How a Czech spy tried to recruit me as an agent

May 24, 2014 | HIstory

by J. Ramos-Horta

I began my political life in the early 1970’s as a social-democrat and stayed social-democrat throughout; my only ideological inspiration was the Swedish moderate Social Democracy model. I was never enamored with Marxism; and all my comrades in our resistance movement were aware how strongly opposed I was to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine.
Back in the early 70’s among our small circle of Marxists and Maoists I was labelled “pro-US”. Being labelled pro-US was in fact a badge of honor as I admired the American political system of strong checks and balance, a powerful free Media, its world leadership in sciences, etc. Others said said I was an agent for “Australian imperialism” while Australian intelligence was busy spying on me. 
So I was both incredulous and amused how my name appeared in the files of the defunct communist Czechoslovakia as an “agent”.
The story began sometime in the late 70’s when I met a Czech diplomat at the UN in New York. I thought it was a chance encounter in the UN Delegates Lounge where diplomats freely mingled and chatted and where often serious negotiations and agreements were reached. 
In retrospect I wonder whether our first meeting was indeed a chance encounter or the Czech spy agency had identified me as a potential agent. The first meeting was followed by invitations for lunches in local Chinese restaurants. 
From 1976 on, living in Manhattan with very little money, I stayed in rundown, cockroach infested apartments; and would not refuse a free meal. And in any case my task was to meet anyone who showed interest in my people’s struggle and plight – and try to win over their vote in the annual UN General Assembly resolutions on East Timor.
After the first two or three meetings, he started asking my views on the US and how they would vote on the East Timor resolution. Successive US Administrations from 1975 till 1999 sided with the Suharto regime of Indonesia, not only diplomatically but also providing weapons and economic aid; he was also very interested in general US politics and I was just too happy to show off my knowledge on the subject.  He seemed impressed. I was in fact deeply interested in US affairs since my high school days and read profusely over the years. 
I had no access to anyone at all in the Administration. Only some staff at the US Congress and Congressmen would welcome me into their offices to hear about East Timor and only on East Timor.
On occasion he would ask me about my sources to justify my information; and I would give him a list of sources, human rights organizations or liberal or left-wing think tanks, the only ones interested about Timor-Leste at that time. 
I told Mr. Fila he could get such reports and in-depth analysis about the US from many open sources, media, think-tanks, academia, NGOs. I picked up some of these papers at the many academic seminars I attended where endless excellent papers on US or US-Soviet relations were presented. The difficulty was that the views and analysis were diverse, with so many conflicting view points, that understandably a communist agent would find it all puzzling.
I lost interest when I realized he was really trying to use me, recruit me as an informant or analyst for his government; why would I help them when his government did not show the slightest interest on East Timor.
I never ever set foot in the then Soviet Union or in any of the Soviet bloc country. My Timorese colleagues and I tried hard over the years to visit the communist capitals, Moscow and the Eastern bloc countries, to lobby for supprt but they never acceded to receive us even just to listen to our side of the story.
One day Mr. Fila invited me to spend a week-end in a compound somewhere in Long Island that I believe was owned by the Soviets. I declined. Later Mr. Fila invited me to meet him in Vienna. Again I declined as I knew by then I would be entering dangerous terrain. And I was getting annoyed! And I did tell Mr. Fila’s successor that I was not prepared to cooperate with them in any manner that was not in my country’s interests or against any other country. I never heard again from Mr. Fila but over the years I wondered sometimes what happened to him. I hope he is well wherever he may be. 
That’s the story. Never would I imagine that Mr. Fila or his handlers back in Prague would think I could ever work for them. How they believed that I would have access to classified US intelligence material when I could not even talk to a junior US diplomat is beyond me. 
I never hid from Mr. Fila where my loyalties were – with my country. Had they supported us all the way through, then yes, even though I was never a communist I would be an ally like so many National Liberations Movements were, in Asia, Africa and Latin America, that had generous support from the Soviet bloc country. 
We were the poorest and most isolated National Liberation in the world, ignored by the communist bloc and suppressed with US bombs, one of the few forgotten movements that did not get a bullet or even a diplomatic hand-shake from the Soviet bloc countries. They were not our friends. I was not their friend. East Timor was a small, dispensable pawn for all the major powers, communist and non-communists. But in the end Justice triumphed over evil.