Aug 05, 2020 Last Updated 3:52 AM, Jul 28, 2020

Timor misadventure

Published: Sep 30, 2007

In early 1976, retired Lt-Col Subiyanto refused to be sent back to East Timor. We met him in an East Javanese town.

Why did some Indonesian soldiers refuse orders?

Because we read a bit about East Timor. Though colonised by the Portuguese for 350 years, no mass killings ever took place. But after the Indonesian government sent Abri there, Abri massacred the East Timorese.

Was Abri doing wrong?

In my opinion, it robbed the East Timorese of their sovereignty, because they were already independent at that time. So why should Abri go to East Timor with the express purpose of occupying their territory?

Did you go to fight against Fretilin?

Against the East Timorese. I didn't know anything about Fretilin. I just knew they were East Timorese.

How was Fretilin depicted?

East Timorese who escaped into the forest when Indonesian soldiers attacked were called Fretilin.

What did your colleagues say?

Friends who had been there disapproved. There were so many dead. They were people just like us. Whether you wanted to or not, you were ordered to go in. Then it was too late, we had to defend ourselves. It was difficult. We were from the city, and had to go into the forest.

What happened when you refused to go again?

For three or four years I got no promotion.

Wasn't that an unpatriotic act of yours?

You can call it unpatriotic. Abri has to follow orders. But once I knew a little about the history, I thought if I go I'll just be killing ordinary people. Sure, we have to follow orders, but you're not allowed to do that. We are human beings.

What about Abri dead?

If you count them from the beginning until now, wow, you wouldn't get just one or two thousand. It could be 5,000, or 10,000, or even more. At that time when one company was completely wiped out, another one came, and it too would be wiped out, and so on. That's not counting the East Timorese themselves.

Did the Indonesian soldiers realise how many East Timorese had died?

Yah, they realised it. Our enemies were supposed to be only Fretilin, not the ordinary farmers. But at that time we were total strangers to one another. All the East Timorese were thought to be the same as those who had gone into the forest.

What happened to those who came back?

Even if they managed to return home alive, many were disabled. But that was kept a secret by our government. If there was a chance they would survive, they were taken from Dili back to Indonesia. But not even their family was allowed to know about it. Only the superior would know which hospital they were in.

Extracted and translated from the Radio Netherlands documentary 'Tragedi Timor Timur 1975-1995', part III, 21 December 1995. The documentary was published as 'Jejak-jejak darah', Inham & Pijar, 10 December 1996.


Inside Indonesia 50: Apr-Jun 1997

Latest Articles

A generation of resistance

Jun 26, 2020 - IVO MATEUS GONCALVES

Students demonstrate at Santa Cruz cemetery, 12 November 1991 / Author

East Timor’s student movement and the struggle against oppression

Essay: Celebrating Imlek, Catholic style

Jun 22, 2020 - JOSH STENBERG

/ Josh Stenberg

Practices such as Imlek masses are a welcome example of tolerance and plurality

West Papua and Black Lives Matter

Jun 17, 2020 - SOPHIE CHAO

We are not monkeys / Twitter

A movement seeking justice, healing, and freedom for Black people has become a powerful rallying call for Indigenous West Papuans

Artists seek assistance

Jun 14, 2020 - RAHMADI FAJAR HIMAWAN

Several pesinden accompanying a wayang performance / Rahmadi Fajar Himawan

Javanese traditional musicians are among the many artists and performers struggling to survive, or qualify for government payments under COVID restrictions

A house of cards?

Jun 02, 2020 - YULIDA PANGASTUTI

ANTARA FOTO/Saiful Bahri/wsj

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the exploitation of non-formal early childhood educators 

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

 


Lontar Modern Indonesia

Lontar-Logo-Ok

 

A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar