The world has watched 21 years of . . .


By Lynn Beaton

'Jakarta says that there is peace in Timor. If in fact there is peace there, it must only be the silence at the cemeteries; if it actually exists in Timor, it can only be the consequence of the death of hundreds of thousands of Timorese intentionally butchered by the Javanese army.'

Paulo Pires, Democratic Union of Timor, Submission to UN General Assembly.

Since the invasion of East Timor on December 7 1975 an estimated 200,000 people, or one third of the population have been killed. Even Pol Pot did not kill as large a percentage of the people in Cambodia as the Indonesians have killed in East Timor. Evidence suggests that the Indonesian government is determined to wipe out the entire East Timorese population. Indonesia also employs coercive birth control measures, designed to substantially deplete the numbers of East Timorese.This policy must be considered along with the policy of 'transmigration' of large numbers of Indonesians into East Timor. The reduction in numbers of East Timorese and their dilution by Indonesian settlers will seriously hinder any future claims to East Timorese self-determination.


The invasion of East Timor by Indonesia came shortly after the new Fretilin government claimed independence from Portugal. Indonesian troops seized the capital Dili, and killed 10,000 people in the first few weeks. Since that time Indonesia has waged a brutal war to maintain its hold on an unwilling population. The grisly facts of Indonesian violation of human rights have forced themselves time and again onto the world stage, despite the international powers' fear of offending Indonesia.

The UN has rejected Indonesia's claim to make East Timor its 27th Province, but at the same time refuses to support the East Timorese claim for independence. It has therefore allowed an incredibly violent situation to continue.

In 1976, Indonesia annexed East Timor in response to a 'petition' by a so-called 'Provisional Government of East Timor'. This 'government' consisted of 29 puppets chosen by the Indonesians. Indonesia's international case for annexation has rested on this bogus 'act of self-determination'.

Birth Control Policy In East Timor

In 1989 President Suharto was awarded the UN's 'Population Prize' for effective birth control programs. However, much of his 'success' has been in East Timor where the population, drastically reduced through slaughter, has little need of birth control.

In 1980 with a normal growth rate of 1.7% per year, the population of East Timor should have been 754,000 but was 555,000. Despite this, the Indonesian government instituted a Family Planning Programme which set up 183 provincial and local contraception clinics, largely run by the military. Not surprisingly the programme was widely resisted.

In 1985 the programme was extended dramatically with the publication by the Indonesian government of a five-year birth control plan for the 95,000 East Timorese women. In April 1985, a large two-storey family planning centre was built in Dili, financed almost entirely by the World Bank. A further 67 local centres were planned.

A letter from East Timor said that 'officials of the state family planning programme are present in every little village and hamlet to make people limit their number of children, and each family is only allowed to have three children. In the interior the military force our women to receive injections, and pills are being distributed to them for the same effect.

All the women are forced to take part in this. It is one way the enemy has to make our ethnic identity disappear.' Bela Galhos, an East Timorese student who defected to Canada, claimed that 'every six months, the military goes to all the high schools, seeking out the young girls for compulsory birth control. They came, and closed the door, and just injected us. We didn't know, we don't have the right to ask.

We don't have children any more. After visiting the schools, the military still goes around to individual villages and houses to inject the women they find. They don't know who we are, so they just inject us again. Some women get injected maybe three times.' There is an unusually high incidence of long-lasting injectable contraceptives, such as Norplant or Depo-Provera which is conducive to systematic coercion.

Many women are not even told what they are being injected with. Many are told that they are being injected with an anti-tetanus vaccination and there have also been accounts, from as early as 1983 of women being sterilised while under anaesthetic for another operation.

Even if they are aware of being injected with a contraceptive, refugee women's accounts consistently confirm an inadequate knowledge of what was being done to them, and 'that many agreed only under considerable pressure.' The concentration of Indonesia's 'family planning' in East Timor is clear from the fact that in 1987, 59.7% of the Timorese participants in the birth control programme used injectable contraceptives, whereas throughout Indonesia the figure was 19%. More money is spent proportionately on family planning in East Timor than in Indonesia itself. Since 1985 80% of East Timorese women have allegedly been subjected to compulsory family planning.

Transmigration to East Timor

Almost immediately after the invasion, Timorese people were 're-located', often forced to move to mosquito infested coastal areas where cultivation of crops was extremely difficult. This was to cut off Fretilin guerrillas from local communities. However, it has had a much longer lasting effect on the ongoing claims of the East Timorese for self-determination. Land is vacated by local farmers is granted to Balinese immigrants by the Indonesian government.

In 1994, the population of East Timor was about 800,000, 150,000 of whom were Indonesian immigrants. Up to 1000 Indonesians are said to arrive in East Timor each month. These include Javanese public servants who are attracted to the island with bonuses of up to 95% of their base salaries.

Transmigration is in keeping with the central policy of Indonesia - the 'Eastward Development Policy' of 1990 which aims to relocate 65 million people from Java to the outer islands, including East Timor and West Papua.

We in Australia have a particularly important part to play in forcing world attention, and particularly the attention of the Australian government, onto the attempts by Indonesia to wipe out a whole nation of people. East Timor is our closest neighbour and yet as a nation we in Australia sit back and watch the slaughter, the forced contraception, the forced relocation, the genocide.

Thanks to Sarah Storey, author of COERCIVE BIRTH CONTROL AND SETTLER INFUSION - The Indonesian Prophylactic against East Timorese Self-determination, University of Melbourne, October 1995.