ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE FOR EAST TIMOR AND THE 1999 INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE FOR EAST TIMOR

Three events helped bring the plight of East Timor to worldwide attention. The first was Pope John Paul II’s visit to East Timor in 1989. The second was the release of footage of the 1991 Dili Massacre in which 270 unarmed and peaceful protesters were killed by Indonesian soldiers. The thrid was the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to Ramos-Horta and the Catholic Bishop of Dili, Carlos Belo.

As East Timor independence approached, Nobel-Peace-Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta said, "I hope it will be free, democratic, tolerant. Free of corruption . . . It will not be easy because Indonesia does not only kill people there, it has introduced a culture of corruption, of violence, of cheating . . . It's a nightmare. It's going to be a monumental task to heal the wounds....We have to do a lot of work to avoid violence. People are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry with the lack of progress in the talks, with the continued violence. Indonesia is arming [the civilian militias], as the South Africans did during the Apartheid regime, to sow violence, to justify their presence there. So it is quite a challenge just to avoid open warfare ...I have been sending messages to Timor saying `no violence, no violence.' I don't want to see one Indonesian or one collaborator harmed. [Civil war] will take place only if Indonesia foments it, which they are likely to do. But if they don't do it, I don't see why there would be civil war. An overwhelming majority of the people will vote for independence." [Source: Conan Elphicke, ATC 80, solidarity-us.org, May-June 1999]

Pope Paul II Visits East Timor in 1989

Worldwide attention was focused on East Timor in 1989 when Pope John Paul II visited it and called for an end to human rights abuses, an act that triggered anti-government demonstration. Officially neutral, the Vatican wished to retain good relations with the Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation. Upon his arrival in East Timor, the Pope symbolically kissed a cross then pressed it to the ground, alluding to his usual practice of kissing the ground on arrival in a nation, and yet avoiding overtly suggesting East Timor was a sovereign country. He spoke fervently against abuses in his sermon, whilst avoiding naming the Indonesian authorities as responsible. The Pope spoke out against violence in East Timor, and called for both sides to show restraint, imploring the East Timorese to "love and pray for their enemies." [Source: Wikipedia +]

Clyde Haberman wrote in the New York Times, “Praying on a barren plain said to have been a killing field for Government troops, Pope John Paul II admonished Indonesia today to respect human rights in the disputed province of East Timor, where he said ''many innocent people have died.'' The Pope became the first world leader to visit East Timor, which is largely Roman Catholic, since Indonesia invaded the territory and annexed it in 1976, and he used the occasion to recall past bloodshed and to appeal for reconciliation between Timorese and the Indonesian authorities. [Source: Clyde Haberman, New York Times, October 13, 1989 |::|]

“But as he finished celebrating an outdoor Mass, the passions that still smolder here burst into a chair-throwing melee directly in front of the altar between anti-Government demonstrators and police officers. The trouble began when about 20 youths emerged from the crowd of 100,000 worshipers and tried to force their way to the altar past security guards. As they unfurled a banner and shouted slogans calling for East Timor's independence, they were set upon by plainclothes policemen, who hit them with riot sticks and pushed them back. Witnesses who stayed behind after the press corps traveling with the Pope had been taken to the Dili airport said that dozens of other youths joined the brawl, throwing chairs at the police until calm was restored 15 minutes later. Four women were said to have been trampled and taken to a hospital. No arrests were reported. One witness said the incident occurred as the Pope was walking to his car for a short ride to the airport. He paused to look at the disruption and then left. At no point was he in jeopardy, and the fact that the protesters also chanted ''Viva Il Papa!'' made it clear that he was not their target. Nevertheless, the episode underscored the ''hatred and struggle'' that John Paul had discussed minutes before. |::|

“Delivered in English and translated for the crowd into the local Tetum language, the Pope's homily was an unequivocal call for human-rights safeguards. ''Respect for the rights which render life more human must be firmly insured,'' he said. International rights groups say that perhaps as many as 200,000 East Timorese, out of a total population of 650,000, were killed by Indonesian troops. Carlos Filipe Belo, the Catholic Bishop of the province, said killings occurred on the very spot where the Pope prayed -a spit of land bordered by craggy hills and the Timor Sea and once used by soldiers as a place to interrogate prisoners. ''For many years now, you have experienced destruction and death as a result of conflict,'' John Paul told his listeners. ''You have known what it means to be victims of hatred and struggle. Many innocent people have died while others have been prey to retaliation and revenge.'' |::|

“Western diplomats say that wholesale killings have long stopped here, but they and other international monitors report continued abuses. The Pope said before coming that his visit was pastoral and had no political significance. He is, however, a master of multilayered symbolism. He did not kiss the ground on landing at the airport, thereby avoiding a gesture that he reserves for countries being visited for the first time. But as the Mass began, he knelt and kissed a crucifix that had been placed on a cushion laid upon the ground. It was, a Vatican spokesman insisted, a normal custom that emphasized ''the purely pastoral nature'' of the visit. Still, from where the worshipers and their Bishop stood, another signal was being sent. They saw a Pope who seemed very much to be kissing the ground, and when he got back on his feet, the crowd cheered. |::|

Nobel Prize and Protests Over East Timor in the 1990s

In 1992, due to international pressure, the Indonesian military inquiry condemned local army action but gave lenient sentences to lowly soldiers. In November 1992 Falintil leader, Xanana Gusmão, is captured by Indonesian army and is convicted to life in prison in 1993.

There was a big demonstration in July, 1994 that began after four Muslims insulted two nuns who were registering for classes at a university. Three protestors were killed. In 1995 rioting directed at Indonesian immigrants broke out. Efforts by Roman Catholic Bishop Carlo Belo helped cool things down.

Beginning in 1993 groups of East Timorese entered foreign embassies in Jakarta seeking political asylum. Before President Clinton's visit to Indonesia in November, 1994, about 30 unarmed pro-East-Timor demonstrators climbed over the fence of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta and refused to leave. In 1995, on the 20th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, 112 East Timorese and sympathisers stormed and occupied the Dutch and Russian embassies in Jakarta. Describing a political rally in East Timor before Clinton arrived in Indonesia in November 1994, an Indonesian military spokesman told Reuters, "It was chaotic. Up to 1,000 youths with sticks, iron rods and stones were smashing shops burning cars and hitting policemen."

In October 1996, the acting Roman Catholic Bishop of Dili, Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee accused Indonesia of "systemically oppressing” the “small but oppressed people" of East Timor and called for "a diplomatic solution...based on the people’s right to self-determination...This was about to become a forgotten conflict." The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Ramos-Horta and Belo caused the Indonesian government great embarrassment and it was yet another way of increasing international pressure. Three days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Suharto visited East Timor. His visit was recorded for television and depicted him as the "father of integration" in East Timor.

These developments helped to galvanize the unification of the resistance factions. In 1997, in Peniche, Portugal, the CNRM was transformed into CNRT (Conselho Nacional da Resistencia Timorense) or the National Council for East Timorese Resistance. Their main agenda was the preparation of a new government—a kind of ‘government in waiting’ or transitional government--should East Timor gain its independence in the near future.

Ouster of Suharto in Indonesia and Its Impact on East Timor’s Independence Drive

In 1998 Indonesian President Suharto resigns. Replaced by Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, who suggests territory may be given special status within Indonesia. In 1999 January, Indonesia says it will consider independence for East Timor if people reject autonomy. In early 1999 Gusmao moved from Jakarta prison to house arrest. In response to increasing violence by anti-independence activists, Gusmao orders guerrillas to resume independence struggle. [Source: BBC]

Andrea K. Molnar of Northern Illinois University wrote: “ In May 1998 major political changes occurred in Indonesia that opened the door for open negotiation for independence. President Suharto was ousted from office through cumulative events that included, among others, the financial crisis, extensive forest fires, ethnic violence and social unrest, pro-democracy movement and trade unions attacking the rampant cronyism, corruption, and archipelago wide demonstration against high prices and increased poverty levels (McCloskey 2000:9). On 12 May 1998 the killing of four Trisakti University Students by the Indonesian military precipitated in mass rioting and killings in the Chinese community. As the country became steadily destabilized the military decisively maneuvered Suharto out of office and brokered a power transfer to the Vice President, B. J. Habibie on 21 May, 1998 (ibid.). [Source: Andrea K. Molnar, Northern Illinois University, Department of Anthropology and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, May 2005 , seasite.niu.edu/EastTimor <>]

“These major political changes in Indonesia precipitated international negotiations between Portugal, the United Nations, and Indonesia to allow a plebiscite in which the East Timorese people can decide whether they want independence or remain with Indonesia under special autonomy. A tri-partite agreement was reached in August 1998 between the UN Secretary-General and the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Portugal to begin dialogue on a wide-ranging autonomy for East Timor (Martin 2001:19). Ian Martin, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in East Timor during the 1999 UN Mission in East Timor describes the components of the dialogue as follows (ibid), …for Indonesia this autonomy would be the final dispensation, Portugal was willing to consider autonomy only as an interim or transitional arrangement pending the eventual exercise by the people of East Timor of their right to self-determination. <>

“On 20 June 1998 the Indonesian president, Habibie offered to free the leader of the East Timorese resistance, Xanana Gusmão. With the fall of Suharto and the success of the Indonesian pro-reformations movement there was a sense of growing political freedom throughout Indonesia which precipitated more open pro-independence activism in East Timor (ibid). During the June 1998 visit of European Union ambassadors, the Indonesian security opened fire on the demonstrators in Baucau city East Timor.”<>

Announcement of East Timor Referendum on Independence

In January 1999, Indonesian president B.J. Habibie went against the advise of his advisors and surprised everyone by announcing that East Timorese could vote for or against independence. Habibie called the move a removal of a “stone in our shoe.” East Timorese were given the choice of remaining part of Indonesia as an autonomous region, or independence. If enough people supported independence, Indonesia would let it go.

In May 1999, Indonesia and Portugal signed agreement to allow East Timorese to vote on their future. The deal was endorsed by the United Nations. Portugal, Australia, Indonesia and the United Nations made an agreement for the United Nations’s electoral staff to enter East Timor. One of the problems with the agreement was that it specified that the safety of the United Nations teams was in the hands of Indonesian security forces, which in effect made it on the side of the Indonesians. The agreement did not allow for a foreign armed presence in Indonesia. The Indonesian government claimed that the Indonesian Police force would provide security for the plebiscite. Yet the security situation prior to the agreement deteriorated already, as the aforementioned Baucau incident clearly demonstrates.

Andrea K. Molnar of Northern Illinois University wrote: A “militia campaign of terror was rampant in their attempt to dissuade East Timorese with pro-independence leanings from voting against Indonesian integration as an autonomous region. In this environment the opening of voter registration on 22 June had to be postponed to 13 July. With the given security situation the ballot date itself was postponed twice from August 8 and 22 to August 30, 1999 (Soares 2000:72-73; Martin 2001:45-47). [Source: Andrea K. Molnar, Northern Illinois University, Department of Anthropology and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, May 2005 , seasite.niu.edu/EastTimor <>]

Violence Before the East Timor Referendum on Independence

Before and after East Timor's independence referendum in 1999, the Indonesian military and its proxy militias unleashed a wave of violence that killed at least 1,450 people and left 300,000 homeless. The Indonesian killing campaign was accompanied by property destruction on an almost inconceivable scale, apparently aimed at "the virtual demolition of the physical basis for survival in the territory," according to Noam Chomsky. [Source: gendercide.org]

Most of the violence occurred after the referendum in September, 1999. But before the referendum, militias, supported by the Indonesian government, unleashed a campaign of terror to intimidate East Timorese from supporting independence. Close to the polling date the militia already spread the threat of a subsequent blood-bath, should the voters elect for independence. [Source: Andrea K. Molnar, Northern Illinois University, Department of Anthropology and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, May 2005 , seasite.niu.edu/EastTimor <>]

By the end of May 1999 over 30,000 refugees fled the terror to Kupang, West Timor and Christian Churches of Timor were appealing to western Christians for aid. Many of these were students from the University of East Timor who went out to even remote villages to spread the information about the upcoming referendum and the choice for independence or autonomy. Most students were emphasizing the independence choice. The murders, abductions, burning of villages continued at the hands of militia and often covert Indonesian soldiers right up to the popular consultation ballot. <>

Some analyst say that violence in East Timor wouldn't have occurred if the referendum wasn't held. The reasoning was referendums are all or nothing propositions and the likely losers often turn to violence because they feel they have no other way to stick up for their rights. A better proposition perhaps was to work out a compromise in which all groups involved got something.

Massacre at Liquiça Church

In April 1999, 50 people were massacred at a church in Liquica. According to a United Nations reported: “The first massacre in 1999 took place at the Liquiça Church on 6 April. This incident, during which as many as 60 people seeking refuge at the church were killed,is illustrative of the organised nature of TNI/militia violence. Before this incident, in early April, TNI and Besi Merah Putih (BMP) militia intensified their campaign of violence against pro-independence activists and the civilian population of Liquiça. On 5 April, in three separate incidents, three supporters of independence—Herminio dos Santos, Ilidio dos Santos and Laurindo da Costa Gonçalves—were abducted by members of BMP. [Source: “East Timor 1999 Crimes against Humanity,” A Report Commissioned by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) By Geoffrey Robinson, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) <=>]

“In response to this deterioration of security, people from sub-districts of Liquiça and Maubara began to seek refuge at the Catholic church in Liquiça town (Liquiça, Liquiça). Approximately 2,000 people, including women and children, had gathered at the church compound by 6 April. Early on the morning of 6 April, BMP militia along with TNI troops, including ones from the District Military Command in Liquiça, the Sub-district Command in Maubara, members of the Special Forces Command and Battalion 143, as well as Mobile Police (Brimob) from Dili and local police, arrived at the church. Two police officers demanded that Father Rafael dos Santos hand over Jacinto da Costa Pereira, the village chief of Dato (Liquiça, Liquiça), along with another man, as both were identified as pro-independence leaders.<=>

“This incident, during which as many as 60 people seeking refuge at the church were killed, is illustrative of the organised nature of TNI/militia violence. The Commission received a large number of statements about the massacre at the Liquiça Church. According to a witness, between 12.00 noon and 1.00pm, Brimob members fired shots into the air and then militia members entered the compound. Tear gas was thrown into the priest’s residence forcing many people to flee. As they fled, they were brutally attacked by TNI and militia members waiting for them outside. According to Father Rafael’s account the assailants killed the men but allowed the women and the children to leave the area. Then they entered the priest’s house and executed any persons they found inside. The BMP commander, M61, was seen inside the church compound with his men. When most of the refugees had left the church and the parish house, BMP members, police, and soldiers, including Sergeant M62 [East Timorese], came in looking for stragglers. Those they found were killed. Some people fled to the house of the district administrator, Leoneto Martins, where pursuing militia and soldiers killed or severely injured them. <=>

“It is difficult to estimate the exact number of victims because the bodies of the dead were taken away. While the official provincial police ( polda) report said that only five people died in the attack and its aftermath, other estimates put the number between 30 and more than 100. After the massacre at the Liquiça Church many people fled to Dili and sought refuge at the house of Manuel Carrascalão where they were attacked again by BMP and Aitarak militia on 17 April. <=>

“Killings of real or perceived supporters of independence in Liquiça continued after the Liquiça Church massacre. On 7 April Fernando da Costa was allegedly stabbed to death at the Koramil in Liquiça by militia members. On 9 April on the orders of M65 [East Timorese], a BMP commander for Bazartete and Liquiça, a man known as Carlos was allegedly arrested, taken to the beach in Pala near the Indonesian military cemetery and killed. He had documents concerning CNRT activities in his pocket. On 14 April, Henrique Borges, Carlos dos Santos da Costa and Leo Lakon were killed at the beach in Pilila, Leohata (Liquiça, Liquiça) by an Indonesian TNI member, M302886 On 21 April Felix Barreto was killed by BMP militia members in Ulmera (Bazartete, Liquiça). On or about 27 April Tobias Alves Coreia and Elias Ataidi were killed by militia in Tutuge, Loidahar (Liquiça, Liquiça) because they were identified as pro-independence supporters. It is alleged that their names were on a list drawn up by TNI officer Sergeant M62 [East Timorese] and others. On 26 April in Maubara, a man named Abel was arrested and taken to the lake to be executed. Abel has not been seen since. <=>

Survivor of the Liquiça Church Massacre

A survivor of the Liquiça Church Massacre quoted in the United Nations report said: “On the morning of 5 April, 1999 I was walking from the Social-Political Affairs office in Liquiça to my house when I met my friend Lukas, from Flores, Indonesia. He encouraged me to go home quickly, saying, “I’ve heard that the Besi Merah militia are at the border of Liquiça and Maubara.” But I decided not to go home. I went instead to a meeting about the Easter youth commemoration in Manatuto. I met with my friends Jacinta, Suzi, and Ermelita. We weren’t sure whether it would be a good idea to participate in the commemoration so we went to ask Father Rafael’s opinion. While we were meeting with Father Rafael, the village head, Jacinto da Costa came and told us that a youth had been killed and others wounded in an attack by the militia and military. [Source: “East Timor 1999 Crimes against Humanity,” A Report Commissioned by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) By Geoffrey Robinson, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) <=>]

“We left Father Rafael’s house early in the afternoon. When I got home I went to see Aquilina to get some more information. Aquelina lives close to the Welcome sign in Liquiça. As soon as I got to her house I heard more shooting, coming from the direction of Pukalaran. I went straight home and found that my family had already fled to the church in Liquiça. I joined them there. There were many people hiding in the church including people from the villages of Dotasi, Guilu, Leopa and Upper and Lower Caimeo. In the afternoon the militia and the military looted and burnt down the houses of the Sub-district administrator, João Bosco, and Agustinho. For the two days that we were in the church we did not do anything else but pray. At night we couldn’t sleep, and outside the church the militia were harrassing us with threats and foul language. <=>

“At 9.00am on 6 April Eurico Guterres, the Aitarak milita commander, and his men came to the church office in Liquiça to talk with Father Rafael and Father José. We heard that during that meeting Eurico Guterres said he was going to make a request of the district administrator, Leoneto Martins. Eurico said that if Leoneto met the militia’s demands the militia would let the people go home safely. But Eurico’s meeting with Leoneto did not produce that guarantee. Initially Mobile Brigade police came to the church as if to rescue the people. In fact, Brimob were the ones who started the shooting. Around 1.00pm, the Besi Merah militia along with the police and the military attacked the church. They fired shots into the air to give the signal to the militia to enter the church, and then they started shooting the people. Wearing masks that covered their faces the militia and the military then attacked with axes, swords, knives, bombs and guns. The police shot my older brother, Felix, and the militia slashed up my cousins, Domingos, Emilio, and an eight-month old baby. <=>

“Because Brimob and the military were slaughtering people who had been hiding in the priest’s office, everyone started running out of the church trying to find places to hide and to save themselves. I left with Emilio’s wife and we went to the Convent. As we left I saw Miguel was still alive, but Loidahar and someone else from Maubara were lying dead near the church bell. The militia, police and military had prepared a truck to carry people to the district administrator’s house. When we arrived the militia continued their actions and continued beating and stabbing civilians. Several people died at the district administrator’s house. Luckily there was a nurse there who attended to the wounded. After about three hours Agustinho, a civil servant in Maubara, made an announcement to the people, saying, “Go home and raise the Indonesian flag. And tie it to your right hand to show that we are all people who are prepared to die for this flag.” One week after the massacre a TNI soldier from the eastern sector, called Pedro, told me that the military from Kodim were also involved. I heard that the bodies of those who died were taken in a truck, but I don’t know where they were taken.” <=>

Family Members of a Liquica Resistance Leader Who Disappeared

Reporting from Liquica, Ellen Nakashima wrote in the Washington Post, “On the day he disappeared, Jacinto da Costa Canisio Pereira, a local resistance leader, stood in a priest's bedroom and prayed, his brother recalled. "I wanted to stay, to die with my brother," said Graciano Pires dos Santos. His knuckles, head and legs bear scars from machete, hammer and bullet wounds inflicted by Indonesian soldiers and the Timorese militiamen they sponsored, who stormed Sao Joao de Brito Church in April 1999. But as gunshots rang out and tear gas stung their eyes, Pereira urged him to leave, he recounted. [Source: Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, September 16, 2005 */*]

“The day before the April 6, 1999, massacre, waves of anti-independence militiamen advanced over the hills into Liquica, a town of about 55,000. Hundreds of men, women and children flocked to the church compound on a hillside sloping to the sea, believing they would be safe there. The Indonesian-trained militiamen were burning homes and kidnapping resistance leaders, said the priest and other survivors, whose recollections, along with an indictment from a U.N.-funded prosecution team, form the basis for the following account: Shortly before 1 p.m. on April 6, a militia leader approached the compound and asked that Pereira, who was a village chief, and other resistance members surrender. They refused. At 1 p.m., a shot rang out. Hundreds of militiamen, soldiers and police officers surrounded the compound. Police fired tear gas. Bullets flew. "People started running every which way," said Helio Domingos da Costa, Pereira's oldest son, now 22. "The militia started to attack, swinging machetes. . . . I was running wildly when suddenly a militiaman came up." He made a swooping motion with his right arm. "I moved. He missed. Then he yelled, 'Now go inside and die with your father!' " */*

“Pereira and several other resistance members were hiding in the priest's bedroom and adjoining bathroom. Several teenagers hid in the crawl space between the ceiling and the zinc roof. Troops climbed on the roof and fired down. Dos Santos, the priest, was escorted to the district military command by a nephew, who was an Indonesian soldier. As the priest was leaving, Pereira's brother recalled, "I saw many people inside the house try to grab Father Rafael's robes, touching them and shouting, 'We are dying! We are dying!' " Pereira's wife could hear the gunfire from a brother-in-law's house, where she had fled with her three youngest children. The militiamen burned her house. That afternoon, an Indonesian soldier's wife told her that the men who had hidden in the priest's home had been killed. "I felt like I wanted to cry," she said, "but no tears came." */*

“About 5 p.m., the priest returned to the church. He found no bodies, but blood was on the bathroom and bedroom floor, along with part of a brain. A few days later, the military had mopped up the blood, repaired the roof and patched the bullet-pocked plaster in an apparent attempt to cover up the massacre, said the priest, who showed a reporter a scarred memento: a white robe bearing singed holes from bullets that penetrated his closet. */*

“Authorities initially said five people were killed. Liquica police later told the priest that 113 had been killed. The U.N. indictment stated that more than 50 civilians had been murdered. So far, only one person has been tried and convicted in connection with the massacre. Pereira's murder case is still open; no one has been indicted, according to U.N. records. Three times in the last six years, Anita dos Santos, who is Pereira's widow, and her neighbors have searched for their relatives' bodies. Using shovels and buckets, they have dug in Liquica, in a neighboring town and in a village by the sea. "People would come to say, 'This is the site. Dig here,' " she said. "So we tried. Many times, we tried. We found nothing." Lower-level militia members who burned and looted homes now live in Liquica, said Eliza da Silva dos Santos, the widow of a resistance member who was "disappeared" with Pereira. "Sometimes I see them on the street, driving a car, working in a government office," she said bitterly. "When I see them, it pains me." She must repress an urge, she said, to attack them. */*

East Timor Referendum on Independence

The East Timor referendum on Independence referendum was held on August 30, 1999. The violence suddenly stopped on election day itself and voters we able to casts their ballots without being harassed. No attempts were made to steal the ballot boxes or to disrupt the five day counting process. The results were announced in early September. About 78 percent of voters voted in favor of independence on the referendum. Shortly afterwards the United Nations transitional administration on East Timor was established.

Andrea K. Molnar of Northern Illinois University wrote: “In spite of the murderous rampage of terror, on Election Day 98 percent of the voters turned out. In Bobonaro district in all polling stations that I observed the voters were queued in long lines hours before the polls even opened. The old, the sick, the healthy and young equally clamored to get in the balloting buildings and vote. The overwhelming desire to vote can be exemplified by an old gentleman in the Bobonaro district. He was estimated to be around 85 years old and he hiked down from the mountains in spite of having had one leg long ago amputated and having to use a makeshift crutch. He balanced on the crutch precariously as he emphatically stabbed the ballot to make his choice. Indeed his action caused the card board polling station to fall down. The building where the ballots were cast was in a village that was burned down just a few days before the referendum. On 1 September ballot boxes from all districts were loaded onto the helicopters to be taken to Dili for counting. [Source: Andrea K. Molnar, Northern Illinois University, Department of Anthropology and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, May 2005 , seasite.niu.edu/EastTimor <>]

On September 4 the results of the voting was announced in Dili. 78.5 percent voted for independence: 94, 388 (21.5 percent) voted for special autonomy within Indonesia and 344,580 (78.5 percent) voted for independence (Martin 2001:138). After the announcement the militias went amok with the support of the Indonesian police and military, carrying out wide-spread rampage and destruction throughout the territory—‘scorched earth policy’ (Soares 2000:76). It is estimated that 70 percent of all buildings were destroyed, including the annihilation of roads, electricity, water supply, and telecommunication infrastructures were destroyed with Indonesian withdrawal from East Timor (Kingsbury 2000:185).” <>

After the election violence erupted as anti-independence militia helped by the Indonesian military resumed a campaign of terror, leaving up to 1,500 dead. A quarter of the population flees, mainly to West Timor. Martial law was imposed. Gusmao was freed. Later Australian-led peacekeepers force arrives, gradually restoring order and Indonesian parliament recognised the outcome of referendum. [Source: BBC]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Northern Illinois University, Department of Anthropology and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, May 2005 Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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