March, 3 – National Veterans’ Day

National Veterans’ Day is celebrated every year on March 3, the anniversary of the National Reorganisation Conference that was convened in 1981. The conference began a process of restructuring and widening of the Resistance in the wake of the destruction of the Bases deApoio and almost annihilation of the FRETILIN leadership in 1978/79.

Gil da Costa ‘Oan Soru’, Secretary of State for the Affairs of National Liberation Combatants, recalled the meeting and appealed to all East Timorese to observe a minute of silence and to reflect on the sacrifice of the Veterans. The Secretary of State noted that there are possibly no more than 100 Veterans alive today but that it is thanks to them that the country exists and that the history of national liberation may be written (see here). 

Speaking over the phone to news agency TATOLI,  Adriano da Câmara ‘Lintil’, former Deputy of the ‘Cruzeiro’ Region and currently the Chairman of the Veterans’ Council in  the Municipality of Vikeke, described in some detail the process of reorganisation of the Resistance and the important conference that was held in March 1981 in Maubai, adding that “without March, 3 there would have been no independence” (see here). 

In Kelikai, National Veterans’ Day was celebrated with a seminar on national unity and development. Luis Américo, Chairman of the Organizing Committee, explained that one of the goals of the event was to bring together Veterans so that they could share with the younger generations the challenges they faced in their struggle for national liberation and, in so doing, bolster youngsters’ patriotism and nationalism (see here).

The celebrations of National Veterans’ Day are a reminder of the importance of recording the memories of the members of the Resistance (armed, clandestine and diplomatic fronts, students’ movement) who took part in the different stages of the struggle for national liberation. It is a task that is becoming increasingly urgent with the passage of time.

Testimonies were collected by several institutions and as well as by researchers, who have used them in their academic and other publications. Some testimonies were transcribed, others possibly not. An inventory of already existing materials and a brief description thereof would be most useful, as it would provide a clearer picture of what already exists, what is missing and the information that must be collected most urgently. Making copies of that documentation and depositing it with (or with other) archives is also essential to safeguard the information.  

A more time-consuming but equally important work would be a detailed analysis of those testimonies to identify actors, organisations, events, locations, dates, etc.  and to cross-reference the information collected. Only thus will it be possible to map what happened in the Resistance at different times and in different regions. 

Some projects are under way (e.g. CAVR, CAMSTL) to collect testimonies about the period of the Resistance. They would benefit from information already collected, if it was available and systematized . 

The collaboration between institutions and researchers in collecting, preserving, analyzing and making available the memories of the Resistance period is of vital importance. It would be the best way to pay tribute to Veterans.

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