Opening and closing the land: Land and power in the Idate highlands

Type Journal Article - Land and life in Timor-Leste: Ethnographic essays
Title Opening and closing the land: Land and power in the Idate highlands
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
Page numbers 47-60
In 2006, Xanana Gusmão, the then President of Timor-Leste, launched a national
program to ‘return sharp and pointed materials/weapons’ (Tetun: halot meit
ho kroat). The aim of the program was to initiate a series of small ceremonies
all over the country, in which weapons that had been taken up to fight the
Indonesian military would be returned to their proper places (Trindade and
Castro 2007:43). Conflicts broke out in Timor-Leste in April 2006 after a dispute
within the East Timorese military erupted and turned into a more generalised
conflict between different regional factions throughout the country. This internal
conflict occurred just four years after Timor-Leste had gained independence
following a long and violent period of occupation by Indonesia (1975–99).
Gusmão’s program was based on the premise that during the resistance struggle
against Indonesia, weapons containing ancestral potency had been taken from
people’s ritual houses and they had not been returned. The failure to restore
these weapons to their proper storing places was given as the reason conflicts
erupted in the country in 2006. The ceremonies were aimed at returning these
weapons to the ritual houses in order to create peace and stability in the country.

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