Timor: Kamal's Diary

From: apakabar@igc.apc.org
Date: Sun Nov 24 1991 - 16:14:00 EST

From: Indonesia Publications/Task Force <apakabar>
Subject: Timor: Kamal's Diary

Forwarded from GreenNet reg.easttimor conference:

Topic 479Kamal Bamadhaj's Timor diary
gn:tapolreg.easttimor10:26 pm Nov 23, 1991


[With introductory remarks by Kamal's step-brother, James

Dili, East Timor, 29 October 1991

[The funeral that ended in the massacre of November 12 was
held in memory of Sebastian Gomez, a young Timorese killed two
weeks before when Indonesian troops stormed a church. Here
Kamal relates what took place that night.]

Ten youths wallow in a cell waiting for their next session of
beatings and slashings from razor blades as they recall their
companieros, Sebastian, who yesterday was added to the ever
increasing toll of brutal deaths in East Timor. Sebastian was
one of the many youths staying overnight at Motael Church,
Dili, when it was attacked by Indonesian forces yesterday.

The attack began at midnight when plainclothes soldiers began
stoning the church. The church grounds were surrounded by
armed troops who finally invaded the church at about 2.30 a.m.
Some youths tried to escape as about 30 people inside the
church grounds were arrested (all but ten were later released
temporarily). It was in the midst of this attack that
Sebastian was shot dead with three bullets. A Timorese member
of the Indonesian assault forces was also killed when he was
stabbed by a Timorese youth shortly after Sebastian's slaying.
Two other youths suffered gunshot wounds.

The attack on the church has further alienated the devout
Catholic population of East Timor. Although the official
Indonesian version of the Motael affair (which can only be
described as a ludicrous fabrication) has been publicised
throughout Indonesian media channels, the news about the
attack and the death of Sebastian reached remote areas through
East Timor's extensive and effective clandestine network
before the Indonesians could even assemble their official

It is speculated that the Indonesian forces targeted the
church because of its humanitarian views, because of the
practice of giving refuge to youths seeking protection from
Indonesian secret police and most importantly, because it
voices the aspirations of the people for an end to 16 years of
occupation and gross human rights violations by Indonesian

Maubisse, 2 November 1991

[Kamal describes how economic development is just another
instrument in the array of weapons used by the Indonesians to
oppress the Timorese.]

Driving through East Timor today is no longer such a bumpy
experience for the tourist. Roads are being continuously paved
with asphalt and bridges being built. Development, or
"pembangunan" as the Indonesians call it, is the most uttered
watchword around here - from the mouths of the Indonesians at

The Indonesians, particularly the Javanese, seem to have a
well rehearsed script when explaining East Timor to the
outsider. They say it was a hapless colonial backwater under
the Portuguese. Its inhabitants were uneducated, culturally
backward and generally unhygienic people. What's more they
were oppressed by the Portuguese - until Indonesia helped
liberate East Timor and took the ex-colony under its wing as
the 27th province. Since then, East Timor has shot ahead in
leaps and bounds. Schools, roads, new office buildings are
hallmarks of the development Indonesia has allegedly
bequeathed. One Javanese taxi driver proudly told me that the
capital of Dili, which was once "covered with trees like a
jungle", has now been transformed into a true city of large
buildings, roads and concrete.

But scratch a little below the surface of uncomfortable
Javanese smiles and silent East Timorese faces, and the grim
reality of the place will jolt even the most casual observer.
One senses that the great bulk of the local population have
not willingly accepted Indonesian rule despite the supposed
material advances gained through the annexation. Development
is by Indonesia and for Indonesia. Timorese people argue that
the roads were built to help the Indonesian military move from
one region to another quickly, and to ease the process of
extracting goods from East Timor into west Timor and beyond.
Just like with Dutch colonialism in Java, most capital
infusions into East Timor are made to facilitate the
extraction of goods and consolidate the socio-economic and
political dominance of the colonisers over the local populace.

Timorese I have talked to complain that no amount of roads and
schools can bring back the thousands killed by Indonesia
during the war and occupation. Some 200 000 people, or one
third of the 1975 population, were killed. Probably every East
Timor survivor today has lost a close friend or relative.
Materialistic development (for which the Indonesians demand
gratitude) cannot pay for what the Timorese can put no price
on - human lives. And what about the rapes, beatings and other
dehumanising experiences? Will the construction of new roads
placate the humiliation and bitterness, or compensate the
denial of timorese language in schools, the domination of
political decisions, local administration and the economy by
the Javanese? The Timorese say no.

At a recent public lecture held at a Baucau school, local
military leaders warned youths not to speak to delegates of a
Portuguese official fact-finding mission in November. The
youths were told to show their appreciation of the development
the Indonesians had brought them rather than highlighting
human rights violations or other negative aspects of
Indonesian rule. One reckless youth stood up and declared that
Indonesian development was just for show and did nothing for
the people, sparking a wave of anti-Indonesia comments from
the bitter audience. The military speaker then asked the crowd
if they would prefer to return East Timor to the theatre of
war of the mid to late seventies. Expecting a no, he was
answered with a resounding YES.

The Javanese behave like archetypal colonialists. They
complain about having to live in East Timor; they claim that
the local people are brutish and backward and have to be
civilised by them. Few of the thousands of Javanese migrants
aspire to settle in East Timor. Many are here to make a quick
killing and return to Java. They can be heard reminiscing
about their mother country, how great and beautiful it is and
how they can't wait to leave this wretched place to get back
to Yogyakarta or Malang. But Javanese colonialism is different
from European colonialism in that ironically, Indonesia was
fighting fiercely for its own right to self-determination not
so long ago.

Like most colonial states, Indonesia denies the public the
right to choose a government of their own, tries to silence
opposition through a wide array of violent and intimidatory
tactics, and publicly refuses to recognise that there is any
problem. Indonesia's propaganda and its attempts to portray
East Timor as a happy and secure province contrast starkly
with reality.

Travelling through East Timor on a bus recently I was asked by
a Javanese man what I thought of the province, its roads and
development. To avoid being hassled I gave a typical East
Timorese answer, that everything was great. One imagines that
the colonisers need praise and reassurance to assuage their
underlying guilt. My answer was greeted with a broad smile and
the comment, "There are no bad people in Indonesia, mister."
Little did he know that just before, I had overheard him in
the back of the bus asking the same question to two young
Timorese bus conductors he had summoned over.

Because of their precarious position in their own country, the
Timorese had to be much more crawly than me. They gave lengthy
assurances about how much they loved Indonesia and
"development" and ended, "we are good now, and we have come to
our senses". The Timorese, myself and the Javanese man all
realised this was too overacted to be believable. The man had
no broad smile for the Timorese after they answered. Instead
he said that if they even thought of participating in pro-
independence rallies when the Portuguese delegation arrived,
"we would have no qualms about wiping you all out - until
there are no Timorese left." The two youths nodded
thoughtfully and were told they could get back to their

Initially this casual threat to wipe out the Timorese sounded
a but over the top. However Indonesia has already wiped out a
third of the population an shows minimal respect for those
remaining. One could imagine that if the Timorese really began
to threaten Indonesia's vested political and economic
interests, they may quite easily decide to launch another wave
of genocide against the Timorese people. After all the
destruction of whole races has occurred in other parts of the
world. Whether total genocide occurs in East Timor depends not
only on the (remarkably powerful) will of the East Timorese
people, but also on the will of humanity, of us all.

Dili, 3 November 1991

[The Timorese are getting ready for the Portuguese; then the
news comes that the visit has been called off. With a sense of
grim foreboding, Kamal describes the deep disappointment and
continued defiance that fills the air in Dili.]

It has been a tense past two weeks in East Timor. A kind of
lull before the storm has prevailed as Timorese prepare
themselves for the visit of the Portuguese Parliamentary
delegation scheduled to have started tomorrow. Some saw the
visit as a first step towards a referendum in East Timor, some
hoped the Portuguese would somehow help bring about immediate
independence while others saw the visit as a long awaited
opportunity for an uprising against the Indonesian occupiers.
After 15 years of integration with Indonesia, and all the
methods the Indonesians have used to persuade the Timorese to
accept their rule, everyone here seems to have roughly the
same aspiration - independence.

Youths in Dili and in other towns in East Timor have been
secretly painting pro-independence banners, organising
demonstrations and, as many admitted to me, preparing to die
for their people if the Indonesians try to stop them. Timorese
of all ages and walks of life have been signing up to be on
the list of interviewees for the Portuguese fact-finding
mission. Considering that talking to any foreigners about the
situation in East Timor is risky, there are large numbers who
have decided to take the plunge and talk to the Portuguese
when they come.

The Indonesians too have been preparing for the visit.,
launching an intensive campaign of intimidation and rounding
up Timorese for public lectures where they are threatened with
imprisonment or death if they dare speak up. Freshly dug mass
execution sites have been discovered throughout East Timor,
perhaps another method of intimidating the locals into
silence. The Timorese church has also come under heavy
military surveillance for its role in helping the people
prepare for the visit. The Indonesian discomfort with the
church was epitomised by its early morning attack on the
Motael Church last Monday. Moreover, an all out campaign was
launched by the military to capture and kill resistance leader
Xanana Gusmao so as to deny the Portuguese the opportunity to
meet with this much revered figure.

However, less than a week before the delegation was supposed
to arrive, news started filtering in that the Portuguese were
not coming. Hearts sank. People cannot believe it. The
disappointment here today is not only the deflating of so
many high expectations but, more worrying still, the
indefinite delay gives the Indonesian military the perfect
opportunity to eliminate all those Timorese who had exposed
their identity while preparing for the visit.

In the past month or so, Timorese have been taking
extraordinary risks organising among themselves in
anticipation of the delegation. They claimed that any risk
they took was worth it because the visit offered them so much
hope. And they were banking on placing themselves on a
security list held by the Portuguese which would guarantee
them (under UN agreements) freedom from persecution if they
spoke up. But now the visit is off, and the Timorese are once
again in the all-too-familiar position of being defenceless
from arbitrary arrest, maltreatment or even death.