Wednesday, December 29, 2010


BBC Website Friday, 12 April, 2002, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK

Eyewitness: East Timor's road to recovery

Abe thinks East Timor's odds for success are good

As East Timor prepares for independence, BBC News Online talked to local UN worker Abe Barreto Soares about how his life has changed since Indonesian rule and about his hopes for the future.

Abe Barreto Soares has not even been able to see for himself much of the violence and suppression that East Timor suffered under years of Indonesian rule.

"We need to be mentally ready to face the challenges "
Abe Barreto Soares

The impoverished island had no universities, so Abe and his contemporaries were forced to study in Indonesia.

Even though he was free to pursue his education, "I felt like my hands and mouth were tied. I couldn't say what I felt about East Timor".

After six years in Indonesia, Abe went to Canada on an exchange programme. While he was there, news reached him of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre when 200 East Timorese were killed by Indonesian forces during a peaceful protest in a church cemetery.

Abe sought political asylum in Canada, glad to be away from "this big prison called East Timor", staying for seven years until 1998 when he moved to Portugal.

He finally returned to East Timor in 2000 and says he is now "happy to be part of the process" of readying the territory for full independence in just over a month's time.

'Pillar' of the nation

Abe says that the presidential elections are an important step in the transition.

"As long as everyone recognises that everyone has the right to exist then they will have the chance to enjoy independence"
Abe Barreto Soares

Although the president will play a largely ceremonial role, "he is one of the pillars... the guarantor" of the nation.

He is "capable of giving the people the feeling of being secure and being in a peaceful environment to run their lives".

Abe says that he believes East Timor has a bright future, as long as everyone accepts it will take time to accomplish.

"To be an independent nation... is not just to say that we have independence... We need to be mentally ready to face the challenges".

Shaking off the past

The one issue he sometimes worries about, he says, is unity.

He says that conflicts in the past could cause divisions in the future.

But "as long as everyone recognises that everyone has the right to exist then they will have the chance to enjoy independence.

"I believe the spirit of reconciliation, of unity, can tackle these tendencies for conflict."

Since the terrible violence that accompanied the vote for independence in 1999, there have been "small incidents here and there" but nothing very serious, according to Abe.




"Literature should heal wounds in Timor-Leste"
OCTOBER 2009 -

"Poetry is a serious matter," says Abe Barreto Soares, a writer, poet and translator from Timor-Leste who has been blogging in English, Tetum (next to Portugese the main language in Timor-Leste), Indonesian, and Galole (an indigenous language) since 2007. "I believe that anyone who wants to become a blogger and tries to express themselves will find that blogging actually helps a lot for their artistic career."

This year marks a decade of independence for Timor-Lorosa'e (Sunshine), as Soares affectionately calls it. Since separating from Indonesia, in 1999, and becoming a democratic state in 2002, the Timorese people have been rekindling their sense of national identity. Intimately linked to nationalism is culture. Among the Timorese people, literature and indigenous oral poetry is an intrinsic part of their cultural heritage.

"East Timorese nationalism means that I know where I came from, where I am at this moment, and where I am heading,” explains Soares who sought political asylum in Canada in the 1990s where he campaigned for his country's independence. He refers to nations as trees, and expresses that "their branches and twigs will not flourish properly if they are cut from their own roots".

In Timor-Leste, where literacy levels hover around fifty percent, Soares uses blogging in conjunction with a monthly literary radio shows and organized poetry events to "communicate Timorese identity to the world at large". While he admits, it has not been easy to build a literary movement in a new country in the new millennium, he remains optimistic of its potential to contribute towards national development.

Soares is determined to make Timorese literature and poetry a part of the mainstream. He believes technology can be a helpful and liberating way to achieve this goal both nationally and internationally, but cautions that words can also be powerful and manipulative.

"Words can heal and also can hurt people. The real literary community should be the ones to bring healing to the wounds of society. They should be problem solvers and not problem makers. They should become the soul keepers. In the context of Timor-Leste, they have a big responsibility to keep the soul of the land of Lafaek (crocodile) alive. If they fail to do so, then it will be a total disaster."

Amanda Fortier


East Timor: Abe Barreto Soares’ Poetry for Nation Building

By Global Voices Online • on August 28, 2009

“The role of a writer is to collect the fossils of reality scattered around, then ornament them on the wall of our history”

In the previous post of this series, while celebrating the 10th anniversary of the referendum in East Timor, we presented the way in which the international community stood up in support of the freedom of the Timorese people. In this piece we interview Timorese writer Abe Barreto Soares in order to disseminate Timorese Nationalism seen through the Eyes of its Poets, the essay that he has recently published [tet, pt].

As a blogger since 2007, Abe (or his cyber-pseudonym, Jenuvem Eurito, as he was called by his friends in his youth) shares his words and thoughts in four languages often analysing literary work relevant for the self determination of his country. Moreover, Abe discusses thoroughly the construction of a national conscience after the fight for independence.

Taking advantage of the benefits of blogs to foster global connections and distance conversations in original ways, he describes his blogs as “sweet words, caring words, in a venue for people to talk to each other, sharing with each other on “what” and “how” life goes in the world”.

But Abe’s words and actions have not always been this free, as he stated during the Indonesian occupation of Timorese territory.
I felt like my hands and mouth were tied. I couldn’t say what I felt about East Timor.

Global Voices Online (GVO): Where were you 10 years ago? Can you tell us a bit about your life?

Abe Barreto Soares (ABS): During the time of the referendum, I was overseas. I happened to be in Portugal at the time. Along with other Timorese compatriots, I cast my vote in Lisbon.
I left Timor-Leste in 1985 to pursue my university studies, taking English as my major at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Then, I left for Canada to take part in a cultural exchange program in early September 1991. On November 12 1991 the [Santa Cruz] massacre occurred when I was about to finish my program. Being concerned for my personal safety if I was to return to Indonesia, I finally decided to stay in Canada, and seek political asylum. I spent 7 years in Canada, campaigning for a free and independent Timor-Leste through diplomacy and cultural activities (using music as a tool to alert the outside world to what was really going on in the country). I had the chance to spend a year and a half in Portugal from Spring 1998 until the Fall of 1999. Then, I went to Macau for journalistic training with a Portuguese news agency, Lusa, for six months (October 1999 until March 2000). I returned to Timor-Leste in July 2000. Since then, I have been working in UN missions in Timor-Leste both as an information assistant and a translator/ interpreter.

GVO: How did you have access to Timorese literature during the Indonesian times?

ABS: During the Indonesian times, while doing my studies in Yogyakarta, I came across books on Timor-Leste such as “EasTimor: Nationalism and Colonialism” by Jill Jollife, a fellow journalist, from Australia. From this book I discovered the late Timorese poet, Francisco Borja da Costa. One of the lines of his poetry appearing in the book: “smother my revolts/ with the point of your bayonet/ torture my body/in the chains of your empire/ subjugate my soul/ in the faith of your religion…/” really fired the sense of nationalism within me. And through the book “Funu: The Unfinished Saga of East Timor” by José Ramos-Horta (current President of the Republic of Timor-Leste) I discovered Fernando Sylvan.

Pedem-me um minuto de silencio pelos mortos mauberes.
Respondo que nem por um minuto me calarei.

Fernando Sylvan

They ask me one minute of silence for maubere deaths.
I answer that not for one minute shall I shut up.

Fernando Sylvan

GVO: You often quote Timorese poet Fernando Sylvan. In what ways do you take advantage of poetry in order not to shut up, as he recommends in the above poem?

ABS: A poet is a spokesperson of his or her era. He or she should break the silence when it comes to oppression. Living on this planet, we are in a constant battle between the dark and the light. A poet should be at the forefront, carrying the torch. He or she is the “warrior of the light”. (I borrow this concept from Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian writer).

[As an artist I have to be ready any time to engage in the spiritual war. Words are my swords. Hopefully, my words will provoke people so that they can be in tune with themselves all the time in creating harmony in this wonderful planet.]

Notes from a Musafir 48

GVO: Do your blogs in four different languages reflect the way people communicate in Timor?

ABS: Timorese like me have to be creative in taking advantage of the ‘blessing’ of colonialism and globalization. Aside from using my own mother tongue, Tetum and my father’s mother tongue, Galole which I am good at, I also use English and Indonesian in my literary carrier. I am proud of using them to communicate what I think and feel. I would love, someday soon, to create a Portuguese blog as well.

GVO: Why have you created a Korespondensia Literaria (Literary Correspondence, tet) category on one of your blogs?

ABS: I created the “korrespondensia literaria” entry on my Tetum blog in an attempt to convey to the outside readers the correspondence I have had with my fellow literary friends through SMS. Practically speaking, transferring them onto a blog can be considered as a way to save those messages. As a man of letters I need to engage in a constant communication with friends the world over. I want to learn a lot from them. I want to commune the philosophy of Greenpeace, “think globally, and act locally”.

[SMS:] ITA-BOOT NIA BATINA/ha’u moras todan: ha’u klamar terus/fó lisensa mai ha’u-ata atu kaer Ita-Boot nia batina/fakar mós Ita-Boot nia mina oliveira domin nian mai ha’u-ata/ hodi nune’e ha’u bele di’ak filafali ho lalais// [21:51:11//11-2-2009]

Resposta sira:

1.R. D. = “Se mak bulak ida ne’e?” [maisumenus tuku 10 kalan]
2.Suzana TP = “Diak pois há’u haruka ba suli hanesan tasi” [22:08:53//11-2-2009]
3.Atoi R. = “Obrigado maibé ha’u la kompriende” [22:18:00//11-2-2009]
4.Pe. Olá = “Sajak ne’e tau nia titulu, Jesus. Bele atrai liu” [11:55:12//12-2-2009]
5.F.Nascimento = “We matan mos, we liman diak, halo suli mai, fakar mos mai, ami iha lerek susar no terus laran. Tan Ita Boot, ami Nain deit. Laran luak tebes no kmanek wain basuk.”[12:56:05//12-2-2009]

[SMS:] YOUR ROBE/I am really sick: my soul suffers/ permit me to hold Your robe/Shower me with the fragrance of Your olive oil/ So that I will recover again//[21:51:11//11-2-2009]


a. R.D. = Who the hell is this? [around 10 PM]
b. Suzana TP= OK, I will then send back to you, flowing like a sea [22:08:53//11-2-2009]
c. Atoi R = Thank you, but I do not understand. [22:18:00//11-2-2009]
d. Father Ola = The title of the poem should be “Jesus”. Then it will be more attractive. [11:55:12//12-2-2009]
e. F. Nascimento = The eyes of the water are opened,/the hands of the water are good./Make them flow, and shower them on us/ We are in pain and suffering/ You are the only Lord of ours/ You are really the One having a good heart and a great joy

Sonhos dos Poetas Loucos

Lia-na’in sira-nia mehi hatutan no lolo liman ba malu
Lia-na’in sira-nia mehi bidu no tebe hadulas mundu rai klaran
ho haksolok
Lia-na’in sira-nia mehi fanun ha’u,
no ema lubun maka sei toba dukur

Fevereiru 2009

The Dreams of Crazy Poets

The dreams of poets are carried on, and they extend their hands to each other
The dreams of poets bidu* and tebe**
circling around the Planet Earth
with joy
The dreams of poets wake me up
As well as the crowd who are still soundly sleeping

Feb 2009

* dance performed by men
** dance performed by both men and women holding hands in circle

Friday, December 24, 2010



We are purifying the hearts
We are preparing the minds—
Being as sanctuaries
For welcoming the Prince of Peace

Merry Xmas to all!
Dili, 24 December 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010


*)Time is the great healer curing our deep wounds in life.


By Abé Barreto Soares

It is a great honor for me to be back to this prestigious university, UNTL to deliver a talk on literature. I am very pleased to be here this morning. This is going to be my third time being in a formal forum like this one in this campus. Good morning to all of you!

First of all I would like to thank the distinguished Rector of UNTL, Dr. Benjamin Corte Real for inviting me to come and deliver this talk. I am also grateful for my dear literary friend, Antonio José Borges a.k.a Tozé who greatly encouraged me to come and share some of my thoughts on literature to his class as this one. Frankly speaking, at first when I received the news from Tozé about his plan to bring me here to deliver this talk, I was so happy, but at the same time I was a little bit confused about which topic I should choose to do so. Last Saturday, while working on the translation of my works (poetry) into Portuguese in the park at the seafront close to Palácio do Governo, I then proposed to Tozé by saying, “Don’t you think if I choose the following topic, ‘Influence of Portuguese literature on my literary career’ will be a good one for my talk in your upcoming class?”. “That is it, Abé! Why not?, Tozé happily answered.

Since poetry has been a literary genre which I have been dealing mostly in my literary career so far, for this morning talk I am going to focus merely on the influence of the works of Portuguese poets in my poetry writing.

I was grateful with the fact that I had acquired the level of education of primary school during the Portuguese period. With that basic knowledge, I, at least, have the command of basic Portuguese language skills. This has been very useful for me all these years when it comes to the literary world.

Three Portuguese contemporary poets whom I consider as somewhat as my literary mentors are: Fernando Pessoa, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen and Eugénio Andrade.

I discovered these three great writers in my mid and late twenties after being overseas, particularly in Canada and Portugal. It was a wonderful encounter.

It was in a small public library in Toronto city where I first came across the work of Fernando Pessoa, “Mensagem”. Reading such work reminded me of the “Lusíadas” of the epic Portuguese poet, Luis de Camões. Then, soon afterwards I discovered his prose: correspondences (love and literary letters), and some pieces of autobiographical writings. It is interesting particularly to read his love letters. The style of his letter writing, particularly the love ones began to have an influence on me. It also became as ingredients in my poetic adventure. The persona of Fernando Pessoa also reminded me of the English Romantic poet, John Keats in dealing with his romance life.
Permit me to read some of the passages of his letter to his girlfriend, Ofélia Queiros.


Now let me talk about Sophia Mello Breyner Andersen. The same thing happened to this poet. I discovered her in Toronto.
I have written an essay as a tribute to her after her death two years ago, and it was published by Várzea das Letras.

I consider her as a traveler representing the West traveling to the East through her writings.
Her style resembles the works of tanka, haiku of Japan, and cantos as that of Ezra Pound, the American poet.

Her poetic credo which I very much share is as follows:

“ A poesia não me pede propriamente uma especialização pois a sua arte é uma arte de ser. Também não é tempo ou trabalho o que a poesia me pede. Nem me pede uma ciência nem uma estética nem uma teoria. Pede-me antes a inteireza do meu ser, uma consciência mais funda do que a minha inteligência, uma fidelidade mais pura do que aquela que eu posso controlar…………Pede-me que viva atenta como uma antena, pede-me que viva sempre, que nunca me esqueça. Pede-me uma obstinação sem tréguas, densa e compacta.”

(As part of the appreciation of her poetic works, let me share with you some of her poems which I take from her book, “Obra Poética I”.)

(…Reading of her poems)

To vividly illustrate to you all the influence of this great poet on me, the following are some of my works which have been translated into Portuguese, and appeared in “Timor Lorosae: Em Português Vos Amamos”, published by Solidarity Group for Timor-Leste in Bruxell in 1999.

(…Reading of my poems…)

Let me now turn into a little bit about the life and the works of Eugénio de Andrade.
While wandering around in Lisbon, the old capital city in 1998 after attending the Convention of Timorese Resistance, I happened to pop into a bookstore called FNAC. A book of Eugenio Andrade with his photo, in his late years, attracted my attention. And I opened the book, and found his marvelous poetic works. The reading started. A vibration of great poetic sensation overwhelmed me. Reading his works made me feel as if I was the one who spoke through his writings. Later on, I discovered more and more of his works (the essays) published in volumes. I bought the books, and it is too bad that I could not manage to bring any of them with me here today. I have no doubt to admit that the style of essay writing of Eugénio dominates me, and you will find them in the near future when my essays are published.

I like to think this talk to be more as a dialog and not a monolog. With this, I would say that reading the poets, their lives and their works is a spiritual communion. And the great Mexican late poet, Octávio Paz, even went further by saying, “if a society eliminates poetry, then that society commits a spiritual suicide”.

Hotel Timor, 9 May 2007
22:18 hrs