New Internationalist

Genocide In The Colonies

Issue 116

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Genocide in the colonies
West Irian and East Timor, 'colonies' acquired since independence, are festering sores of discontent on the rump of Indonesia.

WEST Irian, formerly Dutch West New Guinea (or West Papua) was meekly handed over in 1963 with the approval of the West after sustained Sukarno betligerence.

East Timor, a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 after the region had been wracked by civil strife following Portuga]’s abdication of administrative responsibility.

The Indonesianisation of Melanesian West Papua (as Free Papua resistance fighters call it). has been an admix of military action, takeover of indigenous business activities by Indonesians and expropriation of Melanesian land to make way for settlers under the national transmigration programme which involves the relocation of Indonesians from overcrowded Java.

The Melanesian population of West Irian, which numbers less than a million, is in grave danger of becoming a minority in its homeland. Moses Weror, a West Papuan and once a junior diplomat in Indonesia’s embassy in Canberra, Australia. told me: ~We must help the West Papuans now before it is too late... Transmigrants from the over-populated regions of Indonesia are being shipped in their hundreds annually into West Papua. I quote the late President Sukarno’s doctrine: A can change a human race by intermarriage between the races ... in a few generations hence there will be only a single Indonesian race from Sabang in (northern) Sumatra to Merauke in the south of West Irian.’

West Papuans have suffered two bewildering and devastating decades of Indonesian military brutality, administrative incompetence and ethnic dilution. And, the West knows little of their tragedy.

By contrast, the tragedy ofEast Timor has received much greater exposure, particularly in the Australian and US press.

In political terms it was not surprising that stridently anti-communist Indonesia chose to invade East Timor after the socialist Fretilin group, which emerged victorious from the brief civil war, proclaimed the Democratic Republic of East Timor’ in November 1975.

With the acquiescence of the West the United States and Australia in particular (a ragged Portuga] was in no fit state at the time to protest) Indonesia embarked upon a barbarous military conquest. Yet Fretilin forces, though now depleted, continue their resistance in the mountains of East Timorto this day.

Colonial Portugal, when it conducted its last voluntary census ofEast Timor in 1974, put the population at about 680,000. Indonesia’s compulsory census in 1980 found only 550,000 people. Catholic church authorities on East Timor do not believe the present population is more than 425,000. If the Catholic estimate is reliable, there has been a population drop of 255,000 in seven years. Where have all the people gone?

There are car-stickers in Australia which ask: Is West Irian another East Timor?’ The author has it the wrong way around But whichever way one views it, it is not possible to get away from the conclusion that, far from the eyes of the world, Indonesia has indulged in an orgy of genocide in its two colonies.

And still the voices of protest from West Irian and East Timor have not been silenced.

Bob Hawkins

Flight from fear
Nastasia wasn't hard to pick. Timid, and very thin in her too-big clothes, she was all too conspicuous among the well-fed, confident travellers who filed off Garuda flight 493 from Jakarta to Australia in November 1981.

'She looks 60 but she's only 42,' whispered her son Nastasia,k who had waited six years for this reunion, as she picked her way uncertainly through the gaggle of arrivals, was a living symbol of the tragedy of East Timor.

One of Natasia's first acts was to buy a lusty rooster. His familiar crowing in the city dawn is a powerful reminder of the simplicitires of Timor village life.

Another stop Nastasia took this year, after much hesitation, was to tell her story to the Australian Senate committee inquiring ino the situation in East Timor. This is part of what she said:

'When the Indonesians invaded Dili in December 1975 we were living in Ermera where we grew coffee. As the fighting came closer we abandoned our plantation and ran to the mountains like scared animals. I was in the mountains for three and half years.

'In the early days, before the Indonesians began bombing, the Fretilin people would organise schools and first aid stations and distribute what food they had among the people. There were about 40,000 people hiding in this area.

'At night, when it was dark, we would stop in a village to eat and sleep. In the mornings, at first light, we would hide in the hills to avoid the bombings. We left behind in the village the old and the sick who could run no more.

'It was the bombs that weakened the resistance. They dropped every day. Nineteen-seventy-eight was the worst year. Planes flew from 8am till midday and then again in the after-noon.

'The Indonesians grew stronger with American weapons. Fretilin was small and short of weapons and bullets. They knew that if the Indonesians were using American weapons, bought with our coffee we believed, then there was no outside support from Fretilin.

'On May 12, 1979, I was with a group of about 1000 people near Fatubesse when we were spotted and surrounded by Indonesian soldiers. The soldiers first fired shots into the air and called out: 'We will not harm you'. They made many promises. Some people were frightened and tried to run back into the mountains. Some escaped. Some were killed. Also many, Fretilin soldiers tried to escape. In the fighting a lot of soldiers on both sides died.

'The Indonesians took us to a camp at Ermera. Many people died after surrendering. They were very weak and had lived on a diet of berries and roots. The food in the camp was too quick a change for them.

'I am not sure how many people have died because of what has happened in East Timor, but I think it would be more than half the population.

'The Timorese have no rights. Everyone feels very depressed. Indonesians have taken over our life. Many people I used to see before are just not there now.'


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