This is a very significant document, and not only for the East
Timorese. It’s an authoritative account, based on many interviews,
investigations and on numerous documents that only became available
after the TNI (the then Indonesian military) departure. It confirms the horrendous nature of the
Indonesian occupation in terms of loss of life, its assessment more or
less corresponding to the Church report that the invasion had cost
about 200,000 lives.
This report is of course more specific about the casualties resulting
from direct TNI action. It also provides an account of the Timorese
killed in internecine conflict. The civil war figures are given as
3,000, which I have to say are higher than the assessments of the
International Red Cross and the ACFOA mission which I led to East Timor in
October 1975. But even more disturbing are the revelations of how TNI
military actions designed to crush opposition to integration were
It’s a reminder that the 1999 atrocities, which have in recent times
attracted most attention, were merely the tip of the iceberg of a larger
operation, which in relative terms must be considered as one of the
most repressive operations in the region in post World War II history.
But none of this is new to the East Timorese, nor to Australian
intelligence officials and some diplomats, who in the past took care
not to embarrass the Suharto regime by exposing it. It makes our
governments and their agencies accessories to one of the ugliest
conspiracies in the recent history of South east Asia.
Our official implication in the rape of East Timor goes back to 1974,
when then Prime Minister Whitlam made clear to the Indonesian President
his preference for East Timor’s integration into Indonesia. The
Government did nothing to expose the BAkin operation designed to
the Portuguese colony, nor to deter the invasion. We even conveniently
remained silent about the killing of the journalists and, worse, never
took Jakarta to task between ’75 and ’80 when thousands of Timorese were killed.
The events of ’99, as the report should show, were a carbon copy of
earlier TNI operations: a conspiracy planned and led by Kopassus. There
was no spontaneous pro-independence militia, the latter force having
been planned by Kopassus, armed and trained by them, and exhorted to
engage in murderous atrocities.
In my report to the UN, I drew attention to the evidence that Kopassus
officers (several of whom have since been promoted, some to
general rank) issued militia units with drugs (presumably amphetamines)
“to make them brave,” to use their words. In such operations scores of
unarmed Timorese, including women and children, were murdered. This
aspect is a matter for some consideration in view of the heavy penalty
imposed on Schapelle Corby and the possibility of death sentences for
the Bali nine.
The failure of the SBY regime to take action against these officers
casts serious doubts on their intention to reform the TNI. At least two
hold senior posts, which could lead to their being invited into
Australian military establishments under the new arrangements. In the
circumstances, what is most important is that the CAVR report should be
read by the Indonesian political establishment, as well as our own. If
acted upon, it will surely lead to the kind of reform the TNI must
undergo, if it is to protect rather than endanger Indonesia’s
The report underlines the importance of an international tribunal, if
all parties are to learn from the cruelty and mistakes of East Timor’s
forced integration. Not least, the East Timorese survivors deserve it,
as a minimum act of justice.
Understandably, the East Timorese cannot take up this issue, for it
would impose impossible strains on their relationship with Jakarta. But
for the international community, it’s a different matter. Today, it’s
our obligation to designate crimes against humanity to be
dealt with by the UN system.
James Dunn is a foreign affairs specialist, and author of East Timor: A Rough Passage to Independence.