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The Total Annihilation of East Timorese Society

10 September 1999

East Timor International Support Center

The Total Annihilation of East Timorese Society, Culture and Property Is Taking Place


Since earlier this year the Indonesian military have been working to undermine the search for a solution to the East Timor conflict. After the results of the UN held consultation of the East Timorese people showed that close to 80% of the population chose independence from Indonesia, the Indonesian military has embarked on a campaign of total annihilation of East Timorese society, culture and property, carrying out a threat issued before the ballot was held.

Steps in the annihilation of a people

A. Getting rid of the witnesses

Indonesia set the scene for their planned annihilation by efficiently driving out the following foreigners and leaders:

1. Bishop Belo, Nobel Peace Laureate

2. International Red Cross (ICRC)

3. Australian Consular staff (the only consulate in East Timor) - all except three.

4. Foreign media (reduction from 100+ to less than 5, now on the run to the mountains outside the UN Compound).

5. Foreign medical personnel (doctors and nurses)

6. International observers (IFET and others)

7. UN staff (reduced from over 1000 to 80)

B. Forced evacuations

The announced Indonesian plan was to evacuate 250,000 people, which is about 35% of the total East Timorese population. Australia's Minister of Defense John Moore estimates that evacuations to West Timor have so far reached 180,000, but the ferry loads of trucks, ships, and planes are still proceeding. The target of 250,000 will probably be reached very soon.

There are two kinds of refugees: a) pro-Jakarta people who travel comfortably by Indonesian ship or plane together with all their household goods and their families intact, and b) pro-independence people - the biggest majority and mostly women and children - who come by truck, without any goods, and with their families scattered or killed.

The pro-independence deportees were herded into trucks at gunpoint, bringing nothing with them. The scale, speed and large amount of resources used in this political cleansing show a high degree of pIanning, only possible at the highest levels. It is hard to imagine that the Indonesians will devote similar resources to providing food, medicines and clothes, or the compassion and organisation, to handle 250,000 people living in refugee camps. Ominously, many are now being moved to other Indonesian islands taking them further away from their homes. Many deaths, and much sickness and despair, are certain to occur.

C. Killing Field

The total number killed is difficult to estimate. However, it is fair to assume the figure is well over 1000. With the massacre of refugees in Suai on September 6 accounting for between 250 and 900, it is more likely that the total number of dead throughout East Timor is at least 5000. Religious and political leaders seem to have been especially targeted. The brutality of the slaughter is highlighted by the killing in Dili of Canossian Sr Margarida, who has been described as: " . about 80 years old, walks slowly, yet has an incredible degree of energy. She spends most of the day playing with young children, in the garden of Bishop Belo - a nun, totally uninvolved in politics, devoted to helping children and to prayer".

Apart from slaughter of refugees and resisters, there have been selective killings of pro-independence leaders and priests.

D. Escapees in the mountains

Since the second wave of violence unleashed on August 31, whole towns and suburbs, whole families as well as individual men separated from their evacuated families, have fled to the hills. It is reasonable to estimate that there are up to over one hundred thousand people in hiding. Facing those fleeing to the hills are the 26,000 Indonesian troops, to which further reinforcements are currently being added. Evidence has emerged that Timorese militias, imported Javanese militias, and evacuating Timorese men forced to turn militias, have been co-opted into a force which is now spreading out into the hills.

D. Falintil

The original hard core of Falintil fighters in the Timorese mountains numbered about 3000. These numbers were enlarged by the many people who fled to the mountains as a result of military-orchestrated militia violence from January to August. The total probably rose to 10,000. Large numbers may have joined Falintil fighters seeking their protection. Also Falintil has always been the real enemy of the Indonesian Army. Now, outside the gaze of journalists, and with the aid of martial law, it is fair to assume that the Indonesian Army is attempting their "final solution" - to wipe out Falintil and the mountain escapees. Nothing now stands in the way of the Army; clandestine links with townsfolk have been severed, food links with surrounding villages - the traditional lifeline - have been cut. Mass killings are inevitable.

E. The destruction of all towns and their infrastructure

News reports have shown the sacking and burning of Dili, the capital. Australia's Defence Minister estimated that at least two-thirds of the city has been leveled. Further reports have also told of the destruction of every other town in East Timor. The reports cover Suai, Maliana, Liquiça, Aileu, Same, Ainaro, Ermera, Manatuto, Baucau, Los Palos, Viqueque, and Iliomar. Baguia, a small mountain community has been torched, and there are stories of the destruction of crops and theft of livestock. It is unlikely that many villages have been spared.

What has been destroyed in Dili? The university, the polytechnic, Telkom building, most shops (none are open), many schools (none are open). What services have been cut off in Dili? Water supplies, power supply, telephone services.

What is left?

Sixty-five percent (65%) of the population remain. Forty UN staff remain, as well as four or five journalists, and three Australian consular staff. A few foreign missionaries remain, probably in hiding. East Timor's second Bishop, Basilio de Nascimento, was injured and in hiding.

A powerful Indonesian Army of over 26,000 roams the land, assisted by many thousands of forced militias. They are murdering, burning, destroying, and hunting Falintil resisters and ordinary East Timorese in the hills and mountains. Killings continue.

The remaining population, now leaderless, is terrified. No services exist, no schools, no health centres. Humanitarian agencies are closed. The means of livelihood, the crops, the livestock, are lost. Disease and sickness - of body and mind - will bring despair and death. The annihilation is almost complete - a modern example of medieval barbarism, where the towns are sacked, the land ravaged, the men murdered, and the women and children carried away into slavery.

Sept. 10, 1999


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