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Socialjustice.catholic.org.au

East Timor:
Just a political question?
The Santa Cruz massacre of 12th November 1991 brought the enduring question of East Timor to the public notice in Australia. Hardly a day goes by without media coverage. It is in this context that Dr Geoffrey Hull's paper is written: the demand for such a paper exists not just in social justice groups, but in the wider Catholic Church and the community at large.
The ACSJC hopes that Dr Hull's paper will generate feedback which we can draw upon for articles in Justice Trends. Bishop Belo has spoken out recently of his ideas for some sort of autonomy for East Timor, short of independence. This would need the pre-condition of a drastic scaling down of the Indonesian military presence. The ACSJC would particularly welcome reactions to this idea from readers of this Occasional Paper.
+ Bishop W J Brennan Bishop of Wagga Wagga The Author
Geoffrey Hull is a Catholic layman and lecturer at the Sydney University Language Centre. He holds two
degrees in historical and comparative philology and is conversant with a large number of European and
middle Eastern languages, having obtained Level 3 NAATl qualifications in ten of them. At present he is
working on a grammar and dictionary of Tetum, the lingua franca of East Timor, in collaboration with the East Timorese community in Australia.
Think Again.
and Polynesia. In fact the inhabitants of all the south­ eastern Indonesian islands from Sumba and Flores to Catholics with conservative political leanings can dis­ West Irian are ethnically and linguistically more Melane­ play unfortunate double standards when it comes to sian than Malay. The name Timor itself, meaning 'east' investigating and condemning crimes against humanity in Malay, indicates a peripheral region, 'the eastern committed by authoritarian governments. In the con­ island' in relation to Indonesia proper ('East Timor' in servative Catholic press gallons of ink have flowed in Indonesian is the tautological-sounding Timor Timur). just condemnation of the savage persecution of Chris­ tians in Communist states around the world. Marxist- Significantly, the bulk of Indonesia's Christian minority (2.1%) lives in these ethnically diverse eastern islands.
inspired attempts at genocide, such as the murder of millions of Cambodians by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, Sighted by Antonio de Abreu in 1511, Timor's first have been fully exposed and rightly decried. But on the European settlement was made by three Portuguese question of atrocities committed by anti — Communist Dominicans from Malacca in 1562, and the whole of the regimes there seems to be a different attitude. The island had been conquered by Portugal by 1642. But slaughter of priests in the Basque Country by the army being rich in sandalwood, it was also coveted by the of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War, the Dutch, who took the western zone less the then capital Croatian Ustasha's genocidal campaign against the Lifau and the surrounding enclave of Oe-Cusse in 1651, Serbs during World War II, the desparecidos (missing and Timor has been politically and culturally divided persons) of Chile and Argentina - in such cases the ever since. (Dutch West Timor became part of the new reaction of the conservative Catholic press has too Republic of Indonesia in 1950; its people are predomi­ often been silence or, worse, an attempt to whitewash nantly Protestant, with Catholic and Moslem minorities). or even justify the unjustifiable.
Socially, the people of East Timor fall into two broad There can never be any ideological justification for groupings. The inhabitants of the towns and larger vil­ crimes against groups of innocent human beings, and it lages are culturally latinized, speaking both Portuguese is one of the duties of Christians to condemn such out­ and a local language, and devoutly Catholic in faith. rages wherever and by whomever they are committed. Among this group are a few white descendants of Por­ Terrible crimes have been committed in our region of tuguese colonists and the more numerous Mesticos, or the world since 1975, when the small nation of East persons of mixed blood. The majority of the indigenous Timor was conquered by the armed forces of the fifth population who inhabit the rugged interior speak no largest country in the world. Since then the story of Portuguese. They lead a tribal existence and most of East Timor has rarely been told without a large dose of them practise a syncretistic mixture of Catholicism and political bias. Left-wing opponents of Indonesia tend to exaggerate the facts while that state's right-wing allies seek to minimize or deny them. Both approaches tend to present as a primarily political question a problem with important religious and cultural implications. The reality is that one cannot understand the East Timor question without an appreciation of the cultural impact of, Portuguese colonialism and the moral role of the local Catholic Church, today the heart and soul of the Maubere (East Timorese) nation.
East Timorese are not Indonesians
East Timor is our closest Catholic neighbour. After the
arrival of the first Aboriginal nomads in Australia thou­ sands of years ago, the earliest foreigners to visit our shores were very probably natives of Timor. This island, after all, the largest in the Lesser Sunda group of the Malay Archipelago, lies just over 400 kilometres off the Northern Territory coast. Among the falsehoods com­ monly spread abroad about the Maubere is that they are ethnically Malay like the Javanese who now rule them. That they are basically a non-Malay people is evi­ dent not only from their physiognomy, but from the Western civilization they have willingly adopted. Or, as the Timorese chaplain in Sydney puts it: Indonesios e Timorenses sao como agua e gasolina " Indonesians and Timorese are like water and petrol": they don't mix.
The natives of Timor are actually of Papuan stock, mingled with later waves of Proto-Malay immigrants from the north-west, and even today they most resem­ble the inhabitants of New Guinea. Although Papuan vernaculars survive in remote districts, most Timorese speak a Malayo-Polynesian (Austronesian) language called Tetum (Tetun, Teto), or one of several related dia­ lects. And while Tetum is ultimately related to Indone­ sian, it is not mutually intelligible with it, being closer in structure and vocabulary to the languages of Melanesia East Timor and its region Cinderella of the Portuguese Empire
Catholic Church, or rather to its missionaries. The Cath­ Before 1975 East Timor was the most backward and olic clergy commanded enormous respect in East remote of Portugal's colonies. Since Portugal had Timor, even from the pagans of the interior. The local emerged as the poorest country in post-war Western priest was acknowledged as the natural leader of the Europe, it was perhaps understandable that the needs community, and people sought his protection against of East Timor should have ranked very low on the list of the abuses of the Portuguese officials and the tribal national priorities. No Portuguese head of state ever chiefs. During the terrible Japanese occupation, when visited East Timor, and one senior member of the Lis­ the Timorese aided Australian troops at the cost of bon government admitted in 1964 that the territory was some 40, 000 native lives, the bonds between the a financial liability and would have been handed over to missionaries and the people grew even stronger. Most the United Nations had it not been for fear of weaken­ of the few schools operating in the colony before 1960 ing Portuguese rule in the rich African colonies of were built and run by the missionaries, many of them Angola and Mozambique.
Salesian priests and Dominican and Claretian nuns.
A few facts will suffice to show the neglect and misery in which the Portuguese allowed their colony to This enormous prestige of the Catholic clergy is all the languish until the last years of their rule. It was only more surprising when one considers that in 1952 there from 1959 onwards that such essential things as elec­ were no more than 60, 000 Timorese Catholics, 13% in tricity, adequate medical facilities, a radio station, a population of 450, 000, served by 33 Portuguese and wharves, durable bridges, and sealed roads and air­ one foreign priest. But what impressed the Timorese strips came to East Timor. Three fifths of the population most about the missionaries was their dedication. lived by primitive subsistence farming in rural isolation. Whereas the European officials and professionals spent Malnutrition was widespread, infant mortality was often a maximum of three years in the least attractive of Por­ as high as 50%, and illnesses like tuberculosis, pneu­ tugal's colonies, these religious men and women came monia and gonorrhoea (the latter spread by the Portu­ to the country to spend many years or even the rest of guese army) were rife. Before 1960 only 2% of their lives in the service of the Maubere.
Timorese children in a population of 517, 000 received a primary education; there was only one high school with The evangelization of East Timor had made slow some 200 students. Coffee production was the main progress for a number of reasons. There was a chronic local industry, but most of the profits of the huge plan­ shortage of missionaries, but the work of the few oper­ tations went either to the Portuguese administration or ating in the colony was suspended and nearly undone to the favoured Chinese community, who owned all the for fifty years between 1834 and 1874 as a result of the businesses and kept a stranglehold over the economy. anti-clerical legislation of the Liberals then in power in Some of the Mesticos owned land and occupied promi­ Lisbon. With the declaration of the fiercely anti — Catholic nent posts in the colonial administration, but most edu­ Republic of 1910, the missionaries were driven out cated Timorese worked as government clerks or made again and did not return for over a decade. During careers in the army. The native population resented these difficult periods the clergy left in Dili (the capital their practical exclusion from the professions by the since 1769) and the main centres were mainly Portu­ presence of doctors, lawyers and teachers from Portu­ guese priests very much in the colonial mould. They gal. And a particular grievance was the way in which saw themselves more as chaplains to the colonial the Chinese were allowed to invest their profits in administration and the old Christian families than as Taiwan instead of supporting local agricultural ventures.
missionaries. Ignoring the local languages and culture, they preached and taught catechism in Portuguese, so Before 1970 life in East Timor was conservative at all that in the eyes of the common people becoming a levels. In 1896 the territory had been separated admin­ Christian and becoming culturally Portuguese were istratively from Macao, acquiring the status of a distinct much the same thing.
colony in 1953. In that year the Organic Law of Portu­guese Overseas T e rrito rie s turned all Portugal's col­onies into 'overseas provinces'. This change in status was made by the Salazar regime in order to get round the United Nations' Declaration on the Granting of Inde­ pendence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and it made no difference to the actual administration of the territory. Timor was not formally declared an overseas province for ten years, and the function of the Legislat­ive Council established along corporative lines in 1964 was to "advise and assist" the Portuguese governor, who retained the monopoly of political power. The Council's elected and nominated members represented the moneyed and literate classes, as well as the liurais or regional chiefs, who strongly supported the colonial regime because of its non-interference policy which left them a free hand in their hereditary districts. National­ ism was therefore not a major force in East Timor.
The Role of the Catholic Church
While there was little publicly expressed discontent with Portuguese rule in the 1960s, the first allegiance of the Timorese was not to the colonial government but to the Religious conditions improved considerably after the According to James Dunn, former Australian consul in signing of Salazar's Concordat and Missionary Agree­ ment with the Vatican in 1940. This accord led to the erection of the diocese of Dili, ending the long subjec­ "B y the early 1 970s East T im or had virtually becom e a C atholic state, tion of the Church in East Tim or to the see of Macao. although baptized C hristians were still in the m inority. Catholicism During the 1950s the Church intensified its apostolic w as the religion of the elite, and of all those w ith som e sem blance of efforts, setting up mission stations in pagan areas. The education, as w ell as th o usa n d s o f illiterates. The liurais and other result of this evangelizing drive was an average chiefs were m ostly converted in the eighteenth and nineteenth centur­ increase of 10, 000 conversions per year. In order to cre­ ies. [ . . ] A s th e religion o f the leaders and the literate, C hristianity soon becam e a kind o f status sym bol, although m any baptized C h ris ­ ate a native clergy the Portuguese Jesuits opened in tia n s c o n tin u e d to retain th e ir anim ist beliefs and superstitions. On the 1958 the Seminary of Nossa Senhora de Fatima at o ther hand, the educated Tim orese were m ore disciplined in the prac­ Dare, which also offered a secondary education to tice o f th e ir fa ith than w ere the Portuguese. For exam ple, even som e Timorese boys not destined for the priesthood.
left-wing F re tilin leaders attended m ass daily, a degree of devotion attained by ve ry few e xp a tria te s'. (TPB, p. 50-1).
The fruits of the missionaries' labours were evident in 1974, when the number of Catholics had more than doubled to 196, 570, i. e. 30% of a population of 659, 000 By now native Timorese were the backbone of the Cath­ (Portuguese census figures). There were now in East olic Church in the province. Not only did most of the Timor 44 priests of whom 25 were native Timorese, 8 Portuguese residents not practise their faith, but many brothers and 49 nuns. Also involved in the Church's of them had anti-clerical attitudes and interfered in vari­ work were 37 catechists and 160 teachers. The diocese ous ways with the religious life of the Timorese, for was still divided into only three parishes, but the example forcing labourers to work on Sunday mornings mission posts now numbered eighty.
and miss Mass.
Towards a Peaceful Decolonization
Yet it should not be imagined that there was any revol­ utionary ferment in the province before 1970. The Por­ tuguese may have done little to improve living conditions, but they had not directly oppressed the population or (since Dom Boaventura's rebellion of 1912) committed acts of brutality against them. Although there was more education and literacy in Indonesian West Timor, the extreme poverty of that half of the island made life in East Timor look attractive. Medical services were also far superior to those exist­ ing in the former Dutch colony. Nor did the East Timorese suffer the chronic food shortages and famines that plagued their neighbours. Criticism of the colonial administration came mainly from the staff and students of the Jesuit Seminary, but this was not revolutionary in tone but rather based on the social teaching of the Church. Discrepancies between Salazar's corporative state and the principles of a corporative society set out by Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno were, after all, com­ mon subjects of discussion in Church circles in Portu­gal.
At the beginning of 1974 Timorese loyalty to Portugal was therefore negative rather than positive. The bulk of the population, while far from anxious to throw off the Portuguese yoke, would have willingly accepted a form of home rule that did not violate the traditions of the Indonesian Territorial Ambitions in East
past. And these traditions included by now not only vig­ orous indigenous elements but Western civilization in After his visit to Jakarta in June 1974, Jose Ramos its Portuguese form, and Catholic Christianity. As for Horta, one of the ASDT leaders, received from Indone­ the younger generation of Jesuit-educated Timorese sian foreign minister Adam Malik a letter stating that who were beginning to see self-determination as a "the independence of every country is the right of every possibility for their homeland, as long as the ultra­ nation, with no exception for the people in Timor", and conservative Salazar-Caetano regime remained in "whoever will govern in East Timor in the future after power, little could be done to bring about indepen­ independence can be assured that the Government of dence. At the same time, the local intelligentsia could Indonesia will always strive to maintain good relations". hardly remain unaffected by the changes beginning to Indonesia at that time was very proud of its role as the sweep Portugal of which, de jure at least, they were not champion of anti-colonialism in South East Asia. There­ a colony but an integral province.
fore it warmly encouraged any efforts by East Timorese Then in the April of 1974 came the left-wing military to banish the Portuguese from the region.
coup that put an end to the old dictatorship. In order to avoid bloodshed and social violence, the coup leaders But unlike Adam Malik, the military establishment in invited General Antonio Spinola to head the new Jakarta interpreted decolonization in East Timor as the government. In the wake of the so-called Revolucao da integration of the territory with the rest of Indonesia. Flor (Flower Revolution), three main political associ­ Needless to say, as in the case of Western New Guinea, ations were formed in East Timor. The largest of these, which Indonesia took from Holland in 1963, any justifi­ the Uniao Democratica Timorense or UDT, was made up cation for such a solution could only be geographical: in of conservative elements socially and economically race, language, culture and religion the East Timorese identified with the colonial regime. UDT supported Gen­ were manifestly non-Malay. In a bid to bridge this gulf, eral Spinola's scheme for a Portuguese-speaking feder­ the Indonesian government flooded East Timor with pro-Apodeti and pro-Indonesian propaganda.
ation of self-governing states. Next in importance was the more progressive A ssociacao Social Democratica Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's visit to Timorense (ASDT), whose members, like the founders Jakarta in the September of 1974 was to cause great of UDT, were mainly graduates of the Jesuit seminary. alarm in East Timor. President Suharto complained to But there were also a number of members with military Mr. Whitlam that the granting of sovereignty to East backgrounds, men who had been influenced by the Timor would stir up secessionist sentiments in West socialist ideas taught by Portuguese officers in Timor's Irian, and to the delight of the Indonesian military military schools. A third party, the Associacao Popular Whitlam agreed that "an independent East Timor would Democratica Timorense or APODETI actively advocated-union be an unviable state and a potential threat to the area". with Indonesia and had only a very small follow­ And that same September General Spinola resigned, ing, including the tiny Moslem community. The oppor­ dashing all hopes for a Portuguese commonwealth, tunistic nature of Apodeti was evident from the career while the radicals in Lisbon clamoured for Portugal's of its founder, Arnaldo dos Reis Araujo, whom the Por­ immediate withdrawal from her so-called overseas prov­ tuguese had jailed for nine years in 1945 for collabor­ inces. In Timor the new governor, Mario Lemos Pires, ation with the Japanese. The three other small parties set up a committee to supervise the process of deco­ founded at this time, KOTA, the party of the tribal lonization. With the joint prospect of being abandoned chiefs, the Chinese-dominated Association for the by Portugal and then annexed by Moslem Indonesia, Democratic Union of East Timor and Australia, and the the two large Timorese parties hastily changed their pro-Portugal Partido Trabalhista, barely got off the A Fatal Flirtation
that this aggressive approach might shock a conserva­ UDT, diffident towards the new political climate in Por­ tive population into political activism. Once the people tugal, now formally if half-heartedly supported the goal had been won over to the cause, the Marxistic facade of independence. ASDT, more ideologically in tune with could then be cast off, and a genuinely Timorese sol­ the new Lisbon regime, took a stronger anti-colonialist ution to the nation's problems could be sought with full stance and renamed itself Frente Revolucionaria de respect for local tradition.
Timor Leste Independente "R evolutionary Front for an In fairness to Fretilin it must be said that in the Portugal Independent East Tim or", henceforth popularly known of 1974 little in the realm of social or political progress by the acronym FRETILIN. Ostensibly modelled on the could be expected from the now stultified right, and Frelimo party of Mozambique, Fretilin nevertheless some sort of left-turn seemed a prerequisite for the defined itself as a national liberation front drawing achievement of self-determination. On balance, Fretilin together a broad range of political viewpoints. The was probably no more radical in its aims than the inde­ majority of its members were practising Catholics, but it pendence parties of Indonesia or Papua on the eve of now contained an active Marxist minority. The strange their emancipation from colonial rule. Nor should it be political complexion of Fretilin in its early days is best forgotten that one is dealing with a hurriedly improvised summed up by Bill Nicol in his book Timor: The Stillborn independence movement in a third-world colony with no experience of truly representative government and in a state of emergency.
"C a tho lics and M arxists m ake strange bedfellow s. But, in Fretilin, Nevertheless, at a time when South Vietnam and Cam­ bedfellow s th e y were.
bodia had been overrun by Communist forces offering C atholics dom inated the upper echelons o f th e F re tilin hierarchy. Both the peoples they 'liberated' at best the option of 're­ the president, [F ra n cisco ] X a vie r do Am aral, and th e vice-president, education' or extermination, Fretilin's flirtation with N ic o la u Lobato, trained in a Jesuit sem inary in E a st Timor. X a vie r [had also studied fo r the] priest[hood] in M acao. Both m en becam e Marxism was an enormous tactical blunder. It under­ school teachers, although X a vie r later changed jo b s and becam e a standably invited the hostility of UDT and of the custom s official in Dili. In or out o f th e [sem inary], X a vie r and Lobato Church, including the Portuguese Bishop of Dili, Dom continued to be strong believers in both th e C atholic C h urch and the Jose Joaquim Ribeiro, and the Jesuits of the Dare sem­ im age o f God w hich that chu rch sought to project.
inary: according to official Papal teaching Catholics Below them , but still w ith in th e decision-m aking m achinery, w ere the could not actively co-operate in any manner or for what­ M arxists. Two o f th e m ost influential were Roque R odrigues and A n to ­nio [Duarte] C arvarinho. T hey were from th e extrem e left o f th e Portu­ ever reason with Communism. But much more import­ guese political spectrum and represented the m ost m ilitant elem ents in Fretilin. Both held strong M arxist views, in clu d in g a b elief that anti Communist paranoia and the perfect excuse for the religion w as an opiate w hich kept th e m asses oblivious to th e ir exploi­ aggressively expansionist republic to intervene in East tation. T hey w ere outspoken in th e ir condem nation o f th e role played Timor. It will be remembered that Indonesia's President by th e C atholic C h urch in aiding and abetting Portuguese colonialism in E a st Timor.
Suharto had come to power in 1965 as a result of a A lthough X a vie r and Lobato w ere th e m se lve s c ritica l o f th e ir church's bloody purge of left-wing elements in the Sukarno colonial role, they rem ained sensitive to any m ore general critic ism of government, and many thousands of innocent Indone­ th e R om an faith. Indeed, both wanted to m ake an independent East sians and Chinese had been murdered in army- Tim or a C atholic nation.
conducted anti Communist pogroms. Since that time all No C om m unists held executive positions in Fretilin. T he p a rty's large opponents to Suharto's authoritarian regime were auto­ m oderate C atholic m ajority saw to that. T he com m unists w ere greatly matically labelled 'Communists'.
outnum bered. There were no m ore th a n seven in th e w hole p a rty, a mere handful com pared w ith th e 50 or 60 C atholics active in th e Freti­lin leadership. N evertheless, th e com m unists did play an im p orta n t p a rt." (pp. 94, 102) Fretilin may have begun as a broad patriotic front whose middle-aged Catholic leaders differed from the members of UDT only in their rather more progressive outlook and commitment to reform. But being pragma­ tists with little interest in ideology, they allowed them­ selves to be influenced by the Marxist minority within the party. Or more exactly, by Rodrigues and Car­varinho, who were 24 and 23 years of age respectively, and had just emerged from Lisbon's radical student milieu. Rodrigues, moreover, had done his military ser­ vice in Mozambique, where he had fraternized with Fre­limo guerrillas and embraced their Maoist philosophy. The Fretilin leadership's imprudent indulgence of these two immature radicals was to prove fatal. For Xavier and Lobato naively allowed Rodrigues and Carvarinho to impose on their party a whole range of Marxist trap­ pings that obscured the basically democratic principles of Fretilin: such things as revolutionary rhetoric, the Communist clenched-fist salute, the labelling of all anti- Fretilin Timorese as 'traitors', painted slogans reading morte aos traidores ('death to traitors') and independen- cia ou morte ('independence or death'), the adoption of the title 'comrade', and combining Frelimo-style uni­forms with an unkempt appearance. At the time the initially reluctant Fretilin leadership probably thought The Civil War and FRETILIN'S victory
Finally, responding to Indonesia's threat to intervene
militarily if Fretilin gained power, the new UDT leader
Joao Carrascalao launched on 11 August a coup against Fretilin. A bitter civil war ensued, and since the local Timorese militia was mainly pro-Fretilin, Portugal was obliged to send a peace-keeping force to the terri­ tory. At the end of the month, Governor Lemos Pires withdrew with his staff to the offshore island of Ataúro, and ignored requests from the Fretilin leadership to return and help direct the process of decolonization over a period of five years. Among the several thousand East Timorese who fled across the border during the hostilities were prominent UDT supporters, some of whom were denied food and aid by the Indonesian authorities until they signed petitions for Indonesia's Indonesia Plans an Invasion
annexation of their homeland.
Immediately after the Whitlam visit in September, Indonesian state radio began branding UDT as 'Fascist' About 1, 500 Timorese, mainly activists in the warring and Fretilin as 'Communist', and urged Indonesians to parties, had perished when the civil war came to an end "assist the struggle of Apodeti". Propaganda broad­ in September. Fretilin emerged as the victor and estab­ casts in Tetum and other local dialects were beamed lished a provisional government, the flag of the now daily into the Portuguese territory from West Timor. departed Portuguese being flown in the meantime. Apodeti members were invited to Indonesia for military After the cessation of hostilities, Fretilin impressed training in preparation for an eventual invasion. Then, foreign visitors with their good sense and moderation in in early December, Foreign Minister Malik dispelled any the restoration of civil order. The exclusion of Commu­ remaining doubts about Indonesia's intentions by nist elements from the decision-making process served announcing that independence was not an option for to rally the bulk of the population. Nevertheless, accu­ sations of formal Marxism continued in the international In January 1975 UDT and Fretilin united in a coalition to press, and Fretilin invited Australian and Indonesian delegations to visit Dili on a fact-finding mission. The press for independence, a sufficient indication of the invitations were ignored. James Dunn commented that Timorese conservatives' belief at this stage that the rival party was basically Catholic and that its Marxist elements could be contained. Predictably, Indonesia stepped up its propaganda, accusing the coalition of "[Fretilin's] administrative structure had obvious shortcomings, but it anti-Indonesian activities in connivance with foreign clearly enjoyed widespread support from the population, including powers and alleging that they had inaugurated a "reign many hitherto UDT supporters. In October, Australian relief workers of terror" in Dili. As the invasion plans progressed, a visited most parts of the colony, and, without exception, they reported that there was no evidence of hostility towards Fretilin. Indeed, the new road was built linking Kupang, the capital of West leaders of the victorious party were welcomed warmly and sponta­ Timor, with the border.
neously in all main centres by crowds of Timorese. In my long associ­ Having realized that Apodeti was a lost cause, the ation with the territory, I had never witnessed such demonstrations of spontaneous warmth and support from the indigenous population." Indonesian government decided on a new 'divide and conquer' approach, and the following April it separately invited representatives of the two pro-independence parties to Jakarta. The whole subversion campaign was While there is little likelihood that Indonesia really con­ given the code-name Operasi Komodo and was the
sidered Fretilin a full-blown Marxist movement, the brain-child of General Ali Murtopo. Suharto's govern­ ment played on the UDT leaders' fear of Communism, Communist influence that left-wing elements in Aust­ feeding their resentment of Portugal's two military advisers in Timor, Majors Francisco Mota and Costa independent East Timor. In September West Timor was Jonatas, who had apparently been encouraging the rad­ closed to foreign journalists. By October the success of ical wing of Fretilin. At this time UDT president Fran­ the Fretilin government had provoked the Indonesians cisco Lopes da Cruz actually went over to the into making bombing raids on the villages on the East Indonesian side, and when his duplicity was dis­ Timorese side of the border. During these incursions covered, his colleagues distanced themselves from five Australian journalists were murdered at Balibo by him. On their return to Dili, the UDT delegation Indonesian troops. Although the Whitlam government announced their party's withdrawal from the coalition had full knowledge of the killings, it declined to make and began openly denouncing Fretilin as a 'Communist any protest for fear of harming relations with Indonesia. movement'. But in the meantime UDT was rapidly Then, with the fall of the strategic village of Atabae to losing the support of the poor rural population, most of Indonesian forces the following month, Fretilin hastily whom were now siding with Fretilin, whose activists had declared the Democratic Republic of East Timor on 29 begun conducting successful literacy and health November 1975. Three members of the new govern­ schemes in the villages. The more progressive national­ ment left for New York on a mission to seek the protec­ ist party, favouring self-reliance, had announced econ­ tion of the United Nations and the United States. But omic and agrarian reforms that would lead to a more the next day the remnants of UDT and Apodeti pro­ equitable distribution of wealth through the co-operative claimed the integration of East Timor with Indonesia, system. By contrast, the more privileged elements in and Indonesia has ever since claimed this statement by UDT insisted on the maintenance of the colonial econ­ national renegades as an act of self-determination by the East Timorese people.
chamber. In Dili the national poet Francisco Borja da The invasion of tiny East Timor by Indonesia, a nation Costa was tortured, mutilated and shot by Indonesian of 150 million, began on 7 December 1975. It was car­ soldiers. Timorese Chinese, immediately suspected of ried out with the blessing of the United States, which Maoist subversion by the invaders, suffered particularly was Indonesia's main supplier of arms at the time. The severely. During that bloody December eight out of appearance of Indonesian battleships, bombers, para­ every ten Chinese male inhabitants of Dili were slaugh­ troopers and marines plunged the whole country into a horrendous bloodbath in which civilians suffered no In East Timor the Javanese soldiery developed a num­ less than nationalist troops. The next day was the ber of favourite methods for pacifying the local 'commu­ Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal nists' and 'infidels'. Men and boys were dealt with by feast of the diocese and a national holiday in East being tormented with cigarettes and razor blades and Timor. As a prelude to their so-called liberation of the having their genitals burnt away with alcohol and province, the Indonesians broadcast the following candlelight. Men found guilty of aiding the resistance message over Radio Dili: fighters often had their faces smashed with bricks before being shot, their corpses being publicly burned "W e com e not to kill you but to give you freedom from th e Fretilin with wood which their assembled relatives and friends com m unist clutches. C om e to us. Don't be a fra id . O therw ise you will be k ille d ".
were forced to collect. There were cases of men being dropped alive out of helicopters, villagers tied up and And killed they were. Although the Indonesians crushed by tanks, and Timorese being forced at gun­ announced themselves as a liberation and peace­ point to commit atrocities against their own people. keeping force, their mainly Javanese troops had been Married women, before being raped and shot, were briefed for all-out war. It has been reliably reported that made to witness the torture of their husbands; the more the more educated soldiers were instructed beforehand attractive the woman, the more likely she was to meet that the East Timorese people were all Communists and this fate. In the Builico district, young girls, after being had to be treated like the Indonesian Communists anni­ subjected to orgies of pack rape, were taken to a well- hilated in 1965, while the more ignorant Moslem troops known precipice, stabbed and thrown down while still were prepared for a jihad or holy war against an inferior alive. Captured Fretilin supporters including boys were Christian breed. The more infidels destroyed, the commonly impaled and left to die in the sun, while greater a soldier's merit in heaven. Unless Indonesian snapshots taken by Indonesian soldiers on active ser­ servicemen are to be dismissed as utter barbarians, vice in Timor show them proudly displaying war tro­ only this indoctrination can explain the complete aban­ phies: the severed heads of freedom-fighters.
don with which they conducted themselves in East Whenever reprisals were taken against a village, the About 90% of the population with whom the Indone­ local church was invariably desecrated and burned. Kill­ sians came into contact in the initial and bloodiest ings frequently took place in or outside churches, and it phase of the invasion were Catholics. Anyone who has was standard procedure to use the churches as prisons the stomach to read the full account of the Indonesian to hold condemned villagers before their execution. atrocities can peruse Amnesty International's official One of the Catholic priests of Dili estimated that over report, but it will suffice here to mention some typical 2, 000 of the 10, 000 inhabitants had been slaughtered incidents and subjugation techniques. In the first days during the first few days of the invasion, adding that the of the invasion twenty-seven Dili women, some of them Indonesian excesses were far worse than those of the clutching children, were lined up on the wharf. The Dili Japanese occupation. After each day of killing, the wharf was directly opposite the bishop's residence. The Indonesian soldiers would round up Timorese girls and Indonesians tore the crying children from their mothers take them aboard the battleships in Dili harbour to help and passed them back to the crowd, who were forced to them celebrate their victory. Looting of churches, public count aloud as the women were shot one by one.
buildings and private houses was rife all over the prov­ince, and ships were provided for the Indonesian In the mountains whole families and communities were soldiers to send home their spoils.
put to death on reports that they had given food to Freti­lin soldiers. When the Indonesians took the Fretilin-held villages of Remexio and Aileu, the entire populations, except children under the age of four, were shot because they were "infected with the seeds of Fretilin". The spared infants were bundled aboard lorries and The Church Defends the Maubere
then shipped to Java, where the wife of President When senior Church officials begged Colonel Kalbuadi Suharto and the charitable ladies of Jakarta set up an Dading to enforce some discipline among his troops orphanage for the little victims of Fretilin terror. The and stop the indiscriminate killings, they were con­ little victims, never repatriated, were brought up as temptuously told: "This is war, and people get killed in wars". Nor was there any action on the part of General A large group of women arbitrarily locked up in a Dili Benny Murdani, the overseer of the whole invasion, a warehouse were kept naked all the time, and when they practising Catholic and a friend of the Papal Nuncio in were finally released, nearly all of them were pregnant Jakarta. Though an outspoken opponent of Fretilin, to their Indonesian guards. On 28 May 1976 sixty-seven Bishop Ribeiro sent in early 1976 a strong letter of pro­ young men were shot in the southern town of Suai for test to the lndonesian government, saying in relation to protesting to the Indonesian commander about the rape Fretilin that "your Indonesian troops with their murder­ of their sisters and fiancees. At the Ermera concen­ ing, looting and raping are one thousand times worse". tration camp, four men and two pregnant women were Referring to the slaughter that he had witnessed in Dili, burnt alive between 8 and 9 October, 1976. The island Mgr. Ribeiro recalled how the Indonesian paratroopers of Ataúro, where political offenders were confined in "had floated down from the heavens like angels and huge numbers, reportedly became one big torture- then behaved like demons".
Inland there are countless tanks and armoured cars. The Indonesian troops in Timor might now be fifty thousand. [.] From last December the war was intensified. The war planes don't stop all day long. There are hundreds of human beings dying daily. The bodies are food for the vultures. If bullets don't kil us we die from epidemic diseases, vil­ lages completely destroyed.
The war is entering its third year and it seems it won't stop soon. The barbarities (understandable in the Stone Age), the cruelties, the thefts, the firing squads without any justification, are now part of everyday life in Timor. The insecurity is total and the terror of being arrested is our daily bread. (I'm on the list of personae non gratae; any day they might make me disappear).
Fretilin troops who surrender are shot dead. For them there are no jails. The genocide will be soon. The tragedy is that the world ignores us. We are on the way to genocide. (AGIIET, pp. 72-3).
In October 1977 another Catholic priest m anaged to have sm uggled out of Timor a letter which found its way to the East Timor Association in Melbourne. "In East Timor", wrote this missionary, " . the violence of these 'friends', the Indonesians, continues to intensify, with all sorts of dire consequences. A barbarous genocide of innocent people goes on, apparently with complete peace of con­ science. East Timor is being wiped out by an invasion, a brutal conquest that produces numberless corpses, maimed men and women and orphaned children. Consciences are kept at peace by claiming. that the people of Timor are 'communists'. Even if they were communists, they would have a right to live. That is why I ask you to pray a lot. There are many attacks and many dead. Of course, many die on the Indonesian side also. and so do not forget these people; pray also for the people of Indonesia. It is very sad to see the lack of concern of the Indonesians here, given the heavy responsi­ bility that falls on them. We will have a new bishop soon in Timor. The present one cannot take it any more. He is tired. He sees everything Unfortunately, b ecau se of their earlier flirtation with reduced to ashes; all the values are shattered, and Christian family a sp ects of Marxism, Fretilin had incurred the hostility of life is destroyed. Pray, pray hard for the Timorese" (AGIIET, p. 72).
conservatives throughout the world, including many Catholics. Right-wing groups who' supported the anti Communist stan ce of the Suharto regime were th ere ­fore disposed to believe its claim that the number of casualties in East Timor - placed a s high a s 100, 000 by Fretilin supporters - had been wildly exaggerated. On 30 March 1977 Foreign Minister Malik proved the sceptics wrong when he admitted to foreign newsm en: "Fifty thousand people or p erh aps eighty thousand might have been killed during the war in Timor". But, he added, "It w as w a r . Then what is the big fu ss? " Moreover, the Indonesian Catholic delegation who had visited the conquered territory in Septem ber 1976 had noted that: "According to reports, sixty thousand people had been killed during the war. We found this figure rather high, because it means ten per cent of the total population of East Timor. But when asked, two priests in Dili replied that, according to their estimate, the figure of people killed may reach one hundred thousand". (AGIIET, p. 70) Throughout this nightm are the Tim orese people turned to Catholic priests and nuns for so lace and support against the invader. The clergy, in turn, forgot their ear­lier antagonism towards Fretilin and cam e to se e them as the only cham pions of the M aubere. Several priests risked their lives travelling to Fretilin-held a re a s to administer the sacram ents to the guerillas and their families. In November 1977, two nuns were allowed to leave Timor for Portugal, and they took with them a let­ ter from one of th e s e priests to his superiors. In it the priest chronicled the events he had w itnessed:"[T]he war. goes on with the same initial fury. Fretilin goes on fight­ ing despite famine, sickness, death and the crisis in the leadership that happened in the last couple of months. The invaders have inten­ sified their attacks in the three classic ways, by land, sea and air. From 7 December till February 1976 there were anchored in Dili har­bour twenty-three warships which bombarded the hills around Dili twenty-four hours a day. The helicopters — eight to twelve — and the warplanes — four of them — were flying all over Timor.
Bishop Belo, Bishop of Dili and Apostolic Administrator Genocide in Indonesia's 'Twenty-Seventh
A Church of Solidarity
When a heartbroken Bishop Ribeiro returned to Portu­ Within six months of the invasion practically the entire gal in 1977, his place was taken by Timorese Mgr. Martinho leadership of Fretilin had been captured and killed. The da Costa Lopes. Though a bishop, the new head corpse of Nicolau Lobato was flown to Jakarta and dis­ of the local Church was named only Apostolic Adminis­ played on national television. Despite the fact that on trator by the Vatican. By excluding him from the Indone­ 12 December 1975 the General Assembly of the United sian Episcopal Conference and making him directly Nations had called on Indonesia to withdraw from East responsible to the Holy See, the Vatican was able to Timor, the territory was proclaimed Indonesia's 'twenty- support East Timor's claim to self-determination. The seventh province' on 17 July 1976, and a new puppet Catholic Church thus became the freest institution in administration formed with Timorese renegades was East Timor, and a natural rallying point for the popu­ headed by former UDT leader Lopes da Cruz and KOTA lation. Mgr. da Costa Lopes proved to be a courageous chief Jose Martins. Most of the member states of the defender of his flock, and his constant protests to the United Nations have ever since regarded the Indone­ Indonesian authorities made him a target for official sian annexation of East Timor as illegal. The exceptions slander and intimidation. As for the thousand or so free­ have been mainly Moslem countries, though the first dom fighters in the mountains among the Acting foreign power to recognize Indonesian claims (on 20 Bishop's flock, Dom Martinho was well aware of the January 1978) was the Australian Liberal government of baselessness of charges that they were Communists. Malcolm Fraser. This decision was taken by Canberra He would later state in a 1983 interview that "Fretilin is only months after James Dunn had presented to the the only group fighting for the people, and that earns it government his detailed dossier on the Indonesian the sympathy of the whole population".
atrocities in East Timor. On 3 December that year Aus­ tralian authorities ordered the destruction of Fretilin's In 1981 Bishop da Costa Lopes protested vehemently last radio link with Darwin, thus plunging the occupied to President Suharto after 'Operation Security'. In the territory into complete isolation.
April of that year, all business and schools in the prov­ ince had been closed for several days, and 50, 000 men As a result of the first massacres in Dili and the other and boys were conscripted to march in groups of twelve towns, most of the surviving population, accompanied in front of Indonesian troops into Fretilin-held areas. by their priests, fled into the mountainous interior still This strategy, nicknamed 'the fence of legs', prevented held by Fretilin forces. Within two years, however, food the guerillas from attacking the Indonesians, and supplies were exhausted, and starving people streamed numerous atrocities were then committed against the back down to the lowlands. On surrendering to Indone­ women and children found in the Fretilin villages. The sian troops they were placed in so-called resettlement traumatized conscripts reported to Dom Martinho such camps. Church sources state that the shortage of food horrific scenes as pregnant women being cut open, and and medical supplies and aid was, through deliberate babies being seized by the feet and smashed against Indonesian negligence, so acute that the compounds trees and rocks. Suharto was infuriated by the episco­ were little more than death camps. All foreigners, pal intervention and veiled threats were made to the including relief missions, were barred from entering the Vatican. Diplomatic tension eventually culminated in the territory, and most food and other supplies sent to East forced resignation of Mgr da Costa Lopes the following Timor by the Red Cross and other charitable organiza­ year. During the ensuing crackdown on Catholic tions abroad ended up in the hands of the Indonesian opposition to the occupation, over 600 people simply troops, who consumed them or sold them in shops. disappeared between August and December in Dili Photos smuggled out of Timor at this time show that the alone, and even though their distressed families were famine experienced there was as severe as that of Bia- informed that they had been sent to Bali, they were fra. As for the destruction of families, in 1978 the never seen again.
Governor of East Timor reported that the war had left20, 000 orphans and 11, 000 abandoned children.
It must be admitted that since the annexation of East By 1980 the number of East Timorese who had died Timor, Indonesia has poured a good deal of money into from execution or starvation since December 1975 was the province, improving agriculture, industry, roads, well over 150, 000. Official statistics speak for them­ communications and educational and medical facilities. selves. According to the last census conducted by the Since the introduction of Indonesian public education Catholic Church in 1974, the population of East Timor the illiteracy rate has fallen from 92% in 1975 to 20%. was approximately 680, 000. In 1980 the Indonesian But nationalist hardliners object that these improve­ census counted only 555, 350 persons in the territory, a ments have been made in the interests of the Indone­ staggering decrease of some 125, 000. While admitting sian army and colonists, and it is certainly true that for that many civilians, especially women and children, per­ the ordinary people these material benefits are meagre ished during the 'pacification' between 1975 and 1976, compensation for the terror of the invasion period and Indonesia has made the unsupported claim that the the police-state atmosphere in which they have to live. earlier Church census was inaccurate and that the Even the present Governor of East Timor, UDT founder population of East Timor in 1975 was far below Mario Viegas Carrascalao, admitted in early 1991 dur­ 600, 000. They have also exaggerated the extent of the ing discussions with a visiting Australian parliamen­ exodus of refugees into West Timor and abroad. But tarian, Mr. Garrie Gibson, that "his efforts to rebuild the when one takes into account that the first Indonesian economic and social fabric of East Timor were con­ census included Indonesian troops and personnel num­ stantly undermined by the brutal repression of the bering over 40, 000, and given the unceasing killings Indonesian military" (OU, p. 38).
that have taken place since 1980, Timorese claims of having now lost a third of their population begin to ring Frustrated by the failure of 'Operation Smile', a new true. In any case, even the lowest Indonesian figure, conquest of hearts policy, the dreaded Indonesian that of 50, 000 Timorese deaths by 1977 would be a secret police (INTEL) soon reverted to their terrorist tac­ truly shocking record.
tics. There were of course no brakes on their activities in a province which remained closed to foreigners until unknown and unwanted. Not only do the clergy set high 1989. Church missionary bulletins confirm a recrudes­ standards, but the average Timorese knows that the cence of the harassment of East Timorese civilians in only institution really concerned for his physical, moral the late 1980s. According to these reports the army was and spiritual welfare and the champion of his rights is particularly adept at exploiting women to weaken the the Catholic Church, the focus of national identity. (This nationalist resolve of the men in pro-Fretilin areas. One is also a church which today cares for 40, 000 orphans). exiled parish priest spoke of soldiers entering houses at When the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima toured night-time and asking to see particular women not even the province in the Holy Year 1983, there was enor­ connected with Fretilin who would then be taken away mous popular response, and the rate of conversions in jeeps and hours later returned to their families peaked. Yet the diocese of Dili with its 23 parishes severely beaten. Usually no reason was given for this today is still desperately short of priests: in 1991 there arbitrary abuse. Women whose husbands were in the were 50 of them: only 6 more than in 1974 when the local prison for pro-independence activities would be Catholic population was much smaller. Similarly the forced into compromising or obscene poses with other number of nuns in the diocese has fallen from 49 to 45. men and photographed. The photographs would then There are, however, 1, 011 catechists active in the dio­ be sent to their imprisoned husbands as a form of cese at present, as opposed to the 37 assisting the psychological torture. Families of individuals who had clergy before the invasion.
disappeared sometimes received unsigned demands for ransoms which they had no hope of paying. And it was quite common for priests who dared to protest against such outrages to be beaten and tortured in the The 'Christian Problem' in Timor Timur
course of long and gruelling interrogations.
Although the secular-minded Indonesian government is motivated by political pragmatism rather than by religious prejudice ( - most Indonesians outside Java are only nominal Moslems —), it has watched with dis­ may the progressive christianization of East Timor A Miracle of Grace
where the Catholic faith and Maubere nationalism now The blood of martyrs may be the seed of Christians, but go hand in hand. The government has therefore not it is equally true that the work of evangelization pro­ hesitated to exploit the Islamic fundamentalism it gresses best wherever the Church identifies itself with officially condemns to suit its ends. The harsh treatment the just aspirations and, especially, the sufferings of of the East Timorese by Indonesia must be measured individual peoples. One need only compare the relative against the high proportion of practising Javanese success of the 'Church of solidarity' in Ireland, Poland Moslems in the 445, 000-strong Indonesian armed or the Western Ukraine with its relative failure in coun­ forces (ABRI) and the enormous influence of the mili­ tries like Austria, Hungary and Bohemia where it tary hierarchy on government policy. Throughout the aligned itself with a pseudo Catholic and oppressive province Catholic religious services are conducted secular power. In Timor the Catholic Church had made under strict military surveillance, and soldiers armed so little headway before 1950 because of its identifi­ with machine-guns standing at the back of churches are cation with an alien power that cared little for the vital a common sight. Army attacks on the faithful at Catholic interests of the people. In 1975 still only 30% of the gatherings, such as the beatings of worshippers during population was baptized, but under the leadership of the Golden Anniversary Mass in Dili on 4 September Mgr. da Costa Lopes and of his young Salesian suc­ 1990, have become frequent occurrences.
cessor, Mgr. Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, at least 90% Besides menacing behaviour and outbursts of violence of the native population were outwardly practising the from an exasperated army of occupation, the govern­ Catholic faith by 1990. Admittedly this seemingly mir­ ment has tried to deal with the Christian problem in its aculous trebling of conversions was partly in response rebellious 27th province through more peaceful means, to the Indonesians' habit of branding as a Communist for example 'transmigration': encouraging Moslem and social enemy anyone who did not profess one of Indonesians to settle in the territory, and erecting the five religions recognized by the state. But the high mosques at the taxpayers' expense wherever a new rate of church attendance in the new Christian districts Catholic church or chapel is built. Today 10% of the suggests a serious and sincere commitment.
population of Timor Timur (some 100, 000) and 20% of the inhabitants of Dili are Indonesian Moslems, who That these mass conversions have not been merely pol­ control business and administration and form the new itical acts in a heady climate of liberation theology is social elite in the province. Bishop Belo has deplored also indicated by the unusually conservative nature of how "They come off every boat. In ten years Dili will the East Timorese Church. There is no similarity cease to be a Timorese town, if things go on as they between the diocese of Dili, remarkable for its ortho­ are". Non-Timorese 'transmigrants' receive preferential doxy of belief and practice, and the radical base com­ treatment in government offices and hospitals, while the munities of the Philippines or Latin America. Even discrimination suffered by the native Timorese discour­ today, for a priest to make any impact on Maubere ages most from trying to take advantage of the existing society he must be seen to devote himself primarily to social services and applying for the better jobs. his sacred functions and carefully avoid cultivating the Governor Carrascalao himself has complained to modern secular image that now tends to characterize foreign visitors that there is little hope of employment at the Catholic clergy elsewhere (ETII, pp. 32-3). Conse­ home for graduates of the province's higher education quently in East Timor priests and nuns wear full religious dress, the traditional catechism is taught, Indonesia has also severely restricted the entry of people are trained to behave reverently in church, and foreign missionaries into the country. Most of the such innovations as Communion in the hand, lay minis­ teachers in the schools attended by Catholic children ters of the Eucharist and general absolutions are are Moslem Indonesians, and the only permitted language of instruction is Bahasa Indonesia. All school­ also had mixed feelings about Pope John Paul II's Octo­ children are indoctrinated in the five principles of ber 1989 visit to Dili in the context of his Indonesian Indonesian nationalism (Panca Sila), and in society gen­ tour, an act that could be - and was - interpreted as erally even the speaking of Portuguese by those who acceptance of Indonesia's annexation of East Timor. An remember it is strongly discouraged, sometimes with earlier statement by a Vatican spokesman to the effect threats of punishment. There is, however, strong pass­ that the Holy See's relations with Indonesia could not ive resistance to these policies, and indeed attempts to be jeopardized for the sake of a few hundred thousand seduce the semi Catholic rural Timorese into the Catholics in Timor did little to reassure the people.
Islamic fold have been largely doomed to failure. At the outdoor Papal Mass the principal decorations Missionaries relate that when the typical tribesman is were giant posters of President Suharto and the Pope told by the Indonesians that as a Moslem he will be side by side, while the Timorese worshippers held up allowed to take several wives, he shows some initial crucifixes and photographs of their murdered or van­ interest. But when his proselytizer goes on to explain ished loved ones. The Pope's compliance with the that Moslems are forbidden to eat pork, the favourite Indonesian demand that he address the congregation in fare of the Maubere, the pagan Timorese sends him on English rather than in Portuguese, which he knows, also drew unfavourable comment. But when, in the The Church has reacted to Indonesianization by teach­ course of his address, the Pope called on the Timorese ing Portuguese in after-school classes, and has to reconcile themselves with their rulers, the disappoint­ retained Portuguese as the official language of the ment erupted into a pro-independence demonstration Church. When, in 1981, the government tried to force immediately answered by brutal beatings by plain­ the diocese to replace Portuguese with Indonesian in clothes police planted among the worshippers. The church services, Mgr. da Costa Lopes obtained per­ Holy Father was obviously in a very delicate position, mission from Rome for the liturgical use of Tetum. In but his actions, or rather lack of action, seemed in stark 1985 the Council of Priests complained that "an contrast with his administrative policy in regard to the attempt to Indonesianize the Timorese p e o p le . diocese of Dili.
means the gradual murder of Timorese culture. To kill After this public manifestation of discontent with the culture is to kill the people". The people, for their Indonesian rule, there was a marked increase military part, have reacted to Indonesianization not only by crimes against the civilian population. British journalist deepening their Catholic faith, but by having large fam­ Hugh O'Shaughnessy reported after a tour of East ilies averaging ten children. In so doing their double Timor in March 1991 that the torture with razor blades aim is to hinder transmigration, and to make up for the used during the original invasion had recently come population losses of the 1970s and early 1980s. (The back into vogue with the Javanese soldiers. Mr. illegal annexation of East Timor has been disastrous in O'Shaughnessy was also informed by a priest of the human terms for Indonesia as well: according to some diocese how one of his parishioners, a girl of seven­ estimates as many as 20, 000 Indonesian soldiers have teen, had been arrested, pack-raped and tortured by been killed in active service in the province since 1975 the local garrison. When her distraught relatives found - ET, p. 6).
her body, her breasts and genitals had been cut off and stuffed into her mouth.
A Lonely Struggle
Today there is a small minority of mainly Indonesian
The Santa Cruz Massacre
priests who collaborate with the authorities, and until The most recent anti Catholic outrage, the Santa Cruz the tragic events of last November Dom Carlos Belo massacre of 12 November last year, has led not only and the majority of the clergy loyal to him often criti­ Rome but the whole world to reassess the situation in cized what they saw as Rome's vacillating attitude to East Timor. Since Indonesia's illegal occupation of Por­ the plight of the Maubere. In July 1981 the Catholic tugal's former colony in 1975 and the 1983 United clergy of East Timor issued the following statement: Nations resolution for a settlement of the East Timorese question, Lisbon had been negotiating with Jakarta to "W e do not understand w hy th e Indonesian C h u rch and the universal R om an Church have up till now not stated openly and officially th e ir allow a Portuguese parliamentary delegation to visit s olidarity w ith the C hurch, people and religious of E a st Tim or. P er­ occupied East Timor. These negotiations had dragged haps th is w as the heaviest blow fo r us. We felt stunned by th is on until September 1991, when Indonesia finally agreed silence that seem ed to allow us to die d e se rte d ". (C om m ent 1985, p. to admit the proposed Portuguese delegation the follow­ ing November. However, on 21 October, Bishop Belo To their credit, the Catholic bishops of Indonesia over­ reported on Portuguese radio that in the lead-up to the came their initial hesitation to speak out, and at con­ Visit the Timorese people were being subjected to siderable risk to themselves condemned the atrocities threats of dire reprisals by the Indonesian army. The and violation of human rights in East Timor in a state­ aim of this intimidation campaign was obviously to pre­ ment of 1983.
vent the Maubere from publicly voicing grievances with Indonesian military rule and their aspirations to self­ The Vatican, however, appeared less sympathetic. In determination. Clare Dixon, an English Catholic aid March 1989 Bishop Belo petitioned the Secretary Gen­ worker, was in East Timor at the time and recalled how eral of the United Nations for a self-determination refer­endum in East Timor. The pro-nuncio in Jakarta, " O n a visit to a provincial tow n, I received a m essage from a com ­ Archbishop Francesco Canalini, immediately repu­ m un ity o f sisters w ith w hom I w as to spend the night. T he y begged diated the letter, saying that the Vatican could not agree me not to go to th e ir convent or try to m ake contact w ith them as they were too frightened o f reprisals from the m ilitary if th e y were seen with its contents. And this in spite of the fact that the talking to a foreigner. The priests th ere to ld m e th a t 'their graves were Indonesian Primate, Archbishop Soekoto, was publicly ready' if th e y trie d to m ake contact w ith th e P o rtuguese d e le g a tio n " supporting the aims of Mgr. Belo. The Timorese clergy (Tim or Link, Feb. 1992, p. 8).
Kirsty Sword, an Australian researcher on East Timor, East Timor as a sign of support for Mgr. Ximenes Belo similarly reported in September an incident in the and to assist his Church through the crisis. "W e con­ mountain village of Nahareka near Viqueque where tinue to die as a nation", lamented Dom Carlos in his Indonesian Battalion 406 had actually threatened to kill Christmas message, "W e are living in fear, not peace. every Timorese aged between ten and forty-five if they We suffer, hate, weep and lose hope".
made any 'tro u b le ' during the visit. Alarmed by such developments and discouraged by the other difficulties Jakarta was placing in the way of the delegation, Portu­ gal called off the visit on 24 October. The Indonesian army, for its part, announced the end of 'Operation Unbroken in Spirit
Smile' and the inauguration of 'Operation Combat'.
East Timor's courageous bishop stated recently that in spite of repeated threats against him, he was deter­ Mgr. Belo's worst fears were confirmed on 28 October, mined to stand by his people in their just struggle for when Indonesian police stormed the m o te l parish freedom and would "suffer in joy" with them. This was church in Dili and shot dead two young Timorese not mere rhetoric on his part, for there is still no end in patriots who had taken sanctuary there. Then, on 12 sight to Indonesia's campaign to destroy the Maubere November, after a memorial Mass for one of the vic­ as a nation. The bulk of the rural population have been tims, Sebastiao Gomes Rangel, the military opened fire herded out of their traditional villages and placed in on a crowd of several thousand worshippers at Santa resettlement camps. As for Dili and the towns, house-to- Cruz cemetery and gunned down over 100 men, house searches have become regular occurrences. women and children. Another 200 or so were wounded. Country markets are forbidden and travel permits are The victims were immediately buried by the soldiers in now required for Timorese wanting to travel within the an unmarked common grave. After the massacre Dom province. While Indonesian transmigrants pour into Carlos sheltered 257 Timorese students in his house. Timor Timur, pregnant Catholic women are coerced into He also risked his life personally accompanying the having abortions, while others are given forced injec­ more frightened ones back to their homes.
tions of the harmful contraceptive Depo-Provera or fit­ An additional 5, 000 Indonesian troops were rushed to ted with the equally dangerous Norplant contraceptive East Timor to back up the force of 25, 000 already implant. Last December the Indonesian army shut down stationed there to 'keep order'. Further outbreaks of the Liceu Sao Jose in Dili, the last private school in military violence against civilians quickly followed all East Timor offering a syllabus of instruction in Portu­ over the province, and hundreds of Maubere were guese (for which indiscretion it had been starved of arrested and 'interrogated'. Three days after the mass­ essential government funding). Finally, with the intro­ acre eighty young inhabitants of Be-Mussi who had duction last July of Indonesian agrarian law in place of been present at Santa Cruz cemetery were rounded up the old Portuguese land regulations, Maubere peasants and shot by Indonesian soldiers. The female victims not already in resettlement camps are being deprived of were raped in front of the men, then stripped naked and their hereditary land, while the position of the transmi­ blindfolded for execution. On 17 'November the militia grants is consolidated. Both the Church and Governor returned to Be-Mussi and shot ten witnesses to this kill­ Carrascalao have protested in vain against this "sec­ ing, and among the seven more villagers murdered two ond invasion".
days later were two children, aged one and five. East Timorese youth studying at various Indonesian univer­ The present plight of Mgr. Belo's flock, a Catholic min­ sities were subjected to surveillance, detention and tor­ ority in a largely Islamic society, is no different from that ture, and the Indonesian Episcopal Conference set the of the Copts in Egypt or the Aramaic-speaking Chris­ figure of Maubere civilians who 'disappeared' after 12 tians of Iraq. It was summed up a few months ago by an November as high as ninety. For weeks the inhabitants Indian journalist in Dili who wrote that: of Dili were terrorized at night by violent street gangs made up of off-duty Indonesian soldiers.
Thirteen survivors of the Santa Cruz massacre were M uslim -dom inated Indonesia the te rrito ry o f 750, 000 people who are detained to be tried for subversion, a charge that nor­ m ainly dark-skinned, pa ssio n ate ly C atholic, and w hose c u ltu ra l o ut­look is still oriented to w a rd s P o rtu g a l" (MET, p. 4).
mally brings the death penalty in Indonesia. General Try Sutrisno, head of the Indonesian armed forces, was unrepentant when news of the killings provoked inter­national outrage. Only nineteen people had died, he If in East Timor today Fretilin and the FALINTIL guer­ claimed, and he accused the Catholic Church of having rillas led by Alexandre ('Xanana') Gusmao are a spent provoked the incident. "These despicable people must force in no position to liberate the country from Indone­ be shot", he told a group of military graduates in sian rule, their continued resistance has great symbolic Jakarta two days later. When the government promised value for the mass of the people who remain unbroken an investigation, Sutrisno confidently remarked that in spirit. Such was the impression of Mr. Paddy Ken "O nce the investigation is accomplished, we will wipe neally, an Irish Australian World War II veteran who out all separatist elements who have tainted the govern­ visited East Timor again in 1990: ment's policy". President Suharto's removal of two lower-ranking officers involved in the outrage failed to chasten their superiors, who predicted that the United "In East T im o r I saw a population of se co n d-cla ss c itize n s, pickin g up States, which had done nothing about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Peking, was scarcely likely to intervene in East Timor.
run a business, w ith any pro te st re s u ltin g in arrest, be a ting s and to r­ The shock of the Santa Cruz massacre stirred the Holy ha ve n't surre n d e re d in th e m inds and hearts. The m en still fig h tin g in See to firmer action, and on 10 December a Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Giovanni De Andrea was sent to o n ". [Opening Up, pp. 29-30.] With few exceptions the East Timorese are united in Once again the eyes of the world are on East Timor, but their wish to rid themselves of their present overlords with the decline of ideology our vision is clearer than it and to live in peace again; what form the desired self­ was in the past. The sixteen-year old nightmare of the determination will take is for them another, secondary Maubere people goes on, and the outcome of current Portuguese and international pressures on Jakarta is Unfortunately Timorese Catholics can hope for little difficult to predict. What the people of East Timor support from the government of Australia, which, in the should be able to count on are the prayers and moral interests of good politico-economic relations with support of Australian Catholics, whose religion teaches Indonesia, still considers that country's annexation of them that human bodies are more precious than East Timor not only legal but irreversible. Furthermore, money, and that human souls are more important than Canberra has tied its own hands by signing with ideas. As Christians our first loyalty must be not to any Indonesia a treaty for the exploration of oil in the Timor economic or ideological allies in a Moslem-dominated Gap. Bob Hawke's statement in 1990 that "big coun­ state notorious for its brutality, but to these suffering tries cannot invade small neighbours and get away with brothers and sisters in faith on our northern doorstep.
it" held good for prosperous Kuwait, not for destitute East Timor. And Indonesia has kept up its threats to close the airways over its territory and its seas to Qan Adapted from a paper delivered to the Campion Fellow­ tas and Australian shipping, the economic conse­ ship Conference, St. P atricks College, Manly. 30th quences of which our government is not prepared to December, 1991. Recent Visitors' Impressions of Occupied East Timor
"This is one of the world's sadder places. It is a "People at Lospalos told us that when they are place where 100, 000 to 200, 000 died from 1974 to sick they go to the Nuns for help. They said there 1980 in a brutal civil war and invasion through is no point going to the hospital because for a start combat, execution, disease and starvation. a they are not treated caringly or well and in any larger percentage of the population than died in case there is no medicine there. The Nuns told us Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Despite that the relatives of their Mother Superior, who is Indonesia's considerable effort at development - Italian, supply them with medicines. People who schools, roads, bridges, harbours, television - approach the Nuns for help and can afford to pay Timorese remember the harsh years after the do so, while others are given medicine and treat­ invasion when thousands fled to the parched ment free".
mountains and tried to survive helicopter gun - Patsy Thatcher, September 1990.
ships, free fire zones, the burning of their crops, and a military that suppressed all resistance".
"Every Timorese to whom I talked about self­ - Steve Erlanger, New York Times, 1990, determination, including those who accept inte­gration as a fait accompli, agreed that the great majority of Timorese are unreconciled to Indone­sian rule and would change their political status if they could. A senior foreign priest took the same "After three weeks in East Timor the strongest view, though he regarded this aspiration as quite impression was the complete division between the two races, especially the women. The ones who - British visitor, April 1991.
are thin, barefoot, walking in the dust of the road, carrying heavy objects on their shoulders, are "I was in Dili, East Timor, on the morning of Timorese; the ones who wear beautiful clothes November 12th, when a large crowd of East and have smooth, glossy hair, the ones who are Timorese gathered in a parish church. They were overly plump and ride in cars or taxis, are Indone­ there to attend a memorial Mass for Sebastiao Gomes, a young man who had died outside the - Shirley Shackleton, October 1989.
church two weeks before. His blood was still caked on the low stone steps at one side of the building, and mourners occasionally knelt and touched it and then crossed themselves".
- New Yorker journalists, 9. 12. 1991 "Church membership has more than doubled "Right in front of us, they were kicking an old man since the Indonesian takeover, a change which in the face and slamming him into a concrete has often been ascribed to the Church's role as sewer. Apparently because we were from the principal protector of the ordinary people against United States, however - a country that provided the Indonesian military presence. Priests and Indonesia with fifty million dollars in outright aid nuns have been immensely important in maintain­ this year, and sells it most of its weapons, includ­ ing hope and a will to go on living among people ing M016s - the soldiers decided not to shoot whose lives have been shattered by traumatic - New Yorker journalists, 9. 12. 1991.
- Pat Walsh, ACFOA, 1991.
"I looked across at Bobonaro and there, high up on the summit of the mountain behind the town, was a huge white cross, visible for miles. I looked up at it and then down the valley, thousands of "It seems priests are the only ones the population feet below, ridged and ringed by towering moun­ has confidence in to tell of their distressing plight tain peaks, and above them all, the white cross, and of the gross injustices they are subjected to standing like a sentinel on the highest peak. It was by the Indonesian military forces. After meetings symbolic for, in truth, the only protection the with the priests I felt sometimes quite sick, out­ people of East Timor have today is represented by always overcome with that cross - their cause kept alive by a few hun­ humility. What I was very impressed with was their dred resolute men facing enormous handicaps noble, fighting spirit, and their indomitable cour­ and odds. I felt a little more optimistic about East age to resist this oppression, rather than become Timor's ultimate fate. That cross renewed much of cynical and drown".
my own faith".
- Australian visitor, September 1989.
- Paddy Kenneally, April 1990.
Dunn, James. Timor: A People Betrayed. Milton, Qld: Mubyarto, Prof. Dr. and Dr. Loekman Soetrisno et al., Jacaranda, 1983. [TPB] East Timor: The Impact of Integration. An Indone­ Jolliffe, Jill. East Timor: Nationalism and Colonialism.
sian Anthropological Study. Yogyakarta: Indonesian University of Queensland Press, 1978.
Resources and Information Program, 1991. [ETII] Kohen, Arnold and John Taylor. An Act of Genocide: "Massacre in East Timor", Catholic, December 1991, p. Indonesia s Invasion of East Timor. London: Tapol, Sword, Kirsty and Pat Walsh, eds. 'Opening Up': Travel­ Nicol, Bill. Timor: The Stillborn Nation. Melbourne: Visa, lers' Impressions of East Timor 1989-1991. Mel­ bourne: Australia East Timor Association, 1991. Amnesty International. East Timor: Violations of Human Rights 1975-1984.
David Scott, Herb Feith and Pat Walsh eds., East Timor: Towards a just peace in the 1990s. Melbourne: The "East Timor", Comment. Nottingham: Catholic Institute Australian Council for Overseas Aid, n. d. [ET] for International Relations, 1985. [Comment 1985] "East Timor" (Human Rights in Asia). Currents East Timor After Integration. Jakarta: Department of (Canada), February 1992, pp. 8-12.
Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia, 2nd ed. 1984.
Timor Link (U.K.), Number 22, February 1992.
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