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Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

Ch 2. Transfer for adoption

In the early years of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Indonesian soldiers ran the territory and were responsible for the development program. Even though soldiers believed that the East Timorese clamoured for integration and development, they often delivered development in ways that breached the rights of the East Timorese. They did not deem it necessary to consult with the East Timorese to determine what they wanted from development or their hopes for the future.

This tension is mirrored in the transfer of about 2,000 East Timorese children out of the territory by Indonesian soldiers, one of whom we have already met – Biliki, who was taken to Indonesia against her wishes and those of her parents and guardian. On the one hand soldiers showed compassion towards the many children they took from East Timor, but on the other hand they failed to acknowledge the circumstances of the children they removed and the manner in which they removed them.

Evidence and scale

We turn first to the evidence and scale of transfer of children by soldiers out of East Timor. This is a difficult task because there are no official records or documentation of the transfers, which leaves us dependent on the estimates of those who observed the transfers and those who were transferred. The anecdotal evidence is considerable. A retired marine, a member of the personal staff of Brigadier General Dading Kalbuadi, commander of the Regional Security and Defence Command, the most powerful position in East Timor for the first years after the invasion, told me that he believed that several thousand children were taken by individual soldiers from East Timor during that period. The soldiers who took children were those who had contact with the people, such as the combat troops and Special Forces soldiers; he did not know of marines who took children, as they had less opportunity to do so.1

Many of those who took children were officers and troop commanders. Mario Carrascalão, governor of East Timor from 1982 to 1992, was aware of the fact that many high-ranking officers took children with them to Indonesia. Lieutenant General (retired) Kiki Syahnakri, deputy army Chief of Staff in the early 2000s with at least three tours of duty in East Timor (CAVR 2006: 8.4 p. 2), adopted a six-year-old East Timorese child in 1981 when Syahnakri was a captain. The child had been separated from his parents and was with a group of people who surrendered in Manatuto. Many of Syahnakri’s officer friends also adopted East Timorese children. Andi Wijayanto, an analyst of military affairs at the University of Indonesia, knows many officers who took East Timorese children back to Indonesia during the late 1970s. His father, Theo Syafei, commander of the Udayana military region responsible for East Timor in the 1990s, found two separated children in 1979; one was adopted by Syafei’s family and the other by a soldier from Gorontalo in Sulawesi. Prominent journalists, Daud Sinjal, chief editor and director of the new Sinar Harapan newspaper, and Aristides Katoppo, publisher and director of Suara Pembaruan newspaper, both told me that soldiers took many children from East Timor in the late 1970s.

Regular soldiers usually took the young children back to Indonesia by boat at the end of their tours of duty. Carrascalão confirmed that there were almost always groups of East Timorese children taken away on the boats that transported battalions back to Indonesia. Guilherme dos Reis Fernandes, in 2004 a senior staff of the Secretariat of State for Labour and Solidarity in East Timor, told me that in 1977 he saw soldiers from Battalion 712 from Sulawesi removing children from Betano, on the southern coast of East Timor. Almost all the East Timorese with whom I spoke who had been taken away by a soldier said that they saw other children on their boats, travelling with soldiers of the same battalion. Thirteen-year-old Antonio from Manatuto was taken forcibly by a soldier to Ambon in 1980. The vessel’s first port of call was Ternate where Antonio saw many dozens of East Timorese children, some older and some younger than he was, disembarking with the soldiers who had brought them from East Timor.

A soldier who intended to take a child home to Indonesia usually took the child with him to the main military barracks in Taibessi in Dili, where the battalions gathered to prepare for departure. In 1977 Dominggus de Deus Maya, an East Timorese Catholic catechist, witnessed a group of young children waiting there to be taken away. At that time the only way to travel was on an Indonesian military vehicle, with permission. De Deus Maya lived in the concentration camp in Letefoho, Ermera and had travelled to Dili to try to buy rice. When he returned to the barracks in Taibessi to arrange his trip back to Letefoho, he saw about ten small children held in an enclosure; beside them stood luggage belonging to soldiers who were preparing to depart. Dominggus Maya wrote down the details of the children, but because of the war in the ensuing years and difficulty with communication, he was unable to locate their parents and relatives. In 2004 he told me that the memory of the confused and crying children, penned with the soldiers’ luggage, still haunts him.

Further evidence of the transfer of large numbers of children out of East Timor by Indonesian armed forces personnel comes from witnesses who saw children of East Timorese descent living in the vicinity of military barracks and housing complexes in many places in Indonesia. Father Felix Layade, an Indonesian Catholic priest who has worked in Makassar for many years, knew of many dozens of East Timorese children living in and around military bases in Bone and Jeneponto and other locations in South Sulawesi. On a visit to South Sulawesi in 1990, Rev Agustinho de Vasconselos, the post-CAVR Executive Director and a former National Commissioner of the CAVR, encountered 30–40 East Timorese children, aged from five to ten years, living with the families of soldiers in the military housing complex in Bantimurung, 40 kilometres from Makassar.

East Timorese who were raised in a military complex also knew other East Timorese children living in their complex. Biliki, who grew up in the housing complex of the Kopassus Special Forces Command in Cijantung, remembers an older East Timorese youth named Josep who worked as a servant in the home of the soldier who took her from East Timor. Two East Timorese girls, Maria and Orpah, lived with other families in the same complex and when Biliki was older she sometimes overheard people talking about East Timorese who lived there, though she herself did not know them.

Although there is overwhelming evidence that children were taken from East Timor by soldiers, the number of children involved is difficult to estimate accurately. Syahnakri told me in 2006 that there were maybe 200–300 children altogether, but he could not confirm the numbers. According to my investigations that figure is too low. One way is to try to estimate the number of children taken on military boats, the main form of transport for the majority of soldiers. Several East Timorese children who were transported out of East Timor by boat thought that there were 20–30 East Timorese children aboard the boats returning with their battalions to Indonesia, six or seven children with a platoon.2 One older child counted 21 children on his boat (CAVR 2006: No. 360). Experts calculate that during the height of the conflict between 1976 and 1979 there were 30 Indonesian battalions operating in East Timor at any one time (CAVR 2006: No. 41). Troops were usually there for a year or possibly shorter period before they were rotated. Battalions may also have travelled on more than one boat, but if we count one boat per battalion and 30 battalions, with ten East Timorese children taken away per boat, then that would support an estimate of 300 children in one year. That four-year period alone could account for over 1,000 children taken away, but the number could well have been much higher. That number corresponds roughly with the estimate of several thousand by the retired marine officer already mentioned. Many of the children travelling on these boats had been soldiers’ helpers (TBO), though the number of children who worked in this capacity is difficult to determine so this fact does not help in estimating numbers removed. It needs to be noted here that some of the children taken to Indonesia by soldiers were not adopted but sent to be educated in religious institutions in Indonesia, as we will see in Chapter 4.

The process of transfer

During the early years of the occupation of East Timor, soldiers, initially as fighters and then organising the population as they surrendered and were captured, were the face of Indonesia. Soldiers ran the territory until the early 1980s, when a civilian government apparatus began functioning, although military influence was pervasive throughout the entire period of Indonesian rule. Consequently, soldiers had face-to-face contact with East Timorese and formed relationships with them in a range of contexts, which presented opportunities to identify children they might adopt.

Children in combat zones

Until the middle of 1977, half of East Timor’s population was sheltering in the mountains beyond the reach of the Indonesian military. From August 1977 and into early 1979 the military bombarded mountain hideouts to force people to surrender. Children were particularly vulnerable during these attacks; along with the elderly, they were unable to keep up with the fleeing crowds and often became separated if no-one could carry them or help them. Simião Lopes Assis, the four-year-old cousin of Maria da Costa, could not keep up with his family when they fled from a bombing attack through the muddy terrain in the Dolak area on the south coast near Betano. His feet got stuck and, in the enormous crush of panicking people, he was separated from his mother and never seen again. The fate of children like Simião and many others who were separated or abandoned is unknown. Some were rescued by Indonesian soldiers who had compassion for these children. Some soldiers said that they could not bear to see children abandoned to die.3 They often took these children to Indonesia to adopt them. Abdul Rauf Manuel and Ismail Dominggus were young children when they were wounded during Indonesian military attacks on their villages and then rescued by soldiers and taken to the Seroja childcare institution in Dili. In 1980 an Indonesian Red Cross doctor took them, along with Linda, another young girl who had been wounded, to be treated at the Gatot Subroto army hospital in Jakarta. They grew up in a school for disabled children in Jakarta, Yayasan Pembinaan Anak Cacat, where they received a good education and the continuing interest of the doctor who brought them from East Timor.

Soldiers regularly placed children in institutions in Dili and returned to collect them at the end of their tours of duty to take them back with them to Indonesia. If the children were sick and weak, as was often the case, they admitted them to the Dili hospital. Sometimes after a battle, soldiers took separated children by helicopter to Dili and placed them in the Seroja institution,4 as had happened to the two children mentioned above. Later some of these children were reunited with their parents and family members who successfully traced them to the institution. Staff members of the institutions were often unable to help families in their searches, as some children were too young to provide information and the soldiers who delivered the children gave them few details.5

In other instances soldiers deliberately selected a child to save from among a group of people they killed, which would have included the parents of the child. One such child was Amelia who was two years old when her parents and others with them were killed by soldiers in the area of Baucau. The patrol commander carried Amelia and cared for her for the remainder of his patrol, then later took her home to Sulawesi. She was light-skinned, possibly of Portuguese descent.6 East Timorese from all backgrounds told me that they believed that Indonesian soldiers deliberately selected light-skinned children for adoption, although the truth of this is difficult to ascertain (Aditjondro 2000: 131). It was probably more a personal preference for a child of a lighter skin colour, unrelated to the racially motivated discourse among many European colonisers which argued for separating children, usually mestizo children, from their families on the basis of skin colour.

Children in concentration camps7

Gradually the Indonesian military succeeded in capturing the people or forcing those hiding in the mountains to surrender. In 1978 the Fretilin leadership decided that only armed fighters should stay on in the mountains and that ordinary people should surrender to the Indonesians (CAVR 2006: 3.12 Nos. 315–317). The Indonesian military also uprooted whole villages to prevent contact with Fretilin and forced the occupants to join the surrendering population in designated camps (CAVR 2006: 3.13 Nos. 331–333). In the crowded camps food and medicines were scarce.8 To prevent food from reaching Fretilin, the military permitted the distribution of only small amounts of food by the Indonesian Red Cross and some by the Catholic Church (CAVR 2006: 8.1 p. 39–40). People weakened by months of trying to avoid capture did not have sufficient to eat. They could work in the fields and gardens only under escort, as a way of preventing food from reaching the fighters. These ‘concentration’ camps thus became places of misery and death.

Amongst the captured and surrendering population in the concentration camps were many separated children, such as Leonia, who were often assumed to be orphans and taken away by soldiers. Children separated during attacks often joined up with other groups of people, even strangers, as Leonia had done. Consequently, when captured they were sometimes held in different camps from their parents and other family members, even in areas far from home where no-one knew them. Sometimes these separated children were too small to explain where they came from and what had happened to their families. These separated children were especially vulnerable as they had no-one to care for them and provide them with food. Two young girls of about 12 and eight years of age turned up in the concentration camp in Hatolia, Ermera, in 1978. They did not know each other nor were they known to any of the hundreds of others in the Hatolia camp. The girls said they came from Zumalai, in the south, a long distance by foot over the mountains. Although some people in Hatolia tried to help them, they died in the following months.9 Rogerio Maia found a young abandoned girl in the Fatubessi concentration camp in Ermera. He and his wife Joana raised her, but her trauma wiped out memories of her childhood and they have been unable to trace her family. Often East Timorese pretended that separated children were members of their own family, as in the cases of the children just mentioned, for fear that soldiers would try to remove them because they were abandoned orphans. On surrender to a battalion in a particular district the people were required to register all their details, so it was easy for soldiers to identify the separated children if they had not been temporarily ‘adopted’ by an East Timorese family. These unattached and separated children may have been orphans, but their orphan status was never certain. It is almost certain that there would have been surviving family members who would have cared for them.

Not only did the soldiers take many separated children from the concentration camps; in some cases they also forcibly removed children who were living with their parents. Biliki’s case was not unique; from talking with many dozens of parents and family members emerged a picture of systematic abuse by soldiers of the rights of parents and their children. The soldiers intimidated parents in many ways once they had settled their attention on a particular child. They often tried to cajole and bribe the parents and, if that did not succeed, they resorted to threats. They would try to acquaint themselves with a particular child whom they liked, taking them for walks and to their military posts. Like the soldier who took Biliki, they gave gifts of clothes, sweets, food and soap to the parents, which helped the family to care for the child and provided the whole family with a few basic items.

Parents felt powerless to resist soldiers’ requests to take their children and felt they had no choice other than to give their consent. They were intimidated by the mere fact that soldiers carried guns. Most parents and guardians were like Biliki’s family and were too afraid to protest the removal of their child; after the fact they did not dare to demand their return. Soldiers also told parents, in what constituted a humiliation and possibly even a threat, that the parents would be unable to look after and educate their child. Shortly before a soldier was about to leave with a child he would usually offer gifts to the parents, such as rice and money, as did the soldier who took Biliki.

Soldiers did not permit the lack of parental consent from the few who dared to resist thwart their wishes. In some instances other members of the family were threatened by soldiers if parents refused to co-operate, for example an older daughter was threatened with rape unless the younger child was handed over.10 Soldiers told families that it would be better for the children’s futures if they handed over their children; parents often felt this was a threat, especially those who were active members of Fretilin. This was the experience of Francisco Babo Soares who was captured in 1977 and held in the Aifu concentration camp. After his Fretilin membership was revealed by an informer, he was jailed in nearby Ermera town, where soldiers asked his permission to take two of his children to Indonesia to send them to school: Luis, his 16-year-old son, who was in the second year of the Portuguese middle school, and Agusta, his seven-year-old daughter. When Francisco refused, soldiers indicated that the safety of the children could not be guaranteed. Soldiers had already spoken with Luis, and his father believes that Luis would have been afraid to refuse their offer to go with them to Indonesia. However, Francisco and his wife never agreed to the soldiers’ requests, even under duress. Nevertheless, Luis and Augusta were abducted in 1977 along with three other children from the Aifu concentration camp. Two of these other children were sisters, seven-year-old Agusta and eight-year-old Madelina, who had been handed over to the soldiers by their mother under circumstances of threatening coercion.11 A fifth child, Cristovaõ, was about eight years old when a soldier had found him separated from his family and had brought him to Aifu. Nobody knew anything about him or his family, and Cristovaõ knew only his name and that he came from Hatolia, in the Ermera district. Francisco’s daughter, Dominggas Babo Soares, tried to save him from removal by claiming he was her child, but she was unsuccessful.

Areas where the East Timorese resistance was strongest, in the east of the territory, far from the border with Indonesia, were sites of oppression and provided plenty of opportunities for soldiers to remove children.12 The people in some areas in the east lived in the worst concentration camp conditions for a longer period than in other districts. One of the consequences of the resistance of the people of Loro village in the eastern Los Palos district was the removal by Indonesian soldiers of up to 20 of their children between 1977 and 1982. Some of the children were separated from their parents; some were forcibly taken from their parents; and the parents of others were dead, athough there were living relatives willing to care for the children.13

The military-controlled concentration camps also provided opportunities for civilians to transfer children – transfers that were conducted with military knowledge and support. The process of transfer was similar to that followed by soldiers. The following stories of children who were taken from the concentration camps, one by a civilian and the other by a civil servant, serve as examples. From 1977 to 1980, PS, an Indonesian civilian, worked for a soldier relative who owned a building contract business in East Timor. In Baguia he met Vitor who was about five years old. PS believes that Vitor’s parents died during the time he was there. According to PS, Vitor’s father was a civil guard working for the Indonesian military and was killed in 1979 by Fretilin. PS did not meet Vitor’s mother but heard that she lived some distance away and had died of starvation. In the concentration camp in Baguia where PS lived, a Spanish priest cared for possibly up to 100 separated or orphaned children. PS lived close by in a large Portuguese-style building, to which Vitor, who was very thin and malnourished, often came begging for food. PS let him do small tasks for him in exchange for food. In 1980 PS asked the priest if he could take Vitor home to Indonesia. PS told me that he thought that the priest agreed because he had so many children in his care. A friend of his also took a child, Juliano, at the same time, but this child was very weak and died during the trip to Jakarta.

There is a more complete understanding of the abduction of two children of the Gandara family from Los Palos, as family members as well as the person who took them to Jakarta, EBD, have told me their story. EBD worked as advisor to the district administrator in Lautem from 1978 to 1980, and was also a lay evangelist for the Imanuel Protestant Church in Los Palos. The parents of four-year-old Sonia Gandara and two-year-old Thomas Alfredo Gandara (Sorotu) were killed in Los Palos by Indonesian soldiers in June 1979 because of their Fretilin activities. EBD, in his capacity as an evangelist, visited the children’s pregnant mother in the prison in Los Palos where she was imprisoned until she was killed. He told me that he discussed with her his plan to take the children to Java. The children’s uncle, Egidio dos Santos Gandara, said that the family asked military officials if they could take the children into their care, but their request was denied. EBD flew with the children to Jakarta on 18 June 1979 and it took 15 years for their uncle to be reunited with them.

The aftermath of the military operation to force the East Timorese out of the mountains left many children destitute and homeless and they tried to survive in the towns by loitering and begging around markets and along the roads. According to several people I spoke to, many of these children were adopted by Indonesian civilians and civil servants. Indonesians living in East Timor tried to help these children by giving them food and lodgings in exchange for small tasks performed. When they returned to Indonesia, they often took the children with them. Many Buginese from Sulawesi took East Timorese children home with them; often the children had helped with their family businesses in East Timor.14

Soldiers’ helpers – Tenaga Bantuan Operasi

Another group of children particularly vulnerable to transfer to Indonesia were soldiers’ helpers, the Tenaga Bantuan Operasi (TBO), who were recruited to do small tasks to assist a soldier.15 The transfer of the TBOs to Indonesia was a consequence of the initial removal from their families, often through coercion or in order to survive. It was easier for a soldier to remove a TBO than to take another child. The TBO could travel with the soldier until the moment of the soldier’s departure from East Timor, without raising suspicion that he was planning to take the child with him. With other children a soldier needed to make arrangements for the care of a child until he was ready to leave. The soldier who took Biliki sought the help of an East Timorese woman to care for her until his departure for Indonesia.

The use of TBOs was a program of the Indonesian military, acknowledged officially at least from 1982; guidelines for recruitment and treatment of TBOs were outlined in one of several secret military documents captured by the resistance in that year (Budiardjo and Liem 1984: 226; CAVR 2006: No. 37). A soldier recruited his own TBO who then worked for that soldier, carrying out tasks such as cooking and cleaning the barracks and serving as porters carrying equipment and supplies on patrols and military operations, although they did not carry weapons. Most TBOs were adults, with strength to carry substantial loads, but some of the TBOs were children, even younger than the minimum 12 years of age stipulated in the guidelines.16 In some cases children were preferred because they could be more easily controlled and were considered less likely to defect to the resistance. Soldiers also selected children of Fretilin families in an effort to control and influence them (CAVR 2006: Nos. 30, 49–50).

Some TBOs were recruited, including forcibly, and others offered to work as a TBO because it was a lifeline to survival for them and their families. In exchange for their work they received food; they were usually not paid a wage and no mention of payment was made in the captured documents (CAVR 2006: Nos. 81–82). The TBO program was essentially slave labour with no payment and no rights. Agustinho Soares was 16 when he became a TBO in the Letefoho concentration camp, at the same time that a 15–year-old female relative of his was forced into prostitution. The food they received helped their family to survive. One of his tasks as a TBO was to help bury East Timorese who died from hunger and sickness in the camps, sometimes up to 20 people in one day. Deaths on this scale continued in the Letefoho camp from 1976 until the defeat of Fretilin in the area at the end of 1978, after which time the military began to permit deliveries of food from international organisations. Agustinho recalled that, of the family groups with an average of about ten members each who lived close by his family in the concentration camp, only one or two members from each group survived, and that every member of some families died. Despite his help and that of his relative, half of his own family died: his older sister and her two children; his younger brother; and his single aunt who lived with them.17

At the end of a soldier’s term of service and before returning to Indonesia, the military guidelines instructed the soldier to send his TBO back to school and ensure he was given careful guidance. Among other reasons given for doing this was that an ex-TBO understood the strengths and weakness of the military, information which would be useful if the TBO joined and passed his knowledge on to the resistance (Budiardjo and Liem 1984: 226). Since the TBOs were recruited through a recognised military procedure, the military had an institutional responsibility to care for them after their discharge, in particular to ensure that younger children were returned to their families and villages. However, soldiers often did not fulfil this responsibility. Sometimes a TBO travelled with his soldier’s battalion a long distance from home and would be abandoned on the wharf in Dili when his soldier left East Timor.18 Other soldiers took their child TBO home to Indonesia. In some cases soldiers had developed a genuine emotional attachment to their TBO and wanted to help them by taking them to Indonesia where they could send them to school. They knew the boys were reliable and hard-working and could continue to work for their families while they attended school. A soldier who had decided to take his TBO to Indonesia seldom sought the child’s consent, much less that of his parents. Soldiers treated these young boys as their personal slaves, and the manner in which some soldiers removed them suggests that soldiers regarded them as personal property to be removed at will.

While it is difficult to know how many child TBOs were taken from East Timor, many were removed in circumstances such as those of Antonio and Alfredo. Antonio was a TBO for Corporal B from Ambon who forcibly removed Antonio from East Timor in 1980. At the time Antonio, like Agustinho Soares, felt he had no choice but to work as a TBO; otherwise he and his family living in the concentration camp in Manatuto would have starved. When Corporal B’s company was not on a military operation, Antonio could visit his family and B gave him rice to take home. After some time B suggested to Antonio that he would like to adopt him and invited him to come with him to Ambon. Antonio felt he could not reject the offer so he just said nothing. B persisted for several months, but Antonio never gave him an answer. Antonio estimates that in January 1980 their company was involved in an operation in Baucau. Afterwards they drove from Baucau directly to the harbour in Dili, without stopping at their base near Manatuto. Antonio had no choice but to go with B to Ambon, even though he was upset and fearful.19

Twelve-year-old Alfredo was taken forcibly from the Aileu concentration camp by Sergeant T in 1978. As T’s TBO Alfredo had to perform many tasks beyond what should be expected of a child. He was exposed to physical danger when he came under Fretilin fire and had to help T reload the magazine of his gun. Alfredo moved round for some time on patrols with the soldiers until they came back to Aileu. When the soldiers began cleaning their equipment, he realised they were preparing to return to Sulawesi. In their platoon there were 30 soldiers with ten to 15 TBOs. Some of the TBOs were sent home, whereas the older TBOs were sent on new operations. Alfredo and four other TBOs, the youngest TBOs, were taken to Taibessi, the military base in Dili, without any explanation. Besides the five TBOs there were two other children, one collected after a confrontation on a patrol and the other from a concentration camp. Sergeant T took 13-year-old Alfredo to Sulawesi in March 1980 without asking his opinion or telling him of his intention and without contacting and gaining the permission of his parents. The six other children taken by soldiers of the same platoon were removed in similar circumstances.20

Some soldiers, however, did defer to the wishes of the families of the TBO they planned to take to Indonesia. Sometimes the family of a TBO enlisted a priest or a relative with some influence to intervene on behalf of their son. The soldier for whom Faustino Cardoso Gomes worked as a TBO wanted him to return with him to Indonesia. Faustino’s uncle was able to persuade the soldier that his nephew was missing his family and wanted to go home to Suai. Faustino thinks that the fact that he cried at the prospect of being taken away may have saved him from removal. The family of 14-year-old Guilherme dos Reis Fernandes was also able to persuade the soldier from Battalion 712 from Sulawesi, for whom their son worked as a TBO, not to take him away, and the family of Aderito de Jesus sought a priest’s help in advocating on their son’s behalf to prevent his removal.

Children of guerrilla fighters

As we have already seen, from the beginning of the occupation the children of Fretilin families were vulnerable to removal by soldiers. After most of the population had surrendered, soldiers sought out the children of guerrilla fighters, especially of Falintil military commanders, for adoption. From the early 1980s Fretilin reorganised as a guerrilla resistance under the leadership of Xanana Gusmão.21 Many of those fighting in the mountains had their families with them. Because of the logistical problems of caring for their children while fighting, however, many handed over their children to family members living in towns, which increased the risk of the children’s removal by Indonesian soldiers. Mario Carrascalão heard from his deputy governor, Brigadier General AB Saridjo, that the daughter of Suharto and wife of Lieutenant Colonel Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo, a Special Forces commander in East Timor, had asked him to help her to find a child to adopt. She wanted a child who had been sent into town by parents who were still fighting in the forest.

Lieutenant Colonel S was the commander at the district military command in Los Palos in March 1988 when he heard that a Falintil fighter had sent his child from the forest into town. The child was Benvindo Aze Descart, the 17-month-old son of Olinda Morais and Aluc Descart, Falintil commander of the eastern region. Commander Aluc had been wounded and his fighters were short of food and water, so he asked his men to deliver Benvindo to his father living in town. Four soldiers sent by Lieutenant Colonel S to Aluc’s father’s house ordered him to come with the child to the military command post. S told Aluc’s father that the child was not his grandchild and threatened to cut him in two if he did not hand him over. A week later, in need of someone to care for Benvindo, S called Aluc’s father to his office and told him that he and Aluc’s younger sister could help care for Benvindo, although they could not take him home. They saw the child frequently until S was transferred to Ainaro the following year. At the end of his time in East Timor S took Benvindo back to Jakarta where he raised him as his own son.

It was dangerous for East Timorese to care for the children of guerrilla fighters, since they risked being accused of being Fretilin sympathisers. Some fighters may have decided that it was safer for their child if they put them into the care of Indonesian soldiers (Aditjondro 2000: 129–130). Certainly by sending their children out of the forest and into town, they placed their children at risk of being removed by soldiers. Elito, the six-month old son of Commander Lere Anan Timur from Illiomar, Los Palos district, like Aluc’s son, was taken to Indonesia after Lere decided to send him out of the forest when his wife died soon after giving birth in 1981. Elito was adopted by Brigadier General Sontono, head of the Indonesian police in East Timor from 1978 to 1982, but Lere had no information about Elito until they were reunited in June 2010 (Suara Timor Lorosae 2010; Tempo Semanal 2010a and b).

Often the only way that guerrilla fighters could keep their children in East Timor was to put them in the care of nuns and priests, although even that was not without risk, as soldiers were suspicious of children who suddenly appeared in the care of nuns. Nevertheless, children of guerrilla fighters were cared for clandestinely in many Catholic Church institutions in East Timor, including one of Xanana Gusmão’s children, who was placed in the care of the Salesian nuns at the Catholic institution in Venilale (Lewis 1993: 107–108). Two children of Domingas Alves da Silva (code name Bilou-Mali), one of four women guerrillas who stayed and fought in the forest throughout the Indonesian occupation, were taken away by Indonesian soldiers after she had been forced to leave them during military engagements in 1986 and 1987. This influenced her decision in 1996 to put her two-week-old son into the care of the Catholic nuns in Soibada.22

Motivation for transferring children

Soldiers who took children from East Timor had many different motives; political and ideological reasons intermingled and overlapped with personal and psychological motivations. Soldiers insisted that in taking East Timorese children to care for them in Indonesia they acted benevolently and sacrificially.23 Senior journalist, Aristides Katoppo, recalled debates in the late 1970s about soldiers taking children from East Timor and conducted his own investigation at the time. Soldiers told him that they were not abducting children but were just trying to help them. Luhut Panjaitan, a Special Forces officer, who adopted a young boy from near Mount Matebean said that he took the child to care for him and educate him, as a way of expressing his love for East Timor (Bentley 1995: 180).

The arguments for taking children away were aligned with the assertions of New Order ideologues who claimed that Indonesia went to East Timor not out of self-interest but to help the East Timorese. Indonesian soldiers fighting in East Timor were imbued with New Order propaganda that the East Timorese wanted integration and the development opportunities that Indonesia offered. Soldiers doubtless believed that taking children out of their backward environment to civilise and educate them in Indonesia was an acceptable way to help and were supported in this belief at the highest political level. At the time of integration President Suharto promised publicly that Indonesia would be generous in its development programs – in Chapter 3, I describe how he organised the transfer of 61 young children to be educated in institutions in Indonesia. He justified separating children from their families and cultural environment in order to give them the benefits of an Indonesian education. The transfer of young children to Indonesia for educational purposes was not, however, explicitly formulated as official policy by either the civilian or the military authorities.

Soldiers always emphasised that they took children to Indonesia to educate them. I have already referred to the importance that the New Order attached to education and its role in ensuring loyalty and obedience to the regime. Soldiers who took East Timorese children and students to Indonesia wanted to ensure that they learnt to become loyal Indonesians and take on an Indonesian identity. They wanted to ensure the success of integration by educating children in Indonesia at least as much as they wanted to help the children. In this chapter I deal with individual soldiers taking children to be educated; in later chapters we shall see that the military supported the work of organisations that sent children to educational institutions throughout Indonesia.

An education in Indonesia, away from the distracting influence of resistance in East Timor, was deemed more likely to ensure loyalty to Indonesia and acceptance of integration. Many a soldier took their TBO back to Indonesia in order to continue to influence them through an Indonesian education. Soldiers usually hoped that their TBOs would eventually join the Indonesian armed forces and they also wanted to prevent the TBOs from joining the East Timorese resistance and disclosing sensitive information about the Indonesian military (CAVR 2006: Nos. 30, 49–50). Like the Argentinean children who were taken from their families between 1976 and 1983 so that they would not be influenced by subversive ideology as they grew up, the TBOs and children from Fretilin families would be free from the subversive influence of anti-integration ideas if they were raised in Indonesia.

Although ideology may provide a rationalisation for transfers, it does not, however, sufficiently explain the actions of individual soldiers. It would be cynical to deny that compassion motivated many soldiers to rescue an abandoned child. Many, no doubt, experienced revulsion at the war and helping a destitute child was a response at a personal level, although most soldiers probably left the children to their fate.24 But let us not imagine that soldiers wanted to help these children out of feelings of remorse. Indonesian soldiers sent to fight in East Timor in the early years were told that they were there to free the East Timorese from the evils of communism. The military did not see itself as the perpetrator in this war; nevertheless, it cloaked all information about the war in a veil of secrecy – the displacement of about 300,000 East Timorese; the death of over 100,000; the thousands of displaced, separated and orphaned children. Had they not done so, the role of the military in the disaster in East Timor would have been exposed. The extreme military measures that led to such suffering contradicted New Order propaganda that most East Timorese supported integration and that Fretilin had no support base (CAVR 2006: 7.3.4 Nos. 64, 113, 6.2.1 No. 36).

We have seen that soldiers not only took separated and abandoned children but also removed children from their parents and families under duress. Again, soldiers even justified force in terms of the perceived benefits to a child. We need, however, to probe deeper if we are to understand why soldiers would personally accept the responsibilities of adoption and what drove them to remove children forcibly, even with the use of violence, from their families and environment.

Some soldiers had personal reasons for adopting children. Many took children because they had no children of their own or because they wanted a child of a particular sex. In these cases the children were usually well cared for by the soldiers who treated them like natural children. In Indonesia it is common practice to adopt indigent children, especially of poorer relatives, although the adoptions are not legal contracts, as explained in the Introduction. Many soldiers may have regarded the adoption arrangements as being similar to this common practice. Even unmarried soldiers took children, probably for similar reasons, and usually asked a member of their family to care for the child on their behalf. Achmad da Silva was taken by a soldier in 1983 to Indonesia, where he lived with the soldier’s parents at first, but joined the soldier once he had married.

As noted in the Introduction, adopted children in Indonesia often have to work for their adoptive families in return for their education and care and the experience of East Timorese children was no different. The provision of cheap labour for a family was a strong personal motivation for taking a child, especially TBO children, whom soldiers knew to be reliable, hard workers. The treatment of children in their adoptive homes is discussed later in this chapter.

The question of why some soldiers took the children forcibly is a difficult one to find answers to. It is possible to imagine that the desire to have a child to work for his family or the wish to continue to influence a TBO and perhaps turn him into an Indonesian soldier could lead a soldier to use force to satisfy this desire. It is much more difficult to understand why a soldier would take a child from its parents and family, if the intention was to raise the child as his own and treat the child as he would his own natural child. Yet soldiers did just this. They treated the East Timorese as inferiors who had no rights, not even the right to care for and raise their own children.

I found no evidence that Indonesian soldiers transferred children for financial gain or of any instances where soldiers were paid for the children they took to Indonesia from East Timor, nor that there was any trafficking in East Timorese children for sexual or physical slavery or for removal to other countries.25 Soldiers often gave the children they brought back to Indonesia to other families, usually relatives or other military families. I do not know if soldiers had been requested by these families to find a child or if they received payment for the child. I have not heard of paedophilia in the relationships between soldiers and the children they adopted, including in relation to their TBO, although this does not mean it did not exist (CAVR 2006: Nos. 302–332, 334).26 Aristides Katoppo believes that soldiers did not have such evil intentions towards the children they took back to Indonesia.

Other motives appear to have arisen from psychological factors, factors that often operate in war. Ordinary soldiers were probably frustrated that they had to fight the East Timorese when their superiors had told them that the East Timorese wanted integration with Indonesia.27 They were also no doubt angry that comrades died.28 Punishing the East Timorese and taking booty or spoils compensated them for what they had had to endure. Indonesian soldiers plundered East Timor, especially in the initial and then the final stages of the occupation; but children, even separated or seemingly abandoned children, cannot be treated in this way. The child taken home after the battle is over gave the soldier the opportunity to demonstrate to his family and neighbours his success in East Timor and his power over his enemies. He had his own personal East Timorese to dominate and command at will, which perhaps helped him deal with his feelings of powerlessness in a war about which he was forbidden to speak.

The use of children to assert dominance over the enemy was influential in motivating soldiers to seek deliberately to adopt the children of guerrilla fighters, especially the children of Falintil commanders. By controlling their children, Indonesian soldiers attempted to humiliate and discourage the East Timorese fighters, almost certainly in the hope of hastening their surrender. Soldiers used control over children in hostage-like situations with this purpose in mind elsewhere in East Timor. In the early 1980s, 2,000–3,000 children under 12 years of age, along with women and the elderly – 8,000 people in total from villages all over East Timor – were confined in harsh conditions to a prison on Atauro Island in an attempt to try to force those in their families who were still fighting to surrender (CAVR 2006: 3.13 Nos. 344–350).29 In 1986, in the hope that the parents of the children would surrender and give up their struggle, the commander of territorial Battalion 713 from Menado, Sulawesi, gave permission for 13 children of senior guerrilla fighters to be brought from the central Falintil base in Waimori to Venilale, Baucau district. It was a more humane approach as soldiers allowed the children to grow up undisturbed in the Catholic institution run by the Salesian nuns in Venilale.30

Bringing a child home was at another level a way for soldiers to demonstrate to their fellow-Indonesians their good intentions towards the people of East Timor. Indonesians had heard how backward and primitive the East Timorese were, so this exotic child, brought to be educated in Indonesia, proved the success of the soldier in bringing integration and development. In villages throughout Indonesia, the scenario described in Chapter 1, played out by Suharto for a media audience in September 1977, was repeated. Just as Suharto had done, the soldiers used the children they brought to Indonesia to demonstrate their generosity in providing a child with an opportunity to receive a superior education in Indonesia. When 13-year-old Antonio and five other East Timorese child TBO taken away by soldiers in the same platoon arrived home in their village in Ambon, the whole village came out to stare at them. This was also TBO Alfredo’s experience when he arrived in Sulawesi, also aged 13. The neighbours came to see how primitive he was, touching his strange hair and watching to see how he would eat. For the soldier, Alfredo was proof of his heroism. At the CAVR public hearing, Alfredo described his experience on arrival in Sulawesi in 1980.

It was like being in a zoo. I was sitting in a house – they were these tall houses. Everyone came to look at me. They touched my hair. It was a bit red. They watched to see how I would eat. It was the first time they had seen an East Timorese. They asked if all East Timorese were like me. T was like a hero because he had brought me there.31

Alfredo Alves Reinado at a CAVR public hearing

Alfredo Alves Reinado (left) preparing to make statements at the CAVR public hearing on ‘Children and conflict’, Dili, 29–30 March 2004. Holding the Bible is CAVR Commissioner Rev Agustinho de Vasconselos.
© Helene van Klinken

Institutional controls

The fact that soldiers took children from East Timor was known and condoned by those in authority.32 There were, however, some institutional controls which suggest that it was a practice that did not have official approval, but they were not rigorously implemented and were easily manipulated. Many people told me that the removal of children by soldiers was policed by the Indonesian military police and that there was pressure from East Timorese leaders, the governor and bishop in particular, for removals to be controlled. However, the CAVR (2006: 4.2 No. 39) did not find any evidence that the military police disciplined individual soldiers for removing children. Mario Carrascalão said that he often spoke publicly about child transfers out of East Timor – on official occasions he would sometimes pocket the speech prepared for him by his Indonesian deputies and start talking about such matters in Tetun, but he was unable to control the practice. One anecdote that confirms that the military police tried to stop removals comes from TBO Alfredo who was taken to Sulawesi by his soldier. While Alfredo was at the military base in Taibessi waiting to depart, he overheard instructions by the military police to soldiers on parade that included forbidding the soldiers to take children home with them.

The only known document containing a military instruction that related to adopting children did not explicitly forbid soldiers to remove children; rather, it stated that soldiers could adopt only orphans, and that they must obtain an official letter signed by the local district administrator (bupati) verifying that the child they wished to adopt was an orphan. This instruction was issued by the military commander of the East Timor Region Command in 1978 or 1979, at the height of the military activity which was when most children were removed by soldiers. A copy of this instruction was attached to a letter signed by the district administrator of Ermera with a list of the names of orphans who could be adopted by soldiers.33 The existence of this document confirms that soldiers were taking children away from East Timor on such a scale that the military authorities considered it necessary to regulate it; it is also possible it was issued in response to the complaints of East Timorese leaders and officials.

It would have been almost impossible for an administrator to confirm with certainty whether a particular child was an orphan, given the chaos and upheaval of the early years of the occupation of East Timor. Furthermore, while these district administrators were East Timorese, they were appointed by the Indonesians and were only figureheads who acted under instruction from their military counterparts. To organise an adoption, a military commander could ‘request’ an administrator to issue the necessary permissions (Anderson, Djati and Kammen 2003: 5–6). Several children living at the Seroja institution were adopted by soldiers who organised permission, even though the adoptions were not in conformity with the regulations of the Department of Social Welfare.34 Lino Martinz, in 2004 a policeman in Dili who had lived in Seroja for many years after 1982, recalled that two-year-old Thomas was removed in 1983. A group of women from the association of soldiers’ wives, Persatuan Istri Tentara (PERSIT), used their influence with senior military officers to obtain the letter of permission from the Department of Social Welfare to adopt Thomas.35

Neither government regulations nor military instructions stopped soldiers taking children, as soldiers found ways to avoid the restrictions they imposed. For example, they negotiated the restriction on adopting only orphans by obtaining written permission from parents to take their children to educate them in Indonesia, without making any reference to adoption. In such cases a soldier simply had to report to the government and military officials, usually at sub-district level, that he was taking a child with parental permission and he would be issued with an appropriate letter of authorisation. These letters were termed ‘letter of surrender of a child’ (surat keterangan menyerahkan anak) and were signed by the parents and the solider or civilian adopting the child, their witnesses, and military and civilian officials.

Clementino dos Reis Amaral, the deputy district administrator in Baucau in the late 1970s and now a member of parliament, witnessed dozens of agreements such as these in his district and heard that a similar procedure was followed in other districts. He said that soldiers tried to persuade parents to let them take their children by giving money and rice and promising to return the children after they had completed their education. Amaral believes that some parents did genuinely agree to the soldiers’ requests, but there were many others whom he doubts would have signed voluntarily; parents often came to him crying and protesting that their child had been taken away, even though they had signed an agreement. Often parents disagreed with each other about the surrender of their child. At the official signing of agreements, Amaral sometimes observed in a mother’s expression and body language that she did not agree, although she did not dare to protest; the father had been a TBO for the soldier and agreed, or felt he had to agree, to the soldier’s request to take their child away. Amaral was unable to do anything to prevent the removals other than encourage the parents to speak out if they dared to do so. Soldiers sometimes asked religious leaders to help them acquire the necessary letters of permission to remove separated and orphaned children. In the concentration camps the care of these children was often organised by priests or catechists. As the putative guardians of a child they could authorise the child’s surrender into the care of a soldier. Dominggus Maya, the Catholic catechist in Letefoho in 1977, refused to meet one soldier’s request to organise an agreement because he believed it would not have been the parents’ wish.

These written agreements functioned as a means by which soldiers could remove children to Indonesia unhindered; once they were back in Indonesia they adopted the children or gave them to other families to adopt. The documents varied in their content: some were letters stating the child was an orphan, attested to by the district administrator; some were letters of surrender of a child by its parents, a priest or other guardian; others stated that parents gave up all rights to the child, as they would in a legal adoption document. Most parents whose children had been taken by soldiers to Indonesia believed that the soldiers had promised they would return their children. Clementino dos Reis Amaral confirmed that such promises were made to parents who were still living. He does not, however, know of any soldier who returned a child as he had promised. Nor have I heard of a single instance of soldiers returning children to East Timor, with the possible exception of Luhut Panjaitan, who, although he did not return the child to his parents, took him back to East Timor on visits. He said that he has a good relationship with the villagers and the father of his adopted East Timorese son (Bentley 1995: 180).

That the military regarded the documents merely as a formality and not a genuine agreement between parents and soldiers is evidenced by the falsehoods they contained and the dishonest treatment of parents. Officials lied to parents about the contents of the documents they were forced to sign. One mother of a three-year-old child and her witness were forced to sign or thumbprint a document written in Indonesian that neither of them could read. It stated that the mother gave permission to the soldier to adopt her child and that she gave up all rights to her child. It also stated that she had no objections to surrendering her child for adoption. At the sub-district military command, where she and her witness were called, many Indonesian security and civilian officials had gathered, creating a situation that she found intimidating. They told her that the soldier would educate her child and return the child when his education was complete and that that was what the written document, which was signed by the district and sub-district administrators and the sub-district police and military commanders, said. She signed because she was afraid. When the soldier first met her to discuss his intention to take her child to Indonesia, he had deliberately placed his gun on the table, which she interpreted as a threat. She still hopes for the return of her child.36

Civilians taking children to Indonesia also needed letters that surrendered guardianship to them. In the case of Vitor, noted above, the Spanish priest in Baguia acted as the official party surrendering Vitor to his adoptive father, PS. In the case of the Gandara children, the official letter stated that the children were handed over to EBD for adoption by two members of the Imanuel Protestant Church in Los Palos, an East Timorese named Thomas who could scarcely sign his name and an Indonesian named PN. It too was signed by the district administrator and the police and military commanders. The claim by the local Protestant Church of guardianship over the children may be linked to something the mother agreed to in jail just before she was killed. The letter stated that EBD should raise the children as his own because their parents were dead and there was no family member to take on the responsibility of their care. It added that the party removing the children had exerted no pressure on anyone. Other Gandara family members had asked to care for the two children, but the military authorities denied the wider family their right to care for them. They were not given a reason, but it was almost certainly because of the family’s Fretilin affiliation and activities. EBD told me that the children had been placed in an Islamic childcare institution in Los Palos because the military authorities would not allow the children to be taken back by their family. He said that when he spoke to their mother in jail, just before she was killed, he offered to take them to Java. It is possible, although I have no proof, that the children’s mother, aware that the family was not permitted to care for the children, thought his offer was better than their staying in the Islamic institution.

Gandara adoption papers

An adoption document for the two Gandara children, signed in Los Palos, 11 June 1979.
Source: Egidio dos Santos Gandara.

It was important for ordinary soldiers and civilians to obtain an official guardianship document as it enabled them to apply to the Indonesian Department of Social Welfare for assistance with school fees and living costs for which all orphans were eligible.37 There were, however, many cases where there were no letters of agreement with parents, although there may have been verbal discussion and parental acquiescence of a kind, as in the case of Biliki when she was taken by the Special Forces officer. It was probably easier for senior officers to take a child, in part because of their seniority and also because they did not need state assistance for the child’s education and upkeep and, consequently, did not need a letter of guardianship.

When regular soldiers were unable to obtain the necessary letter of permission to remove a child, they circumvented the regulations by the rather distressing method of smuggling children out of East Timor in crates, concealing them as if they were part of their luggage. Maria Legge Mesquite’s father was carrying her when he was shot dead by an Indonesian soldier in 1978 in Aileu. A soldier found her with her father’s body and took her to the military post where he cared for her. Some time later he told her that her father was not dead but in Java and that he would take her to him. As the battalion was about to leave, soldiers put five children, including Maria, into five boxes. A family member of one of the children found them and freed them and, despite being threatened and physically abused, their rescuers refused to reveal to the soldiers where they had hidden the children.

Agusta and Madelina, who were abducted from Ermera with the two children of Francisco Babo Soares and the separated Cristovaõ in 1977, were packaged into boxes to conceal their transport onto a boat leaving Dili. Their departure was witnessed by Francisca dos Santos Lobo from Ermera who had been attending school in Dili at the time of the invasion and was still living there. Soldiers had also brought Francisca’s younger brother, Salvador Araujo, to Dili with the intention of taking him away. They kept him in a house in Dili that happened to be close to where Francisca was boarding. With him were the sisters Agusta and Madelina. Just before they were due to leave, the soldiers came to collect the children. Francisca told me that she argued vehemently with the soldiers and refused to let them take her younger brother. She saw the soldiers take Agusta and Madelina into a room and then she heard hammering. After some time the soldiers emerged with a large box. Through a hole she saw the girls lying in the box back to back and she followed them to the wharf where she saw them carried as part of the soldiers’ luggage onto the boat bound for Indonesia.

As already mentioned, although soldiers could move around freely with their TBO, they had to deal with the military police if they decided to take their TBO home. Many TBOs were also hidden in boxes when they were removed from East Timor. Antonio, the TBO from Manatutu, had to hide on the boat that took him to Ambon. The soldiers slept on raised platforms and during the day Antonio had to hide in a box under one of these platforms, coming out only at night, presumably so that he would not be seen by the soldiers’ commanding officer. Some children were forced to stay hidden only until their boat was out of view of East Timor, which suggests that some battalion commanders were not particularly strict about controlling their men once the children had evaded detection by the military police before leaving Dili. On the day of Sergeant T’s departure to Sulawesi, he offered to take 13-year-old Alfredo to the wharf to see his boat. Alfredo was keen to see the boat and, although he was surprised, he trusted T when he told him he would have to hide in a box so that the military police did not see him and prevent him from entering the port area. He had just heard the instructions to the soldiers on parade that prohibited them from removing children so he was not suspicious. Alfredo described his experience:

T put me in a big box. I wasn’t really scared but I was surprised, and I was wondering what had happened to the others from our group of seven. I could see out of the box a bit, and I felt myself being lifted onto a truck and then a bit later carried some more. After some time I tried to get out of the box, but T told me to stay hidden because the military police were coming. However, I wanted to get out of the box and look around the boat. Then I heard the siren of the ship; it was very noisy, and suddenly I could feel the boat was moving. After about twenty or thirty minutes in the box I was very hot and sweaty. Then T let me out. I saw that I was on a big boat and then I saw my friends. They all said their soldier had brought them aboard in a box. We looked round and we could see that Dili was far away and that we were moving away from the shore. I don’t really know how the others felt. Some were running round and seemed happy. But I felt very sad and was crying. I thought about my mother in Maubisse and I thought that I would never have a chance to go back there.38

I heard of a few instances where battalion commanders did take action if they received reports about the behaviour of the soldiers in their command. In 1977 some parents asked Catholic catechist Dominggus Maya for help after their child had been kidnapped by a soldier about to leave Letefoho. Dominggus Maya reported to the battalion commander who ordered his men to remove their gear from the already loaded truck and eventually the commander found the child packed into a box and returned the child to the parents. In the face of indiscriminate abuse by the military, East Timorese were rarely able to demand their rights. Their only hope might be a sympathetic commander, such as the one at Letefoho, who might investigate or discipline his men. Monsignor Martinho da Costa Lopes, Apostolic Administrator of East Timor from 1977 until he was dismissed in 1984 for his anti-integration stance, found that the only recourse to justice for East Timorese in those early years was for him to appeal personally to a commander on behalf of victims and sometimes commanders would take action in response to a complaint against the men in their command.

Reporting a soldier’s behaviour to his commander involved a risk, however, because the soldier would often take revenge out of sight of his commander. One tragic example of this was the rescue of V who was abducted in 1978 when she was a baby. A company commander from Sulawesi, RM, had asked her family if he could adopt her, but they refused. RM then took V without permission and packed her into a small box just before he left town. V’s mother asked the priest for help to find her daughter and, through a Catholic nun in Dili and an East Timorese TBO, she traced V to the district military command in Dili. V’s mother travelled to Dili to demand her daughter back. She was intimidated and punched by soldiers at the district command because she had dared to accuse them of stealing her daughter, but when she refused to be put off, the commander eventually showed her the baby still in the box in which she had been smuggled to Dili. V’s mother was able to identify her, so the commander returned the child to her. RM was not pleased with the outcome and back in Ermera he tried to shoot her. The bullet passed between her legs, frightening her but not killing her. V’s older siblings paid a higher price. Her 18-year-old brother, who worked as a TBO for RM, was tortured by RM and placed in an open latrine. He was there for several days until his mother found and rescued him. On a return assignment to East Timor, RM raped V’s 13- and 15–year-old sisters, one of whom became pregnant with a child that RM later abducted. She has never had any further information about her child.39

Treatment of children in Indonesia

In Indonesia, soldiers either adopted the children and cared for them in their own homes or gave them to other families, often relatives or other military families. As explained in the Introduction, the adoptions were not legal contracts but resembled a practice, common in both Indonesia and East Timor, in which indigent parents give a child to a rich relative or benefactor to raise. In return for education and care, the child usually works for the benefactor’s family. I do not know whether the families asked soldiers to find a child or whether the soldiers sought someone else to care for the child because their own families could or would not accept responsibility for the child. We saw that Biliki moved families twice. Agusta and Madelina, the two sisters taken in 1977 from Ermera, grew up in separate soldier families, neither of which were the family of the soldier who removed them.40 This was also the case for Luis and Agusta, a brother and sister who were taken from East Timor in the same group as Agusta and Madelina.41

Most soldiers kept their promises to parents and sent their adopted East Timorese children to school in Indonesia. Many children, however, were unable to adjust to life in Indonesia and its school system. According to Kiki Syahnakri, most children brought to Indonesia by soldiers did not succeed at school and one of the main reasons for their limited progress was their embarrassment at being placed in first-grade classes with six-year-olds in order to learn Indonesian. Many children had difficulty studying because of the trauma they had experienced and many suffered from the effects of malnutrition, which interfered with their learning.42 Some did succeed, notably the children of senior officers who may have had access to better opportunities. Syahnakri’s adopted son became a senior civil servant; Toni Taulo, adopted by a relative of Syahnakri, is an actor in television (sinetron) in Kupang; Sebastian da Costa, adopted by Lieutenant General (retired) Yunus Yosfiah, is a well-known tennis player;43 Thomas Americo, taken from East Timor by soldiers from the East Java Brawijaya battalion, became the first boxer from Indonesia to compete against an international title holder (Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Information 1980: 24; Kompas 2008).

Thomas Americo at Independence Day celebrations

The celebrations were held at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, 17 August 1981. Thomas Americo (left) is accompanied by Letjen H. Herman Sarens Soediro. On the right is Saoul Mamby, from the US who defeated Americo in the boxing match in Jakarta.
© Kompas

Many soldiers probably did not give careful thought to the challenges that introducing a traumatised child into their own families would present; there were often problems that left the children unprotected and exposed to danger. Although TBO Antonio had only elementary Indonesian, he understood when he arrived at Corporal B’s home in Ambon that the soldier’s wife was not pleased and that she would have preferred a girl, as they already had three sons. She did not treat Antonio well and often physically abused him, especially when the rest of the family was absent. She chased him away from home on several occasions, until one day she lunged at him with a large chopping knife, yelling at him to leave or she would kill him. He was just beginning high school and, after this experience, he never returned to his adoptive home, finding many different jobs to survive and pay his fees so that he could complete high school. In 1991 he returned to East Timor where he successfully registered to receive a government scholarship for his university education in Ambon.

Children who, like Antonio, were taken to Indonesia to continue to work in soldiers’ homes, were often treated harshly in conditions that were little short of slavery. Antonio had to get up at three in the morning to chop wood and boil water, fry bananas or cassava for breakfast, sweep and mop. He had to draw the daily water supply from a deep well, and only after the rest of the family had bathed could he bathe and leave for school, usually running so that he would not be late and locked out of the classroom. He always felt tired in class, but he was positive and grateful for the opportunity to get the education of which he had always dreamed. After Alfredo arrived in Sulawesi, the group of seven children was separated; each was taken to the village where their soldier lived. T took Alfredo to his parent’s home, where he was well treated by some of T’s family, but, like Antonio, he was often physically abused, especially by T. Alfredo was so miserable that he tried to run away on several occasions, but he was caught each time and severely punished by T. Eventually, when he was 17, he succeeded in escaping and two years later, in 1986, he found his way back to East Timor.

Both of these young men were highly intelligent and had more than an average ability to care for themselves. Many other children were not so resilient in their strange new environment. If they ran away or were thrown out of home, they were vulnerable to further abuse because they had no extended family to turn to and no-one to see that their disappearance was followed up. I heard about East Timorese children who had been abandoned or had run away, who later turned up as dockworkers, members of semi-criminal youth gangs, homeless people and psychologically disturbed street beggars.44

Some turned to the Catholic Church where Indonesian priests and nuns assisted them (CAVR 2006: No. 380). Mariana from Remexio, Aileu, was about seven years old in 1977 when she was taken by a soldier to Temanggung in Central Java. She had to work as a servant for his family, caring for their twins, and was not sent to school. After ten years she ran away and was fortunate to meet the East Timorese Sister Maria Lourdes Martins, then a theological student in Yogyakarta, who helped her to return to East Timor. Sister Lourdes took Mariana to confront the soldier who had brought her to Indonesia and asked him at least to pay Mariana’s fare home to East Timor. Even though he had never paid Mariana wages for her years of work, giving her only a small amount of pocket money, he still refused to help her with her fare home.

Indeed many children turned to Indonesian soldiers at times of greatest need. This is not surprising, as it was an instinctive response to turn to those they had learnt to relate to in their childhood and in whom they had put their trust. Leonia asked soldiers to help her when she arrived back in East Timor to look for her family and was worried about her safety. After his escape from Sulawesi, Alfredo Alves arrived destitute in Surabaya in 1986 and decided to seek help directly from the most senior commander. Alfredo knew how to approach the commander, using his upbringing in a soldier’s family to his advantage. The commander responded sympathetically and gave him a letter that meant that he had royal treatment on the journey home – a free boat trip and the waiver of the compulsory travel pass for the road trip from Dili to his mother’s home in Maubissi.

The experience of the two Gandara children, taken to Indonesia by the Indonesian civil servant EBD who worked in Los Palos, gives us a glimpse of what can happen when adoptions are quasi-legal and inadequately supervised. EBD told me that he took the children from Los Palos on behalf of a Menadonese from Sulawesi who lived in Dili and said that he had no intention of adopting them, even though he had signed the official document. His Dili contact refused to accept them, so, according to EBD, he had no alternative other than to take the two children back to Jakarta. In Jakarta a neighbour asked if she could care for Tommy and raised him until she died, when her family continued to care for him. EBD sent Sonia to an orphanage run by the Protestant church, the Panti Asuhan van de Steur, situated near his house in Pondok Gede, eastern Jakarta. Sonia had bruises on her face when she arrived at the institution and often ran away looking for her brother. EBD handed over the official letter of guardianship to the institution, but did not explain that the two children mentioned were siblings, which meant that staff at the institution did not believe Sonia when she said she had a brother living nearby.45 Tommy, who was given a new name and raised as a Muslim, was angry that he was not told about his older sister and his true identity (CDPM 1997; TAPOL 1997a; 1997b). He learnt the truth 15 years later, in 1994, when their uncle Egidio finally traced them to Jakarta.

Senior military personnel singled out intelligent East Timorese youths from Fretilin backgrounds and sought to foster in them a positive attitude towards integration by personally supporting their education, sometimes even taking them into their homes. As already mentioned, Government scholarships were readily available to young people from non-Fretilin backgrounds; initially, those with family members still engaged in fighting were excluded. Officers, however, dared to experiment with a different approach. In 1976, 17-year-old Francisco Lay Kalbuadi, an East Timorese of Chinese descent living in Dili, came to the attention of Brigadier General Dading Kalbuadi, then the military commander in charge of East Timor. Because of Francisco’s musical ability, Kalbuadi selected him to go to Indonesia with 100 East Timorese youths for a scouting jamboree (Suara Karya 1976b). After the jamboree, ten from the group were chosen to stay on and receive several months training. Francisco told me that he was denied this opportunity because he and his family did not belong to the Apodeti party.46 He wanted to remain in Indonesia to study so he decided to go directly to Kalbuadi’s home in Jakarta, where he spoke with Kalbuadi’s wife and made a favourable impression. Subsequently, Kalbuadi adopted him and provided him with many generous opportunities to study. Franscisco later took up leadership positions in several national organisations.

Perhaps the best example of an Indonesian military officer using a spectrum of approaches to persuade East Timorese youths to support integration is that of Prabowo Subianto, the son-in-law of Suharto and commander of Kopassus. He recognised that one approach would not fit all and had the financial resources to fund individual pursuits, thereby earning the gratitude of recipients. The ventures funded by Prabowo show him seeking to win over or manipulate both pro- and anti-independence youths for his purposes; but they also show the East Timorese youths using him opportunistically to further their own goals. He took many clever youths under his patronage and supported them while they studied. His students came from areas of conflict in Indonesia where there were separatist or independence movements, including East Timor, Aceh and West Irian. He provided a house for them in Cijantung, near the Kopassus headquarters, and paid their living expenses and school fees. Savio Domingos from a Fretilin family from Los Palos with close relatives fighting with Falintil, worked as a soldier’s TBO when he was 13 years of age. In 1985, Major Ganap, who became a member of parliament in Dili and deputy speaker after he retired as chief of military intelligence, sent Domingos to Jakarta. Through friends, Domingos met Prabowo in 1992 and was given a scholarship to study at university and a room in Prabowo’s house. At that time about ten students lived in Prabowo’s house: six from East Timor, three from Fretilin families and the others Apodeti and UDT, and several other students from Aceh and Papua (Loveard 1997). Domingos often met Prabowo when he came by to check their progress each semester; Prabowo never engaged them in political discussion and did not try to indoctrinate them. Domingos’s clandestine anti-integration activities, which he conducted while living at Prabowo’s house, eventually forced him to flee Indonesia in 1995. Domingos feels sure Prabowo would have been aware that he was the East Timorese stringer for the Reuters journalist Jeremy Wagstaff between 1993 and 1995, when it was difficult for foreign journalists to obtain visas to enter East Timor and reports from East Timor angered the military. Domingos has respect for Prabowo for never challenging him:

Prabowo must have known what I was up to. He’s bright. I think he would have found it difficult to reprimand me. Sometimes I feel bad about Indonesia and Prabowo. Maybe he thinks I was ungrateful. On the other hand I had a moral obligation to write about the truth. As human beings it may seem hard. Someone pays for my education, then I write like this. But I think – well, to write the truth I don’t have to feel guilty. If you write about truths, how could he say, ‘I don’t think you should do that.’ He’s also a human being.

Both Francisco and Domingos are grateful to their benefactors for the opportunities they had to study; Francisco continues to use Kalbuadi’s name as a measure of his gratitude to his adoptive father. Both went on to take up key positions in the first Fretilin government of independent East Timor.

The benefaction of senior officers towards youths like Francisco and Domingos was intended to win over the East Timorese elite to do their bidding and was very much in contrast to the harsh treatment meted out to ordinary people.

The privileged treatment of the young children of senior Fretilin fighters who were left undisturbed while they lived at the convent in Venilale has already been noted. Another example of privileged treatment was that of Maria do Céu Lopes Federer whose home is on Atauro Island, which the military used as a prison for the relatives of guerrilla fighters. Céu was one of the first East Timorese students to receive a scholarship to study in Indonesia. She returned home to care for her dying father in the early 1980s, just as the prisoners began arriving on the island. Céu, a French and Portuguese speaker, became a translator for the ICRC’s emergency relief program, but military officials in Dili decided that they did not want her there. Rather than threaten her directly, they tried to entice her to leave. Major Ganap, the intelligence chief, and Colonel Paul Kalangi, the regional administrative secretary (sekwilda), flew with her to Atauro and tried to lure her back to Jakarta. The director of Bank Rakyat in Dili offered her a good position away from the island and the director of the regional state logistics agency, Bulog, offered a scholarship to wherever she wanted to go, on condition she did not defect, in an attempt to cut her contact with the prisoners on Atauro.47

Other East Timorese who were perhaps more vulnerable to manipulation were bribed by these same military officers, including Prabowo, to intimidate and blackmail others. One such East Timorese was Hercules Rozario Marcal, the adopted son of Major General Zacky Anwar Makarim, a Special Forces intelligence officer who oversaw the organisation of pro-integration militias in East Timor in 1999. His parents were killed during bombing attacks in Ainaro in 1978 and Hercules, about 12 years old at the time, lost an arm and eye. Makarim recruited him as his TBO and later took him back to Jakarta to live with him. Up to ten other East Timorese youths lived at Makarim’s house, gardening, cleaning and doing guard duty, but they were not sent to school.48 For many years Hercules was a well-known gang leader in Jakarta. Working with other East Timorese youths in his gang, he ran profitable extortion rackets at the Tanah Abang market in Jakarta and intimidated pro-independence East Timorese with financial and political support from Makarim and Prabowo (CAVR 2006: No. 380; Bexley 2009; MateBEAN 1997; 1998a and b). Another East Timorese who was supported by Prabowo to conduct similar action against other East Timorese was Octavio Soares who played a prominent role in transferring children to Java following the referendum, which is described in Chapter 5.

The young, dependent children whom soldiers took to Indonesia were often destitute, but soldiers gave little thought to the impact that transfer would have on their emotional and psychological development and the trauma that they and their families would suffer as a consequence. Life in her adoptive home in Jakarta was not easy for Biliki who has suffered all her life from feelings of anger and frustration as a result of her forced removal. Biliki still wonders why a soldier who had forcibly removed a child from her family could fail to understand her reaction. Leonia also struggles with her feelings of loss and the need to know about her family who were never able to search for her after she had been lured away from East Timor. In 1977, an Indonesian military policeman forced Amelia Seguia from Ermera to hand over her eight-month-old daughter, Veronica. The ICRC tried to trace Veronica without success, and Amelia, now in her 60s, is still emotionally disturbed as a result of the abduction.49 The most tragic example of the impact of trauma suffered by children removed from East Timor is that of the TBO, Alfredo Alves (Reinado), who was killed in an apparent assassination attempt on President Jose Ramos Horta on 11 February 2008. The sensitive, brave 12-year-old TBO of Sergeant T had wept as he was forcibly removed from East Timor in 1978 because he feared he would never see his mother again. He made an amazing escape from Sulawesi in 1986 and nearly ten years later he navigated a tiny boatload of 17 East Timorese political refugees in a daring trip to Australia on 30 May 1995, the only successful refugee boat trip from East Timor. Alfredo cannot have been unaffected by the experience of forced removal and abuse in his adoptive home and, tragically, he repeated the violence perpetrated against him (Niner 2008).

While many soldiers treated their adopted East Timorese children well and the children concerned are grateful for the education they received and their acceptance in their adoptive homes, the children grew up with many questions about their identity. Biliki was tormented all her life about the family from whom she was so cruelly torn in 1979. Many East Timorese children were too young when they were taken away to remember the details about their families. Despite this, many still returned to East Timor to search for their families. They would often ask for help from Catholic priests, village leaders and non-government organisations – anyone who might have information about families whose children had been taken away.50 The number of parents who contacted Leonia wondering if she might be their missing daughter is an indication of the scale of removals.

The ability of East Timorese families to trace their children was limited. Lieutenant Colonel S, the adoptive father of Benvindo Aze Descart, did have some contact with Benvindo’s mother, Olinda Morais, at her request. Olinda was captured in 1990, after 14 years with the guerrilla fighters. The new district commander helped her to contact S who invited her to ring and visit her son in Bali, but it was not possible for her to travel and she could not speak Indonesian. S sent her a photo of Benvindo in 1991, which was taken to her by a soldier. According to one report (Paz é Possivel em Timor-Leste, 1991), the soldier informed her that her son was well but warned her that she should not continue to try to contact him. Olinda sought help from the ICRC to trace Benvindo, but the Indonesian military would not co-operate with the request. Benvindo’s parents received no further news of him until they were reunited in September 2003 and Benvindo was not told about them until then.

Given travel limitations and communication difficulties, it was only marginally easier to trace children who had been taken by civilians. In 1992 Egidio dos Santos Gandara was studying in Dili and a friend in Jakarta helped him obtain the address of EBD, the public servant who had taken his niece and nephew from Los Palos. After an exchange of letters, Egidio went to Jakarta in 1994 and brought Sonia and Tommy home to East Timor. They found it difficult to live in Los Palos in the tense years of the mid-1990s, especially with one uncle still fighting with Falintil and another having to report every day to the district military command. The latter was questioned for three hours daily over a period of two months, mostly in relation to the return of the children. The terror instilled in his family and the whole population shocked Tommy. Sonia returned a few years later to Indonesia where she is married and lives with her family. Tommy left East Timor and later Indonesia, after seeking asylum in the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta in 1995. He went to study in Portugal. While there he contracted an illness, returning to East Tmor a few days before his death in 2001. He is buried in Los Palos.

Tommy Gandara, Alentjo, Portugal, 7 September 1996
© Dino Gandara


Tommy Gandara’s grave

The grandmother and uncles of Tommy Gandara at his grave in Bauro village, Lospalos, 2004. Egidio dos Santos Gandara is on the left.
© Helene van Klinken

Sonia Gandara and her son in Jakarta, 2010
© Helene van Klinken

Soldiers raised their adoptive children as Indonesians, obliterating as much as possible the East Timorese identity of the children. They raised the children in their own religion and usually gave them new names. They did not tell their adoptive children that they were East Timorese, if they could hide it from them. Even the small amount of information soldiers had about them was usually kept from them, and children were taught the New Order version of the situation in East Timor. Rauf and Ismail, the two youths rescued by an Indonesian Red Cross doctor, do not know of any records kept of their villages of origin in East Timor. They were wounded during Indonesian attacks on their villages, although they were told that Fretilin had bombed their homes. Leonia was also accepted by her soldier father as long as she did not begin to explore her East Timorese identity.

Nicolau Ramadan had a tragic experience of rejection. He was accepted in his adoptive home, but then rejected by his father after East Timor voted against integration in the 1999 referendum. In 1981, when Nicolau was about three years old, an Indonesian army captain found him and took him to Java. Unlike Leonia, he was later told that he was East Timorese and that his family came from the Venilale area. Several years after Nicolau’s adoption, the soldier had a natural child, but Nicolau continued to be treated no differently from the soldier’s own child. Everything changed after Indonesia lost the referendum in 1999 when Nicolau’s father, a senior officer by this time, cut all contact with him. He would not accept Nicolau’s phone calls and stopped paying for his education, forcing Nicolau to drop out of university. Nicolau was not a radical student, being, in fact, a member of the pro-Indonesian and pro-integration Yogyakarta student forum.

Nicolau’s relationship with his adoptive soldier father and its breakdown demonstrate poignantly the political and ideological motivations of soldiers who raised East Timorese children. His story highlights that these relationships reflected the broader relationship of the military with East Timor and the East Timorese. The military was confident that its generous development program, along with its tight control on the territory, would ensure that the East Timorese accepted integration. With the rejection of integration by the East Timorese, Nicolau’s Indonesian officer father withdrew his affection and longstanding generous acceptance of his adopted son. He transferred his disappointment at the loss of East Timor to this innocent young man, in a way that mirrors the military’s vengeful destruction of the considerable fruits of Indonesian development in East Timor.


The relationship that developed between Indonesians and East Timorese was often deeply troubled and the transfer of children out of the territory by soldiers provides us with an informative prism to help us understand its complexity. The soldiers who took approximately 2,000 children away from the territory did so with intentions that were simultaneously noble and disturbing. They considered that the only hope for East Timor was the development offered by Indonesia. Many East Timorese wanted this development, particularly education for their children. They were, however, confronted by military abuse on a horrendous scale, although the Indonesian military denied its central role in the war that led to suffering and oppression, and meant that many parents could not provide for their children, many of whom were separated from their parents and abandoned.

Most of the instances of children being taken by soldiers for adoption occurred in the years of greatest military activity; many children were indeed rescued by soldiers from certain death. The camps where the population was held after surrender were places of hunger, suffering and death and it was from these camps that soldiers took separated children to care for them and educate them in Indonesia; but they also forced many parents to hand over their children. Most East Timorese parents were powerless to prevent soldiers removing their children, just as there was no recourse to justice for any abuse perpetrated by the military. Soldiers lied about agreements and failed to keep promises they made to the East Timorese, such as those they made to parents about returning their children on completion of their education. The Indonesian military’s arrogant attitude to those it deemed inferior widened the gap between the East Timorese and the Indonesians rather than fostering the trust and co-operation that was essential to achieving any prospect of integration.


1 Anonymous interview, Jakarta, January 2004.

2 Alfredo Alves (interview, Dili, 2004) and Antonio (interview, Yogyakarta, 2001).

3 Andi Wijayanto (interview, Jakarta, 26 July 2006).

4 The role of Seroja institution in child transfers is discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.

5 Abel dos Santos (interview, Dili, 7 March 2004), and Maria Margarida Babo (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004); see also CAVR (2006: Nos. 361–362).

6 Alfredo Alves (interview, Dili, 5 March 2004).

7 East Timorese often refer to the temporary holding camps as places of concentration (konsentrasi) meaning that the population was confined to a small area with restricted freedom of movement. When the military had ousted Fretilin from an area, it allowed people to move back to their homes. In some cases the concentration camps became permanent and in remote areas people were relocated in permanent resettlement villages (CAVR 2006: 7.3.4 Nos.194–195).

8 For a description of life in the camps, see CAVR (2006: 7.3.4 esp. Nos. 89–90, 133–160, 168–173).

9 Former inhabitant of the Hatolia concentration camp (interview, Dili, 8 September 2003).

10 Anonymous conversations, East Timor, April 2004.

11 Filamena dos Santos, older sister of the two girls (interview, Letefoho, Ermera, 2004).

12 After the defeat of Fretilin and the death of Nicolau Lobato, Xanana Gusmão and several other leaders escaped to the east from where they reorganised the resistance (CAVR 2006: 3.15 Nos. 382–383).

13 Luciano Conceição (interview, Jakarta, 17 August 2006).

14 Maffinawang, director Legal Aid Foundation, LBH, Makassar (interview, Makassar, 26 March 2003).

15 Two reports for the United Nations Secretary General, the Graça Machel report (1996) and the Otunnu report (2005), drew attention to the abuse of children in armed conflict. The latter raised the issue of abduction of children from their families to become child soldiers, sex workers or slave labourers (Otunnu 2005:III.C.68,V.4). There is no evidence, however, that Indonesian soldiers took their helpers to work in this capacity, although they often had to work as servants for the soldiers’ families in exchange for attending school.

16 Twelve is much younger than the legal age of employment, 15 (ILO 1973:Article 2) and 18 in the CRC optional protocol of involvement of children in armed conflict (United Nations 2000a:preamble).

17 For experiences of recruitment of other TBO, see CAVR (2006: Nos. 53–64).

18 Jose Luis de Oliveira, HAK Association (interview, Dili, April 2004); see also the CAVR Report (2006: No. 32, No. 425).

19 Antonio (interview, Yogyakarta, 2001).

20 Alfredo Alves (interview, Dili, 5 March 2004).

21 A broad-based umbrella organisation, the Revolutionary Council of National Resistance (CRRN) was formed in 1981 to organise resistance, with Falintil as its fighting wing. In 1988 the CRRN became the National Council of Maubere Resistance (CNRM) and in 1998 the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) (CAVR 2006: 3.15 Nos. 377–396 esp. 389).

22 Indonesian intelligence officers found out about the child and came to investigate. The Sister there told them that he was the child of her niece and the priest, who knew the child’s identity, supported her.

23 Andi Wijayanto (interview, Jakarta, 26 July 2006).

24 Andi Wijayanto (interview, Jakarta, 26 July 2006).

25 See also the CAVR Report (CAVR 2006: No. 352).

26 There were, however, many cases within East Timor of East Timorese girls under the age of 18 who experienced sexual violation and were forced into sexual slavery by members of the Indonesian military. And after 1999, many young girls were forcibly held in sexual slavery in Indonesia; almost exclusively the perpetrators were pro-Indonesian East Timorese militia (see Chapter 5).

27 For example, Kukuh Sudjoko speaking on TV 7 (now Trans 7), Saksi Mata #13, 18 July 2006.

28 In the first few years more than 1,000 died (Klinken 2005: 112–113).

29 See also statements by Maria do Céu Lopes Federer at CAVR public hearing, ‘Political prisioners’, Dili, 27–28 February 2003 and testimony by Joana Pereira to the CAVR public hearing, ‘Forced displacement and famine’, Dili, 28–29 July 2003.

30 Dominggas Nunes (interview Venilale, 27 March 2004), Mau Caluc (interview, Dili, 27 March 2004) and Father Eligio Locatelli (interview, Fatumaca, Venilale, 8 April 2003).

31 Alfredo Alves testimony to the CAVR public hearing, ‘Children and conflict’, Dili, 29–30 March 2004.

32 This was also the conclusion of the CAVR (CAVR 2006: No. 373).

33 This secret military document was seen by Hilmar Farid, head of the Indonesian Institute of History and Cultural Network (Jaringan Kerja Budaya dan Institut Sejarah Indonesia). It was found among documents left behind in the Indonesian military’s retreat from East Timor in 1999 and is now in the archives of the human rights organisation Yayasan HAK in Dili, where I was unable to obtain permission to view it. The district administrator was Tomás Gonçalves, former partisan and Apodeti leader, who defected in 1998 (Hilmar Farid, interview, The Hague, 8 May 2004).

34 Guilherme dos Reis Fernandes (interview, Dili, 2004).

35 Maria Margarida Babo (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

36 Anonymous interview, Dili, 11 May 2004.

37 PS (interview, Jakarta, 2006).

38 Alfredo Alves (interview, Dili, 5 March 2004).

39 Anonymous interview, Dili, 1 April 2004.

40 Filamena dos Santos (interview, Letefoho, Ermera, 23 February 2004).

41 Francisco Babo Soares and Madelina dos Santos (interview, Aifu, Ermera, 24 February 2004).

42 PS (interview, Jakarta, 6 August 2006) and EBD (interviews, Jakarta, 12 August 2006).

43 Kiki Syahnakri (interview, Jakarta, 24 August 2006) and Andi Wijayanto (interview, Jakarta, 26 July 2006). Yunus Yosfiah was a Special Forces officer who took part in the invasion of East Timor and commanded of the East Timor region command from 1985 to 1987. In 1997 he was appointed Chief of the Armed Forces Social and Political Affairs Staff (Kassospol) and in 1998 Information Minister (Tanter, van Klinken and Ball 2006).

44 Staff at the West Java Muhammadiyah Headquarters (Pimpinan Wilayah Muhammadiyah Jabar), Bandung (interview, Bandung, 30 January 2004); one child taken by a soldier became a pedicab driver had his story told in the Catholic weekly, Mingguan Hidup, in about 1980 (Luciano Conceição, interview, Jakarta, 17 August 2006).

45 Sonia Gandara (telephone conversations, 2004–2006) and information from Panti Asuhan van de Steur, August 2006. A copy of the letter was given to Egidio dos Santos Gandara, the children’s uncle. The branch of the van de Steur institution in Pondok Gede took in younger children, who transferred to the main institution in Matraman Road in central Jakarta to attend senior high school.

46 Francisco’s name is on a list (perhaps tentative) of ten youths accepted to do the training, which included children from well-known Apodeti and UDT families (Berita Yudha 1976).

47 Céu spoke French as well as Portuguese because her father had been exiled to Portuguese Timor from the Portuguese colony of São Tomé and Príncipe off the francophone west coast of Africa (Late Night Live 2007).

48 Abel dos Santos (interview, Dili, 7 March 2004).

49 Manuel Martinz (from Poilala) and Alexander dos Santos and Rojina de Arauja, (interviews, Ermera, 10 September 2003).

50 I heard this from many priests throughout East Timor, including Father Santana R Pereira (interview, Dare, 18 September 2003).

Cite this chapter as: van Klinken, Helene. 2011. Chapter 2: 'Transfer for adoption'. In Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing. Pp. 25-65.

Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

   by Helene van Klinken