Theindonesianpatternofgenocide Essay, Research Paper
The guidelines for genocide have been set. All the rules that clarify exactly what constitutes the act the crime of genocide have also been set forth. The U.N has even made the act of genocide a crime, punishable by death or life in prison. But, with that being said, the act of genocide and severe human rights violations still occur in today s complex and violent world. This is no more apparent than in East Timor.
Timor is an island nation located at the southeastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. No larger than the state of Connecticut in the U.S.A. it has over 700,000 people. Just North of Australia, the island was colonized by the Portuguese in 1520. Over the next two centuries both the Dutch and the Portuguese claimed the island as their own. Eventually the island was divided with the Dutch taking the Western half and Portugal taking the Eastern half. East Timor remained a colony of Portugal for over four centuries until 1974.
The population of East Timor as of 1975 was just under 700,000 people. Of that, 97% were natives of the island, while the Chinese made up 2% and the Portuguese made up the rest of the population. The island has a mountain range that runs through the middle that dominates the landscape. Most of the native peoples live in isolated villages. The main occupation is farming with some small coastal fishing villages scattered about. The Chinese run most of the trading outposts on the island. Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, is the major religion on East Timor, while the rest of Indonesia is strictly Islamic. As I will point out later, the difference in religion will play a significant role in some of the atrocities committed by the pro-Indonesian militias.
The natives of Timor have experienced many episodes of conquest that included some form or other of genocide. The first occurred when the Portuguese originally colonized the island. The Portuguese were especially brutal conquerors and attempted to erase the native Timorese s history by converting them to Christianity. Those who resisted were killed. The second came in 1941 when the Japanese took control of the island during World War II. Over 60,000 natives, almost 13% of the population at that point, lost their lives to Japanese atrocities, mostly for aiding the allies. The third and most recent occurred from 1975 on when the government of Indonesia launched a massive assault and proclaimed East Timor as its 27th province.
By 1974 a bloody revolution in Portugal overthrew the ruling dictatorship and the decolonization of East Timor had begun. When the population of East Timor was notified three main political parties emerged.
The Timorese Democratic Union, or UDT, was the first. The UDT had the most support from the people right away. The party favored a slow transition to independence but also wanted to remain closely associated with Portugal. Shortly thereafter, the Timorese Social Democratic Association, or ASDT, came along. The ASDT wanted nothing to do with Portugal. It favored a quick transition to independence and had several Communist or Socialist ideas. The ASDT claimed it wanted to establish Co-ops to return the land back to the people. The party also tried to establish a literacy campaign for the people. These two major acts by the ASDT swayed most of the population to their side. The third party was the Timorese Popular Democratic Association, or APODETI. Apodeti called for full integration into Indonesia. In East Timor this party lacked support, but had a he following just across the border. Backed by the government of Indonesia and its military this party tried to do whatever it could to try and sway the people of East Timor.
General Suharto, Indonesia s dictator, watched this scenario closely and quickly became upset at the thought of East Timor becoming independent and led by ASDT, now Fretilin. Suharto saw this political group as too left wing.
In the meantime, the UDT and Fretilin parties separated and in August of 1975 the Timorese Democratic Union seized control of the government. The UDT cited Indonesia s threat of invasion if the Fretilin party came to power as the reason why it took control. In response, the Fretilin party launched its own military campaign and a civil war had begun. After several weeks of fighting the UDT S forces were defeated. On November 28th, 1975 the Fretilin government of East Timor officially declared independence and appealed for international recognition and support.
1965 saw a coup occur in Indonesia and General Suharto took control of the government and established a dictatorship. Suharto ruled with an iron fist. His military had complete autonomy and also doubled as the local police as well. He ruled Indonesia until he gave up his control to his second in command.
East Timor was ruled by Portugal until 1974. After being decolonized in early 1975, General Xanana Gusmao, leader of Fretilin, officially became the leader. General Gusmao was a product of the East Timorese military and the founder of the Fretilin party. He led East Timor resistance against Indonesia for nearly 17 years. In 1992 he was captured by the Indonesian military and imprisoned. Konis Santana, who was Gusmao s second in command, is currently leading east Timorese resistance.
On December 7, 1975 General Suharto carried out his threat made earlier and launched an assault into East Timor. This first target for the Indonesian troops was the capital city of Dili. Thousands of civilians of East Timor s only major city were rounded up and summarily executed. Women were raped as husbands and children watched, then shot dead. Men, old and young, were gathered up, tortured, tied up to logs with heavy stones attached and thrown into the harbor. All told, over 10% of the population was killed in the first few hours of the invasion.
Despite the raping and plundering of the city by Indonesia, the Fretilin military units put up fierce resistance. Opposition by Fretilin did not let up, even though Indonesia sent more troops into battle and intensified its campaign of death. By 1980 Fretilin was forced to retreat into the mountain jungle and fight a guerilla war. More recently East Timor s military has stepped up its ambushes and other assaults.
Genocidal acts committed by Indonesian troops have been known for a long time by the Western world. Since 1975 over 200,000 people have been murdered with another 200,000 to 300,000 missing. That is almost half of the entire population of East Timor. Three particular groups have been the main recipients of these acts. The first group was the Chinese merchant class. At the beginning of the invasion over 60,000 Chinese lived on East Timor. During the attack on Dili and its subsequent occupation over 20,000 Chinese had been murdered. The main reason for this violence towards the Chinese was their prosperity. The Chinese controlled all the trading on the island. The second group was the Roman Catholic population. Over 50% of the population of East Timor had been converted to Catholicism while the rest of Timor remained devout followers of Islam. Of that group over 30% were arrested and executed. The third group and probably the most disturbing thing to come out of East Timor was the raping and killing of women and little girls. The Indonesian government has even gone so far as to implement sterilization techniques on the population. Entire villages have been rounded up and given shots of Depo-Provera, which is a birth control drug.
Two more recent events have brought renewed opposition to the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. The first occurred on November 12, 1991. What started out as a funeral procession for two leaders of the Fretilin military ended up as a massacre. Over 2,000 people had gathered for the funeral procession to the cemetery. Along the way it turned into a pro- East Timor demonstration that is strictly prohibited. The Indonesian military heard about it and waited for the group at the cemetery. When the procession entered the cemetery they were surrounded and not allowed to leave. The military then opened fire killing 270 and wounding another 250. When the firing stopped the wounded were rounded up and killed. Another 1,000 simply disappeared without a trace.
At the urging of the United Nations, Indonesia allowed a vote of the people to determine whether or not they wanted to remain a part of Indonesia. On August 30,1999 the vote took place. Over 80% of the population voted for independence. So, in retaliation Indonesia allowed independent militias, under the control of retired Indonesian generals, to carry out an ethnic cleansing of the population. The militias went into the jungle, rounded up entire villages, and moved them to concentration camps along the coastline. In these camps the people are not allowed to farm or grow any food for consumption and disease is rampant. Chemical weapons are also used to destroy any attempt at farming and to pollute drinking water.
In 1975 the United Nations condemned the invasion of East Timor, but could do nothing because only half of the nations involved voted against Indonesia. One of those condemning Indonesia was Australia. Australia has been a long time ally of East Timor, helping them in World War II and now by taking in refugees and putting an embargo in place. Of the nations not condemning Indonesia, the United States is the most prominent. The reasons for this are many. Firstly, Indonesia controls the sea-lanes for the entire Southeast Asian area. Secondly, Indonesia is extremely rich in untapped natural resources. Mainly oil, rubber, and valuable minerals have caught the eye of many nations. And thirdly, the United States has given Indonesia over $30 billion in military aid.
In conclusion, East Timor has been subject to genocidal acts by Indonesia since 1975. The U.N. has condemned these acts but is powerless to do anything without the help of the United States. Until the U.S. decides to stop aiding Indonesia because of greediness and selfishness, the militias from West Timor will continue to harass and kill the people of East Timor.