Dateline obtains unseen footage of the 1992 capture of guerrilla leader, andnow East Timorese Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmão.
Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 20:28

Xanana Gusmão is recognised worldwide as East Timor's Prime Minister, but 20 years ago the situation was very different; he was leading the guerrilla fight against Indonesian occupation.

Now Dateline has managed to obtain previously unseen footage of his capture taken by the Indonesian Army in 1992, which video journalist Mark Davis and producer Jose Belo show to Gusmão for the first time.

He's remarkably upbeat as he tells Mark about his feelings at being captured and how ultimately it led to his leadership of an independent East Timor

But the outcome wasn't so good for Augusto Pereira; the Indonesian police officer, who was concealing Gusmão in a bunker under his house. He explains to Mark how the whole experience ruined his life.

WATCH - See Mark Davis and Jose Belo's exclusive look into East Timor's history.

FACTFILE - Read more about East Timor's history and the country's long and violent fight for independence.



The island of Timor lies to the north of Australia, and has at various times in its history been controlled by Portugal, the Netherlands, Japan and Indonesia.

It’s only as recently as 2002 that the eastern part of the island officially became the independent country of East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste. The western half of the island, apart from a small enclave of East Timor, is part of Indonesia.


The Portuguese traded with the island in the early 16th century and eventually colonised it, but disputes with the Dutch led to the western half of the island being ceded to the Netherlands in 1859.

Japan occupied Portuguese Timor during the Second World War, but Portugal once again resumed control in 1945.

East Timor declared its independence from Portugal on 25th November 1975. By now, the western half of the island was part of Indonesia and the country invaded and occupied East Timor just nine days later.


Two decades of attempts began to integrate East Timor into Indonesia, during which an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people lost their lives.

Xanana Gusmão was one of the guerrilla rebel leaders against the Indonesian occupation. His arrest in 1992 by Indonesian forces was captured on video, which Dateline obtained in 2011 for this report. Gusmão spent more than six years in an Indonesian prison and under house arrest.

But in 1999, East Timor finally gained independence after a UN-supervised referendum overwhelmingly backed a split from Indonesia, and it was internationally recognised as an independent country in 2002.


However independence didn’t come without controversy and more violence"¦ anti-independence militia, backed by the Indonesian military, killed 1,400 Timorese, forced 300,000 from their homes and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure.

Australian-led peacekeeping troops were deployed to bring the violence to an end, but unrest continued until the establishment of a UN mission and official police force in 2006.

During this period, from 2002 to 2007, the country was led by one-time rebel leader Xanana Gusmão as President.

Largely peaceful elections were held in 2007, voting in former Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta as President. He appointed Xanana Gusmão as Prime Minister. Both currently remain in those posts in one of the most stable periods in the country’s recent history.

There are mini factfiles on East Timor and all the other countries featured on Dateline, plus links to our recent stories from each place... follow the links from our country page.

Sources: CIA World Factbook, BBC



The rebel fighters here in Benghazi, and you see them everywhere, would certainly identify with our next story. It is about a resistance leader who fought for years, leading his forces against overwhelming odds. Yalda is referring to East Timor's leader Xanana Gusmao. Dateline's Mark Davis, no stranger to East Timor, has secured exclusive footage of his capture by Indonesian forces in 1992.

REPORTER: Mark Davis

Government headquarters - Dili, East Timor, Xanana Gusmao's days are now full of the niceties and formalities that Prime Ministers everywhere must endure or enjoy. But 20 years ago, he was leading a very different life. Then he led the armed struggle against Indonesian occupation from the jungles and mountain tops of East Timor.

XANANA GUSMAO (Translation): Today, many governments should be ashamed of being complicit in the genocide in East Timor carried out by the Indonesians.

Xanana Gusmao and his guerrillas were the biggest thorn in Indonesia's side as Indonesia sought to legitimise their occupation of East Timor. Soon after he filmed this message to the world from a jungle hideout, he would be facing his darkest hour, surrounded, captured and imprisoned for life. His troops and the movement they supported flung into disarray with the loss of their famous or infamous leader.

His 1992 capture and the remarkable interrogation that followed were filmed, a film that has long been assumed to be lost. But this incredible footage has now been leaked to us from inside the Indonesian army and screens for the first time tonight on Dateline.

XANANA GUSMAO: I cannot believe that, because I'm thought they would never release it.

Xanana Gusmao has seen some of this footage privately before agreeing to be filmed.

XANANA GUSMAO: The first time that I saw it, wow.

Now he watches it, in its entirety, for the first time.

XANANA GUSMAO: It has been 20 years, I was about 45.

REPORTER: You look like a boy. How old were you in this one? You look about 25 in this one.

He watches the film begin in the base of the Kopassus special forces as they prepare to strike at the house he has been secretly living in.

XANANA GUSMAO: They are getting ready.

VIDEO (Translation): The cars will stop here and go down there;. We'll take this guy to this house. The others will surround the house.

Xanana Gusmao had been hiding in this house in Dili for weeks. Smuggled into town to arrange a weapons shipment and conducting his business from the underground bunker hidden beneath a trapdoor in one of the cupboards.

XANANA GUSMAO: My place was... underneath.

REPORTER: In the underworld.

XANANA GUSMAO: People go there, they were not known. Absolutely.

But on 20th November, 1992, it seems someone did know, Indonesian special forces who were gathering outside.

XANANA GUSMAO: I started to hear when they approached the house. Usually when the dogs bark, we know there is strange people there. I immediately went down.

REPORTER: Underneath?

XANANA GUSMAO: Underneath.

Crunching feet on the driveway were enough to disturb Xanana Gusmao and no doubt terrify the man who owned the house and was hiding him, Augusto Pereira, remarkably an officer in the Indonesian police force. He is reliving the moment his life fell apart. Those feet on the driveway, the barking dogs, signalling the collapse of his world as he knew it. These few moments of video heralding the years of torture that were to follow, abuse, imprisonment and the collapse of his family. The team began to search the house, but they knew what they were looking for, a hidden trapdoor in a cupboard, leading down to a bunker.

XANANA GUSMAO: I was watching - okay, I'm here.

REPORTER: What were you thinking as they were about to coming?

XANANA GUSMAO: It took time. It took may be only five minutes. But it seemed forever. I was thinking, because I have a machine-gun there, I thought I could resist. I had time enough to make a choice. If I resist, I would be a hero. But is it a heroic everybody surrounding him will be killed so I surrender?

REPORTER: They were very happy.

XANANA GUSMAO: Very happy.

Xanana Gusmao was a trophy catch, rather than being shot and dumped at sea, after posing for photos, word was sent immediately to the head of the Indonesian army in Jakarta.

XANANA GUSMAO: I believed that they would not hurt me. They were not kill me because they would like to use me.

Xanana was whisked away to await the arrival of General Tri Sutrisno. Handcuffed, given a cup of tea and interviewed by an intelligence team who appear to have come straight from the tennis courts. Meanwhile back at the house, the search was going through Xanana's possessions. Every weapon, secret document, a radio transmitter found was a potential death sentence for Augusto Pereira. And he is seeing the full extent of what they uncovered for the first time.

REPORTER: They are finding the guns and evidence.

AUGUSTO PEREIRA: It was all there.

VIDEO (Translation): These items were all found at the home of the policeman;. What's his name? Augusto Pereira.

Augusto had gone to work on the morning of the raid. He was on this road teaching other policemen traffic duties when an unmarked army car pulled up behind him.

AUGUSTO PEREIRA: Seven o'clock, he came after me.

He was dragged off to a military compound. His nightmare just beginning as General Tri Sutrisno, head of the Indonesian armed forces, arrived in Dili from Jakarta. Cameras rolling as he congratulates his troops and prepares to interrogate his old foe, Xanana Gusmao. With a dozen or so generals watching, an astounding exchange begins between captor and prey. Tri Sutrisno offers his catch one last chance to accept integration.

GENERAL TRI SUTRISNO, VIDEO (Translation): There will be no peace if you keep fighting, and most of the people of East Timor say integration has succeeded.

Everyone in the room knows that a public statement from Xanana Gusmao could end the war, but his reply was not a helpful one.

XANANA GUSMAO, VIDEO (Translation): As the one who has been leading the resistance struggle, it is not up to me to say that the majority of the people desire integration. The way integration was implemented is not legally valid.

GENERAL TRI SUTRISNO, VIDEO (Translation): I believe the East Timorese people are already free - East Timor has become part of Indonesia.

With his freedom, and possibly his life at stake, Xanana Gusmao remarkably continues to pick at Indonesia's most sensitive sore, the legality of their occupation under international law.

XANANA GUSMAO, VIDEO (Translation): I fight because international law recognises my right.

While this exchange was happening, Augusto Pereira's ordeal was beginning. He had nothing to offer the Indonesians, just a vehicle for fury to be vented, the more customary treatment for East Timorese prisoners.

REPORTER: Would happen to you?

AUGUSTO PEREIRA: My friend, I no say this because I am suffering or whatever, but a little bit;..Indonesian army put a cord under here; pulled on here; Electricity - put under here and here, put on my ears.

He returns to the military compound he was tortured in, now a building depot.

AUGUSTO PEREIRA: I no have clothes, all over I am like a baby - there's water from toilet - put together, water up to here. I sleep under here, I no sleep three months;

REPORTER: They put you in a toilet - like a sewer;. To lie down or stand up?

AUGUSTO PEREIRA: No, straight up - no sleep.

This house of horrors was separate from the official prisons in Dili, and the prying eyes of any international visitors.

AUGUSTO PEREIRA: I never come here because I'm very angry at this place, many people die here. I don't know how many.

Xanana Gusmao well knew that his own fate lay at the whim of Tri Sutrisno.

XANANA GUSMAO, VIDEO (Translation): Now Xanana can die. I've already said I can go to prison for life and suffer all the electric shocks and torture, but the main issue here is what the people think.

It seems that the General did not get the answers he was hoping for, and the meeting is brought to an end.

GENERAL TRI SUTRISNO, VIDEO (Translation): I am asking you to reflect on my statement so that you will be able to convince all your brothers in the mountains, that there is no point in them dreaming that help will come from overseas because east Timor is now the responsibility of all Indonesian people, including East Timorese.

Xanana Gusmao was sent to trial in Jakarta and was sentenced to life. Augusto Pereira was held and tormented here for a year, then imprisoned for another six until the Red Cross negotiated his release.

AUGUSTO PEREIRA: My wife, my grandmother, my son, my daughter all come to this house.

REPORTER: This was a terrible place. His wife and children were released but the family never reunited. He lives alone, one of the thousands of bit players who gave their lives or part of them for what seemed an impossible dream.

REPORTER: At this time, did you ever imagine that you would win?


YALDA HAKIM: Mark Davis reporting. There is a fact file on East Timor, and all the countries we feature on our website.













Original Music composed by

22nd May 2011