Subject: The Debacle in E Timor, Why I Changed My Mind

Subject: TIMOR LOROSAE 1975-2001


By Hidayat Supangkat *)

Exactly today is the 26th anniversary of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

During the Cold War era, I still believed about the danger of communism in the light of the abortive communist coup d'etat of 1965 which nearly made us a communist state.

Cold War is Cold War, and I realized that after the demise of the Soviet Union which in turn changed my general way of thinking including about East Timor.

In the meantime, the development in East Timor itself was not changing for the better, it was changing for the worst due to corruption, inefficiency, mismanage- ment and their stubborn "colonial attitude" of the Army. The Army regarded East Timor as a conquerred half island and they had been thinking that money could buy everything, so they poured in funds year after year without changing a bit about thei "colonial attitude".

I used to support the integration of East Timor into Indonesia since it was being supported by all political parties - except the Fretilin - and I invited almost all United Correspondents to luncheons and dinner given by the Indonesia Mission who had tried to conceal their hands in the matter, fearing being accused as the "invader".

I helped the Indonesian Mission to the UN to do this, thinking that it was right to help the government in big trouble after they were being condemned as the invader of East Timor both by the majority of the delegations of the General Assembly and the Security Council. I almost lost my self respect and my national respect.

As a former independence fighter in 1945, I feel that I had the obligation to fulfill the popular aphorism: "right or wrong my country".

But I am a realistic man. The cold war was over, the oppressive system reached its maxim at the massacre of hundreds of innocents student and youth in Santa Cruz, of which the then governor Mario Carrascalao was crying reflect- ing of his powerlessness vis a vis the Indonesian Army. Then in a small Austrian town, when the dialogue took place among East Timor communities of both pro-independece and pro-integration, the Raja Maria Concalves, "the father of integration", exploded with his proposal to demand referendum in East Timor. The name of either the castle or town was Burg Schleining.

This is it! I have been supporting him since 1975 and when he changed his mind, it was a signal that the time has come for me to change my mind as well.

So, I supported the referendum hence.

I frankly wrote a letter to Indonesian Ammbassador Makarim Wibisono that I changed my mind about East Timor and we have to go our own separate way like the Dutch saying "gescheiden samengaan".

I gave the Jakarta people some ideas to handle the newly integrated East Timor people with great care, but they always retorted: "They are illiterate, they are mostly animists, they don't deserved it. We know exactly how to handle them. You will see after the voting next year!" Well, if you defied the art of communication to prefer "big stick and carrot" and things went out of hands for so long, the result is very predictable: total failure!

Wrong strategy.

I criticized that the Indonesian strategy in East Timor was most primitive, indicating they were ignorasmus in modern strategic thinking by applying the equilibrium strategy and then fell into the trap of the dominant strategy of the UN and Portugal.

The option of accepting or rejecting the special autonomy is the other side's dominating strategy which guarantee the loss of Indonesia, and so is the Indonesian equilbrium strategy which should be absolutely inapplicable in this Tripartite Talks in the United Nations. The Indonesian strategy in Tripartite talks was not only "a lose lose strategy" but also a "double lose-lose strategy".

It was said that this strategy was based on the Intelligence report from East Timor militia that they are going to win the referendum dubbed as a poll. Apparently it was a false report, based on the intimidation against people by the militia and it was absolutely counterproductive in not self-destruct.

In elections, intimidation instead of promises of El Dorado is absolutely primordial. And as a result, all of us, Indonesians had to swallow international humiliation! First as invader in 1975 and as the massacrist in Santa Cruz and then running amok after losing the referendum.

I hope this kind of things will never happen again to our nation.

New York, 7 December 2001. *) Veteran UN & US Indonesian correspondent.

----- End of forwarded message from -----

Back to December menu

World Leaders Contact List
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu

Note: For those who would like to fax "the powers that be" - CallCenter is a Native 32-bit Voice Telephony software application integrated with fax and data communications... and it's free of charge! Download from