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53. Indonesia/East Timor (1976-2002)

 

Crisis Phase (July 17, 1976-July 31, 1983): East Timorese nationalists, the Frente Revolutionario de Este Timor Independente (FRETILIN), began an independence movement against the Indonesian government following the annexation of the territory by Indonesia on July 17, 1976. On August 27, 1976, the government announced that East Timor had become the 27th province of Indonesia. The US and West Germany provided military assistance (military weapons and funds) in support of the Indonesian government. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly appealed for the withdrawal of government troops from East Timor on December 1, 1976. Australia provided diplomatic assistance (recognition of Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor) to the government on January 20, 1978.  Nicolau Lobato, leader of FRETILIN, was killed by Indonesian troops on December 31, 1978.  Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) heads-of-state expressed support for East Timorese self-determination on September 8, 1979.  Xanana Gusmai was appointed as leader of the armed wing of FRETILIN in 1981.  Some 25,000 individuals died during the crisis.

Conflict Phase (August 1, 1983-May 5, 1999): Indonesian government troops launched a military offensive against FRETILIN rebels in August 1983. The Indonesian government declared a state-of-emergency in East Timor on September 9, 1983.  Government troops launched a military offensive against FRETILIN rebels in May 1986. On November 3, 1990, FRETILIN offered to begin negotiations, but the government rejected the negotiations offer. Government troops fired on a funeral procession in Dili on November 12, 1991, resulting in the deaths of some 270 individuals. CARE International (CARE) established a mission consisting of some 100 personnel to provide humanitarian assistance in East Timor beginning in 1994. Jamsheed Marker of Pakistan was appointed as Personal Representative of the UN secretary-general for East Timor on February 12, 1997. Some 1,500 East Timorese were refugees in Australia in December 1998. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed for an end to violence in East Timor on April 17, 1999. Portugal and Indonesia signed an agreement in New York on May 5, 1999, which provided for a referendum on East Timorese autonomy within Indonesia. Some 125,000 individuals died during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (May 6, 1999-May 20, 2002): UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Ian Martin of Britain as Special Representative in East Timor on May 25, 1999.  On June 11, 1999, the UN Security Council established the United Nations Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to organize the conduct a referendum of the future status of East Timor, advise Indonesian police, and to secure the ballot boxes during the referendum.  UNAMET consisted of 271 civilian police personnel headed by Commissioner Alan Mills of Australia, 50 military liaison personnel commanded by Brig. General Rezaqul Haider of Bangladesh, and 242 international staff personnel.  The referendum was held in East Timor on August 30, 1999, and some 79 percent of the voters rejected autonomy within Indonesia. The International Federation for East Timor-Observer Project (IFET-OP), which consisted of some 120 observers from 16 countries, monitored the referendum process from June 22 to September 4, 1999. The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) sent 42 observers to monitor the referendum. The Carter Center (CC) sent 20 observers to monitor the referendum from July 9 to September 4, 1999. The Australia East Timor International Volunteers Project (AETIVP) sent 30 observers to monitor the referendum. Parliamentarians for East Timor (PET) sent observers to monitor the referendum. Japan sent thirteen observers headed by Yasuko Takemura to monitor the referendum. Australia sent ten observers headed by Tim Fischer to monitor the referendum.  Some 1,000 individuals were killed and some 250,000 individuals were displaced as a result of referendum-related violence.  The UN Security Council condemned violence by pro-Indonesian militias on September 1, 1999. On September 4, 1999, Amnesty International (AI) condemned the Indonesian government for failing to prevent widespread violence in East Timor during the pre-referendum and post-referendum periods. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) established a mission consisting of 350 personnel to provide humanitarian assistance to East Timorese beginning on September 2, 1999. The Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) mission withdrew from East Timor on September 7, 1999.  Australia imposed military sanctions (arms embargo) against the Indonesian government in September 1999.  The US imposed military sanctions (arms embargo and suspension of military assistance) against the Indonesian government on September 9, 1999 (the US government lifted military sanctions against the government on November 22, 2005).  Britain imposed military sanctions (arms embargo) against the Indonesian government on September 11, 1999.  President Habibie agreed to the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in East Timor on September 12, 1999. The European Union (EU) imposed military sanctions (arms embargo) against the government on September 16, 1999. On September 15, 1999, the UN Security Council authorized an international peacekeeping force to ensure peace and security in East Timor, to provide security for humanitarian assistance, and to supervise disarmament.  The UNSC-authorized International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed in East Timor on September 19, 1999.  INTERFET consisted of some 12,600 peacekeeping troops from 22 countries commanded by Major-General Peter Cosgrove of Australia, including Australia (5,500 personnel), Britain (270 personnel), France (500 personnel), Malaysia (30 personnel), New Zealand (800 personnel), Philippines (600), Singapore (254 personnel), Thailand (1,580 personnel), and the US (400 personnel). MSF resumed its humanitarian assistance mission consisting of 21 personnel in East Timor on September 24, 1999.  On September 27, 1999, the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) decided to establish the International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor chaired by Sonia Picado Sotela of Costa Rica to investigate possible violations of human rights in East Timor.  UNAMET was disbanded on September 30, 1999.  The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) provided humanitarian assistance to East Timorese refugees beginning in September 1999. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided repatriation assistance to East Timorese refugees beginning on October 8, 1999. The Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly approved the result of the East Timor referendum on October 20, 1999, and invalidated the annexation of the territory. Some 500,000 individuals were internally displaced between May 6 and October 20, 1999. The American Refugee Committee (ARC) provided humanitarian assistance to East Timorese refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) provided repatriation assistance to East Timorese refugees beginning on October 21, 1999. On October 25, 1999, the UN Security Council established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) to “provide security and maintain law and order throughout the territory of East Timor, to establish an effective administration, to assist in the development of civil and social services, and to ensure the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance.”  The maximum authorized strength of the military component of UNTAET included 9,150 military personnel from 30 countries commanded by Lt. General Winai Phattiyakul of Thailand and 1,640 civilian police from 39 countries commanded by Chief Superintendent Peter Miller of Canada.  The civil administration component of UNTAET consisted of some 737 civilian staff personnel headed by Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, who was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as Special Representative to East Timor and Transitional Administrator on November 17, 1999.  The EU lifted military sanctions (arms embargo) against the Indonesian government on January 17, 2000.  The International Commission of Inquiry on East Timor issued its report to the UNCHR, UN Security Council, and UN General Assembly on January 31, 2000.  INTERFET ended its mission in East Timor on February 23, 2000.  The World Bank (WB) provided reconstruction assistance for East Timor beginning on February 21, 2000.  Japan provided reconstruction assistance for East Timor between March 2000 and March 2002.  Three UNHCR personnel were killed in Atambua, West Timor on September 6, 2000.  The ARC suspended its humanitarian assistance to East Timorese refugees in West Timor on September 6, 2000.  On July 8, 2001, fourteen political parties signed the “Pact of National Unity,” which called for a commitment to a multiparty system in East Timor.  Constituent Assembly elections were held on August 30, 2001, and FRETILIN won 55 out of 88 seats in the assembly. The Carter Center (CC) sent seven long-term observers and 22 short-term observers to monitor the elections from June 15 to August 31, 2001. The European Union (EU) sent four election experts, four long-term observers, and 26 short-term observers headed by Wolfgang Kreissl-Doerfler of Germany to monitor the elections from August 27 to September 15, 2001.  Peter Miller of Canada was appointed as Commissioner of UNTAET-civilian police component on November 26, 2001.  Xanana Gusmao was elected president of East Timor on April 14, 2002. The Carter Center (CC) sent three long-term observers and 12 short-term observers to monitor the presidential election from March 1 to April 15, 2002.  The EU sent five election experts, four long-term observers, and 32 short-term observers headed by John Bowis of Britain to monitor the presidential election from March 31 to April 30, 2002.  East Timor formally achieved its independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002. UNTAET was disbanded on May 20, 2002.  Seventeen UNTAET personnel, including 15 peacekeeping soldiers, one military observer, and one civilian police officer, were killed during the mission.  Some 3,000 individuals were killed in political violence between May 1999 and May 2002.

[Sources: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA)press release, September 13, 1999, January 21, 2000, September 24, 1999; Allock et al., 1992, 488-497; Agence France-Presse (AFP), January 22, 2003; American Refugee Committee (ARC), September 6, 2000; Arnold et al., 1991, 145-146; Associated Press (AP), June 3, 1999, June 11, 1999, September 4, 1999, October 2, 1999, October 26, 1999, December 29, 1999, August 29, 2001, August 31, 2001; Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 162-163; Brecher and Wilkenfeld, 1997, 210-212; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), January 17, 2000, February 23, 2000, December 4, 2002, January 14, 2003; CARE International (CARE) press release, August 30, 1999, September 15, 1999, September 17, 1999, September 21, 1999, October 1, 1999, November 27, 1999; Carter Center (CC) press release, July 8, 1999, July 26, 2001, April 12, 2002, April 15, 2002; Clodfelter, 1992, 1140; European Union (EU) press release, August 31, 2001; International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) press release, September 2, 1999, September 5, 1999, September 18, 1999; International Organization for Migration (IOM) press release, October 14, 1999, October 21, 1999, November 2, 1999; Keesing’s Record of World Events, November 1991, September 1999; Kyodo News Service (KNS), June 21, 1999, July 9, 1999, August 17, 1999, August 25, 1999, August 27, 1999, August 28, 1999, September 4, 1999, September 12, 1999, September 14, 1999, September 25, 1999, September 15, 1999, October 20, 1999, January 17, 2000; Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) press release, September 29, 1999, October 6, 1999; Reuters, May 5, 1999, May 7, 1999, May 24, 1999, September 4, 1999, September 23, 1999, September 26, 1999, September 29, 1999, October 1, 1999, October 4, 1999, October 25, 1999, December 29, 1999, February 1, 2000, April 16, 2002, April 17, 2002, December 4, 2002, December 5, 2002; Tillema, 1991, 265-266; United Nations (UN) press release, April 19, 1999, April 4, 2002; Weisburd, 1997, 247-251.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Dupont, Alan. 2000. “ASEAN’s Response to the East Timor Crisis,” Australian Journal of International Affairs 54(2): 163-
170.

Hohe, Tanja. 2002. “Totem Polls: Indigenous Concepts and ‘Free and Fair’ Elections in East Timor,” International Peacekeeping, vol. 9 (4), Winter, pp. 69-88.