The Jakarta Post
Dili seeks return of heroes’ remains from Indonesia
Pandaya and Yemris Fointuna
Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta asked Indonesia on Sunday to
return the remains of its independence fighters who died in Indonesia.
Ramos-Horta specifically named Nicolau Lobato, who died on New Year’s
Eve of 1978.
“We’re still awaiting the return of the body of our greatest hero,
Nicolau Lobato,” he said in his address to mark the 10th anniversary of
the Timor Leste independence referendum.
Lobato’s death remains a mystery for many in Timor Leste (formerly East
Timor). Ramos-Horta said Lobato had been killed in combat; his body was
flown to Dili, examined, the identity confirmed.
“In the name of our country and the people and the family, I am asking
here for the return of the body of Nicolau Lobato,” Ramos-Horta said.
Timor Leste Foreign Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa said separately
that Dili had also asked Indonesia to return the remains of many
lesser-known Timor Leste independence fighters killed either by
Indonesian soldiers or pro-Indonesia militias during the 24 years of
Da Costa said Timor Leste also wanted the Indonesian military
authorities to reveal secret graves where independence fighters may have
“Let us know where they are buried,” he said.
“We will exhume them and properly rebury them, as their relatives keep
The visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said he would
convey the Timor Leste leaders’ messages to President Susilo Bambang
“We take *the request* seriously because it’s part of an effort to
promote reconciliation,” Hassan said.
In his speech, Ramos-Horta reached out to Timor Leste’s former ruler,
After telling of all the suffering endured by those who lost loved ones
in the fight for freedom, he said he also had empathy for Indonesian
mothers and fathers who lost their beloved sons in Timor Leste for their
“Indonesian mothers, like Timor Leste mothers, still mourn the loss of
their sons in this tragic war, and to these mothers and fathers … I
bow in shared sorrow,” he said.
“I invite them to visit the graves of their sons. Most are poor people
who cannot afford such trips, but those who wish to make the journey, we
will welcome with open arms and facilitate entry.
“Our relations with Indonesia have been exemplary at both
government-to-government and people-to-people levels.”
Ramos-Horta said he had lost his sister, Mariazinha, and brothers Nuno
and Gui in the dark days of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.
Mariazinha was killed during an air raid, and her body later was found
and buried by local villagers.
“But Nuno and Gui were not so fortunate,” he said.
“We still don’t know exactly when, where or how they died. Their bodies
rotted somewhere and their souls are still in pain because we haven’t