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Quitting a Perguruan After Gaining Recognition

This section further elaborates on the issue of acknowledgment by Indonesian citizens of the East Timorese youth, which can lead to proper integration and result in never joining a perguruan. The unfinished project of resettlement as a durable solution for East Timorese ex-refugees in Naibonat has bequeathed unsteady conditions for youths, in which they find it necessary to use their own means to find a place within the society.

The following story is of Carlo, a 19-year-old boy who was a member of PSHT for three years but then quit or simply become inactive in the perguruans. The decision to leave from PSHT came in 2013 after Carlo had been selected to represent East Nusa Tenggara Province as a National Indonesian Flag Raisers (Paskibraka,) in the Presidential Palace in Jakarta for the Indonesian Independence Day celebration on August 17, 2013. Carlo said that his training in PSHT really helped him to pass the selection process in the Paskibraka training.

Furthermore, he said that the opportunity to meet the president of Indonesia and to participate in a big national event made him feel more like an Indonesian citizen than before:

I have been eating and drinking from Indonesia’s soil, but I was born in Timor Leste. In terms of nationality, I cannot “choose” Timor Leste because my name has been recorded in Presidential Palace, which not everyone can do that. If I did not join Paskibraka, I will definitely go back to Timor Leste. Now, I will not be nationalist if I left Indonesia (Carlo, interview on July 16, 2014).

Having a chance to participate in a national event exposed him to Indonesian citizenship and acknowledgment by Indonesian citizens, resulting in Carlo feeling “more Indonesian.” He then had distinct daily activities, compared to his past because he had an important role on the provincial level since he was appointed as a trainer for the yearly provincial Paskiba. Carlo now has a broader chance for acceptance by the “locals” and residents from other communities around Kupang, which also develops their interactions with East Timor youth. He now no longer finds it necessary to join a perguruan. For this reason, he experiences a deeper sense of “nationalism” or responsibility to Indonesia after gaining recognition, although it presents a challenge for going back to Timor Leste.

Here, the recognition affects the sense of belonging to the nation and influences the idea of citizenship:

Now I am very busy so I do not have time to join perguruan. It is not good,

I want to protect myself but I do not want to be involved in the fight. Now I never showed up when they have gatherings. I also persuade my friends to do other things if I know they were about to go to fight. You know, you will be called as panleru [sissy boy in Tetun language] if you do not join perguruan. But now I can say that I am busy then it is okay. If people know you are working, then it is okay if you do not join (Carlo, interview on July 16, 2014).

Carlo’s statement that young men will be called panleru if they do not join perguruan shows the fragile and insecure situation of young men in Naibonat. The social system of the East Timorese in Naibonat still associates masculinity with the character of a fighter, allegedly constructed by the past glory of fathers or relatives in combating pro-independence armed forces. In the context of peacetime in Naibonat, it seems that the only way to be able to show their masculinity and be a “proper man” in the East Timorese society is by joining a perguruan. If they, however, have another option to demonstrate their ability to take roles in the society, they are less obligated to follow such groups.

Another young man named Jeffrey, who is 23 year old, said that he escaped from the commitment of joining a perguruan after he started a job in Kupang, which means he leaves in the early morning every day to commute to the city and returns home after 6 p.m. He said that other members in perguruans understand that he is busy, so they do not expect

Jeffrey to show up in any confrontations with other groups. Along the same line, Andy, a 21-year-old, explained that he quit a perguruan after he got a scholarship to study at a university outside the province:

Everyone here knows I am studying in another province and rarely return home. My friends in perguruan do not expect me to join again. They barely talk to me. Maybe they think I am a big-headed so if I ask them not to join perguruan, they won’t listen (Andy, interview on August 20, 2014).

Although the question about solidarity and loyalty still need to be put in motion, any good reason or opportunity to get recognition in the broader arena such as going to a university, getting a job with office working hours, or being involved in another “meaningful” activity will affirm their decision to quit from a perguruan. This fact shows that it actually is a last alternative to gain recognition. In this sense, youths’ involvement in violent activities seems to decline if larger opportunities are offered and further integration becomes well established.

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