Monash University Publishing | Contacts Page
Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

Activism and Aid

Chapter Six


This chapter describes how language impacted on culture and class identity in independent Timor-Leste. How have different generations of Timorese experienced education? And how have these experiences shaped perceptions of Timorese identity, culture and aspirations for the development of the country?

Generational Perspectives on Timorese Identity and Language

A gap between the Portuguese speaking ‘1975 generation’ leadership and the majority of tertiary-educated Indonesian-speaking Timorese stems from their belief in the superiority of Portuguese education over the Indonesian system. This resulted in the infamous remark by Mari Alkatiri, recounted bitterly by many Timorese activists, that Indonesian qualifications were akin to ‘super mie’ (instant noodles that are cheap, poor quality and quick to cook) (Hughes 2011:1508).

The political leadership from the ‘1975 generation’ had internalised the official Portuguese ideology that being civilised (civilisado), they were superior to the people they left behind in the villages (Hill 2002:84). Concepts of cultural superiority instilled by the Portuguese education system extend beyond language. In the Timorese diaspora in Australia, Portuguese-educated Timorese reportedly referred to the ‘etiquette of Portuguese culture’ and looked down on traditional practices such as ‘sitting on the floor and eating with fingers. The Portuguese taught them to eat with knives and forks’ (Crockford 2007:183). For the Portuguese-educated Timorese, their language was a source of identity that carried prestige and status. Although the majority of their generation did not have access to any formal education, Portuguese was used as the language of the resistance, and the right of children to learn Portuguese was one of the rights that the resistance was fighting for after the Indonesians forcibly closed down Portuguese schools (Hill 2002).

Ordinary rural families had access to education for the first time under the Indonesian regime, so young graduates were often proudly the first educated members of their families. During the Indonesian occupation in 1990 secondary school enrolment was fifty times that during the Portuguese era, and illiteracy rates fell from 90 percent to 52 percent of the population (Cox and Carey 1995:46). By the end of the Indonesian occupation the first-year school enrolment rate, which was almost equal for boys and girls, reached 90 percent (Nicolai 2004:44). Graduates of the Indonesian education system consider themselves as the elite of their generation because of their higher education qualifications, in contrast to the limitations of their illiterate parents. For example Rei recounts his family’s experience:

Being illiterate meant you had no access to another perspective apart from what the colonialist told you. My father saw many examples of the Portuguese manipulating Maubere people. Then under the Indonesians, a common tactic was to kill Maubere people who had signed a false confession that they could not read. (Rei 2007:58).

The first year of a new Portuguese-Tetun primary school curriculum was taught in 2000 to new school entrants. Each year a new grade started to use the new curriculum as they rose up through the school. Students who had started school in the Indonesian period have continued learning using the Indonesian curriculum. Indonesian speaking graduates replaced large numbers of Indonesian teachers who fled in 1999, although most lacked teaching qualifications.

The experiences of school during the Indonesian occupation for almost all my research participants were marked by disruptions due to the political environment and their roles in the clandestine movement. Students who enrolled in school shortly after Indonesia established schools in 1980–81, and continued their education up to university level, were close to completing their degrees at the University of Timor-Leste in the tumultuous year of 1999 when the Indonesian administration ended. Many did not graduate for many years after. As most students experienced interrupted or incomplete education, both during and after the Indonesian occupation, it is not unusual for adults to still be attending school, or returning to complete their schooling as adults. Since independence, large age ranges in class have been common (World Bank 2003). As much as 70 percent of children do not complete grade nine (now signifying the completion of ‘basic education’) and it takes 11.2 years on average to graduate from grade six, double the amount of time it should (Shah 2012:31 f/n 2).

From the perspective of young Timorese the value of language is of an altogether different order to that of the older generation. The young tend to see language exclusively as a practical tool. The Indonesian speaking Timorese were forced by their experiences to disconnect emotionally from the Indonesian language and this generation is often unable to accept Portuguese as a desirable language or cultural symbol (Dibley 2004). Dibley asserts that their understanding of language as a practical tool is exemplified by the fact that many Timorese activists express a preference to learn English, because it provides a window to the world, rather than Portuguese, which only opens communication with the small number of Lusophone countries, mostly in distant Africa.1 As well, the replacement of Indonesian with Portuguese, in the eyes of Indonesian speaking Timorese, is simply replacing the language of one coloniser with another.

While young Timorese say they do not like Portuguese because it is a difficult language, a less mentioned reason for not wanting to learn it stems from the attitudes of some Portuguese speakers. Several young people who claimed to not speak Portuguese admitted that they could understand but did not speak Portuguese simply because they felt they would be looked down on by Portuguese speakers. An activist explained:

If you speak badly you are laughed at. In English you can make mistakes without a problem – the focus is on understanding. It is the colonial mentality in which somebody would be judged by their standard of Portuguese.2

In contrast, as most English speaking visitors to Timor-Leste will know, young Timorese use every opportunity to practice their English even if they speak poorly. The likelihood of being shamed when practicing Portuguese has resulted in a preference to learn English.

The RDTL Constitution of 2002 declared Portuguese and Tetun coofficial languages and declared English and Indonesian as working languages. The government made a commitment to develop and value Tetun as well as the vernacular languages. The choice of Portuguese as the official language of Timor-Leste was made at the first CNRT3 conference in Perniche, Portugal in 1998 and was restated at the CNRT Congress in 2000. The decision was not well received by the younger Indonesian educated generation. The inclusion of Tetun as an official language was made a year later as a result of intense lobbying by two younger members of the Constituent Assembly, representing a generation which felt alienated by the adoption of Portuguese as the official language (Leach 2003). The implementation of the Portuguese language policy was made possible by Portuguese Cooperation which financed the development of Portuguese language curriculum and teacher training.

While most Timorese speak Tetun few adults have ever learnt to write it as the majority became literate in the Indonesian language. The use of Portuguese as the language of administration makes them feel like ‘outsiders’.4 This sense of marginalisation amongst the literate population represents a lost opportunity for the new nation, as well as making Timorese identity a question of debate and dissent. While the younger generation consider Portuguese a colonial language, for Timorese leaders it is part of their culture and identity, as indicated by Jose Ramos Horta: ‘It was a strategic decision to strengthen the uniqueness of East Timor, the national identity of East Timor’ (Ramos Horta 2002).

According to Horta, due to the common ethnic and linguistic roots with the people of West Timor, Timorese leaders were keen to define the unique identity of the East Timorese. They stressed the Portuguese heritage in order to distinguish themselves from the people of West Timor, part of Indonesia. For this generation the decision to reinstate Portuguese as official language was the fulfilment of a long held aspiration.

Tetun was popularised as a national language through its use in Catholic Church mass during the occupation, after the speaking of Portuguese was banned. As noted earlier, Catholicism became popular during the occupation because the Catholic Church was the only institution in the country that supported the human rights of the Timorese. Many people turned to the Catholic Church for protection against atrocities and threats by the Indonesian military. While just a third of the population were Catholic at the end of the Portuguese colonial period, by the end of the occupation 98 percent of people identified as Catholic5 (Ministry of Health 2003). As a result Catholicism, like Tetun, became a symbol of Timorese identity for most of the population.

The younger generation of Timorese conceived of national identity in ways which contested the official view that Portuguese is part of the identity and culture of the Timorese (Leach 2003). A survey of 320 young people on language, heritage and national identity undertaken in 2002 found that the ability of people to speak Tetun was considered ‘very important’ by 83 percent of the respondents, but the ability to speak Portuguese was seen as ‘very important’ by only 24 percent. It also found being born in Timor-Leste or a citizen of Timor-Leste (90 percent of respondents) and being Catholic (81 percent) were ‘very important’. This survey was repeated, by Michael Leach, five years later in 2007. The importance of language in relation to national identity for young people was shown to have increased for Tetun from 83 percent to 88.5 percent, but had doubled for Portuguese from 24 percent to 52 percent (Leach 2008). This indicates a growing acceptance of, or resignation to, the Portuguese language policy, but a continuing adherence to Tetun as a unifying language.

Aspects of national identity which find resonance amongst the older and younger generations alike are the Tetun language, Catholicism and the history of struggle of the Timorese against the Portuguese and Indonesian occupiers. According to Ramos Horta, the term Maubere was the single most successful political tool of the independence campaign as a symbol of identity, pride and belonging, and the resistance movement was recognised in the Timorese Constitution as a symbol of national identity (Leach 2003).6

The Languages of Education

The Constitution acknowledges that Timor-Leste is a multilingual society (Taylor-Leech 2005). However the government did not implement a bi-lingual policy in the early years of independence and the Tetun language, although an official language and widely understood, is not used in most official policy documentation. Thus most of the population, including political leaders and parliamentarians, have a limited grasp of Timor-Leste’s laws and policies.

The view of Tetun, as insufficiently evolved for use as a national language, can be traced back to FRETILIN’s policy statements in 1974 (Hill 2002:78). Ramos Horta (2002) referred to Tetun as a ‘rudimentary language’ still in need of development, while the Director of the National Institute of Linguistics, responsible for developing Tetun orthography, argued in 2005 that it would take at least ten years for Tetun to be evolved sufficiently for use as the medium of education and administration.7 The importance of developing the language does not appear to hold a high priority for government. An activist involved in a joint Tetun education project with the Ministry of Education in 2004 experienced Ministry staff looking down on Tetun. Their low opinion of Tetun as a language of education was matched by the lack of any budget for Tetun teaching in the curriculum.8 Several tertiary-level teachers have observed that opinions prevail within the Ministry of Education that the use of Tetun would result in a ‘dumbing down’ of the standard of education.9 This view has inhibited the promotion of a bi-lingual policy. Research has shown that Portuguese in schools is used primarily for presenting teaching material while Tetun is used for explanatory talk (Quinn 2011:272). Tetun then, although an official language, is treated as a poor relation to the ‘superior’ Portuguese language. Yet the opinion amongst both teachers and students is that English is the ‘true international language’ while Tetun is widely regarded as the ‘true national language’ (Molnar 2010:91–92).

The Fourth Constitutional Government designated the first nine years as compulsory primary education, encouraging students to stay in school longer. Timor-Leste’s plan for Education and Training commits to Education for All (EFA) and MDG goals on formal and informal education (Ministry of Education and Culture 2006).10 The EFA11 global commitment is to ensure that all girls and boys complete a full course of primary schooling and to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2015.

After independence, the rate of literacy rose, particularly for girls. By the time the 2010 census was undertaken, girls between the ages of 15–19 years had a mean of 7.5 years of education and 86 percent literacy rate, almost equal to that of boys. Literacy rates were 68 percent for all women and 78 percent for all men with literacy levels lower with age for both sexes (NDS 2010).

From a practical perspective at Timor-Leste’s independence, just one in twenty people spoke Portuguese while more than four in five spoke Tetun (Ministry of Education and Culture 2006:33).12 The capacity to implement national policy and programs in Portuguese language was highly constrained by the inability to recruit primary school teachers with proficiency in Portuguese (Nicolai 2004). With the assistance of Portuguese Cooperation, the government implemented compulsory intensive Portuguese language training for teachers and civil servants. Indonesian-educated primary school teachers were intensively trained in Portuguese, but most had no opportunity to use their Portuguese skills within their communities and never spoke Portuguese outside the classroom.13 The language policy resulted in Portuguese training for teachers becoming the major focus of education policy, even though many other aspects of curriculum development needed urgent attention. Youth literacy in Portuguese has risen from 26 percent amongst 25–29 year olds to 43 percent amongst 15–19 year olds, but three quarters of both age groups are literate in Tetun (Curtain 2012:40).

Although Indonesian continued to be used as a language of instruction, it was no longer taught as a language subject. The standards of Indonesian language started to deteriorate to the point that students were arriving at university without competence in the language of most tertiary teaching.14 The Ministry of Education and Culture also reported that students are expected to write their theses in Indonesian when they are ‘all but illiterate’ in the language (Ministry of Education and Culture 2006). It was recognised that the failure to develop language proficiency risked low educational outcomes for the primary school graduates who were no longer proficient in the Indonesian language but faced moving into secondary education where teachers were largely proficient ‘only in teaching in the Indonesian language and continue to use textbooks in this language’. Effective training for proficiency in teaching in Portuguese in their subject specialisation was called for to avoid ‘undue deterioration on the quality of instruction and student learning’ (Ministry of Education and Culture 2006:25). Youth literacy in Indonesian is on the decline, but the 50 percent literacy rate is still higher than for Portuguese amongst 15–19 year olds.


Once the Indonesians left, many activists looked for ways to contribute to national development. Alberto, Egy and Simão are activists from Suai who worked together in the ETSSC up until 1999. Some became involved in teaching in the secondary school due to the shortage of trained teachers when then Indonesian teachers fled in 1999, but they also continued their civil society work.

Secondary high schools started receiving Portuguese educated primary graduates before the new curriculum was available. In 2009, teachers in Suai described having to interpret their Indonesian curriculum texts into Tetun to be able to teach, as students lacked Indonesian proficiency and teachers lacked Portuguese.15 In mid-2008, all the secondary schools were closed for three months to provide intensive Portuguese language training to teachers. Such attention was not given to Tetun, to assist teachers to learn the official Tetun orthography. Indeed, between 2004–7 schools were told to prioritise the teaching of Portuguese over Tetun because of the latter language’s ‘tentative status’ (Shah 2012:35).

The unequal implementation of the official language policy with respect to the two official languages has disadvantaged young Tetun-speaking Timorese. Some school children, who started their education during the Indonesian occupation, did not have Tetun classes in school. For instance a 19 year old girl in Suai who had attended one year of post-independence primary school and four years of junior high and secondary school had never received any tuition in the official Tetun orthography.1 Further, two university students in 2012 revealed that they saw ‘official Tetun’ as a different language from the Tetun they speak daily. They are learning the official orthography at university, but their lack of confidence in it is evident from their expressed preference to write Tetun as it would be spoken.2

Now the language issue has refocussed on maternal languages. Language has been found to be the main factor contributing to school dropout, grade repetition and low enrolment rates in the Timorese education system, according to the Advisor on Maternal Languages in the Ministry of Education.3 A new language of instruction policy has been drafted and passed through the parliament which promotes mother tongue instruction as the focus of early years schooling and reprioritises Tetun as a viable and important national language (Shah 2012:37). The policy, based on international best practice, aims to assist young learners to transition to learning in the official languages.

Language Policy Effects on Social and Economic Participation

One of the impacts of the language policy was that it curtailed hopes of many tertiary educated graduates for getting a job in government.4 Government officials argued that the process of recruitment for a government job is open to any of the three languages, Portuguese, Indonesian and Tetun, but in practice applicants described facing interview questions in Portuguese which they could not understand.5 Although some observers pointed to the fact that non-Portuguese speakers did in fact work within the government, the lack of language proficiency was widely believed by young people to be the major constraint to entering the labour market (Ostergaard 2005:18). Activists expressed their anger at government officials using Portuguese while knowing that few people understood it:

‘If someone tries to speak Portuguese with me I am unhappy – I feel they are looking down at me. The older generation occupied government. Even if we have good knowledge we cannot get a position. They marginalised the young generation’.6

Carey suggests that the generation schooled during the occupation felt that their educational experience was being ‘set at naught’ and feared the new Portuguese educated generation would leap-frog them, taking on key political and administrative posts as the 1975 elite moved on, so the Indonesian educated generation could well become a ‘lost’ generation (Carey 2003).

Tetun is replacing Indonesian for documentation within the NGO sector, although Timorese NGO staff as well as journalists generally had no opportunity to learn to write Tetun in the official orthography. Yet journalists have been unfairly criticised by the leadership for their poor standard of Tetun and failure to use official Tetun.7

While official documentation is produced exclusively in Portuguese, the umbrella organisation of NGOs, FONGTIL, is critical that Timorese civil society is denied the opportunity to contribute to national policy development. Even a law concerning the registration of NGOs, passed by the Ministry of Justice in 2006, was provided to the NGOs in Portuguese in spite of the fact few NGO staff can understand the language, and resulted in multiple unofficial translations being produced. Even the Ministry staff did not understand it correctly, giving different interpretations to visiting NGOs.8 This demonstrates the importance of Tetun being used as an equal official language.

The majority of Timorese lawyers have achieved their educational qualifications in Indonesian universities, but laws and judicial institutions which provide skills training and licensing of lawyers give preference to Portuguese speakers (Marriott 2011). In 2006 all the Timorese judges failed their competency tests in the Portuguese language and the courts had to continue sitting with foreign judges (mostly Portuguese or Brazilian).9 Ten years after independence, national laws were still only produced in the Portuguese language, requiring translators to be involved in most trial preparation and court processes. Consequently, the justice system was described as ‘highly overburdened and severely dysfunctional’ (Brady and Timberman 2006). Blockages in the court system result from the fact that police, lawyers and defendants cannot understand penal codes, statutes and other legal instruments written in Portuguese and testimony have to be translated from other languages. In 2006 the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace reported that there had been 1,000 rape cases pending since 2000 and not one of them had been solved.10 By early 2009 there were an estimated 5,000 court cases waiting to be heard.11 This systemic dysfunction is in no small part due to the language policy, and has resulted in the perception that the national justice system is unsuitable to contribute to resolution of community conflicts.

In 2012 the NGO Fundasaun Mahein (FM)12 issued a press release expressing concern about the issue of language negatively affecting the development and implementation of Timor-Leste’s legal framework. Noting ‘a very small minority most notably the country’s elite’ speak Portuguese, FM pointed out that the government continued to disclose information and produce advertisements for public information in Portuguese. Legislation is not translated into Tetun. As a result, FM suggests that the Portuguesespeaking elite have a ‘stranglehold’ on the running of affairs in Timor-Leste because civil servants face difficulties working with documents in Portuguese, a language they are not fluent in. Further, ‘many within the PNTL and F-FDTL do not understand their organic laws and other relevant legislation and this causes quite some trouble when it comes to their implementation.’13

Many educated Timorese, including Members of Parliament, the justice sector, the education sector and civil society, have not been able to participate as effectively in national programs as they could have if the language used was one in which they were competent. National development has thus not taken full advantage of the skills of its educated citizenry.

Education for Rural Development

The vast majority of Timorese families are farming families living in rural areas. Education is not just valued for its own sake, but for how it assists people to make improvements in their lives (SSYS & UNICEF 2005). Access to education has been articulated as a priority for the majority of the population in every district (RDTL 2006), but Timor-Leste’s ability to deliver an effective education for the rural majority has been limited by the adoption of a language which is little understood or spoken in rural areas.

Where education is divorced from the reality of daily life, it is common for parents to believe that the education is ‘wasted’. When a student’s prior knowledge of traditions and practices is not brought into the classroom, a learner will compartmentalise new knowledge, rather than integrate the new with prior knowledge. Students’ inability to utilise their new knowledge in their existing world is referred to as ‘cognitive apartheid’ (Cleghorn 2005:108). An example is a youth in the Lautem district who studied at Fuiloro Catholic agricultural school where he learned animal husbandry, including feed, medicines and breeding. He explained he could not use the skills he learnt because his family does not have the land area and equipment that exists at the school.14 The young man argued that animals are free to find their own food in Timor-Leste and to keep them like they are kept in Fuiloro, expensive food and medicine would need to be bought. The animal husbandry taught was evidently not adequately adapted to the circumstances of the students.

Even Timorese graduates in agriculture, who might be expected to become agricultural officers or extension workers, have been shown to be ill equipped to support the traditional agricultural systems that are widely used by Timorese farmers. UNTL’s agricultural degree is disconnected from an understanding of the local environment, resources or farming systems in Timor-Leste so the curriculum does not enable students to use their newly acquired knowledge (Janes, da Costa et al. 2003).

Building on the experience of FRETILIN’s literacy program and establishment of literacy schools in the liberated areas soon after the occupation, Dai Popular, a ‘popular education’ network of NGOs in Timor-Leste, was formed to promote Freirean principles (Durnan 2005). Popular education is based on the concept that the starting point of learning for change is the existing knowledge of the participants and their environment, a principle that has since been extensively used not only in progressive education but also in development theory and practice. The belief that simple transfer of knowledge does not facilitate true learning was pioneered by Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator in the 1970s who believed that conventional schooling instilled passivity in students, which he termed ‘banking education’ (Freire 1972). Freirean educationalists believe that an education system that gives answers but does not encourage questions results in the ‘castration of curiosity’. Two key educational principles are that knowledge needs curiosity and that teachers cannot teach without learning at the same time (Freire and Faundez 1989:35). The ‘banking education’ structures promote the legitimacy of the ‘wisdom’ of the dominant groups, while the alternative wisdoms of oppressed groups are unrecognised (Ife 1995:96).

Civil society in Timor-Leste is using a community-orientated approach to introducing new skills and knowledge. Sustainable agriculture, centred on organic, family based production, is promoted by over thirty organisations that are members of the HASITIL NGO network. One is PERMATIL, which set out to challenge the normative view that agriculture is undesirable for school leavers by making agriculture more acceptable to young people. Using permaculture methodology, which builds upon traditional composting techniques but also introduces new ideas in land conservation and planting techniques, PERMATIL founder Ego Lemos found a way of involving young people in agriculture by blending art, music and permaculture:

Young people were not interested in agriculture. Once they had some education they assume agriculture is not a good source of employment. Mostly older people, women and men, would join the groups, so I started a new approach – not only to introduce agricultural techniques. I also used music to introduce agriculture to young people to combine art and agriculture.15


An activist since attending the student rally at Santa Cruz in 1991, Ego Lemos became involved in the Scout movement where he first learned about agriculture. He enrolled in agriculture at university, and later met a permaculture volunteer who arrived in Dili in 1999. He became an international student to obtain a Diploma in Permaculture and formed the NGO PERMATIL to promote permaculture in Timor-Leste in 2002. Ego is also well known as a musician and has performed in Australia and Europe, and uses music in his work to promote agriculture amongst youth.

Image credit: Sam Karanikos Photography

To attract young men and women into agriculture, his permaculture sessions combined socialisation and enjoyment by playing music at the start and end of work sessions. This acted as a bridge to the culture of young people to engage them in work. It was not a fixed program but adapted to the preferences of the community: ‘In some areas youth join the older group, in some areas they form separate group for youth, depending what is appropriate for them. A lot are young women,’ explained Lemos. By engaging young people in local activities it is less likely they will leave the area and will contribute to rural development.

Subsistence agriculture provides food production for the majority of the population but it is of little interest to economists because of its limited contribution to the market economy. The Timor-Leste Strategic Development Plan 2011–2030 proposes that subsistence farming be replaced by smallholder agriculture by 2030 (RDTL 2011:202) in a model of development aimed at increasing marketed production.

Local customary values are intricately tied up with the agricultural system, leading a Timorese researcher to describe it as ‘subsistence culture’.16 To replace traditional agriculture will not involve just changes in agricultural technique but changes in social and cultural resource allocation. These aspects are unlikely to be adequately addressed by the promoters of modern farming associated with the Green Revolution (RDTL 2011:121). Critics argue that a Green Revolution focus on high input methods in irrigated and high-potential rain-fed areas has marginalised villages that lack access to sufficient water and has led to growing inequalities in Asia.17 Timor-Leste plans for rice production to become self-sufficient by 2020, but the crop is largely limited to the fertile valleys of four districts (Viqueque, Baucau, Bobonaro and Manatuto) and involves just 23 percent of the population (UNDP 2006). Maize production involves 60 percent of the population but the majority of Timorese households cultivate it in areas with a slope of over 26 percent (RDTL 2011:118). Thus most families will be unable to engage in ‘green revolution’ methods of intensive agriculture. Skills to enhance traditional agriculture, to make it more productive and marketable, are much needed, and for this the younger generation needs to receive an education that enables them to make improvements in local productivity and storage of food. If their means of subsistence is ‘replaced’ rather than their farming capacities enhanced and developed, the more vulnerable Timorese living in the rural communities will be further marginalised.


Timorese identity is seen differently by each generation in accordance with their particular historic experience and, associated with that experience, their access to education. Although Tetun is overwhelmingly recognised as the principle language of Timor-Leste, it has been regarded as inferior by Portuguese speakers and not promoted as an equal national language.

This has resulted in an education and administrative system that appears foreign to the majority of Timorese and irrelevant to their daily lives. The teaching in the Portuguese language has contributed to poor educational outcomes because it is not well understood or used in most Timorese communities. Learning is known to be most effective where it builds on the existing knowledge of the participants and their environment. If education is seen to hold value only for life outside the rural communities, its impact will be the outflow of youth to the towns where these people can look for work opportunities and an urban lifestyle. To improve food production and reduce poor nutrition, youth need to be educated so they have the skills and motivation to establish family businesses in food production and or processes or marketing of local products. Young people have to be promoted as change agents in strategies that could assist their families to overcome poverty and hunger in the countryside.

1     Lusophone countries are Portugal, Brazil (the largest), Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Cabo Verde. In Asia, Portuguese is only spoken in Timor-Leste and Macau, a Portuguese enclave in China.

2     Interview, Austcare national staff, Dili, 25 March 2006.

3     Conselho Nacional de Resistencia Timorese – the National Council of Timorese Resistance created as an umbrella to unite FRETILIN and UDT in the lead up to independence. At this meeting the Magna Carta was drawn up which outlined the principles on which an independent state of Timor-Leste would be based. The same acronym is used for a new political party created by Xanana Gusmão in 2006–7, indicated as CNRT party in this book.

4     Interview, Lemos, Dili, 11 August 2006.

5     In the Indonesian census, Timorese had to choose between one of five major religions and almost all chose Catholic.

6     ‘RDTL acknowledges and values the secular resistance of the Maubere people against foreign domination and the contribution of all those who fought for national independence’ (RDTL 2002).

7     Personal communication with Director of the National Institute of Linguistics, 1 October 2005. That ten years has no passed but Portugese remains predominant.

8     Interview Timor Aid staff, Melbourne, 7 April 2007.

9     This was mentioned by a DIT language teacher, Dili, 12 August 2006, and by the Director of the Teachers’ Training College, Baucau, 18 August 2006.

10   The Government of RDTL has incorporated the provisions of the Constitution and international covenants and agreements such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and Education For All (EFA) as ‘a guiding principle in the formulation and implementation of educational policies’.

11   At a meeting of the World Education Forum in Dakar in April 2000 the EFA initiative was adopted. It was subsequently launched by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2002.

12   Tetun is widely spoken in Timor-Leste. It is a language based on Tetun Terik, spoken in the south and west of Timor-Leste, but incorporating much Portuguese vocabulary. Known as ‘Tetun praca’ or market Tetun, it became a creolised trading language under colonial rule.

13   I met with a teacher in Baucau in 2008 who learned Portuguese as part of the teacher training program. She said she had not, until our conversation, ever actually spoken Portuguese outside of her school.

14   Personal communication, Magno, Melbourne, 2 November 2007.

15   Personal communication, Vicente and Barreto, Suai, 28 August 2009.

1     Interview female member of PSHT, Suai 6 August 2006.

2     Personal communication with two university students, Bairro Pite, August 2012.

3     Agustinho Caet, Advisor on Maternal Languages, Ministry of Education, Email to the ETAN list Re: UN Special Rapporteur Report - Mother Tongue Education Recommended for Timor-Leste, 23 June 2012.

4     As a result, many have sought work in the NGO sector, which, apart from work as school teachers, is the major source of paid employment outside of Dili.

5     Interview, Gusmão Soares, Dili, 29 July 2006.

6     Interview, Vicente, Suai, 7 August 2006. This anger referred to was mentioned by the Director of FONGTIL as well as Suai and Dili activists.

7     Criticism, for example, by Director, National Institute of Linguistics, 1 October 2005.

8     Meeting at the Ministry of Justice on behalf of FONGTIL, 2 March 2006.

9     Personal communication with a Brazilian lawyer, Dili, August 2006.

10   Interview Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, 25 August 2006. By late 2008 there were six national judges and one foreign judge.

11   Talk by Fernanda Borges, MP, leader of the Partido Unidade Nacional (PUN), VLGA, Melbourne, 6 March 2009.

12   Fundasaun Mahein was formed in 2009 in response to the security crisis in 2006, to monitor the security sector. It aims ‘to assist in increasing the legitimacy and capacity of the Timorese security sector through citizen participation in the development of relevant legislation, policies and procedures’ website accessed 22/7/2012.

13   Fundasaun Mahein Press release ‘Access to Security Information and Language Policy in Timor-Leste’ email to ETAN list 21 June 2012.

14   Interview, Verupupuk staff, Los Palos, 28 September 2005.

15   Interview Lemos, Dili, 11 August 2006.

16   A term used by Abel dos Santos, Director of Community Development, UNTL, on field work in August 2013.


Activism and Aid

   by Ann Wigglesworth