Timor archives of Anthony Goldstone (1945-2016)

Anthony Goldstone’s skills as researcher, analyst and writer put him in the top rank of international actors who uncovered the full drama and tragedy of Timor-Leste under Indonesian occupation from 1975. Guest contributor, Edie Bowles, writes of her experience sorting Anthony’s Timor papers for long-term preservation and public access. Her account provides a valuable insight into Anthony Goldstone’s archive and stands as a fitting tribute to him and his Timor work.

Anthony Goldstone, Timor-Leste, 2005 [Source: Pat Walsh]

On September 7, 2016, the community of scholars, activists, and researchers on Timor-Leste lost one of its oldest and most knowledgeable friends, Anthony Goldstone.

Since the mid-1970s, Anthony had written and conducted research on Timor-Leste and Indonesia, first as a journalist for the Far Eastern Economic Review in Jakarta and then as staff at Amnesty International from 1978 to 1985. From 1999 he served on successive UN missions. Between 2003 and 2005 he was general co-editor of Chega!, the 3,000-page report of Timor-Leste’s Commission on Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation (CAVR). On learning of his final illness, the then Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Dr. Rui Araujo, wrote to Anthony to express gratitude for his long commitment to the country.

Sorting the archive
In mid-May 2017, Rebecca Engel, Luiz Viera, and I gathered at the home of Anthony and his wife Georgina Wilde in Sheffield, England to sort and organise Anthony’s papers, so that they could be preserved in a permanent archive. Anthony had been a friend and mentor to us all, when we worked together in Timor-Leste in the 2000s and in the years after. We all wanted to ensure that original documents in his possession and his own contributions would be accessible to future researchers in both digital and paper form.

Edie Bowles, Rebecca Engel and Luiz Viera examining Anthony’s archives, 2017. Lola the dog cosily attending. [Source: Georgina Wilde]

Going through his papers was a humbling journey through Timor-Leste’s modern history and Anthony’s own moral and intellectual engagement with it. Georgina’s warm welcome gave the task added joy and poignancy. Each evening was a warm mix of discussion of the day’s findings, reminiscences of Anthony, and stories from the outsized little country that had brought us all together. By email from Australia, John Waddingham and Pat Walsh provided excellent technical advice.

Archives, and the story behind them…
This note is an overview of the archive and its most historically significant contents. Anthony worked on Timor-Leste for decades, and some of his most original contributions were made in the 1980s when he was a researcher at Amnesty International. Compared to the levels of international solidarity and attention in the 1970s and 1990s, there were relatively few international individuals and organisations working on Timor-Leste at that time.

The significance of the documentary record from this period lies not just in the substance it contains but in the way that it shows how researchers, journalists, and activists pieced the story together. To work on Timor-Leste during this period researchers had to track, digest, and turn into an ethically and intellectually coherent narrative fragmentary information from a country they could not visit, in the era before cell phones and email. The files contained many lengths of faded fax paper from researchers and journalists, particularly Jill Jolliffe and Arnold Kohen, as they exchanged and triangulated information with Anthony.

Major materials
Two of Anthony’s most important efforts were his translation of a set of Indonesian military manuals from 1982 and writing Amnesty International’s first full-length report on human rights violations in Timor-Leste.

Interrogation manual. Click image to view.

The nine-volume set of manuals was captured by Fretilin in late 1982 near Baucau and sent via Church channels to Abilio Araujo and the Fretilin representatives in Lisbon. Recognising their value, journalist Jill Jolliffe brought them to London where Anthony and others translated them from Bahasa Indonesia to English. In his files were tattered copies of the originals from which he had worked. His own margin notes co-mingle with those made by Xanana Gusmão before the documents were sent from Timor-Leste. Also in the files were copies of the correspondence between Anthony and other Indonesia experts aimed at authenticating the documents.

The ‘torture manuals’
The manuals explicitly legitimated the use of torture in interrogation and draconian population control measures. They therefore became an important piece of evidence in human rights campaigns against Indonesia’s refrain of a peaceful, happily integrated Timor-Leste. They became known as the ‘torture manuals,’ despite the fact that neither Anthony nor Amnesty International used this term (see Amnesty Media release). Their content and significance were actually far larger, including as they did extensive, even respectful descriptions of Fretilin/Falintil’s political and military capabilities. The English translations were reproduced in Carmel Budiardjo and Soei Liong Liem’s The War Against East Timor, published in 1984 (see extract here).

Amnesty International Report, 1985
The slim blue volume that was Amnesty’s 1985 report on human rights abuses in Timor-Leste was a remarkable achievement, considering the lack of access to the country. It contains lists of the names of those executed or disappeared, with the dates and circumstances of each death. The vast majority of this information was subsequently re-confirmed by the CAVR’s research after the end of the occupation.

In Anthony’s files were letters from the Church, individuals, other odd-lot, first-hand accounts, and reports from the Timorese resistance, which were smuggled out of the country, primarily by the Church, in the early 1980s. These documents, together with interviews from Timorese refugees in Portugal, were essential sources of information for the 1985 report.

As part of his research Anthony went to Portugal and interviewed Timorese refugees, and some of the transcripts from the interviews were in his files. Among the most significant of these were interviews with Justino Mota and Antonio Barbosa, both of whom had been Fretilin Central Committee members in 1975. They were among the few who survived the 1970s and managed to leave for Portugal in the early 1980s.

There is also an interview with Virginia de Cruz Dias Quintas (see extract) which deals at length with executions in Los Palos, including the case of Joao Branco and the 41 others executed with him in mid-1979. This was among the best known and most notorious of the 1979 wave of executions, because Branco and his company were nominally serving under the Indonesian forces at the time of their execution. These documents are also likely to be in Amnesty International’s own archive.

1999 and beyond
Approximately two-thirds of the material stemmed from 1999 and after, from Anthony’s work with successive UN missions in Timor-Leste: UNAMET; UNTAET; UNMISET; UNOTIL; and of course the CAVR. From the CAVR were copies of the community profiles, violations, victim statements, records of public hearings, and event data sheets, which document individual human rights.

CAVR Commissioners reviewing Chega! report text, Dili, 2005. Anthony at centre-rear. [Source: Pat Walsh]

Among the files relating to the UN, the most significant are materials related to the creation of Timor-Leste’s police force and army over the course of 2000 – 2002, the negotiations with Indonesia over the border regime, analysis of the 2006 crisis, and human rights, notably Indonesia’s Ad Hoc Human Rights Court, which ran from 2000 to 2003.

Anthony also served on the King’s College London team, which developed recommendations for the transformation of Falintil into the Falintil-Forças de Defesa de Timor Leste (F-FDTL) in 2000 – 2001.

Seeing Anthony through his archive
Throughout his files was evidence not just of the depth of knowledge but also the humanity and intellectual rigor that made Anthony such a fine researcher, analyst, and colleague. Accompanying the documents relating to the 1985 Amnesty report are notes, cross-references, drafts, and translations from Indonesian and Portuguese. With the post-1999 documents are notes linking contemporary events with historical documents, books, and speeches, indicating where accounts connect and diverge.

In the post-1999 world, Anthony resisted the easy consensus and ahistorical analysis that sometimes fogged international thinking around Timor-Leste, whether in the heady days of the early 2000s or during the grim, messy aftermath of the 2006 crisis. Discreet notes of ‘tosh!’ flag the assertions of the empirically lazy. At the forefront was always an understanding that both history and justice rest on truth, and truth was often only to be found in the labor-intensive mining of difficult documents and contradictory stories.

It was for this reason that Anthony’s knowledge of source material was excellent. He not only knew the history but also knew where it was squirreled away in letters, radio transmissions, and documents from the 1980s and 90s. Of the transformative political debates within the Timorese resistance, he knew who had said what, when, and where it was to be found in documents. He could explain errors and inconsistencies that had entered the historical record and why. With humor and humility, he happily recounted what he and others had gotten wrong over the years. Evidenced in his files were not only his knowledge but also his deep sense of justice.

Click to view article

Far Eastern Economic Review, November 1974

Among the earliest documents are copies of articles he had written for the Far Eastern Economic Review in the 1970s. There was a copy of a long letter to his editor at the paper about the imperative of documenting the abuses of the Suharto regime and its preparation for the invasion of Timor-Leste. He was eventually expelled from Indonesia for these views. His rather less rigorous commitment to filing was also on display, as documents from the 1980s and boarding passes from 2000 mingled in the same files.

Access to Anthony Goldstone’s archive
Anthony’s archive will go to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) / University of London. Once the agreement is finalised and documents transferred, the next step will be digitisation and cross-referencing materials with the holdings of CAVR, now the Centro Nacional Chega in Dili, Amnesty International, and other archives. Thankfully much of Anthony’s effort and knowledge, built over decades of work, went into the 3,000 page-long Chega! and dozens of other documents and books that are in the public domain.

His archive is the back-story to that work, the raw information, the building blocks, questions, and correspondence that led to accurate, morally compelling reports. It is these building blocks that will be of importance to future researchers and students as they not only learn the subject matter of Timorese history but also how stories of human rights and justice are put together.

Edie Bowles


Edie Bowles worked in Timor-Leste from 2000 to 2008, first for USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives and then the World Bank. She is currently writing a book on the history of the Timorese resistance.

Rebecca Engel lived and worked in Timor-Leste between 2002 and 2010 where she directed programming for Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution. She is currently living in London and is a Lecturer in Post-War Reconstruction at the University of York.

Luiz Vieira was the Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration in Timor-Leste from 2002 to 2010. He is currently the Coordinator of the Bretton Woods Project in London.

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2 Responses to Timor archives of Anthony Goldstone (1945-2016)

  1. Rob Wesley-Smith says:

    And a lovely fella to boot – I met in late 1999 when he sat at top table at UN meetings – but I didn’t know this history then. Thanks.

  2. Madeleine Atkins says:

    Thank you for allowing me to learn more about the man I worked in the same department with in the mid-1980’s in a minor capacity with no knowledge of his towering intellect and capacity for such important work, just his charm and kindness. How fitting his work is being treated with the importance it deserves.

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