East Timor Independence
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Previous to the European interference in the indigenous scheme of life, the island of Timor was inhabited by barbarian people that couldn't write but used iron and was already agricultural. Industry was limited to the fabrication of cotton cloths with which they covered themselves and the commerce reduced to the trade of wax and sandalwood for certain products that brought to Timor makasare, malays and javanese.
Much before the arrival of Portuguese and Dutch, Timor was part of the
commercial nets politically centered east of Java, after in the Celebes, and linked by trade to China and India. In documents published during the
Ming dynasty, in 1436, the commercial value of Timor is put in relief and described as a place where “the mountains are covered by trees of sandalwood producing the country nothing else”. One of the first Portuguese to visit the island, Duarte Barbosa, wrote in 1518: “there's an abundance of sandalwood, white, to which the Muslims in India and Persia give great value and where much of it is used”.
Other products were exported such as honey, wax and slaves, but trade relied mainly on sandalwood.
Japanese occupation during World War II
During the Second World War, Portugal declared a policy of neutrality.
Dutch and Australian troops nonetheless disembarked at East Timor in disrespect of Portuguese sovereignty. But the real menace came with the
Japanese invasion, three months later, in February of 1942. The island became a stage of war between Japanese and the allieds. Timorese were seen as secondary actors when in truth, after crossing a period of rebellion against Portuguese rule, were they the more sacrificed during the resistance until 1945.
In spite of Portugal's policy of neutrality, the Australian and Dutch
troops entered in Timor. It was the first of two foreigner military
invasions. In Lisbon, Oliveira de Salazar denounced the allied disembark as
an invasion of a neutral territory. Shortly after arrived the Japanese.
It's not to admire that J. Santos Carvalho saw in these actions an attitude of depreciation towards the sovereignty of Portugal. When the allied forces arrived at Dili in December the 17th of 1941, he says that governor
Ferreira de Carvalho, without means to retaliate by arms ordered the national flag to be hoisted in all public partitions and buildings of the colony. To further mark his position of neutrality he confined himself to his residence and, by free determination, wished to be considered prisoner.
The population of the capital went to live in the interior, mainly in
Aileu, Liquie and Maubara. Some of the few Portuguese that remained in Dili pursued nevertheless with their usual lives, socializing with the forces stationed in Timor. They were given instructions by the local government to maintain a correct attitude but to show no familiarity neither to collaborate. An atmosphere of normality gain form, and some families were prepared to go back. It is even reported that an agreement signed by
English and Portuguese governments defined that the allied troops would retire as soon as arrived a contingent of Portuguese forces from Maputo
What happened instead was the Japanese invasion of Dili, in February
of 1942. During January they had managed to occupy Malaysia (except
Singapore), the Philippines (but not Bataan), Borneo and the Celebes,
Birmania, New Guinea and the Salmon islands. Following general L. M.
Chassin - “at the end of the second month of an hyperbolic invasion , the
Japanese tide extended itself irresistibly beyond paralyzed and impotent adversaries.” In the middle of February they invaded Sumatra occupying
Palembang, soon after Singapore is attacked and many Englishmen are made prisoners. Java was surrounded and on the 20th, Bali and Timor were taken.
After a weak resistance , the Dutch troops abandoned by the Javanese soldiers -- which were in majority --, escaped to the interior leaving behind armament. Dili was then violently sacked by the Japanese, who found the city almost uninhabited.
The Portuguese colonial empire
Up to the final years of dictatorship in Portugal, in spite of the condemnation of UN and the start of the guerrilla warfare in the African colonies of Angola, Guinea and Mozambique, the Portuguese Colonial Empire was defended by the government as an heritage of the glorious past and motive of national pride. However, the crescent expenses of it's maintenance begun to reflect increasingly on the economy and social tissue of the metropolis, what provoked crescent discontentment of the population, finally leading to the Revolution of '74 that installed democracy and gave independence to the colonies. East Timor was invaded by Indonesia precisely in the course of decolonization.
During dictatorship, the colonies continued to be dedicated considerable interest. For the nationalist ideology that characterized the regime, the vast regions of the World under Portuguese sovereignty were to be seen as the justification of a necessary conscience of greatness and pride to be Portuguese.
The expression "Portuguese Colonial Empire" would be generalized and even met official formalization. Colonial patrimony was considered as the remaining spoils of the Portuguese conquests of the glorious period of expansion.
These notions were mystified but also expressed in Law as in 1930
Oliveira de Salazar (at the time minister of Finances and, for some time of the Colonies) published the Colonial Act. It stated some fundamental principles for the overseas territorial administration and proclaimed that it was “of the organic essence of the Portuguese nation to possess and colonize overseas territories and to civilize indigenous populations there comprised”. The overseas dimension of Portugal was however soon put at stake after World War II. The converging interest of the two victorious superpowers on the re-distribution of World regions productors of raw materials contributed for an international agreement on the legal right for all peoples to their own government. Stated as a fundamental principle of the UN Charter, anti-colonialism gave thrust to the independist movements of the colonies, and in matter of time unavoidably accepted by the great colonial nations: England, France, Netherlands, Belgium. Yet such countries relied on mechanisms of economical domination that would last, assuring that political independence wouldn't substantially affect the structure of trade relations.
Loss of the Indian territories and the reactions. The first problem
that the Portuguese had to deal with was the conflict with the Indian
Union, independent state in 1947. The Indian nationalism had triumphed over the English occupation, and in 1956 forced the French to abandon their establishments in 1956. The same was demanded to the Portuguese over their territories of Goa, Daman and Diu, but in face of refusal. India severed the diplomatic relations. The passage through Indian territory in order to reach the two enclaves dependent of Daman was denied since 1954, and despite the recognition of such right by International Court of Justice recognized t (1960), Dadrб and Nagar Haveli were effectively lost. This was followed by mass invasions of passive resisters which Portuguese were still able to hinder until December 19 of 1961, when the Indian Union made prevail it's superior military force, to obtain final retreat of the
Goa had been capital of the Portuguese expansion to the East.
Conquered in 1510 by Afonso de Albuquerque, it was also an active center of religious diffusion to the point of being called the Rome of the Orient. In spite of it's the historical and spiritual importance, the reactions against the military attack of the Indian Union parted mainly from official sectors, and only moderately shared by the public opinion. For the historian J. Hermano de Saraiva whom we have followed, it reflected the dominant politic ideologies: at the end of the XIXth century, the colonizing activity was considered a service rendered to civilization but since World War II viewed as an attempt to the liberty of the peoples. This
“doctrinal involucre of interest to which the Portuguese were completely strange was rapidly adopted by the intellectual groups, in great part responsible for the formation of the public opinion”. That's how Saraiva justifies that the protests for the loss of Goa to the Indian Union were directed less to the foreign power than to the Portuguese authorities, “for not having known to negotiate a modus viviendi acceptable for both parts”.
More than that, he detects in this curious reaction a tendency that would accentuate along the two following decades: the crisis of patriotism. To defend or to exalt the national values appeared to the bourgeois elites of the 60's as a provincial attitude, expression of cultural under- development.
Indonesia invaded the territory in December 1975, relying on US diplomatic support and arms, used illegally but with secret authorisation from Washington; new arms shipments were sent under the cover of an official "embargo".
There was no need to threaten bombing or even sanctions. It would have sufficed for the US and its allies to withdraw active participation and inform their associates in the Indonesian military command that the atrocities must be terminated and the territory granted the right of self- determination, as upheld by the United Nations and the international court of justice. “We cannot undo the past, but should at least be willing to recognise what we have done, and face the moral responsibility of saving the remnants and providing reparations” - a small gesture of compensation for terrible crimes.
Many were immediately killed, while their villages were burned down to
the ground. Others run to the mountains in the heart of their land, and
organized a resistance movement. These brave peasants - and their sons -
have opposed the barbarian indonesian soldiers for 23 years now. Torture, rape, all kinds of physical, sexual and psychological violations, violent
repression and brutal murder have been the daily life of the Maubere people
(the original people of East Timor) since.
Even before president Habibie's surprise call for a referendum this
year, the army anticipated threats to its rule, including its control over
East Timor's resources, and undertook careful planning with "the aim, quite simply... to destroy a nation".
The plans were known to western intelligence. The army recruited thousands of West Timorese and brought in forces from Java. More ominously, the military command sent units of its dreaded US-trained Kopassus special forces and, as senior military adviser, General Makarim, a US-trained intelligence specialist with "a reputation for callous violence".
Terror and destruction began early in the year. The army forces responsible have been described as "rogue elements" in the west. There is good reason, however, to accept Bishop Belo's assignment of direct responsibility to General Wiranto. It appears that the militias have been managed by elite units of Kopassus, the "crack special forces unit" that had "been training regularly with US and Australian forces until their behaviour became too much of an embarrassment for their foreign friends".
These forces adopted the tactics of the US Phoenix programme in the
Vietnam war, which killed tens of thousands of peasants and much of the indigenous South Vietnamese leadership, as well as "the tactics employed by the Contras" in Nicaragua. The state terrorists were "not simply going after the most radical pro-independence people, but... the moderates, the people who have influence in their community."
Well before the referendum, the commander of the Indonesian military in Dili, Colonel Tono Suratman, warned of what was to come: "If the pro- independents do win... all will be destroyed. It will be worse than 23 years ago". An army document of early May, when international agreement on the referendum was reached, ordered "massacres should be carried out from village to village after the announcement of the ballot if the pro- independence supporters win". The independence movement "should be eliminated from its leadership down to its roots".
Citing diplomatic, church and militia sources, the Australian press reported that "hundreds of modern assault rifles, grenades and mortars are being stockpiled, ready for use if the autonomy option is rejected at the ballot box".
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