source: The Sydney Morning Herald
- FRANCISCO XAVIER do AMARAL, 1937-2012
With Nicolau Lobato and East Timor's current President, Jose Ramos-Horta, do Amaral had founded the broad-based anti-colonial Timorese Social Democratic Association (ASDT) on May 20, 1974, and, at Ramos-Horta's urging, became its president.
On September 11, 1974, it changed its name to the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), reflecting the influence of African liberation movements, with do Amaral continuing in a leading role and visiting Mozambique in 1974. Fretilin was a democratic socialist organisation, but was increasingly influenced by Marxist-oriented students returning from study in Portugal.After a brief civil war in August 1975 between Fretilin and the conservative UDT, during which the Portuguese governor withdrew, and in light of increasing Indonesian attacks across the border, East Timor proclaimed independence on November 28, 1975. Among Fretilin's best educated and most senior members, do Amaral was appointed as president. Indonesia formally invaded East Timor nine days later, on December 7.
Do Amaral fled to the mountains with Fretilin troops and civilians but, by 1977, after Indonesia's intensive military campaign which resulted in heavy casualties, he argued in favour of sending civilians back to occupied areas. The majority Fretilin view was that civilians should not be separated from the military struggle.
Disagreement over strategy reflected a growing rift between Fretilin's moderates and more doctrinaire Marxists. As a result, in September 1977, ''counter-revolutionaries'' were purged from the party, with some executed. As a result of proposing a compromise arrangement with Indonesian forces, do Amaral was stripped of the presidency and imprisoned by Fretilin. Two months later he was succeeded as president by Lobato, who was killed a year later by Indonesian forces near Dili.
Lobato was succeeded by the current Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao. Do Amaral spent a year imprisoned in harsh conditions and, due to Indonesia's military campaign, was constantly moved about. He later claimed Fretilin dared not execute him, as it had other ''traitors'', but that he was slowly starved.
At the height of Indonesia's campaign of ''total encirclement and annihilation'', during the battle of Remixio in August 1978, do Amaral was abandoned but was quickly captured by Indonesian forces.
He spent the next 22 years in Bali and Jakarta, working in the home of Colonel Dading Kabualdi, who was responsible for East Timor. Colonel Kabualdi had ordered the murder of the ''Balibo Five'' journalists in October 1975.
Do Amaral was occasionally brought out for propaganda purposes, including being announced as East Timor's deputy governor in 1979. After Gusmao was captured in 1993, he and do Amaral were videotaped together calling for an end of resistance to Indonesian rule. Gusmao later said the intention of acceding to their captors' request was to ensure that he could stand trial and use that occasion to promote the resistance.
Do Amaral next appeared during Indonesian stage-managed talks in 1993 near Cambridge, which were intended to thwart UN attempts to have the East Timor issue resolved, and again the following year. He was released from service by
Colonel Kabualdi's children around 1995 and moved to a small shack in Jakarta.
With the resignation of president Suharto and Indonesia under economic pressure, Indonesia agreed to the UN supervised ballot on independence in 1999. Do Amaral returned to East Timor on February 4, 2000. ''Rehabilitated'' by Fretilin, in 2001 do Amaral reformed the ASDT as a Fretilin splinter party. It went on to receive strong support from native Mambai speakers in do Amaral's home district of Manufahi.
Acknowledging that he could not win but saying that democracy required more than one candidate, do Amaral stood against Gusmao in the 2002 presidential elections. Having a strong traditional following, do Amaral received 17.31 per cent of the vote, with Gusmao taking a compelling 82.69 per cent.
With formal independence in 2002, do Amaral's ASDT supported the Fretilin government but, on March 14, 2005, amid a growing political crisis, he resigned from parliament, citing government failures, breaking his alliance with Fretilin.
His resignation was part of a series of events that contributed to a breakdown of public order and, in 2006, civil conflict, the collapse of the government and international intervention led by Australia.
In the subsequent 2007 elections, do Amaral again stood as a presidential candidate, securing more than 14 per cent of the vote. In coalition with the smaller Social Democratic Party, the ASDT polled just over 18 per cent, taking 11 of 65 parliamentary seats.
Since 2007, the ASDT has been part of the Gusmao-led AMP government, with two ministers in the cabinet. Despite the alliance, relations between do Amaral and his party and the Gusmao-led AMP government were poor. There have been a series of disagreements over allegations of corruption and mismanagement going back and forth between Gusmao and ministers.
As a result of these disputes, in 2010, do Amaral said the ASDT would split with the government and join with the opposition Fretilin party at next year's elections. Based on the 2007 election results, this alliance would bring a Fretilin-led coalition to within one seat of a parliamentary majority.
Do Amaral was diagnosed with cancer last year and his condition was deteriorating when he renominated to contest the March 17 presidential elections. The party had begun to fragment upon learning of his condition and may in future struggle without his charismatic leadership. Mr Ramos-Horta said the ASDT members who had pushed do Amaral to run for the presidency, knowing he was critically ill, had ''no moral integrity''.
East Timor's parliament sat in an emergency meeting on March 1 to remove section (26) of the Electoral Law, which stipulated the calling of fresh nominations and a new election date upon the death of a candidate, allowing the March 17 and subsequent elections to proceed as planned.
Francisco Xavier do Amaral, affectionately known in East Timor as ''Grandfather'', was born in 1937 in Turiscai in the mountainous central region of East Timor. The son of a liurai, or local ''king'', he was educated at St Jose Jesuit seminary in Macau, where he qualified for the priesthood. However, do Amaral chose instead to work in the Dili Customs House where he was a popular, politically active intellectual.
He married Lucia Soares in 1974 but they separated soon after. He did not remarry and had no surviving family members.