By Christine Salins
PS News Books
Finding Santana. A Perilous Journey in Search of an East Timorese
By Jill Jolliffe. (Wakefield Press, $24.95, softcover, 177 pages)
This book was almost never written. In 1994 when captured in East Timor by Intel, the Indonesian Secret Police, Jill Jolliffe and her colleague, Irene Slegt, nearly suffered the same fate as the Australian journalists she wrote about in her bestselling book, Balibo.
Like many people who have experienced life-threatening events, she consequently suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. In many ways the writing of this book is the last phase in a process of recovery from those terrifying circumstances.
It is also a testimony to the many East Timorese people who maintained a continuing resistance to the 24 years of Indonesian occupation. For some, such as Nino Konis Santana, who were foremost in the armed struggle, they never lived to see independence.
After the capture of Xanana Gusmao and the loss of two other commanders, Santana became leader of the guerrilla forces and the military struggle in East Timor.
With help from supporters, Jolliffe managed to track him down and provides a valuable insight into his character and tenacity.
She also provides an insight into the continuing unarmed resistance that supported the guerrillas and found form in many other ways that thumbed its nose at Indonesian rule. That resistance is contrary to the Indonesian claim at the time, that the people of East Timor had accepted Indonesian sovereignty.
The book also highlights the shameful complicity of the Australian Government in supporting the Indonesian claims.
In many ways this book is a thriller and confirms Jolliffe’s place as one of Australia’s leading journalists. Her quest for the truth and support for the East Timorese independence movement gives her a special place in Australian hearts.
To find out more about Christine Salins click here.