Konis Santana, Keri Laran Sabalae, and the Sociology of the Clandestine Front
Edith Bowles Independent Researcher
The Timorese resistance to Indonesia’s 24-year occupation was divided between the armed, diplomatic, and clandestine fronts. Although clandestine resistance existed from the earliest days of the occupation, Xanana Gusmão first organized it as a front in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it emerged as the largest and most visible part of the nationalist struggle. Reflecting this shift, in 1994, Konis Santana, who led the internal resistance from 1993 to 1998 while Gusmão was in prison, declared that the struggle had “moved from the mountains to the towns.” Yet relatively little has been written about how the clandestine front was re-organized during this period, who was involved and how. Answers to these questions lie in rich archival material record of Konis Santana and Keri Laran Sabalae, the secretary of the clandestine front from 1993 to 1995. Their extensive writings reveal that they conceived of the clandestine front as a top to bottom parallel administration existing within the regime of occupation, through which they aimed to bring as much of the population as possible into active resistance. To do so amid the draconian repression of the occupation they developed a fine-grained understanding of different components of Timorese society and what would motivate their involvement in the resistance, as well as sophisticated mechanisms for achieving this involvement. This paper will examine key documents produced by Santana and Sabalae as well as integrate material from interviews conducted by the author.