Portugal’s Secret War

Timor is hot-spot in Portugal’s colonial empire
by Frank Feldman
The World’s News July 7, 1951

(something I found in a file, I’ve had it a long time but never fully
read it, was obviously written in a certain time and era, but about
something hidden or unknown, or untrue, I don’t know. Having just read
“Bows, Arrows and a Dream of Liberation”
http://www.forgottenbirdofparadise.net which is also about a people’s fight
against unjust Military occupation, this time Indonesian – as suffered
for 24 years by East Timor, I thought I’d type this up for all to read.
I would be interested to know if it is even half true).

Unknown to most of the world, Portugal has been waging a secret war on
the island of Timor since 1946.

A strict news censorship has kept quiet the guerilla battles that have
flared up continuously there since the end of the war, and only
Portugal’s top officials know the full facts.

But every day tight-lipped Portuguese Government officials, colonial
experts and bankers assemble in Lisbon’s Banco Nacional Ultramarino to
study top-secret cables from Dilli, Timor’s capital.

Only occasionally are families permitted to publish death notices of
their menfolk lost in the sweltering fray thousands of miles away. Now
and then a wounded officer returns . And that is all the public is
allowed to know.

It is not wise to speak of a “colonial war” when interviewing Portuguese
functionaries. Preference is accorded to the phrase “propitiating
missions” or briefly “reclamation”. In cold steel and warm blood,
however, it comes to the same – guerilla warfare like that witnessed in
Malaya and Indo-China.

The sporadic flare-ups have devastated the land. A Government decree
recently granted a substantial loan for rehabilitation and construction
purposes.

According to those soldiers who have returned after a gruelling period
under the near-equatorial sun, with death lurking just around a
blistered plant, about half the island is held by the insurgents.
Two-thirds of the reinforcements sent last summer from Mozambique to
Macau were diverted to Dilli to strengthen the battle-tried garrison on
the island. Another 4000 have just been despatched.

There are no signs that the fighting will fizzle out or decrease in
ferocity.

The guerillas are well supplied with instructors and arms.
Reinforcements are regularly sluiced across the Indonesian side of the
border.

“Turk” Westerling’s Legion of the Heavenly Host, which once captured
Bandoeng under the tough leadership of the Dutch adventurer – who is now
in Tangier preparing further coups – has been despatched to Western
Timor by the Indonesians, chiefly because no one of responsibility in
Djakarta knew what to do with the rebel army.

By allowing this guerilla task force to sow its wild oats and unleash
its excessive fighting exuberance, the Indonesians are killing two birds
with one stone. Disbanding the rebel army on their own territory would
have meant trouble.

The presence of Colonel Ali Korkana, one of Indonesia’s ablest
tacticians, has not helped to brighten the prospects of a return to
settled conditions.

In Lisbon, opinion is divided. But authoritative quarters have
intimated that Premier Dr Antonio Oliveiro Salazar, who has now been
virtual dictator for almost 20 years, is not prepared to allow Timor to
become a postscript to Java, Sumatra and New Guinea.

How far the Far Eastern branch of the Cominform is involved in this dark
game of intrigue and stabbing death is difficult to assay, but there is
no doubt that Soviet agents are near at hand.

They feel at home in this atmosphere of acrimony connoting the sinister
reality of an “Asian Iron Curtain” around the island.

For the time being Timor is the only hot-spot in Portugal’s colonial
empire.

A vigorous speculative boom has gripped the overseas possessions of
Britains oldest ally.

At the moment the Portuguese have no intention of relieving their
shoulders of colonial burdens.

And by all accounts few attempts have been made by natives to “soften
up” the administration to grant autonomy.

The Portuguese colonies form a unity with the home country. The British
Commonwealth evolution is not being imitated.

end

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