Subject: JP review of George Aditjondro's book on East Timor

Jakarta Post July 30, 2000

Book Review

Welcoming the rising sun in E. Timor

Menyongsong Matahari Terbit di Puncak Ramelau (Welcoming the Rising Sun at the Top of Ramelau)

By George J. Aditjondro

Published by: The Foundation of Law, Rights and Justice and Fortilos (Solidarity Forum for the People of Timor Lorosa'e); January 2000; 312 pages; Rp 20,000

JAKARTA (JP): George Junus Aditjondro is one of the few Indonesian intellectuals who was concerned about the military occupation by Indonesia in Timor Lorosa'e (East Timor). At a time when other intellectuals kept silent, Aditjondro, with his investigative capabilities as a former journalist and his attitude in favor of marginalized groups, played a great role in expanding the horizon of attention of human rights activists as well as political activists to the problems of Irian Jaya and Timor Lorosa'e. It was he who also reintroduced the original names of Papua (instead of Irian Jaya) and Maubere or Timor Lorosa'e (instead of East Timor) in intellectual discourse and movements.

Aditjondro's book, Welcoming the Rising Sun at the Top of Ramelau, the Impact of the Timor Lorosa'e Occupation and the Emergence of the Pro-Timor Lorosa'e Movement in Indonesia, is proof of his seriousness and courage in closely following the Timor Lorosa'e affair. The greater part of the material of this book (collected from his writings, mostly published by alternative media and the student press) was written at the time the Indonesian Military (TNI) was still enjoying its political power, and Timor Lorosa'e issues were still a subversive discourse. The result of his courage compelled him to become a permanent resident in Australia.

His efforts, in fact, were not futile. On Jan. 9, 1999, then president B.J. Habibie launched two options for the future of Timor Lorosa'e: Independence or extended autonomy. In August, the majority of its people voted for independence and, accordingly, Indonesia withdrew its troops from the region.

At the beginning of the book, Aditjondro makes a critical comparison between Timor Lorosa'e's culture and Indonesian culture to reveal the mystification of cultural similarities which became the legitimate tool for the "integration process" between Indonesia and Timor Lorosa'e. The study even presents the process of the paralyzation of the local culture (which at the time was the source of inspiration for resistance). It was unavoidable that there was a process of Indonesianization to remove the Porto tradition and to paralyze the Tetum culture.

The analysis of the process of TNI's occupation in Timor Lorosa'e is the focus of the book. Starting from this theme, Aditjondro explains in a comprehensive way the ecological, economic and social impact of the process of TNI's occupation. He especially discussed the experiences of women in Timor Lorosa'e. Aditjondro also criticizes the masculine characterization of the resistance movement of Timor Lorosa'e that only highlights male figures (e.g. Xanana Gusmao, Jose Ramos-Horta) and neglects the political role and the sacrifices of the political organization of Timor Lorosa'e women (Organizacao Popular da Mulher de Timor), which was systematically crushed and banned by TNI.

The comprehensive analysis is supported by an exaggerated perfectionism (as the editor of this book says) of Aditjondro who laid bare the data, not only from the reports on human rights violations, testimonies and textbooks, but also from official data of the government (interpreted critically) and the aviation magazine Angkasa (it was from here that Aditjondro found proof of the sale and purchase of fighter planes to exterminate the resistance movement of Timor Lorosa'e). The critical interpretation of the government's official data even pushed Aditjondro to write especially on the process of "fake statistics" to cover up for the reality taking place in Timor Lorosa'e. The faking process was done by simplification which compared arbitrarily "the fruits of development of the New Order in East Timor" with "the remnants of Portuguese colonization".

Aditjondro found the facts of "forced removal or forced expulsion" of the people of Timor Lorosa'e at the time of the January 1975 occupation by studying the "unofficial" statistical figures obtained from statistical data from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) research and Catholic church records. According to the CSIS research, the number of inhabitants in 1980 was 555,350 (70,196 less, compared to the figure of 1973: 626,546). According to the Catholic church, the population decreased drastically from 688,771 in 1974 to 329,271 in October 1978. Where did they go and why did they go/disappear?

An inseparable part of the struggle of the Timor Lorosa'e people is the role of the Catholic church. Aditjondro tries to reveal the ups and downs of the support of the Catholic church and the process of state intervention (TNI) against the hierarchy of the Indonesian Catholic church in the attitude toward Timor Lorosa'e. The book also exposes the "doubts" of the church about the realities. A big challenge had to be faced by Bishop Belo when he wrote to the UN secretary-general to immediately hold a referendum, when he gave an interview to Der Spiegel and when he received the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. Under this pressure, the Indonesian Catholic church did not show a firm stance.

In the final part of the book, Aditjondro discusses the support of the Indonesian prodemocracy movement for the struggle of Timor Lorosa'e people. Only in 1991 (after the Santa Cruz incident) was there open support for self-determination for the people of Timor Lorosa'e. Previously, the Timor Lorosa'e affair had rarely been on the main agenda of the struggle of human rights and prodemocracy activists in Indonesia.

There are a number of analyses which are interesting but not much has been followed up on. The history of the diplomatic struggle of Timor Lorosa'e was one of the determining factors in the success of the struggle of the Timor Lorosa'e people. This book could also have benefited from the inclusion of Aditjondro's latest writings on the postreferendum situation in Timor Lorosa'e and its prospects. Nevertheless, these deficiencies do not reduce the importance of this book in lifting the mist surrounding the history of Timor Lorosa'e.

-- Wahyu Susilo


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