Geoff Hazel - Standing firm

Running time
3 min 18 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I remember one night in Gleno, in the village, little town, every night, there were three militia posts set up, one at each four; one at each of the three major entrances, and one in the centre of town. Now, when I was coming from the office to the house I lived in, I had to drive past that one. And I went and said, "Well, stuff it." Pulled up, got out, and walked up very slowly. Didn't rush, and they all grabbed their... all they had, were homemade guns. And they're looking at me and we got talking. And one of them had a basic of English. So I said, "Right, I'll come back." And the next time I stopped, there was a bloke there who spoke English. And I got a lot of information from them about what the militia was.

Basically, there was a hardcore group who believed that they should remain part of Indonesia. There was another group that had family that was split across the board between east and west Timor. And they didn't want independence for East Timor yet, they wanted independence for Timor. There was a biggest group, who were just there because it was the safest thing to do. As long as you were a member, your family wasn't going to get based up.

And then there was the worst group, and the smallest group, who were just criminals. This was an opportunity to get away with whatever they wanted to get away with. And at one stage, talking with Fretilin leaders, because I got to know them quite well, he told me that they protected 60 of their members for 18 months, because the Indonesians wanted them, because they had actually been in and killed 19 villagers.

And as soon as the militia were up and running, they switched sides and gone and joined the militia, because they figured that was the safest place to be. And he said they will kill at the drop of a hat. And they were more frightened of them. They had to completely change all their bases and everything because they went across. So they were there all the time.

On the ballot day, the day before, one of my outposts was attacked at about 11:30 at night. They were firing automatic fire into the roof of their house, or just about right up about 2:30 in the morning. And I found out later, when I went back 20 years after and I met a bunch of people, amongst them, two fellas] came up to me there and said, "Mr Jeff, you don't remember us? And I said, "No." "But we were part of the militia." "Oh, right."

One of them said, "I was in at Sabi when we started shooting at your people there on the night before the ballot. Why didn't they run?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, they were supposed to run to you, and then you were all supposed to evacuate and go to Dili, and that would've been the end of the ballot." I said, "You ran into some Australians, didn't you?" "Hmm, yes sir."

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