1965/66 Indonesian massacres echoed in East Timor

26 February 2013

A recent Canberra seminar on the infamous mass violence in Indonesia in 1965-66 revealed many parallels with East Timorese experience under Indonesian military occupation a decade later.

CHART’s John Waddingham participated, sharing his Timor archives project experience with those now seeking to build and share documentary evidence on Indonesia’s trauma in the 1960s.

Indonesian leftists being herded off to public execution. [Source: Unknown]

Indonesian leftists being herded off to public execution. [Source: Unknown]

The killings of several hundred thousand communists and alleged sympathisers marked the rise to presidential power of General Suharto in 1965-66. The broad story has been well-known but the detail has not.

Any critical discussion of the Suharto government’s official narrative on the killings, and its subsequent long-term imprisonment of huge numbers of ‘leftists’, was taboo in Indonesia. The fall of Suharto in 1998 has seen the lid lifted. Indonesian non-government organisations, activists and academics are now openly exploring those events – many with the aim of seeking reparations for victims and their families and holding perpetrators accountable for crimes against humanity.

Seminar topics
Held at the Australian National University, Canberra, New perspectives on the 1965 violence in Indonesia (11-13 February 2013) was organised by Australian-based academics researching 1965. In addition to well-known western researchers in this area like Robert Cribb and Kate McGregor, a number of very active researchers and activists flew in from Indonesia to communicate their work.

Topics included the emerging public debate in Indonesia, the local and Cold War aspects of the killings, Indonesian activist actions to counter the official narrative, to remove stigmas still disadvantaging victims’ families, to collect victim and perpetrator first-hand accounts and to document claims for justice and reparations. Several presentations explored the relationship between Suharto’s military and militias and other non-state actors responsible for many killings. The evidence for external support for the military, especially from the USA and UK, was one of a number of consistent threads in seminar discussion.

Komnas HAM report launch, Jakarta, July 2012.

Komnas HAM report launch, Jakarta, July 2012. [Jakarta Post]

Komnas HAM report
A recent four year study on 1965 by the official Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) was also discussed. The Commission’s landmark report, completed in July 2012, reported evidence of widespread crimes against humanity including killings, slavery, forced removal and displacement, torture, rape, extra-legal executions. The report recommended State apologies and reparations for victims and that responsible Indonesian military officials be charged with crimes against humanity. The 200-page Indonesian language executive summary is available here.

The Komnas HAM investigations shows that the issue is no longer taboo, but some reactions to the report suggest resistance to truth and justice on the matter remains strong. Indonesia’s Attorney-General, responsible for implementing the recommendations, has rejected the report’s legitimacy.

Shared experience: Indonesians and East Timorese. [CHART]

Shared experience: Indonesians and East Timorese. [CHART]

CHART inputs
CHART participated in the third day of the seminar – a closed session for current activists and researchers to exchange views, information resources and strategies. While time was restricted, John Waddingham outlined CHART’s program and methods to locate, document and provide access to archival materials. He particularly emphasised the importance of authenticating documents to ensure they were genuine and the need to demonstrate the authenticity of newly collected oral and documentary evidence from victims and perpetrators so that they cannot be challenged as fabrications.

Many exact matches were observed in the language to describe the 1965/66 killings and the invasion and occupation of East Timor. This shared experience provides an opportunity for Indonesians and East Timorese to better understand each other’s modern history.

The strong emergence of a raft of Indonesian activists and others now digging into their hidden past is a marvellous development. We hope that one spin-off from this blossoming will be increasing interest from Indonesians in uncovering documentary and other evidence of their military’s interventions in East Timor.

– – – – – – – – – –  

Useful introductory guides to the topic:

Inside Indonesia special edition, 2010

Online Encyclopedia of mass violence item, 2009


Revisiting 1983: Thirty years on

17 January 2013

1983 was a remarkable year in East Timor’s modern history. A renewed Fretilin-led resistance emerged from the shadows under the leadership of Xanana Gusmao with news of a ceasefire and negotiations between the occupiers and the resistance. Later that year came the removal of Timor’s ‘troublesome priest’, Monsignor Lopes, a Timorese uprising, Indonesian military campaigns and an infamous massacre.

In Australia the new Hawke Labor Government worked steadily to overcome its own Party policy supporting East Timorese self-determination. It hoped that an Australian Parliamentary delegation visit to Timor in July would undermine continuing Party and broader community disquiet about the Indonesian occupation.

CHART hopes to cover many of these topics during 2013. We start here with an introductory look at the tumultuous events marking the end of the ceasefire in August-September 1983.

General area of Kraras massacres, September 1983. [Base map source: Google]

General area of Kraras massacres, September 1983. [Base map source: Google]

The killing of 14-16 Indonesian soldiers at Kraras/Bibileu* on August 8 1983 and the subsequent September 1983 ‘Kraras massacre’ of a large number of civilians by Indonesian military forces became internationally-known soon after – but the detail was disputed.

A brief survey of accounts now available (see list below), largely drawn from Timorese eye-witness testimony, still leaves some unanswered questions about these important historical moments.

Uprising and massacre
Media reports in 1983 of the August 8 killings left much room for doubt about the nature of the event (see pages 9-12 of this contemporary compilation). Later credible Timorese-sourced reports claimed the killings were a spontaneous response to Indonesian military violation of local women.

There now seems little doubt that that the killings were indeed part of a resistance-planned uprising in the eastern zone. This is shown in direct testimony from Xanana Gusmao (Niner) and the person who led the attack, Ular Rihik/Virgílio dos Anjos (Jolliffe, Grimshaw) and other resistance figures at that time (Chamberlain).

The massacres of civilians by Indonesian military from about September 17 1983 are documented in some detail by Jolliffe, Pilger and CAVR (Timor-Leste’s Commission for Truth). Not surprisingly, the actual numbers of dead and disappeared remain elusive. There were several separate events and the evidence comes from multiple sources, some of whom were traumatised survivors from killing sites. A total figure of around 300 dead is oft-quoted, including the single largest massacre at Tahu Bein/Wetuku River where 80-180 were killed in cold blood.

The questions
Answers to some questions which arise from reading the available texts will help future generations understand this landmark event:

1. While Xanana admitted to a planned uprising in August, was Ular’s August 8 attack at Kraras/Bibileu premature; an error in communication or judgement? And/or was it a reaction to Indonesian provocations (such as violations against local women)?

2. Were formal Falintil resistance members directly involved in the August 8 attack or was it only villagers and Timorese defecting from Indonesian-controlled paramilitary units?

3. Was the uprising the cause of the end of the ceasfire or was it simply the first shots fired in a threatened Indonesian offensive against the resistance?

4. Why did it take the Indonesian military a full month to begin its reprisals in the Kraras/Bibileu area?

5. Is there any doubt about evidence that the Indonesian reprisal operations in the Kraras/Bibileu area were directly commanded in the field by Prabowo Subianto?

6. Do the lists of Timorese dead seen by Jolliffe and held by Pilger still exist and have steps been taken to ensure they survive and are accessible to future generations?

7. What has become of legal investigations into the massacre and has anything else been done to identify/mark the killing sites and memorialise those who died?

Indonesian sources?
Click to enlargeThe answers to some of these questions may eventually come from Indonesian sources – but the latest Timor offering from a significant Indonesian military figure suggests ‘not yet’.

Retired Lieutenant General Kiki Syahnakri has recently launched his Timor story. Syahnakri, a fluent Tetun speaker, served several times totalling some 12 years in Timor from late 1975. His last posting was as the Indonesian martial law administrator, 7-27 September 1999.

This book requires proper scrutiny for what it might add to insights on Indonesian military thinking and actions on Timor. On the Kraras/Bibileu story, however, Syahnakri is sadly lacking:

The Cararas (sic) Incident resulted in the immediate collapse of the spirit and positive thoughts about peace and dialogue. The Korem Commander, Colonel Poerwanto, was very disappointed and angered by the attack and cancelled the efforts for Peaceful Contact. According to retired TNI Brigadier-General Johanes Haribowo – who was the Korem chief-of-staff during the Peaceful Contact period, Xanana admitted that he did not know the reason for the attack and killings at Cararas. He truly was not involved in the incident. On the contrary, he suspected that a third party was behind that incident. Moreover, it cannot be excluded that foreign forces were successful in infiltrating the Fretilin group and setting in motion the Cararas Incident. And so, the opportunity and hope to end the East Timor conflict through peaceful dialogue was obliterated. Peaceful Contact was in dissaray and failed. Armed conflict, violence, and killing by both sides occurred again.

The  ‘Cararas Incident’ refers to Ular’s attack on August 8.  ‘Peaceful Contact’ was the preferred Indonesian label for the ceasfire period. Note no specific mention is made of the Indonesian reprisals against civilian Timorese.

A full translation of this part of  Syahnakri’s book can be found here.


Accounts providing or referencing primary source materials

Chamberlain, E. The Struggle in Iliomar: Resistance in rural East Timor – 2008, revised. Extract only.

Chega! (Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation). Dili, 2005. Chapter 3 (pp 100-106); Chapter 7.2 (pp 168-173)

Grimshaw, Z. Interview With Comandante Ular Rihik/Virgílio dos Anjos of Timor Leste. 2009. (pp 8-9)

Jolliffe, J. Balibo.  Scribe, Melbourne. 2009 (pp. 302-323)

Niner, S. Xanana. Leader of the struggle for independent Timor-Leste. Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2009. (pp 88-104)

Pilger, J. We helped them descend into hell. 1999


* Note on Kraras/Bibileu: Jill Jolliffe has best described the difficulties of identifying the map location of these events (see her detailed Note 19, p.377). In short, Kraras is a relatively flat area or plain, not a population centre, immediately north and west of Viqueque town. Bibileu is one of a number of small population centres holding former residents of ‘old’ Bibileu, originally located on Mount Bibileu, who were relocated by the Indonesian military in earlier years.

Credits: Many thanks to Ernie Chamberlain for his translation of the passage from Syahnakri.

Authenticating documents

5 March 2012

During the years 1975-1999, hundreds if not thousands of documents originating in East Timor were circulated internally and internationally. Most items circulated internationally were photocopies, not the original document. Recipients of these copies could assume the document was authentic at the time because it came to them from a known or reliable source. In other words, they knew something of the document’s ‘provenance’ or chain of ownership. When documents (especially copies) appear with no obvious provenance, can we trust them as accurate and authentic records?

In the first of a series of articles about authenticity, CHART explores here one significant document whose provenance is unclear. In addition to inviting comment on the particular document, we also seek feedback and discussion on the general authenticity issue.

CAVR Library. Item TX294

The library of Timor-Leste’s Post-CAVR* Secretariat at Comarca/Balide in Dili holds a series of background documents from a wide variety of sources. Displayed in labelled magazine boxes, these documents are freely available for library users to browse and read.

A magazine box labelled ‘Fretilin’ contains a series of published and unpublished documents, including a photocopy of an untitled 53-page typescript item.

1981 Resistance re-organisation
This Portuguese-language document records the proceedings of a national conference held by the Fretilin-led East Timorese resistance in March 1981. The document reviews critically the conduct of the resistance since Indonesia’s 1975 invasion, describes the current situation and outlines future resistance structure and strategies. The document includes election results for formal positions within the organised resistance, including the election of Xanana Gusmao as Political Commissar and Commander of the armed resistance, Falintil. The document also records a formal Fretilin structural and name-change to Partido Marxista-Leninista Fretilin (PMLF).

This item is clearly a key source document on the restructuring of the formal East Timorese resistance in the wake of its decimation in 1978-79. Because the Post-CAVR Secretariat which holds this public copy has no record of the document’s origins, we need to examine it closely to attempt to establish its authenticity.

Click to view 1981 document

Authenticity – physical evidence
A viewing of the document raises some questions about its origins. Unlike many documents from Timorese sources in the 1980s, this document bears no stamps or signatures (but is attributed to Mau Hodu Ran Kadalak, Conference Secretary). The contents list (Indice) on the first page of the document includes reference to a 3-page ‘note on presentation’ but these pages are missing from the document. The otherwise untitled first page suggests the whole document may have originally included a formal cover.

It is not possible to determine from the document whether the first page and the missing introductory pages were part of the original typed record of the 1981 meeting or whether they were added by another party distributing the records. If the latter is the case, it would seem that the actual textual records of the meeting are retyped from the original versions (which introduces the possibility of errors or omissions). The document also appears to have two pages numbered ’37’.

Authenticity – content
Comparison of the document’s content with other accounts of the March 1981 meeting is one way to assess its authenticity. Both Sara Niner’s biography on Xanana Gusmao (1) and CAVR’s monumental report, Chega! (2), describe the meeting but do not cite this particular document. The principal source for these published accounts are largely writings and oral testimony by Xanana Gusmao, but other eye-witness meeting participants are cited.

There is significant agreement between the published accounts and the document. For example, the names of nine people elected to the Fretilin Central Committee (p.35) and the adoption of Marxism-Leninism (p.33-34) are also recorded in the published accounts. These and other concordances  lend significant weight to the document’s authenticity.

However, there are some puzzling questions remaining in the comparison of the content of the document with these other sources.

Chega!  (Chap.5, p.27) reports that this meeting reaffirmed the roles and positions of the Fretilin external delegation headed by Abilio Araujo in Lisbon and who was named as ‘Secretary General’ (of Fretilin). The meeting document, however, has scant mention of the external delegation and appears to name only one of its number, Mari Alkatiri, as the secretary of the Department of External Relations (p.38).

Page 46 Extract. Translation of first two sentences: The actual structure of power is the one which better responds in this period to the current situation in the country. Thus, at the national level, the Revolutionary Council of National Resistance is the highest level body which corresponds to the Party’s Central Committee whose head manager is the Commander-in-chief of FALINTIL.

Chega! (Chap. 5, p.27-29) and Niner (p.73-75) report the establishment at this conference of the Revolutionary Council of National Resistance (CRRN). According to Chega!, “The CRRN was intended to be the organisational vehicle for everyone who wanted to join the struggle to end the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste. The CRRN was in effect the PMLF’s invitation to all East Timorese regardless of party or other affiliation to join the resistance to the Indonesian occupation” (p.28). This is seen by both published sources as a landmark change in the direction of the organised resistance. Surprising, then, that the document does not appear to record any formal resolution on the creation of the CRRN. The new body is mentioned in the latter part of the text (page 46 – see text and translation above – & page 49), but with little explanatory detail.

While there are many possible explanations for these and other differences, the most obvious one is that the current document is not a complete set of all the original documents created to record the historic meeting of 1-8 March 1981.

Some questions
The evidence suggests that the document is at least a partial record of that special meeting in East Timor in March 1981. However, it is reasonable to ask the following questions.
1. Does there exist a complete copy of the document under discussion here?
2. If, as seems likely, this document is a packaged version of the original meeting records, who created it and when?
3. Do originals or photocopies of the original typed- or hand-written records of the March 1981 meeting exist.
4. Given that oral evidence on the meeting records more than can be found in the documents available here, is it possible that other documentary records of the meeting exist (or at least were created at the time)?

Answers to some or all of those questions will help future generations of East Timorese feel confident about the authenticity of this key document in the history of the formal resistance to the Indonesian occupation, 1975-1999.

See new information showing the document was created by Abilio Araujo in Lisbon in 1983, based on audio-cassettes smuggled from East Timor that year: June 2014 follow up article.

UPDATE (5 March 2016)
Now available: A Tetun translation of the 1981 meeting record. Many thanks to Nuno Rodriguez Tchailoro.



* Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation

1. Sara Niner. Xanana: Leader of the struggle for independent Timor-Leste. Australian Scholarly Publishing. Melbourne. 2009.

2. Chega! The report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR). 2005.

Credit: Thanks to Marisa Ramos Goncalves for translation of CRRN fragments of document.

March 1982: Whitlam & Hastings in Timor

1 March 2012

Thirty years ago, former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam threw his considerable public weight behind the case for East Timor’s integration into Indonesia.

His robust submissions* and appearances before an Australian Senate Inquiry in May 1982 and the United Nations Decolonisation Committee in November that same year were somewhat influential in the Australian debate on Timor at the time.

Whitlam’s public interventions were based largely on a visit he made to East Timor in March 1982. We present here an annotated selection of primary source materials on that decidedly controversial visit.

Media Conference, Centre for Strategic & International Studies, Jakarta.        From left: Peter Hastings, Gough Whitlam and Jusuf Wanandi.     Source: Sinar Harapan, 5 March 1982

Gough Whitlam and influential veteran defence and foreign affairs journalist Peter Hastings travelled to East Timor on 1 March 1982. They were in Timor for two nights, returning to Jakarta late evening on March 4. In Timor, they were able to travel by International Red Cross (ICRC) helicopter, in the company of ICRC delegate Cedric Neukomm. Based in Dili, they visited Ermera, Suai, Maliana, Atauro, Natarbora, Dilor, Lospalos and Luro. Both men held a joint media conference in Jakarta on March 5.

The main focus of Whitlam’s attention was to show that Australian media reports in January 1982 of ‘famine’ in Timor were false. It is reasonable to assume that these reports, ultimately attributed to the head of Timor’s Catholic Church, Monsignor Lopes, were a primary trigger for the trip. The forthcoming Australian Senate Inquiry may also have been a factor behind the visit.

The available public record does not show who exactly initiated plans for the Timor visit.  Peter Hastings was invited to visit Timor by the Indonesian Embassy (Editorial, Canberra Times, 13 March 1982) though the participants and organisers remained rather coy about the underlying decision-making. At the Indonesian end the visit was organised and facilitated by the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which, since 1974, had been directly connected to Indonesian special operations to achieve East Timorese incorporation into Indonesia.
Article, Herald (Melb.), 3 March 1982
Article, The Age, 4 March 1982
Article, The Australian, 4 March 1982

The ‘famine’ claim
Australian media reports in January 1982 of ‘famine’ in Timor were based on a media release from Australian Catholic Relief (ACR). The ACR media release was in turn based on a November 1981 exchange of correspondence between Monsignor Lopes and Bishop John Gerry who was then ACR Chairman. The documents show that Mgr Lopes’ passing reference to ‘expected famine’ is a repeat of a term (the origins of which are unclear) used originally by Bp Gerry rather than an outright claim by Lopes of  ‘famine’. The ACR media release and subsequent media headlines appear to carry more responsibility for the ‘famine’ claim than anything directly attributable to Mgr Lopes.
Bishop JJ Gerry letter to Mgr Lopes, 11 November 1981
Mgr Lopes reply to Bishop Gerry, 19 November 1981
ACR Press Release, 6 January 1982
Article, The Age, 11 January 1982
Article, Northern Territory News, 11 January 1982
Editorial, Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 12 January 1982

Whitlam and Hastings reports
Whitlam and Hastings both published or broadcast their findings and opinions. Whitlam’s attentions were focussed on Mgr Lopes, notably calling him in an ABC interview (see below) “a liar..(and)..a mendacious and malicious correspondent”. Hastings’ accounts contained much more detail on actual conditions in the occupied territory.
Transcript of Whitlam/Hastings press conference, Jakarta, 5 March 1982
Peter Hastings article, SMH, 6 March 1982
Peter Hastings article, SMH, 8 March 1982
Peter Hastings article, SMH, 8 March 1982
Peter Hastings article, SMH, 8 March 1982
Peter Hastings article, The Age, 8 March 1982
Peter Hastings article, SMH, 9 March 1982
Gough Whitlam interview on ABC Radio, 26 March 1982
Gough Whitlam article, The Bulletin, 30 March 1982
Peter Hastings interview, ABC Radio, 20 April 1982

Media reportage of visit
The visit itself attracted brief media coverage in Australia and Indonesia, including some editorials on the significance of the trip and its reported findings. While Indonesian media reports were uncritical of the Whitlam findings, some other mainstream media were less certain of them.

Article, The Age, 6 March 1982
Editorial, Sinar Harapan, 6 March 1982
Article, The Indonesia Times, 8 March 1982
Editorial, The Indonesia Times, 8 March 1982
Article, The Age, 12 March 1982
Editorial, Canberra Times, 13 March 1982
Article, Far Eastern Economic Review

In Australia, Mr Whitlam’s assertions in particular attracted the most analysis and commentary from advocates for East Timor. A feature of the more detailed commentary was to use Peter Hastings’ Timor visit accounts to demonstrate shortcomings in those of Mr Whitlam. Whitlam’s case found some public support, including from Bob Santamaria who – since 1975 – had actively campaigned publicly (through his Newsweekly periodical) and privately in Catholic circles against advocates for East Timorese self-determination.
Bob Richards (unpublished?) letter to the editor, 7 March 1982
ACFOA (unpublished?) Letter to Editor, 12 March 1982
Newsweekly Editorial, 10 March 1982
Newsweekly Editorial, 17 March 1982
Jim Dunn article, The Age, 17 March 1982
David Scott (unpublished?) letter to Editor, 25 March 1982
Pat Walsh notes for ACFOA Chairperson, 30 March 1982
Former WWII Commando, Cliff Morris letter to Whitlam, 30 March 1982
Peter McCawley letter to Editor, Canberra Times 31 March 1982
Letters to Editor, The Bulletin, 20 April 1982
Jose Ramos-Horta Letter to Editor, SMH 22 April 1982
Pat Walsh article, Arena, No.60, 1982
Timor Information Service article, March/April 1982

International Red Cross
A surprising element of the Whitlam/Hastings trip to Timor was the involvement of International Red Cross (ICRC). The visitors travelled to parts of Timor in the ICRC helicopter accompanied by an ICRC delegate. Much was made of this fact in Mr Whitlam’s claims about conditions in the territory; he was able to effectively draw on ICRC authority to support his assertions. The Australian Council for Overseas Aid certainly wondered about ICRC’s involvement in a visit which became an overtly political exercise.
ACFOA Draft letter to ICRC (undated)

Concluding comment
Gough Whitlam’s direct attack on Mgr Lopes probably aided calls in Indonesia for the monsignor’s removal from Timor by the Vatican in 1983. He also had some transient impact on the public debate in Australia and inside the Labor Party, but other events in 1983 – a formal ceasefire and subsequent major Indonesian military offensive – rendered his 1982 claims outdated.

The documentary record of the Whitlam/Hastings Timor visit remains valuable. It offers a good insight into the approach of Mr Whitlam who, at the time, was one of the very few public figures to campaign publicly in Australia against East Timorese self-determination. Combined with the sample of reactions to Whitlam’s assertions, the record also provides an insight into the nature of the debate in Australia about East Timor at that time.


* Records of these submissions can be found among a series of Timor documents available online through the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney.

Sources: The selected documents presented here come from the archives of Timor Information Service and the ACFOA Human Rights Office. Both collections are in CHART custody in Melbourne and will be subject to an extensive digitisation program during 2012.

Note on Copyright:  If any original creators of the materials presented wish to assert their copyright ownership and object to our usage here, please contact us immediately and we will remove the item.

Remembering the Santa Cruz Massacre

12 November 2011

To mark the 20th anniversary of the infamous Santa Cruz Massacre, we present here a guide to recent commentary and some archival resources on this landmark event.

Relatives hold photos of Santa Cruz massacre victims during a commemoration in Dili, 12 November 2009. (1)

The shooting by Indonesian troops of an unknown number of unarmed Timorese demonstrators at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili on 12 November 1991 was a watershed event in East Timor’s modern history.

While other massacres and much larger losses of life occurred in earlier years of Indonesian rule, the Santa Cruz Massacre became the iconic representation of the military occupation of East Timor.

The essential difference between this event and earlier crimes was that it was witnessed and recorded by independent (ie non-Timorese and non-Indonesian) reporters and other observers.

The impact of this event on East Timor’s future was decisive. In the words of former Indonesian foreign Minister Alatas, thereafter “international support for Indonesia’s position inexorably declined while that for the independence movement in East Timor markedly increased”. (2)

Long-term preservation of the documentary source materials is crucial to retaining for future generations a detailed knowledge and understanding of this event. Some of these documents may also serve justice if the perpetrators of the crimes on this day in 1991 ever face a proper and fair trial.


Centro Audiovisual Max Stahl – Timor-Leste (CAMS-TL)
British film maker Max Stahl’s dramatic video footage of the massacre was crucial to international knowledge of the event. Copies of the original footage and productions including key scenes are held at CAMS-TL in Dili.

The French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) houses copies of some Max Stahl Timor footage. INA provides sample sequences for viewing online – including the original Santa Cruz footage and subsequent interviews with survivors.

Some Stahl footage can be found on YouTube, including this low resolution sequence.

CHART recently published a guide to CAMS-TL video footage, including the 1991 material and a transcript of some massacre footage.

Resistance Archive & Museum (AMRT)
AMRT provides online access to vast numbers of digitised documents, including Santa Cruz material.

The 20th anniversary is commemorated by AMRT with a special website presentation which also includes a link to a catalogue search result on the term “Santa Cruz”.

Commission for Reception, Truth & Reconciliation (CAVR)
The library and archives of Timor’s CAVR (now managed by a Post-CAVR Secretariat) hold original records on Santa Cruz, including eye-witness accounts. An account of the event and a guide to sources can be found in CAVR’s monumental 2005 report Chega!. See especially Chapter 3 (p.115ff) and Chapter 7 (p.199ff).

ACFOA Human Rights Office
The Human Rights office of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (now ACFID), headed by Pat Walsh, collected extensive materials on Santa Cruz during the course of its long-standing advocacy work for East Timorese justice and self-determination. CHART produces here for the first time a guide to the content of these files.

This collection of material remains in private hands but under CHART custody where it will be the focus of an extensive digitisation program in 2012 for easy access in Timor-Leste and elsewhere.

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
ETAN began in the USA in response to the Santa Cruz massacre and soon became a key reference point for international East Timor activism and advocacy.

ETAN marked the 20th anniversary with a feature page on the event and maintains a guide to Santa Cruz information and ongoing calls for justice on the matter.

Clinton Fernandes
Prominent Timor researcher and justice advocate Clinton Fernandes’ web-based Companion to East Timor includes some sample documents and a summary of Santa Cruz.

Jill Jolliffe
Microfiche copies of some Santa Cruz material may be found in Jill Jolliffe’s archival collection. See pages 35-36 of the guide to her collection – The East Timor Question, 1975-1996.

The Jolliffe collection is held by a number of academic and major libraries in Australia and elsewhere.

National Archives of Australia (NAA)
NAA holds large volumes of material on East Timor. However access to its holdings are generally covered by a standard ‘closed period‘ of twenty to thirty years after the events documented. Santa Cruz files will not be open for access until 2016-17.

With the exception of documentary fragments held in collections outside Indonesia, we have no knowledge of accessible official or unofficial Santa Cruz records in Indonesia.

Other sources and commentary?
Here is a list of other instances,  from disparate sources, of online Santa Cruz materials and commemorations of the 20th anniversary. More to be listed in coming days.

Forensic studies report (2010) by Soren Blau & Luis Fondbrider

Amnesty International Statement (2011-11-12)

Historical Justice & Memory Research Network

La’o Hamutuk reflection (2011-11-12)

VivaNews.com (Indonesian)

TSF Radio Noticias (Portugal) – includes some great still images of Santa Cruz events.

Sapo Noticias Timor-Leste  (Portuguese language feature)

If you know of other significant archival collections with Santa Cruz content, please advise us and we will add them to this guide.


(1) Martine Perret / UNMIT, 2008. See online source.

(2) Ali Alatas. The pebble in the shoe: the diplomatic struggle for East Timor. Aksara Karunia, Jakarta, 2006, p.64.

SBY’s Timor History

12 March 2010

SBY - top graduate 1973

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), like many of his generation of former military men, has a Timor history. Australian researcher Ernie Chamberlain shows that, while SBY may not have been in the very first wave of the 7 December 1975 Indonesian military invasion, he was on active duty in Timor in those early years of the occupation which had such catastrophic consequences for the Timorese population and resistance. While the detailed story of SBY’s roles inside Timor is yet to be told, what follows sketches the beginning of his Timor history.

Chamberlain writes:

In his senior year (1973) at the Akabri military academy at Magelang, Bambang Yudhoyono was the Dandivkortar (“top cadet”) – overseeing 3,000 cadets. On graduation in November 1973, as the “top student” among the 987 graduates (Prabowo Subianto, by the way, graduated the following year in third place), he was presented with the Bintang Adhi Makayasa medal personally by then President Soeharto.
From Akabri, he was posted as a platoon commander to Kostrad’s 330 Airborne/Raider Battalion (Commander 3 Platoon, “A” Company) serving in the period “1974-76”. That unit’s history website notes that the battalion saw service in Timor in “1975-1976″.
Indonesian journalist and author Hendro Subroto has written on 330 Battalion’s operations in several of his works. In particular, two battalions of 330 Battalion’s formation – the 17th Airborne Brigade/”Satgas B” – parachuted onto the Baucau airfield on 10 December 1975, but 330 Battalion (commanded by Major Syukur) did not arrive in Baucau from Kupang until 14 December in an airlanded operation utilising civil-type aircraft. Soon after landing, 330 Battalion led the ABRI advance south to Viqueque – meeting quite stiff Falintil opposition led by Sabika in the Lariguto/Ossu area.

SBY’s Timor entrance
But was Yudhoyono with 330 Battalion in Timor in December 1975 ? I think not.
Firstly, Hendro Subroto is an inveterate “name dropper”. In relating operations in Timor, he invariably highlights the presence/role of any later-to-become-senior ABRI officers. He makes no mention of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the Baucau/Viqueque operation of 330 Battalion. Moreover, Yudhoyono reportedly attended English language training at the US military’s Defence Language Institute in Texas in late 1975/early 1976, followed by Airborne and Ranger training at Fort Benning in 1975-1976.
He apparently returned to Indonesia in mid-1976 – deploying to Timor in August 1976 as a platoon commander in 305 Battalion (a month after his marriage to the daughter of Major General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo a renowned/infamous commander of the RPKAD and graduate of the Australian Army’s Staff College at Queenscliff, Victoria). While little is known about 305 Battalion’s activities in Timor in 1976-1977, it reportedly operated principally in Lautem.
Among his medals, Yudhoyono wears the Satya Lencana Seroja, 1976 (Operasi Seroja – Operation Lotus – was the name given to the major Indonesian military campaign in Timor from December 1975 to November 1979)

Other connections
As an aside, over the years, Bambang Yudhoyono has had several koneksi with the Australian military – and was a close friend of Lieutenant General Peter Leahy (former Chief of Army, and now a professor heading the University of Canberra’s National Security Institute). They were in the same class at the US Command and Staff College, Leavenworth in 1990-1991 (Leahy was the “top” foreign student, Bambang Yudhoyono was “No.2”). It was planned that Yudhoyono attend the year-long “one-star” ADF ACDSS course at Weston Creek (Canberra) in 1996 – but in November 1995, Yudhoyono was quite suddenly posted to Bosnia-Herzegovina as the Chief Military Observer of the UN Peacekeeping Force.


Subroto, S., Operasi Udara di Timor Timor (Air Operations in East Timor), Pustaka Sinar Harapan, Jakarta, 2005, pp.107-197.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susilo_Bambang_Yudhoyono

Military Academy website: http://www.akmil.ac.id

Battallion 330 website: http://www.yoniflinud330.mil.id/

More SBY biographical details: http://www.tokohindonesia.com/ensiklopedi/s/susilo-b-yudhoyono/biografi/keluarga.shtml

Ernie Chamberlain is a retired Australian brigadier, having served for 36 years – including as Australian Defence Attache in Jakarta in the mid-1990s. Since retirement in 1998, he has spent some years in Timor – including advising Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues and F-FDTL commander Taur Matan Ruak on defence policy and planning (2004-05).

The Two Purwantos

31 January 2010

Colonel Purwanto and Xanana 1983               Gatot Purwanto, Jakarta 2009

The name Purwanto is well known in the history of Indonesia’s military occupation of East Timor. In 1983, Colonel Purwanto, then direct commander of Indonesian forces in the territory, represented Indonesia in negotiations with Xanana Gusmao, the commander of the East Timorese resistance army, Falintil.

When a retired Colonel Gatot Purwanto made international news in late 2009 admitting he was a member of the Indonesian military team responsible for killing the ‘Balibo Five’ journalists in October 1975, most assumed this was the same Colonel Purwanto of 1983 negotiations fame.

Australian researcher Ernie Chamberlain believes there are two different Purwantos – though, confusingly, both were involved in different roles in the 1983 negotiations. He writes:

‘In recent weeks, in writing about Timor, a number of contributors have confused two ABRI officers ie Colonel Purwanto (Artillery) – the East Timor commander in 1983 (ie Danrem 164/Wira Dharma) and Major Stefanus Gatot Purwanto – a senior Kopassus detachment commander in Timor in the early 1980s.

‘Major (Kopassus) Gatot Purwanto did the “leg work” in late 1982 and early 1983 in preparing the March 1983 ABRI-Falintil ceasefire talks at Lariguto – while Colonel Purwanto (Danrem 164) was the Indonesian military’s principal in the discussions with Xanana Gusmao.

‘Colonel Purwanto (Danrem 164, Artillery) – somewhat “tubby” and “moustachio-ed”, is seen in the 1983 “Lariguto photographs” with Xanana Gusmao. Major Stefanus Gatot Purwanto – as a Colonel, became the ASINTEL Kolakops/Komandan Satgas Intel in Timor Timur in 1990 – and was dismissed/pensioned from ABRI following the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre.

Major General Sintong Panjaitan (right) in Dili after the Santa Cruz massacre, November 1991. Figure at left almost certainly Colonel Gatot Purwanto as a senior intelligence officer

‘Interestingly, in December 2009 during his interviews related to the film “Balibo”, retired Colonel Gatot Purwanto – aged 62, claimed that at the time of the “Balibo incident” in mid-October 1975, he had only been out of AMN Magelang – the ABRI officer academy – for three years:  “I was a first lieutenant at the time, just three years out of officer training school”, he recalled.  However, according to other reports, Gatot Purwanto graduated from AMN Magelang in 1968 (the same year as Wiranto – born in 1947). Also, in Hendro Subroto’s 2009 book on the career of Major General Sintong Panjaitan, a Captain Gatot Subroto is noted as a Kopassandha intelligence officer on operations in West Kalimantan in 1973. The foregoing suggests that perhaps Colonel (Retired) Gatot Purwanto’s December 2009 statement on his seeming ‘junior status’ at Balibo in 1975 requires some further examination.’

Chamberlain Notes on Indonesian military terms:

Danrem is the Komandan Korem ie the Commander of the Military Regency/Sub-Area Command (ie Timor Timor was Korem 164 – established March 1979). “Dan” is for “Komandan” and “Rem” is for “Resort Militer“.

ASINTEL is “Assistant for Intelligence” ie a staff officer on a headquarters responsible for the intelligence function.

Kolakops is “Komando Pelaksanakan Operasi” – ie “Executive Operational Command” – ie a special operational command set up in East Timor (commanded by a brigadier) to manage tactical field operations with the Danrem 164 (a full colonel appointment) being responsible for administration and territorial operations. Kolakops was founded in Timor in 1989 and functioned until 1993 – ie disbanded following the investigation into Santa Cruz. However the operational command appears to have continued covertly from outside Timor ie with “guidance” from Kopassus Group 3 Headquarters in Batujajar, West  Java. Of course, many of the Danrem Colonels in East Timor were Kopassus officers.

Komandan is Commander; Satgas is Satuan Tugas – ie Task Unit – so Satgas Intel – is the intelligence task unit – staffed almost exclusive in East Timor by Kopassus.

Kopassus is Komando Pasukan Khusus –  Special Forces . Originally known as RPKADResimen Para Komando Angkatan Darat, then changed to Kopassandha (Komando Pasukan Sandi Yudha) on 17 February 1971, before becoming Kopassus on 26 December 1986. Therefore, technically, young Lieutenant Gatot Purwanto was a member of  Kopassandha at Balibo in 1975, and also later as Major Gatot Purwanto in Kopassandha when engaged in the 1983 ceasefire machinations.


Ernie Chamberlain is a retired Australian brigadier, having served for 36 years – including as Australian Defence Attache in Jakarta in the mid-1990s. Since retirement in 1998, he has spent some years in Timor – including advising Defence Minister Roque Rodrigues and F-FDTL commander Taur Matan Ruak on defence policy and planning (2004-05).

He has written several privately-published monographs including:
The Struggle in Iliomar: Resistance in rural East Timor (2003, 2004, 2008).
Faltering Steps – Independence Movements in East Timor in the 1950s and 1960s (2005).
Rebellion, Defeat and Exile: The 1959 Uprising in East Timor (2007).
Faltering Steps: Independence Movements in East Timor – 1940s to the early 1970s (2007, 2008).
He has recently completed a monograph on the Timorese who served with SRD/Z Special Unit against the Japanese in Portuguese Timor during WWII.