Tempo Semanal-Dili, 04.03.2011
Michio Takahachi is a director of an educational foundation in Japan’s Miyagy prefecture branch. Usually he works from Monday to Friday in his office for educational foundation in Japan, Miyagy prefecture.
But in 1986, he started to support East Timor Independence struggle through two projects. One was the mountain project, to support Falintil fighters in the jungle. In this regard Pe. Sato Group helped the resistance Army by providing some logistics and money as well as communication equipment.
Second was to support East Timorese national identity. It’s Tetun language, as well as to support local languages. During that time The Michio Takahachi Group also supported the Tetun Schools in Darwin,
Australia and Portugal.
“My main philosophy or my main concept is same as the Falintil fighter’s spirit, namely ‘Patria e Povu.’ ”
Michio explained the history of how his nom de guerre of “Pe. Sato” came to be. At the time he started supporting the independence struggle in 1986, Japanese citizens could not enter East Timor. This was especially so if the purpose was to support the independence struggle, then the solidarity movement member could not enter East Timor and make contact with either the freedom fighters in the jungle or in the clandestine resistance front. So he changed his name and chose “Sato”, which is a very common family name in Japan. Despite not being Christian he also chose to use “Padre” (which means Priest) and so began to call “myself Padre Sato.”
This was done to confuse the Indonesian Intelligence as he went about supporting the Mountain Project and school projects. His main effort with the mountain project was to send assistance into East Timor for leaders like Konis Santana, Taur Matan Ruak, David Alex and Lere Anan Timur. Pe. Sato was one of the main and biggest donors for Falintil during the 1990’s. He helped Falintil with satellite phones, medicines and logistics, including some financial support under the guise of being for “toys and forestry.”
After East Timor voted against the Indonesian Pro Autonomy package he came to East Timor on December 1999 and stayed till January 2000.
“So our NGO set up here in January 1st, 2000. We set up TNCC (Timor
Loro Sa’e Nippon Culture Centre). Our NGO has the same concept of
“Patria e Povu,” as did FALINTIL. So we want to support the grassroots people especially in the countryside.”
“It is my pleasure to continue our contact and communication with East
Timorese grassroots people and keep working on our small projects such as local languages and national language of tetun.
“Second to continue to support educational aspects by providing a small TNCC scholarship fund, as well as set up TNCC’s Bibliotheca (Library) in Iliomar, which provides books for the children.”
On the other side TNCC start up the agriculture projects and natural energy projects. “Now we are starting from biogas and in the future we want to change into solar power, because East Timor has so much sunshine. So bio gas system and solar power system is very good for east Timor. So we continue supporting the grassroots people especially to keep alive and strengthen the spirit of ‘Patria e Povo’.”
Despite the very large contribution that Padre Sato has made to many people in this country; he has not had any recognition by the country’s new millennium leaders. Nor does or will Michio claim any favoritism from Timorese leaders.
Pe. Sato has not even thought about anything in any return from the
Timorese, not even any medal or other honor for his contribution to
he country’s independence.
As he explains, “I started to support your country’s struggle for independence and continued to help the grassroots people, for one important reason. I think of the Second World War, when our father and grandfather’s generations invaded Asian countries including the island of Timor. So as a Japanese citizen I want to compensate for the wrongs committed by my father and grandfather’s generations. For me, I don’t want any thing. I am one Japanese citizen who has warm heart to all Asian countries, especially to East Timorese grassroots people. This is very important for me. So I want to continue my small work.”
In a free East Timor Michio Takahachi has dedicated his support to developing East Timorese national identity. Timor Nippon Cultures
Centre is to perpetuate and develop East Timorese Languages.
Their activities are not only to develop Tetun Terik and Tetun Praca but TNCC also helps other local languages. TNCC have produced several dictionaries on the Fataluku language, Makasa’e Language, Makalero Language, Naueti language, Makua language, Tokodede language, Wai Maa and others.
There are more than eight or nine languages for which dictionaries have been produced. “We have published the Fataluku and Fataluku dictionary. We also have another type dictionary of Fataluku, tetun and English dictionary. The third we published the traditional four line poems like Fataluku poems, Makasa’e poems and Makalero poems. Since independence we have published many books. There are about 50 books on the national and local languages” he explained.
Michio Takahachi has helped to set up different community groups and he travels to Timor-Leste twice a year. “We go to the countryside looking for those who can write the local language dictionaries, to make contact periodically, every six months.”
“I have been visiting East Timor since December 1999. So every year I come here in January and stay until February and then return in July staying until August. Periodically I visit the local people for continuation of Fataluku Project, Makasa’e Projects and so on,” he added.
Michio Takahachi has spent his youth struggling for East Timor struggle but he is still not tired, and has much he can yet help the independent Republic Democratic East Timor with.
“I am very happy to come to your country East Timor and the contact I have with the people in the countryside. And also in your countryside there is very beautiful landscape, and I have contact with the beautiful sea, beautiful countryside landscape and my periodical meetings with my friends, which strengthens me personally.”
The 71 year old was best friends with Falintil commanders David Alex
and Konis Santana, who have been forgotten by some of the this country’s post independence leaders, still looks very strong physically and determined to continue to support the East Timorese people.
“Now I am already 71 years old but I do not feel like it, I feel like I am a 17 year old man. I want to continue to support your country especially to those in the countryside or grassroots people. “
Apart from the community projects Pe. Sato also set up small solidarity loans to groups of Timorese agricultural workers. “We say there are two types of agriculture. The USA’s style, which uses the big tractors and uses chemical fertilizers. For us we choose the traditional system, recycle, natural and organic agriculture. It’s very good for natural organic food and its safe to consume by humans.”
Padre Sato acknowledges the rapid movement in this country towards the use of modern technological equipment and fertilizers to increase the agriculture’s production. “But we must think about food safety problems. If we use the big tractors and use chemical fertilizers to grow our food, it’s very dangerous to human health.”
He continues explain that, “now in the world, including in Japan they say that natural farming or use organic farming to produce safety organic foods. Of course there is dramatic changes occurring in East Timor with the arrival of new agriculture methods. But if we go to the countryside many East Timorese farmers are now doing the work with very simple and traditional farming still exist. So I think to keep alive this traditional agriculture farming and to keep environment as well as to maintain and develop the recycle system of agriculture is very important.”
Pe. Sato expects that the biogas projects they are funding will help
to strengthen the traditional agriculture system.
After accomplishing the first task of getting the country freedom from
Indonesia, Pe. Sato still wants to keep helping the Timorese community by delivering some small solidarity loans to Timorese farmer groups in the countryside.
“We started this agriculture and natural energy projects after the 2006 crisis. Because TNCC began to think of why East Timor repeated the cycle of violence after Timor’s Independence.”
“I think the basic problem is that 80% of East Timor’s population work as farmers. So it’s very important to develop the country’s grassroots living conditions. In my point of view there are two types of agriculture.”
“First is towards USA which uses chemical fertilizer and working with big tractor machine, also using genetically modified crops. But in my point of view East Timor’s countryside is made up of very small family gatherings. We want to support this present family based system to keep the traditional, organic and recycle agriculture system.”
During his 34th visit in January-February 2011, Padre Sato to East Timor for TNCC’s work since 2000, Michio Takahachi went to Fatu Besi together with his vice president, accompanied by Mrs. Ular and set up the TNCC Ermera Agriculture Pilot Farm to commemorate Kiijima Machamichi and commandant Ular’s lives.
“This time I go to Fatu Besi in Ermera district with TNCC vice President to set up one TNCC agriculture project in Fatubesi. This is special one because TNCC Agriculture Ermera pilot farm is to commemorate the lives of the late commandant Ular and Machamichi Kiijima.”
“So we name this project with TAEPF-KU. K means Kiijima Machamichi the teacher of the current Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Naoto Khan.”
“Mr.Kiijima is the one who is attributed with educating Mr. Naoto Khan to be a good politician.”
“Another reason is Mr. Kiijima came to East Timor during World War II. He used to be an accountant for the Japanese Military. During his time in East Timor the Japanese military general sent him to Fatubesi village. But Kiijima didn’t bring any weapons with him to Fatu Besi. When he arrived in Fatu Besi, Kiijima held parties and would dance and sing with the people from Fatu Besi village, sleeping under the coconut tree. The chief of Fatu Besi at the time gained great respect towards Mr.Kiijima, so name him TUAN BOOT. The head of the village wanted Mr. Kiijima to marry his daughter but Kiijima refused.”
“After World War II Machamichi Kiijima became a leader of the Japanese Socialist Party. Machamichi Kiijima initiated the solidarity movement to support Independence struggle of East Timor. So Pe Sato joined this nation wide movement.”
Machamichi Kiijima’s dream was to return to East Timor especially to visit Fatu Besi village, because of the strong impression that was left with him of the kindness of the Fatu Besi people. But unfortunately Machamichi Kiijima passed away two years ago.
Padre Sato said, “Last year I met with Commandant Ular to arrange to go together to Fatu Besi to set up the TNCC Agriculture pilot farm to honor Machamichi Kiijima. But again, two days before we went to Ermera Commandant Ular passed away after a heart attack. So TNCC went to talk with Mrs. Ular to ask her to go with us to Fatu Besi to set up TNCC agriculture pilot farm to commemorate the lives of the late Commandant Ular and Machamichi Kiijima.”
TNCC always give solidarity loan to these Timorese groups to fund their activities.
“We gave them (the farmers) what we call our solidarity loan. We started by giving them only US$500. We will continue every six months to keep adding to the solidarity loan. So the group will get a total of US$5,000.00 in the end.”
Pe Sato’s solidarity loan has three principles. “We never ask for a mortgage, second we never ask for interest and third we never ask for refunds. We would like to see these agricultural workers to succeed so five years later they can transfer the money to the second group to set up.”
Pe. Sato has set up another Agriculture project in Betano. In 2007 his group invited two farmers from Same and Betano to go to Japan for training. In 2008 they gave the same training for two others from Lautem districts and in 2009 they did the same for other two farmers from Viqueque.
“We want to support this area so we have started set up TNCC pilot funds in about ten points. We started this agriculture project and on the other hand also started natural energy project. When I come to East Timor and look at the mountains I notice that many trees were cut down. I am worried that East Timor is starting to lose its very important tropical forests. This is a very big problem because we will lose the water and it may cost a lot to the global warming.”
By having good relations with the people from Same, Viqueque, Lautem and other districts TNCC dream to protect and preserve East Timor environment.
“We want to protect the tropical forest of this country and that means that it is better not to cut the trees. But after the independence the
East Timorese population is increasing and now over one million people. These people need cooking firewood. So we just started one biogas project. Now we have started in Watulari a pilot project.”
“In Watulari there is one TNCC agriculture Watulari pilot fund so namely TAUP and in June last years we set up a bio gas pilot project which we are cooperate with an NGO in East Timor name BEACOM and Avelino Coelho, the Secretary State for Energy Policy who is in charge this area.”
“Through these types of cooperation we could use the waste from the cows, which mixes with 50% water to in a case, which produce the gas.
This black gas is use for cooking purposes. In Watulari case we use two cows’ output which every day produce the gas for cooking duration of six hours per day.”
“This is enough to cook for breakfast, lunch and cooked dinner. And of course we can use for snack time to boil waters for coffee or tea and so on. Other good side is the farmers can produce the liquid organic fertilizer. These are very good for rapidly growing the vegetable.”
“If we set up this type of Bio Gas System all around East Timor’s farmers house will help the East Timorese people not to cut the trees for cooking purposes so we are protecting the tropical forest means its good for the environment and we also help keep the original water spring.”
He Explain, “TNCC jointly with Timorese Government has set up a biogas pilot project in Watulari and TNCC wants to set up the bio gas system at all their TNCC pilot farmer’s points. TNCC have helped ten agriculture project points around the country. “For these ten we may do it with the support financially from us. But for the future we need more places to set up biogas all over East Timor.”
“These days we in Japan have three step plans. The first step we want to make a one pilot biogas case in japan. We are using the Japanese very high plastics and technics. In this case TNCC wants to ask the Japanese government to support $30 million Japanese yen as budget for this first step. If the Japanese Government supports this first step project then we will move to the second step. In this step we will bring this Japanese pilot case to East Timor and to help mainly to reproduce it in East Timor factory so we can set up the biogas system for many farmers all over East Timor.”
“Of course this is need very big funding. If we start the second step we would like to ask the Japanese government as a national project for support the East Timor biogas national project. If this projects successful which support by the Japanese government and cooperate with East Timor Government means we step into the third step means East Timor become one of the top ranking of make recycle system to produce natural energy and organic liquid fertilizer.”
“East Timor may become a pioneer in this area and could get support from other countries in the world including Japanese government to establish this project in the tropical areas such as African countries, Asian and Latin America. This is very good change to keep the global environment and to protect the tropical areas in the world. This dream. Of course in this process we will face many difficulties but TNCC and I want to appeal to the world to support this very important project.”
Padre Sato appealed to all Timorese leaders, most of whom he knows personally saying; “I hope all East Timorese top leaders not to forget the hard time during their struggle for the independence. They all know that many grassroots people supported the independence struggle.
So I appeal to them to keep the alive the ‘Patria e Povo’ spirit so all top leaders of East Timor to continue dedicate and concentrate their efforts on improving the living conditions of our grassroots people. And of course TNCC do our best corporate with them.” (TS).