Herald: Goan Home Minister at Timor Leste
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Goan Home Minister at Timor Leste

06 Dec 2015 08:52am IST

Report by
Albertina Almeida

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06 Dec 2015 08:52am IST

Report by
Albertina Almeida

We are in a time when people of Goan origin are making the state proud. Yet another person of Goan origin has taken on the post of Home Minister of Timor Leste. Longuinhos Rabindranatha Tagore Domingues de Castro Monteiro, native to Caranzalem is another in a line of illustrious ‘foreign Goans’. Albertina Almeida writes in

His name is quite a mouthful - Longuinhos Rabindranatha Tagore Domingues de Castro Monteiro. At a time when Goa is abuzz with news that a person of Goan origin has assumed Prime Ministership in Portugal, not many know that this man of all but 48 years of age is the Home Minister of Timor Leste. He has many firsts to his credit. He was the first Prosecutor General of the Republic of Timor Leste for six months, after having qualified in law and held the post of a judge, during the transitional first administration. He says that the UN deployed just eleven local persons within the judicial system – five as judges, three as prosecutors and three as lawyers. He was also the first Commander General of the Policia Nacional of Timor Leste, and held that post for six years, until the then Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao called on him to assume Ministership of what they call the Ministerio de Interior, that is, the Home Ministry.

Thus it is that from 16th February 2015, Dr Longuinhos Monteiro assumed the Ministerial post. Another first, because someone from the administrative leadership was asked to assume the post of Ministership and that too as an independent without being part of any political party. Although he has never set foot in Goa, he has a strong passionate feel for what he calls his fatherland. His father was Goan. Their ancestral house is at Caranzalem, not far from the St Francis Chapel. His father passed away a couple of years ago. 

Dr Monteiro recounts that his father, a medico, set out for East Timor in August 1958 with two priests, and held positions in the health centres in different districts of Timor Leste, which is why the Minister and his siblings were born in different parts of Timor Leste. He says his father met his mother in the course of his work as she was a student nurse there of Portuguese descent. Dr Monteiro himself was born in the mountain district of Maliana. I am intrigued by the fact that his name includes Rabindranatha Tagore, so I ask him about it and he is quick to state that all his brothers, five of them, have Indian Hindu middle names. His own sons also have Mahabharata and Mahendranatha as their middle names.

Monteiro states that he was active in the clandestine student movement for independence in 1987, spent his days with guerrilla fighters in the jungles in 1991, and until 1999, was organizing support for the guerrilla fighters, This is probably also the reason of his rise to power despite being part of a completely miniscule Goan origin community. He speaks of a call to the army and says that he may have been the Vice General of the Army had he not yielded to the request of his wife not to pursue that position.

He is credited with having introduced several norms and standard operating procedures. He laughs and says that Timor has a law for everything under the sun except sandalwood. He is not too keen to speak about the challenges emerging around land rights issues, and shrugs them off, like a typical landed Catholic Goan would, saying people are making claims by just occupying lands over a lengthy period of time, when the lands in effect belonged to Portuguese or Indonesians who vacated when their rules came to a turbulent close. He says nevertheless the Government pays handsome compensation when they acquire lands for industry or mega-projects despite the lack of titles, and that sometimes people have even made business out of their occupation by sub-letting the land or structures for establishments such as Chinese shops, and are therefore rendered homeless by their own choice.
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