discussions. But since the 60's an educated elite with nationalist aspirations begun to reune clandistinely and vehicle some principles in catholic press. Three weeks after the democratic Revolution, formation of political associations was incentivated, in the process of decolonization. Immediatly UDT was founded, wanting to prolong Portugal's presence in view of a progressive autonomy. ASDT, future Fretilin, called for radical independence, while Apodeti, supported by Indonesia, for the integration of East Timor in the neighbour power.

Generation of Timorese politicians

Although the changes acrossing the metropolis were of little immediate effect in the rural society, they had profound impact among the elites of East Timor, particularly in the administrator sectors, centered in the cities and specially in Díli They polarized the opposition to certain aspects of the Portuguese rule.

Since the 60s, an educated elite with nationalist aspirations began to emerge, often product of the catholic schools and particularly from the seminaries of Dare (outside Díli) and S. José in the colony of Macao. Discussions involved small groups of students and administrators that gathered clandestinely in the capital. The main escapes of their ideas were catholic publications of reduced circulation like Seara, which was closed down by the political police PIDE.

The conclusions reached are considered general and vagrant. Subjects like traditional marriage and the educational system were debated but not much was proposed as a global critic and alternatives.

Anyhow, this collective of student-administrators and higher level bureaucrats, as well as important rural proprietors would constitute the basis of the two main political parties: UDT and ASDT/Fretilin.

Three weeks after the Revolution 25th of April, the Governor of East Timor created the Commission for the Autodetermination which's intentions were to bring out to legality all the incipient political associations.

The parties

UDT (Timor Democratic Union). This became the first party, was also the most popular for some months. The initial declaration, of May 11th, made apology of democratic principles, distribution of revenues and, the fulcral aspect, a progressive autonomy materialized with an increasing participation of the Timorese but always in the light of the Portuguese flag, to culminate with the integration of East Timor in a Portuguese language community. The political platform as conceived by first president Mário Carrascalão was to hold Portugal's presence as far as possible without putting aside the option for independence. But although having presented a cohesive front at start, the course of events in the months followed would evidence different susceptibilities towards a same problem.

Firmly based on two groups, the higher positioned administrator elite and the larger proprietors of café; plantations. UDT accounted still the favours of many suco liurais, although the majority of these belonged to the circle of the imposed chiefs, in an ancient practice of the colonial government to substitute the legitimate when less malleable... They used their influence to gain support for the party in the countryside managing strong implantation in areas like Liquiçá, Maubara, Maubisse, Ainaro, Manatuto, Laclubar.

While a group of conservatives were granted support by traditional chiefs and administrators -- whose positions and privileges under Portuguese rule made them emphasize a continuation with the metropolis --, those with commercial preoccupations of economical diversification beyond the Portuguese orbit focused on the advantages of independence.

Not until 27 of July did the MFA in Lisbon determine the new orientation in relation with the colonial territories. By it, the Timorese were officially and for the first time confronted with the possibility of independence.

In a message to the Portuguese President, UDT still inquired about the viability of federation, but no further elucidation was obtained. Few days later, UDT published the provisional statutes where preconized autodetermination oriented to federation with Portugal, with an intermediate phase for obtention of independence, and rejecting integration in any potential foreign country. It is probable that the discouragement of a definite bind with Portugal had also to do with the winds of independence that blew from the ancient metropolis. Spreading throughout the African colonies, in East Timor it influenced a crescent opposing party of independist militancy that defied UDT's hesitations: ASDT.

Amongst UDT founders pontificated the mentioned Mário Carrascalão, proprietor of café plantations, director of the Agriculture Services, and also former leader of caetanist party ANP (Popular National Association), the only one allowed. Ex-seminarist Lopes da Cruz was too a ANP member and director of Timor's journal, A Voz de Timor, patronized by the government. He and intellectual Domingos de Oliveira were custom officials. César Mouzinho was Mayor of Díli.

ASDT/Fretilin (Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor). The plan of ASDT was acknowledged in the proper day of it's foundation, 20th of May. Adopting the doctrines of socialism and democracy it called upfront for a gradual independence preceded of administrator, economical, social and political reforms. Three to eight years was the period of transition considered necessary. And from the beginning with the participation of the Timorese in the administration.

In the majority, ASDT was constituted with recent recruited members of the urbane elites, mainly those living in Díli, which maintained the link to the rural areas of where they came from. Some were even descendants of liurai families.

With an average age under 30, the elder Xavier do Amaral, of 37, became ASDT's chairman. The leaders were commited to nationalism and reaffirmation of the Timorese culture, agreed on the priority of agricultural development, on alphabetization and extensive health programmes. But furthermore, the political perspectives deferred. The dominating tendency between the founders of ASDT was clearly social-democratic, represented by men like journalist Ramos-Horta, administrator Alarico Fernandes, Justino Mota and former professor Xavier do Amaral. Ramos-Horta says that for him and the majority of his colleagues it represented social justice, equitative distribution of the country's wealth, a mixed economy and a parliamentary system with extended democratic liberties. As to what extent did they have a model, sociologist John G. Taylor mentions the social-democracy of the 60 and 70's in Austria and Scandinavia. Anyway it wasn't experimented, as the urgency to gain internal and foreign support seems to have kept on depriving the opportunity.

Still during the ASDT period, a secondary current leaded by ancient sergeant and administrator, also ex-seminarist, Nicolau Lobato, who Taylor says that <<combined a fervent anticolonial nationalism with notions of economical and political development self-reliance based upon the experiences of Angola and Mozambique>>. His ideas would begin to prevail after the transformation of ASDT into FRETILIN.

Apodeti (Timorese Popular Democratic Association). In 25 of May a third party appeared under the designation of Association for the Integration of Timor in Indonesia. Renamed Apodeti, the manifesto of the party defended an integration with autonomy in the Republic of Indonesia in accordance to the International Law and principles such as the obligatory teaching of the Indonesian language (Indonesian Bahasa), free education and medical assistance, and the right to go on strike.

The visionaries of Apodeti parted from the assumption that Portugal would abandon East Timor and that the idea of independence couldn't stand a chance because of Indonesia. In reality, the revindication of autonomy in a process of integration appeared more as a popular measure and than as a political stand.

It has been written that in the beginning of the 60's, BAKIN (military co-ordinator agency of the secret intelligence INTEL), mounted a net in East Timor which dealed with merchants, custom-house functionaries and agents from the Indonesian consulate of Díli, in change of favours, payments and refuge in case of conflict. Among them, says Taylor, those who would become the prominent leaders of Apodeti: professor and administrator Osório Soares, liurai of Atsabe (near the boarder of Indonesian Timor) Guilherme Gonçalves, and cattle breeder Arnaldo dos Reis Araújo.

Still before the Portuguese Revolution, BAKIN had trained East-timoreses in radio transmissions and as interpreters.

Nevertheless, while UDT and ASDT/Fretilin rapidly reached to the thousands of adepts, Apodeti wouldn't reach more than a couple of hundreds during the whole year of '74.

The support came mainly from the sucos of Guilherme Atsabe and a small Muslim community of Díli. Besides this it had no expression. The dubious personalities of it's leaders, all with criminal record and their political purposes made Apodeti in the words of East Timor's last governor, J. Lemos Pires <<an enclosed organization, with difficulties to dialogue with the people and government even worse with the opponent parties>>. Fretilin considered Apodeti illegal.

Three minor parties appeared, all more or less insignificant. The KOTA (Klibur Oan Timur Aswain), meaning "sons of the mountain warriors", was filiated in the Popular Monarchical Party of the metropolis. Remounting it's origins to the Topasses (see Ethnology of the Timorese), KOTA postulated the restoration of powers to the liurais who could trace their ancestrality back to the Topasse period in order to constitute a democratic monarchy, with the king to be elected amongst the liurais. Like KOTA, the Timorese Democratic Labour Movement hadn't a programme and agrouped only eight members, all from the same family. They wished to mobilize the working class. The Democratic Association for the integration of East Timor in Australia received money for promises of integration in Australia. It's existence was ephemerous because the Australian government departed from the idea even before the end of 1974.

Of these parties, KOTA and the Labour party were further mentioned and precisely by the Indonesian authorities with the sole purpose to evoke that four of the five parties, which they alleged that was the majority of the East-timorese, had petitioned for integration during the Civil War.