Companion to East Timor - International Solidarity - Phase Four

International Solidarity – Phase Four

Phase Four began after the Santa Cruz massacre of 12th November 1991. The solidarity movement was able to go on the diplomatic offensive. It capitalized on the publicity generated by the massacre, and successfully challenged Indonesia's claims that East Timor's people were happy and well-integrated. There were growing links between Indonesian pro-democracy activists and East Timorese students in Indonesia. International solidarity achieved perhaps the most significant victory of the 1990s – the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Bishop Belo and Jose Ramos-Horta.

Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn, two reporters from the US, were present at the Santa Cruz massacre. Their camera was smashed and both were badly beaten. They immediately telephoned Arnold Kohen, who was in Washington, D.C. He had previously facilitated their 1990 visit to East Timor in 1990. In Amy Goodman's book, The Exception to the Rulers (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2004: 224), she writes, 'While in Bali we were able to make one call to a friend in Washington to alert the press that a massacre had taken place in East Timor.' She does not mention Kohen here or in the index.

Kohen's diary shows him writing down her words:

Massacre in Timor, Allan and Amy beaten up badly. Brit beaten. Gunfire all around… Shooting everyone indiscriminately. Timorese unarmed. Little kids, old women in traditional garb. Whole road became cemetery. We're very lucky. Several dozen dead. People hit, wounded, dying. Total massacre, very deliberate, systematic, no provocation. I'm fine compared to the devastation we just witnessed… Went to front to prevent massacre. Pulled by hair, slammed to ground, boots, rifle butts, fists. Allan went on top of her to protect her. Allan drenched in blood… Beat hard around head. Fractured skull. Absolutely desperate situation.

Arnold Kohen's diary, 12 November 1991. Photo by Clinton Fernandes.

Kohen used his media, church and congressional contacts, developed over 16 years, to good effect. There were numerous hard-hitting editorials in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and other mainstream newspapers.

Arnold Kohen's diary. Photo by Clinton Fernandes.

The East Timor Action Network

A new group of activists with a background in the peace and anti-nuclear movements entered the arena after Santa Cruz. They held a rally for East Timor on 10 December 1991 outside Indonesia's permanent mission to the United Nations in New York. The day and location were deliberately selected – 10 December is Human Rights Day. They soon found through their networks that similar protests and expressions of concern were being made in other cities in the US. These individuals therefore joined forces, with a few of them forming the East Timor Action Network (ETAN). Charles Scheiner and John M. Miller, who were members of the War Resisters' League, got permission from the League to use its mailing list on a one-time only basis to inform more people about ETAN. The Canadian East Timor Alert Network provided them with a list of US residents who had previously been in contact with it. ETAN wrote to all these people saying that they intended to focus on ending US support for the Indonesian occupation. (In formal terms, ETAN would not come into existence until a little later, but I use ETAN here to refer to the activists who would soon establish the organisation.) The first financial contribution they received was from Noam Chomsky, whom they didn't know but had heard of. Chomsky appears to have posted them his contribution on the same day he received their letter.

ETAN worked with Allan Nairn and Amy Goodman, who became the public faces of the campaign in the US. ETAN's pressure point of choice was the US Congress, where they carried out an intensive program of public education and lobbying. ETAN also reached out to Portuguese-Americans, many of whom lived in the state of Rhode Island. Ronald Machtley, a Republican congressman from Rhode Island, co-sponsored a bill with long-time East Timor supporter, congressman Tony Hall of Ohio. The bill would delete all funding for a program in which the US trained the Indonesian military. While small in monetary terms, the cessation of the program (known as International Military Education and Training – IMET), was politically significant; it was the first time the US had ever refused military assistance to Indonesia since Suharto came to power.

US activists also inflicted damage on the Indonesian occupation by successfully suing Major-General Sintong Panjaitan for his role in the Santa Cruz massacre. Panjaitan had been served papers in 1992 after he was 'punished' by his government by being sent to the US to enrol in Harvard Business School. Panjaitan fled the country, and a default judgment was entered against him in February 1993. The suit was brought by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, resulting a US court ordering Panjaitan to pay $4 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages to Helen Todd, the mother of New Zealand solidarity activist Kamal Bamadhaj, who was the only non-East Timorese killed in the Santa Cruz massacre. In April 1993, a Timorese Youth Delegation from Melbourne conducted a month long speaking tour of the United States. The delegation met several members of the US Congress and their aides. They also spoke at several university campuses, including Princeton, Harvard Law School, Cornell, Rutgers, Yale, MIT and the University of California's Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses. Solidarity groups formed on these campuses in the wake of the delegation's visit.

In July 1993, there was another activist victory when the sale of F-5 fighter aircraft to the Indonesian Air Force was prevented. In November that year, President Suharto's visit to Seattle for an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting was disrupted by protests over East Timor. A few months later, ETAN activists were able to compel the US State Department to ban the sale of small arms to Indonesia. They were also able to get the US Congress to impose a ban on the sale of helicopter-mounted weapons to the Indonesian military. National Security Council's Senior Director for Asian Affairs (and Special Assistant to the President) Stanley Roth, said that he received 'more letters on East Timor in [his] job at the White House than any other country in Asia. A number of senators and congressmen follow it very closely.' According to Roth, the 'continued high level visibility and attention in the Congress to developments in East Timor' meant that the Executive Branch's freedom of action with respect to Indonesia was restricted: 'It is an area where continuing ongoing human rights problems do jeopardize the relationship, do give Indonesia somewhat of a black eye in its reputation in the United States, and do affect the relationship.'1

The solidarity movement in Portugal

Portugal held a national day of mourning on 19 November, outraged by the film footage and deeply moved by the sight of dying East Timorese saying their final prayers in Portuguese. Plans by certain parliamentarians to do away with the East Timor issue were dashed. Portuguese activists reacted quickly, raising funds to charter the Lusitania Expresso, an old Portuguese car ferry described as a peace ship. Rui Marques, a 29-year-old medicine graduate and broadcaster on a Catholic radio station, announced that the ship would sail to East Timor and flowers would be placed at the Santa Cruz cemetery. Although the Portuguese government did not officially support the voyage, one of the vessel's main backers was the government-owned oil company, Galp Petroleos de Portugal, and former Portuguese President Antonio Ramalho Eanes was on board. Portuguese activists were joined by more than 100 passengers from 21 countries. Among the passengers were two Indonesians living in Holland, Aeri Harapan and Reza Muharram, both of whom had their passports cancelled by the Indonesian government in retaliation. The ship left Lisbon on 22 January, sailed via the port of Djibouti on the east coast of Africa, then docked in Darwin.

In Australia, the Waterside Workers' Federation joined many other unions in expressing support, resolving to expedite all port procedures and provide security while it was in the port of Darwin. The Australian Congress of Trade Unions (ACTU) also endorsed the mission and called on the Australian government to support and protect the ship. The Lusitania Expresso left Darwin for Dili on 9 March 1992. The Indonesian navy turned the ship back before it could reach East Timor but the publicity surrounding the voyage had reverberated around the world.

Portuguese activists also demanded that their government make full use of its membership of the European Commission (now the EU). Under vigorous lobbying from Portugal, the EU responded quickly, issuing a declaration condemning Indonesia. At the time, an agreement on cooperation between Europe and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was under development. The European Commission already had a trade cooperation agreement with ASEAN but the new agreement was to cover a much wider range of issues. Also on the diplomatic agenda was a new international aid consortium for Indonesia, which would meet in Paris on 16-17 July 1992. Initially, the Portuguese government did not try to interfere with the planned EC-ASEAN agreement. Instead, it raised Indonesia's human rights record formally at the meeting of the aid consortium. Over Portugal's objections, the consortium delivered US$4.94bn in development aid pledges to Indonesia. Portuguese Foreign Minister Joao de Deus Pinheiro therefore condemned Indonesia's 'unacceptable violation of human rights in East Timor' and announced that his government was using its veto powers to block the EC-ASEAN agreement. In addition, Pinheiro stated that Indonesia should agree to direct UN-sponsored talks on the future of East Timor, with legitimate representatives from among the East Timorese being included in the negotiations. Thus Indonesian foreign policy, under criticism in Australia and the US, came under fire once again, this time in Europe.

The Portuguese solidarity movement also conducted a series of seminars and international dialogues, most of which were held at Oporto University in Portugal throughout the 1990s. The initiative for these events was taken by Professor Antonio Barbedo de Magalhaes, who organised them along with other Portuguese activists. These seminars brought together academics and activists from Indonesia and the rest of the world, empowering Indonesian academics who had been under pressure by their government to stay away from the East Timor cause.

The solidarity movement in Ireland

One of the most effective groups in the international solidarity movement was the East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign (ETISC). This group was formed in January 1992 when a group of friends from Ballyfermont, on the south-western outskirts of Dublin, watched the film In Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor on television. This film, which used Max Stahl's dramatic footage at the Santa Cruz cemetery, inspired the group to do something about East Timor. ETISC was formally launched in April 1992 outside the US, British and Australian embassies. Its first major public rally was held on the first anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, resulting in even more public interest. ETISC then learnt that the Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating was going to visit Ireland in September 1993. For Keating, the visit was supposed to be part pilgrimage, part triumphant homecoming. A leading member of ETISC, Tom Hyland, therefore approached Australia's ambassador to Ireland, Terence McCarthy, to lobby for a better Australian policy on East Timor. According to a leading member of ETISC, McCarthy 'just ridiculed us. He told us we were being emotional and that we should forget these people. I remember we left that office shaking with anger.'2 They decided to use popular pressure to disrupt Keating's visit. 


ETISC flew Shirley Shackleton to Ireland two weeks before Keating's visit. The activists organised a constant stream of interviews for her on radio and TV, ensuring that the Irish press and public were aware of Keating's policy towards Indonesia and East Timor. As a consequence, Keating was badgered about East Timor throughout his visit. Although guest of honour at the All-Ireland Gaelic football final – the highest profile event in the country's sporting calendar – Keating was heckled throughout the game by several spectators about his record on East Timor. A state dinner in his honour at Dublin Castle that evening was picketed by hundreds of protestors who held up candles as the official convoy entered the gates. Several guests at the dinner wore badges with signs saying 'Hands off East Timor's oil' and 'Australia: Where is your conscience?' At Keating's speech to the combined houses of the Irish Assembly, several members from all parties wore white carnations in support of the East Timor. Although he did not mention East Timor even once during his speech, his press conference a few minutes later was almost completely taken up with questions about the subject. Throughout his visit, Keating was left in no doubt about the extent of Irish opposition to his government's policy. It is worth noting that Paul Keating's speechwriter, Don Watson, makes no mention of this highly embarrassing episode in his paean to the Keating years3 . ETISC found that its membership increased rapidly as a result of all the publicity.

ETISC also acted as a policy transmission line between local activists, the Irish government and the European Union. Previously, the Irish government had largely ignored the 1975 invasion and the subsequent occupation, with just one parliamentary question tabled on East Timor during the whole of the 1980s. By contrast, between 1992 and 1996, a total of 65 questions were tabled in the Dáil (lower house), four motions were passed in the Senate, three detailed statements on East Timor were also delivered in the Senate by the minister for foreign affairs or his representative, and in the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, East Timor was debated in detail four times.4 Ireland's position on East Timor evolved from non-involvement to active participation. This evolution owes almost everything to the extraordinary activism of ETISC's members, and especially to Tom Hyland.

When I visit him, Tom never lets me leave his house
without hooking me up to that blood pressure monitoring device
near the lamp. He's a hypochondriac of international repute.

The solidarity movement in Germany

German solidarity had begun quite early in the occupation through the Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker, or Society for Threatened Peoples. German activist Klemens Ludwig had been an important figure in this work. Another activist was Korinna Horta, a German-born, Lisbon-based scholar had lived in East Timor for three years before the Indonesian invasion and had been a neighbor of Nicolau Lobato. Ludwig and Horta co-authored a book about East Timor,5 and campaigned in 1985 for Defence Minister Manfred Worner to raise East Timor with President Suharto during his official visit to Indonesia. They worked with West German Churches before Worner's departure for Indonesia, organizing a visit to West Germany of Monsignor Martinho da Costa Lopes and Jose Ramos-Horta. More than 100 West German parliamentarians wrote to Worner asking him to raise East Timor with Suharto. After the Santa Cruz massacre, German solidarity activists, though few in number, were able to draw on the support of other groups connected to the peace movement. Korinna Horta, perhaps the only non-Portuguese European to live in East Timor for an extended time before the invasion, had great sensitivity to the people of East Timor. This, combined with her linguistic skills, made her 'a trusted interlocutor of many East Timorese, including refugees in Portugal as well as the key East Timorese Church leaders like Dom Martinho, Bishop Belo and others.'6

Klemens Ludwig

In August 1992, the German government approved the sale of 39 warships from the demobilised East German navy to Indonesia. The Indonesian military had not been in favour of the purchase, which had been negotiated by B.J. Habibie, a Suharto favourite who was Indonesia's Minister for Research and Technology. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl made an official announcement about the sale during his visit to Indonesia in February 1993. The ships were anchored in the harbor of Peenemunde, a naval base off the northeast coast of Germany. On 29 May, a few hundred people from the former East German Peace Movement and the activist group Watch Indonesia demonstrated against the proposed sale of the vessels to Indonesia. They entered the harbor and occupied four corvettes and a landing-ship. They raised banners and painted signs on the walls of the vessels expressing their opposition to the proposed sale.

The German police removed most demonstrators from the ships by 9 pm that night but were unable to remove seven protestors who had locked themselves inside a ship. The port area was cordoned off and placed under guard while negotiations began between the protestors and the government. After two days of negotiations and a lot of publicity in Europe, the seven protestors came out of the locked ship just before police started to force the door. German activists would continue their awareness-raising campaign for the duration of the occupation and beyond. 

The solidarity movement in Australia

Australian activists reacted to the Santa Cruz massacre by drawing the public's attention to the actions of their own government. Only nine months before the massacre, foreign minister Gareth Evans had stated that East Timor's 'human rights situation has, in our judgment, conspicuously improved, particularly under the current military arrangements.'7 When news of the massacre broke, Evans described the massacre as 'an aberration, not an act of state policy.'8 The Indonesian government announced what it called a 'special commission of inquiry.' The 'inquiry' conducted no investigation but merely used the year of the massacre (1991) to deliver a casualty number of 19 killed and 91 wounded. It said that a few junior soldiers were guilty of over-reaction but that responsibility for the massacre lay with the civilian marchers, who had provoked the military into firing on them. Gareth Evans said 'there were grounds for the international community to be "somewhat critical" of the relatively light sentences imposed on troops involved in the massacre, compared to long jail terms for demonstrators.' But there was 'no case to be "supremely critical."'9

He stated:

'It's a matter of recognising that what happened in Dili, as appalling as it was, was not on any evidence a deliberate act of state policy. It was aberrant behaviour by a section of the military which has been responded to in a reasonable and credible way by the Indonesian government. Under those circumstances we believe that essentially punitive responses from the international community are not appropriate.'10

The Australian solidarity movement experienced renewal and growth. There was greater public interest following the massacre; new groups were formed and the membership of existing groups increased. Unions around Australia began to get involved in the cause, educating their members about East Timor. Read a selection of photos, news stories and editorials from the Ballarat Courier.

Catholic Bishop William Brennan visited Bishop Belo in Dili for the first time, even though Belo had been Apostolic Administrator for nine years and a bishop for four years. (The first bishop to visit Belo had been Bishop John Cummins of Oakland, California.)  According to the first chief executive officer of the Catholic Social Justice Council, Brennan and the CSJC 'were totally anti Timorese' until the Santa Cruz massacre, regarding the Timorese as 'Communists.' After Santa Cruz they sympathized with the 'poor suffering Timorese' whom they now regarded as 'Catholics.'11 The first CEO in fact resigned in frustration after less than a year. His successor, who had a background in Australian Defence Intelligence, 'appeared to regard 'integration' as a fait accompli and in the long term best interests of the East Timorese.'12 Furthermore, Catholic Bishop Kevin Manning had opposed legislation calling for greater monitoring of Australia-Indonesia defence cooperation; Manning claimed that there had been 'many improvements in East Timor under Indonesian administration' and that 'the media had exaggerated the instances of human rights violations.'13 On his return to Australia, Brennan addressed a Conference of the National Council of Priests in Adelaide, calling for volunteers to assist in Dili, and urged his audience of priests to visit Dili during their holidays. Soon after, Monsignor Hilton Deakin, then the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, made the first of several visits to Dili. Deakin would later be appointed an Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne and became the Australian Catholic church's most prominent supporter of East Timor.

LEFT: Father António Alves, (now parish priest of Motael), Bishop Carlos Belo, Bishop William Brennan.
RIGHT: Alves, Brennan (turning away) Belo, Sister Josephine Mitchell kneeling at graveside. They are
wearing hard hats as the place was being renovated prior to the moving of Mary MacKillop's remains to

another part of the chapel some months later.

Bishop Belo visited Australia in 1993. During this visit, he went to the Josephite Chapel in North Sydney and spent some time in discussions with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. In response to his appeal for help, the Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese studies was established in August 1994 on the initiative of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. The significance of this Institute is that it not only educated Australians about East Timor, it also helped challenge the exclusivity of Bahasa Indonesia by producing Tetum language school books which became the basis of the Tetum language program introduced into schools in the Diocese of Dili from July 1995. They were a valuable addition to the Tetum-language Catechism (a manual of instruction) introduced by Monsignor Martinho da Costa Lopes and liturgical texts (i.e. the Mass and the Sacraments) introduced by Bishop Belo.

The East Timor Relief Association (ETRA) was formed in 1992 in Sydney and soon developed branches in Melbourne and Darwin as well. It grew in size, and a few years later carried out a six-month long awareness raising campaign. This would be launched by Noam Chomsky during his 1995 visit to Australia, and culminated in the first ETRA national conference entitled It's Time To Lead the Way, held in Melbourne in August 1995.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) worked with Portugal's education union to raise the East Timor issue in January 1993 at the Stockholm meeting of the World Confederation of Organisations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP, later known as Education International). This was a development of potentially great significance – the strategic location of their members meant that grassroots educators around the world would become informed about the brutality of the Indonesian occupation. The Indonesian government understood the seriousness of the situation, and brought its diplomatic and financial support to the 1993 assembly. Delegates from other countries noticed that the Indonesian delegation (PGRI – Indonesian Teachers' Association) was curiously well-financed; it had not paid its full affiliation fees for some time, yet could afford relatively expensive accommodation in Stockholm, as well as airfares for forty members. At the negotiations before the vote on East Timor, the PGRI was represented by a man who was unfamiliar to the delegates from other countries. This official insisted that the Indonesian leadership and population was one and the same thing, and any criticism of the leadership would be construed as an attack on the whole Indonesian nation. The PGRI delegation also handed out glossy brochures describing the benefits that had accrued to the East Timorese since Indonesia had 'integrated' it. With negotiations impossible, the debate over East Timor took place on the floor of the assembly. The Indonesian delegation lost the debate convincingly, and the motion was carried with 70% support. Especially damaging to the Indonesian side was the publicity that resulted, as teachers unions in many other countries began to get interested in East Timor.

In 1994, an Australian medical doctor named Andrew McNaughtan visited the territory for two weeks. He interviewed and filmed Bishop Belo, who confirmed that there had been a second massacre immediately after the Santa Cruz massacre. During this visit, McNaughtan also interviewed university students and filmed a man who had been injured in the massacre, then detained by the security forces and tortured. McNaughtan received a sizeable amount of press coverage on his return. His revelations about a second massacre contributed to the negative publicity for Indonesia, and made more onerous the Australian government's task of providing diplomatic cover for the occupation. In Darwin some months later, McNaughtan organised an exhibition of photographs from the Australian War Memorial. Along with the photographs, the exhibition featured reminiscences by Australian soldiers who had fought in East Timor during World War II. It also contained the testimony of many East Timorese who had helped those soldiers. The exhibition was used in Japan in August 1995 by the Free East Timor Japan Coalition, which drew on many hours of recorded interviews conducted by McNaughtan with these East Timorese.

An early link with Japan had been established as early as 1978, when David Scott visited the country in his capacity as President of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). While in Japan, Scott had held discussions about East Timor with the Japanese Council of Social Welfare, which had organised his visit. Monsignor Martinho da Costa Lopes had spoken in 1986 at a meeting organized by the first East Timor solidarity group in Japan, founded by Jean Inglis, Kiyoko Furusawa and Akihisa Matsuno. The Catholic bishop of Nagoya, Aloysius Soma, was in the audience, and became an early supporter. A network of supportive parliamentarians known as the Diet Forum for East Timor was established. Its influence increased after 1993 under the government of Morihiro Hosokawa.14 All this work had paid off – by the time Andrew McNaughtan got in touch with the Free East Timor Japan Coalition in 1995, there were at least fifty local groups supporting East Timor in one way or another in Japan. McNaughtan later accompanied his East Timorese interviewees to the Post-War Compensation Forum in Tokyo, a citizens' movement to demand compensation for victims of World War II. One of his main contacts was Akihisa Matsuno, by then the Professor of Indonesian Language and Culture at Osaka University.

This photo was taken on ANZAC Day 1997 in Canberra: John Pilger, Joao Carrascalao, Paddy Keneally and others reminded the public how much East Timor helped Australia during WW2. Photo by Enrico Aditjondro.

John Pilger waiting to speak at a public rally in Canberra on ANZAC Day 1997. Photo by Enrico Aditjondro.

John Rawson and Eko Waluyo at a rally in Sydney in 1999. Photo by Enrico Aditjondro, who, along with Eko also ran Warta (Warung Nusantara, or the Archipelago Cafe) where they campaigned for Aceh, Indonesia, East Timor and West Papua.

1 S. Roth, Interview with Voice of America, VoA Archives, 16 March 1995, 5:31 PM EST, 2231 UTC.

2 S. Steele, Island Troubles, in J. Aubrey (ed.), Free East Timor: Australia's culpability in East Timor's genocide. (Sydney: Random House, 1998: 177-188).

3 D. Watson, Recollections of a Bleeding Hear. (Sydney: Knopf, 2002:420-3).

4 E. Ward, The Local meets the Global: East Timor and Ireland's Presidency of the European Union, in P. Hainsworth and S. McCloskey (eds.), The East Timor Question. (London: I.B. Tauris, 2000: 155-166).

5 K. Ludwig and K. Horta, Osttimor - Das vergessene Sterben : Indonesischer Volkermord unter Ausschluss der Weltoffentlichkeit. (Satz : Brandsatz, 1985).

6 A.S. Kohen, Testimony to CAVR, 16 March 2004. Available at CAVR archives, Dili, East Timor. A copy is in the author's possession.

7 M. Baker, A Blind Policy's Dead End In Dili, The Age, 15 November 1991.

8 M. Aarons and R. Domm, East Timor: A Western-made Tragedy. (Sydney: Left Book Club, 1992).

9 Australia critical of U.S. decision to penalise Indonesia, Agence France-Presse, 26 June 1992.

10 Ibid.

11 Personal communication from Dr Juan Federer, 15 September 2010.

12 P. Smythe, The Heaviest Blow. (Muenster: LIT Verlag, 2004: 111).

13 Ibid.

14 P. Smythe, The Heaviest Blow. (Muenster: LIT Verlag, 2004: 146-9).