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Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

Ch 3. Transfers by institutions linked to the state

Although life was difficult for East Timorese living in the towns and areas that came under Indonesian military control soon after the invasion in 1975, the military oppression they experienced was not nearly as great as that suffered by the people who fled to the mountains and were later captured and held in concentration camps. The difference in the level of oppression experienced by those who stayed and those who fled was reflected in the incidence of removal of young children by soldiers, which occurred less frequently among East Timorese who lived in the Indonesian controlled centres. Indonesian officials moved quickly to deliver on their promise of development, especially to those people living in areas that had accepted integration by default. Education was high on the development agenda. The educational and other options offered by the Indonesians were generous and welcomed by young East Timorese. Such opportunities had never been available to most of them during the Portuguese administration.

The early implementation of educational programs reflected not only the New Order’s hope to win the East Timorese support for integration, but also its need for educated Indonesian-speaking East Timorese – fluent in Indonesian language, accustomed to Indonesian culture, immersed in the state Pancasila ideology and familiar with the Indonesian administrative system – to help its rule in East Timor (CAVR 2006: 4.4: 162–167). In pursuing its goal for education, besides expanding educational facilities within East Timor, government departments and institutions of the New Order also set up programs for children and young people to go to Indonesia to study and work and to participate in informal educational, sporting and cultural activities. Before considering these programs, we will look in more detail at the transfer of a group of young, dependent children referred to in Chapter 1. This transfer was initiated by President Suharto and supported by state institutions, and it probably influenced other transfers conducted by both individuals and institutions.

The ‘President’s children’

Suharto, orphans and charity foundations

In the late 1970s a charity foundation owned by President Suharto organised for 61 young East Timorese children to be sent to Java to be educated. The children were singled out for special attention by Suharto because they were, or were deemed to be, the children of East Timorese martyrs who fought and died for the right to integrate with Indonesia. The fathers of half the children were Apodeti and UDT leaders who had been killed by Fretilin; some had died after the Fretilin victory over UDT in September 1975 and the others after the invasion, having been imprisoned by Fretilin and accused of colluding with the Indonesians (CAVR 2006: 3.11 Nos. 265–266).1 To the Indonesians, these martyrs and their children symbolised the New Order assertion that East Timorese wanted integration with Indonesia and were ready to die for it. When Suharto met a delegation of East Timorese to Jakarta requesting integration in early June 1976, he promised the widows of these martyrs that Indonesia would care for and educate their children. Bringing them to Java, the sophisticated heart of Indonesia was a mark of gratitude to these East Timorese supporters of integration.

We can find some explanation as to what lay behind this offer by Suharto by recalling his attitude to child transfers out of West Irian at the time of its formal incorporation into Indonesia in 1969. He was concerned about the backward and primitive Papuans, still living in the ‘stone age’ (Antara 1969a). He believed an Indonesian education was the key to development and his special development project for West Irian included a proposal for 200,000 Papuan children to be adopted by Indonesian families (Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin 1991b: 165; Antara 1969c). Relocating children out of the backward territory would make it easier to inculcate the Indonesian-ness – ideology, language, behaviour, the wearing of clothes – considered necessary for development.

At the time there was a lot of confusion about whether Suharto actually meant that the children would be sent to other places in Indonesia; it certainly was interpreted in that way by Papuans who were indignant because they felt that the proposal implied that they were backward and their environment inadequate to properly educate their own children (Kroef 1971: 154; Tomasoa 1969). Sambery, Mex E Ongge and A Nussy,2 Papuans with prominent positions in Indonesian-sponsored organisations and probably mouthpieces for pro-Indonesian sentiments, stated that they agreed with the idea of adoption of Papuan children by Indonesians, as long as it was with the agreement of their parents and carried out according to traditional practices (Warta Berita 1969). There was even a report in the daily bulletin from the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague that a Dutch couple in Rotterdam, on hearing of the plan, had sent a cable to President Suharto offering to adopt two Papuan girls (Antara 1969b). However, New Order officials claimed that Suharto had been misunderstood and a month later the official news agency Antara announced that he had meant that Indonesia would provide scholarships for that number of children in an ‘adopt a child’ scheme (Antara 1969a; Sinar Harapan 1969). The New Order was not entirely pleased with the negative publicity in relation to Suharto’s proposal, and Peter Tomasoa, the Sinar Harapan journalist who criticised the relocation of large numbers of Papuan children, was arrested and interrogated.

Suharto then launched a humanitarian project for West Irian, which included a focus on education. The children to be helped were the reportedly 200,000 illiterate children in the interior, around Wamena and Enarotoli. The target for the first year was to raise sponsors for 4,500 children, each of whom would receive Rp6,000 per year to cover the cost of education and clothing. On 9 November 1969 Suharto organised a special function in the presidential palace in Bogor to collect contributions for Papuan children from wealthy donors; he and his wife were pictured in the press signing up to sponsor the education in West Irian of ten Papuan children (Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin 1991b: 171–172; Sinar Harapan 1969). Throughout the year Antara reported contributions from governors, businessmen, wives of officials, even Muslims in Rome (Antara 1970d; 1970a; 1970b). By July 1970, 200 children were living in a boarding school in Yapen Waropen and attending school; altogether 2,000 children were receiving sponsorship (Antara 1970c).

Nonetheless, Tomasoa has reliable information that Papuan children were sent to Java at this time. He thought that at least 20 children, aged from six to 12, were taken to Java by Indonesian public servants who adopted them and raised them in their own families. Tomasoa thought that local ministers and priests signed documents giving permission for the children to be adopted. Some of the children became teachers or soldiers, although many worked as servants in the homes of those who took them to Java.

As happened in East Timor, Indonesian soldiers fighting in Papua in late 1961 during the Trikora military campaign against the Dutch also took Papuan children back to Indonesia, although once again there is little information about this. Tomasoa knew one father who travelled to Jakarta many years after his son had been taken for adoption in 1964, and succeeded in tracing him through the Department of Foreign Affairs. The father was a Christian, but his son had been given a new name and raised a Muslim. Another case is that of Agus Soehardjo, who was born in Sentani in 1953 and adopted by an Indonesian soldier, Marsekal Soehardjo, during his term of duty there. Agus came to the attention of Papuans in 1993 when reports of the crash of the plane that he was piloting appeared in the national press. Agus’s family name was Eluay, but he had been given a Javanese name and almost certainly a fictitious birth date of 17 August, the date on which Indonesia declared its independence from the Dutch in 1945, and the date, Indonesian nationalists argued, that Dutch New Guinea also became independent as part of the Republic of Indonesia (Kompas 1993; Suara Pembaruan 1993).3

Just as he had hoped to do for the Papuan children, Suharto wanted to help advance and assimilate the East Timorese into Indonesian society by educating children in Indonesia. However, in his offer to young East Timorese orphans he was cautious; instead of making the suggestion himself an East Timorese was organised to request his help, as all the media reports at the time especially noted. In early June 1976, military personnel organised a delegation of 50 members of the Provisional Government in East Timor (PGET) to travel to Jakarta to petition Suharto officially for East Timor to be integrated with Indonesia; almost certainly they also suggested to one of the delegates, Maria Osario, the widow of the former general secretary of Apodeti, Jose Osario Soares, to ask Suharto for help for the children of integration supporters made fatherless in the fighting (Kompas 1976a).

The President was involved in initiating and funding the transfer of these children to Indonesia through his personal charity, the Dharmais Foundation. In 1962 Suharto, then Major General and commander of the Trikora campaign in Dutch New Guinea, had established the Trikora Orphan Foundation to care for the veterans of Trikora and their orphaned children (Elson 2001: 87). Later he would set up other foundations that provided for the care and education of orphans and indigent children. On 8 August 1975 he established Dharmais Foundation, which would provide for the victims of the East Timor integration campaign (Elson 2001: 211). The foundation acquired a large tract of valuable land in Bekasi, East Jakarta, where it built the Seroja housing complex for wounded veterans and widows of the Seroja campaign in East Timor. The complex included a childcare institution called Panti Asuhan Seroja, opened on 1 November 1978, which cared for the children of Indonesian soldiers killed and wounded in East Timor. In April 1976, the military authorities in East Timor established a childcare institution in Dili with the same name to care for the children of East Timorese killed and wounded fighting against Fretilin and for integration. It was also funded and supported by Suharto’s Dharmais Foundation and Suharto maintained an interest in the Dili institution, visiting it in August 1978 on his very short trip to East Timor.

It is helpful at this point to clarify briefly the terms ‘orphan’ and ‘orphanage’ as they are understood and used in Indonesian. Children who have lost one parent are referred to as anak yatim in Indonesian and, if they have lost both parents, anak yatim piatu. Anak means ‘child,’ and the adjectives yatim and yatim piatu are added to indicate whether one or both parents are dead, although the terms are not always applied strictly.4 These terms are usually translated in English as ‘orphan’. Institutions caring for the children of the poor and for abandoned children are called panti asuhan. The full designation of the name usually includes anak yatim piatu, thus, panti asuhan anak yatim piatu. This is correctly translated in English as ‘orphanage’. However, I have chosen to refer to these panti asuhan as ‘childcare institutions’ and not as ‘orphanages’, as many of the children living in these institutions are not orphans. They are there because their families are poor; the institutions pay the children’s school fees and provide for their care, while families contribute according to their capacity to do so.

The President and his wife meet young children from Seroja institution, Dili, August 1978

Source: ‘President Suharto visits East Timor’. Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia, September 1978: 12.

Children at the Seroja institution in Dili watching television, August 1978

Source: ‘President Suharto visits East Timor’. Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia, September 1978: 19.

In Dili, the Seroja childcare institution (Panti Asuhan Seroja) was housed in a Portuguese-era building in the suburb of Bario Formosa. The building had a brief, earlier history as an orphanage during the few months that Fretilin controlled East Timor from September 1975 to the Indonesian invasion in December; it was referred to simply by the Portuguese word for orphanage, orfanato.5 Some of the children living at the orfanato in late 1975 were members of the Conceição family, the traditional rulers of Tibar, just west of Dili. Between 28 August and mid-September 1975, 30 adult members of the extended Conceição family, all UDT supporters, were killed by Fretilin during the conflict between these political parties. Those killed had lived in Turliu village and had decided to stay behind when other family members fled across the Indonesian border to Atambua in West Timor. Eighteen children were spared. Five of these children were taken in by families in the region, but the remaining 13 orphans were taken to the orfanato by Fretilin. When Indonesia attacked on 7 December 1975, all the children from the orfanato fled with their carers to the district hospital in the foothills south of Dili. Several weeks later the Indonesian military, who had by this stage identified them as victims of Fretilin, brought them back to the orfanato. An uncle of the children, Abilio da Conceição, who returned to Dili from Atambua in January 1976, found his 13 nieces and nephews living there. When Seroja institution was officially opened on 1 April 1976, the 13 Conceição children were living there with 13 other children,6 some of whom may have been hospitalised at the time of the invasion and had become separated from their families, as in the case of six-year-old Nazario from Quelicai, Baucau. The bishop suggested to Nazario that he should live in the orfanato because he could not travel home to Quelicai.7

The Indonesian military was responsible for the operation of Seroja institution until it was taken over by the Department of Social Welfare in 1978, although it remained a symbol of integration. The staff of the orfanato who had been employed by Fretilin were not reemployed by the military. Instead, soldiers asked several Apodeti and UDT widows, specifically those whose husbands were among the party leaders killed by Fretilin soon after the invasion, to work there.8 The institution, bearing the name of the integration campaign, with at least half its first occupants the orphaned Conceição children whose parents were killed by Fretilin and with a staff of women widowed by Fretilin, was for the military a powerful symbol of its version of the integration struggle. In June 1976, soldiers took the Portuguese General Morais da Silva, in Dili to negotiate the release of 23 Portuguese prisoners, to this symbolic institution as part of their effort to convince him that Portugal should support integration. At Seroja Morais met the widows and the orphans – all of whom were dressed in new uniforms – and was photographed in front of the institution with its freshly-painted signboard bearing in bold letters the name of the integration campaign, ‘Seroja’ (Soekanto 1976: 570).

Morais da Silva

The Portuguese General Morais da Silva visiting Seroja institution in June 1976. The governor of East Timor is on the left.
Source: Soekanto 1976, Integrasi: Kebulatan tekad rakyat Timor Timur, Yayasan Parikesit, Jakarta: 570.

Children at Seroja

Children at the Seroja childcare institution on the occasion of the Portuguese General Morais da Silva’s visit in June 1976.
Source: Soekanto 1976, Integrasi: Kebulatan tekad rakyat Timor Timur, Yayasan Parikesit, Jakarta: 570.

The intention was no doubt to highlight for the Portuguese general the sacrificial struggle of the East Timorese to integrate with Indonesia. At the secret negotiations with Major General Benny Murdani and Harry Tjan Silalahi of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Morais was perhaps persuaded by Indonesian propaganda that the majority of the population wanted integration. In exchange for the release of the Portuguese prisoners, he offered the possibility of Portuguese recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over East Timor, although he was over-ruled by politicians on his return to Portugal.

‘Orphans’ and receiving institutions

The Dharmais Foundation chose three institutions in Java to receive the children from East Timor (see Appendix I); one was government run, another was a Catholic institution and the third was a private institution with international connections. Before sending the children to Java they were gathered together in the Seroja institution in Dili. All the Indonesian institutions had links with the New Order regime and support from the highest echelons of the military. Brigadier General Dading Kalbuadi, the military commander in East Timor, organised the departure of five children, the first group of children sent to Indonesia, and on 27 October 1976 personally handed them over to the Panti Penyantunan Anak Taruna Negara (PPATN) institution run by the Social Welfare Department in Cimahi, Bandung, West Java (Soejitno Hardjosoediro 1977).

On 4 September 1977, the 20 children who had been taken to meet Suharto the previous day arrived at St Thomas Asrama, in Central Java.9 The institution is run by an indigenous Javanese Catholic order of nuns and does not have the international links or sources of funding commonly enjoyed by Catholic institutions in Indonesia.10 Perhaps the order accepted these children in the hope of building up its institutional facilities, especially with the promises made to the children by Dharmais Foundation. Whether or not the institution had such materialistic motives, it co-operated with the New Order by helping to educate East Timorese in Indonesia. Contact may have been made with the institution through one of the nuns whose brother, Soewardjio, was a senior employee, later head until 1999, of the Department of Education and Culture in Dili. It is also possible that the military learnt about the institution through Father Alex Dirdjasusanto, a Jesuit priest who travelled and worked in East Timor in 1978 with military permission and support. When he returned to Java Father Alex brought five East Timorese children with him; he sent the four younger children to the St Thomas institution, which is close to where he lived.11

The Catholic Church had no official policy of educating young East Timorese children in Indonesia, as it had its own extensive network of schools in East Timor. Nevertheless, several Catholic institutions, besides St Thomas, took young children into their care. The Franciscan-run Vincentius institution in Jakarta was particularly active in doing so. Some of the 61 children sent to Indonesia by Dharmais were accommodated at this institution on their arrival in Jakarta, before continuing to their destinations (Kompas 1977).12 Later, many other East Timorese children came to study there.13 In the late 1970s Indonesian nuns from the Carolus Borromeus order took the young children from several influential Apodeti families, whose fathers had been killed by Fretilin, to its institutions in Yogyakarta. The nuns sought to help these families who suffered for supporting integration with Indonesia.14 Children were also sent to the institution run by nuns associated with the Santa Markus Church in Cililitan, East Jakarta.15 The care offered by the Indonesian Catholic Church in its institutions in Indonesian is an indication of its support for the integration of East Timor, which will be discussed further in Chapter 4.

The third institution to receive East Timorese children was SOS-Kinderdorf. Agus Prawoto obtained permission to establish Kinderdorf and to locate it in Bandung through his brother-in-law, General AY Witono, military commander of West Java in the 1970s (SOS-Kinderdorf International).16 This family connection gave Kinderdorf access to President Suharto and his wife, Ibu Tien Suharto, who had been involved since the 1950s in fundraising activities and establishing charitable foundations with a special interest in education (Elson 2001: 193–194; Gafur 1992: 386–387,439–440,487; 1997: 179,183–189). She was patron of many childcare institutions, including SOS-Kinderdorf, and believed that Kinderdorf’s ‘group home’ model of care should be implemented in state intuitions.17 When Kinderdorf was officially opened on 23 August 1976, the Suhartos attended the ceremony together with six government ministers, who were in Bandung for the opening of a new aircraft factory (Kompas 1976c).

The New Order co-opted Kinderdorf’s excellent facilities, in which – the physical environment was far superior to the homes of the average Indonesian – to reward the children of Apodeti members killed by Fretilin. Shortly after the official opening of Kinderdorf, the governor of East Timor visited to ask Kinderdorf to accept East Timorese children. Initially the institution could receive only six children, who arrived on 30 December 1976. It constructed two new group homes for the 20 children of Apodeti families, who arrived in 1977. Kinderdorf requested the governor to send East Timorese carers for the children and he sent two women, widows of Apodeti leaders, who accompanied their children and acted as carers, one in each of the two new group homes built for the East Timorese children.

This group of 20 children did not meet Kinderdorf’s acceptance criteria, namely that the children it received were orphans and had no-one to care for them. An education at Kinderdorf was a reward that Suharto organised for these children of high-profile martyrs killed by Fretilin. All of the East Timorese children at Kinderdorf were cared for by East Timorese women and – ten of them were actually the children of the carers. Before this group of children left for Java, most had been living with their mothers in Dili and not at the Seroja institution, although some of their mothers had been working there. The governor of East Timor had given several of the women substantial houses in the elite area of Dili, which had belonged to former Portuguese officials. In the ensuing years, several East Timorese children, some of them relatives of the children already there, and one even a close relative of the governor, went to live in Kinderdorf. The East Timorese carers at Kinderdorf occasionally travelled to Dili and collected the children on these visits.18

Man signing document

Signing agreements on the arrival of the children at Kinderdorf institution, 1976

The governor of East Timor, Arnaldo dos Reis Araujo, is on the left.
Source: ‘The Development of East Timor province’. Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia, 1977.

The President’s largesse also extended to 30 children from the concentration camps, including children from Fretilin families. These children were sent to St Thomas in 1977 and the the state-run PPATN in 1979. In early 1977 several children were selected from each district in what appears to have been a scheme to send ‘representative orphans’ from East Timor to Java. Most of the children had no parents, but were living with close relatives. Only one of these 30 children, Gatot, had no knowledge of his family. He had been found by a soldier and given the soldier’s name. In the difficult conditions in which they were forced to live in the concentration camps, some parents and guardians said that they felt hopeless about the future and their ability to provide for their children. Hence they handed over their children because of the offer of care and a free education.

Again the military was the main implementer of the ‘representative orphans’ initiative of Suharto’s Dharmais Foundation. Soldiers selected children from the concentration camps and transported them to the Seroja institution and then to Jakarta. Lieutenant Colonel Mulyadi from Sulawesi accompanied the group of 20 children sent to meet the President in early September 1977. Soldiers met the children when they arrived in Jakarta and transported them in buses provided by the presidential palace; they also accompanied the children on sightseeing trips in Jakarta.

The experience of Petrus Kanisius was typical of many of the ‘representative orphans’; his relatives understood that he was offered an education in Dili, but then he was sent to Java. Some of the parents were told in advance of the intention to send the children to Indonesia. The initial arrangements with families from Beobe village in Viqueque were not made directly by the military, but by an Indonesian civil servant, Petronela Maria Inasio, a member of the local parliament. Unlike the soldiers who organised the program in Aileu district, she explained that the offer by Dharmais Foundation was for the children to go to Java. Inasio came from Atambua in West Timor and was married to a local man from Viqueque. With her local contacts she was probably well placed to identify families to participate in the program. Parents or guardians of five children agreed to Inasio’s offer and the army transported them by helicopter to Dili, where they placed them in the Seroja institution.19

Though the program to send ‘representative orphans’ to Indonesia was organised by government and military personnel, there were many problems in the organisation of the departure of the children – some relatives were not informed at the time of departure of the children and they thought the children were to be educated in Dili, which was a privilege for these children, most of whom had never visited the capital city. Soldiers did not give the East Timorese staff members at Seroja detailed information about the movement of the children that could have been passed on to parents. The staff could not speak Indonesian well and were afraid to demand explanations from the military personnel in charge of the institution. Maria Margarida Babo, a staff member at Seroja for the entire period of its operation, tried to keep her own records. Unfortunately her notebooks were destroyed in the forced evacuation in 1999 when the institution was burnt down.

Abilio da Conceição and other Conceição family members were not consulted and their permission was not sought in relation to sending their young relatives to Java. Throughout 1976 the Conceição children had visited Abilio in a nearby suburb of Dili regularly on Sundays. When they did not turn up for several Sundays he decided to visit them in Seroja, where he heard from other children living at the institution that his relatives had been sent to Java. He said that he was afraid to ask the soldiers for information and his fear was compounded by the difficulty he had in communicating in Indonesian. The Conceição children were split up between two institutions in Bandung, five at PPATN and three at Kinderdorf. They did not meet again for over seven years, even though they lived in the same city. Most of the other members of the family living at Seroja ran away for fear that they too would be sent to Indonesia.

The departure from Dili of the group of 20 children on 1 September 1977 was hastily organised, in order, it seems, for the children to meet Suharto as soon as possible after the amnesty offer he made to Fretilin in his State of the Nation address on 16 August 1977. Soon after giving that address, Dharmais officials in Jakarta began communicating with the governor of East Timor, Arnaldo dos Reis Araujo, about sending children to Indonesia.20 The hurried departure meant that the children had no time to inform or farewell their families.21 The urgency of taking the children to meet Suharto was given greater priority than the needs of the children.

Treatment in Indonesia

The 20 East Timorese children who met Suharto at his home on 3 September 1977 were a part of a propaganda exercise for the media. They were presented as symbols of the integration struggle, representing not only orphaned children, but all of the East Timorese who had suffered. Indeed they were a poignant symbol – children invariably evoke powerful emotions – of the willingness of East Timorese to die for the right to integrate with Indonesia (Suara Karya 1977; Department of Information 1980; 1977?). By providing care and education for these small children, Suharto demonstrated Indonesia’s concern for victims of the struggle and the benefits of surrendering to Indonesia. However, just as New Order officials manipulated the truth about the war in East Timor by – maintaining that the East Timorese were fighting each other for the right to integrate – so too was the reality of these young children made to embody the same New Order myths. As we have seen, the children were collected from the concentration camps in East Timor, into which they had been forced by Indonesian military aggression – among them was one child who had seen his parents killed by Indonesian soldiers.22 And, just as New Order officials broke many promises meant to entice the East Timorese to accept integration, so too the Dharmais Foundation, after using the children in the propaganda exercise, ceased to take any further interest in them.

The Suhartos and East Timorese children

East Timorese children at the home of the Suhartos, 3 September 1977

Twenty children were invited to the Suharto’s home as a way of showing their concern for East Timor and desire to help its development.
© Kompas, 5 September 1977

Nevertheless, because the Dharmais Foundation, on Suharto’s instructions, had organised the transfer of the children to Java, it had continuing responsibility for their care. The Foundation handed over guardianship of the East Timorese children to the institutions they sent them to, but Dharmais had a different role in the care of these children from the care of other children in institutions whom it supported financially. The East Timorese children had been handed directly into the care of Dharmais Foundation by parents and family members and, consequently, Dharmais was ultimately responsible for the welfare and safety of the children, as well as for reporting to their parents or families. The tension between the staff and East Timorese children at St Thomas, which led to the disappearance of 15-year-old Henrique Araujo from Same that upset Petrus Kanisius and the other children at the institution so much, exposed the lack of supervision by those responsible for them and the danger to which they could be exposed. Petrus Kanisius believes that there was never any official effort to trace Henrique. He was angry and felt that their lives had no value in the eyes of those who were responsible for them, those whom the children should regard as their own parents, as the President had told them (Berita Buana 1977). These experiences of feeling abandoned, with no interest on the part of the officials in Indonesia in their safety, placed a huge burden on the children. Despite this, the children showed extraordinary resilience, banding together in their isolation and loneliness to look after one another.

Cipriano, a ‘representative orphan’ from Viqueque, had disappeared even before leaving for Java. The ‘representative orphans’ had been brought to Seroja in about April 1977. Twenty children, including Petrus Kanisius, were sent to St Thomas in September 1977, but the remaining ten were not sent to the PPATN in Bandung for another three years. Sometime during those three years, while he was living in Seroja institution, Cipriano, together with a young girl from Ainaro, was abducted by a soldier. Cipriano’s parents, Ana Maria and Miguel Amaral, handed him to the representative acting for Dharmais, the parliamentarian Inasio, in early 1977. Later in the year Miguel Amaral and his brother Leopoldo visited Cipriano at Seroja. They heard that their son had not been sent with the other children to the PPATN in Java nearly seven years later, when the other Viqueque children, on a visit from Bandung organised by the governor in 1984, arrived home without him. His parents are still living in Viqueque and still hoping to be reunited with their missing son.23 Dharmais Foundation, which had made the promise to Ana Maria and Miguel Amaral to educate their son in Java, is, therefore, responsible for his abduction.

Many of the promises made by the Dharmais Foundation to the children were not honoured. Suharto promised that his Dharmais would provide for all their basic needs and his Supersemar Foundation would pay for the tertiary education of those who worked hard and succeeded (Suara Karya 1977). In an official letter to St Thomas, Dharmais Foundation promised that it would cover the cost of food, clothing and education.24 According to Petrus Kanisius, however, the funds from Dharmais were insufficient to cover even their basic needs at St Thomas, quite apart from their school fees, and he did not receive any help for his tertiary education from the Supersemar Foundation. Kinderdorf also paid for the care and education of the East Timorese children at its institution. In contrast to St Thomas, Kinderdorf had international links to draw upon for extra funds, although the district administration in Semarang did build a new wing (asrama) for the East Timorese children at St Thomas in 1983. The promises made by Dharmais to the children in these two institutions were largely unfulfilled.

Dharmais made no attempt to assist the staff at the institutions in helping children maintain links with their families or with East Timorese languages and culture. Most of the children did not communicate with their families; the exception was the Apodeti children at Kinderdorf, where – the East Timorese staff occasionally travelled to East Timor and carried news to families. The ‘representative orphans’ had no-one to help them maintain such contact; Petrus Kanisius wrote only one letter to his family, at the time the child from Aileu died. The fact that these children came from many inaccessible districts of East Timor also meant that communication was difficult, although this does not justify a total lack of contact.

The institutions provided adequately for the physical welfare of the children, but, like all East Timorese children taken to Indonesia, they were in Indonesia to learn to be Indonesians. Immersed in their new environment, the children spoke Indonesian, or in daily conversation in Bandung, Sundanese, and in Central Java, Javanese. The experiences of individual children trying to adjust to life in Indonesia varied. Some children integrated well into life in Java, whereas others felt that they were stereotyped as uncivilised and disruptive. Some staff members in the institutions in Java felt there was a wide cultural gap between themselves and the East Timorese, which led to problems, as in the case of Petrus Kanisius and his friends at St Thomas, especially as the children grew older. While the tension with the staff at St Thomas was caused in part by the financial difficulties of the institution, the children, especially the 16 boys among the 20 East Timorese children living there, considered that they faced discrimination and misunderstanding. As a result, they engaged in rebellious and even disobedient behaviour, their unrestrained conduct contrasting markedly with the submissive, obedient behaviour expected of Javanese children.

The institutions were unable to help children suffering psychological problems, especially those resulting from trauma. All of the children had been exposed to violence and their parents had been killed. Fretilin had killed the fathers or both parents of half of the group of 61 children. The other half had experienced Indonesian military violence during combat and in the concentration camps. The young boy who witnessed the killing of his parents by an Indonesian soldier suffered continuing serious psychological problems.

Staff at the institutions never discussed East Timor with the children and they were, indeed, ill informed about the situation there. They had been exposed only to New Order propaganda and, like most Indonesians, supported integration. The children were afraid to ask them about the war in East Timor or about the reason for their separation from their families. Floriana Conceição, who was only two years old in October 1976 when she arrived at PPATN in Bandung, adapted well to life in Indonesia, yet she cannot understand why she and her relatives had to be sent away from East Timor. By contrast, Rafael, who was sent to PPATN when he was six years old, always felt estranged from his environment in Bandung. Growing up far from his family was a bitter experience for him and a picture of a mother embracing her child still painfully reminds him of the family he never learnt to love. His problems with adjustment often led him to engage in attention-seeking, rebellious behaviour. Eventually Rafael made friends with East Timorese students studying in Bandung. At first he felt shy and inferior because he could not speak Tetun, so he made an effort to learn his own language. While happy to have received an education in Indonesia, he believes that ‘even if the place you come from is simple and not very special, in the depths of your heart you will always long for home’.25 In 2008 Rafael was able to return to his hometown, Viqueque, on the south coast of East Timor, and take up a position in the civil service there.

The cultural isolation and lack of links with family changed somewhat for the children, particularly those in Bandung, when the governor of East Timor, Mario Carrascalão, visited them in 1984. He became governor in 1982, but did not know that children had been sent to Java until an East Timorese staff member of Kinderdorf lodged a request for financial assistance.26 He observed that the institutions treated the children well and that their basic needs were met, but he was concerned about their lack of contact with East Timor and that they spoke only Indonesian and Sundanese. He promised that during the Christmas holidays he would organise a visit home to East Timor. Floriana Conceição, who lived at PPATN, talked animatedly about the governor’s visit when I met her in 2004. The children from the two institutions in Bandung were brought together to meet the governor. This was the first time that Floriana and her seven other Conceição relatives had met together for seven years and realised that they had been living only a short distance apart, having been divided between the two institutions in Bandung. For Floriana, the governor’s visit also helped to validate them as East Timorese; he gave them a guitar and other musical instruments, telling them that as East Timorese they must be able to sing. The Conceição children started trying to talk together in Tetun and to recall their families and the places they came from in East Timor. On arrival in Dili for Christmas 1984, the children were taken to the Seroja institution where their families came to collect them. Most of them lived in Dili, although some lived far away in Viqueque. They stayed for a month, after which their visit was extended by another week. Following this visit Floriana began to exchange letters with her family in East Timor and in 1988 another visit was organised.

The children from St Thomas were also given a visit home the following year, perhaps to match the visit organised by the governor for the children in the institutions in Bandung. The military made all the travel arrangements and took the children to their homes. In contrast to the extended visit of the children from Kinderdorf and PPATN, their promised two-week visit was reduced to just over one week. Soldiers accompanied those who lived close by to their homes, including Petrus Kanisius to Aileu, instead of their families being called to meet them in Dili. The different arrangement for the visits of the two groups of children further confirms that the Kinderdorf children and some of those at PPATN had special privileges, coming as they did from pro-integration families, whereas the loyalty of the families of the ‘representative orphans’ was indeterminable. The military probably feared that a longer stay in East Timor could have exposed children to anti-integration ideology and may have led some to abscond or refuse to return to Indonesia.

The 61 children were all raised as Catholics, the majority religion in East Timor. The institutions in Indonesia, often with help from the Indonesian Catholic Church, paid for their education. Most of the children at Kinderdorf, belonging to several well-known Catholic families, had been given Portuguese ‘Catholic’ names at birth. Of the children sent to St Thomas, more than half belonged to families that had followed traditional Timorese religious practices and, therefore, had no ‘Catholic’ name. They were baptised as Catholics and given Christian names, although the names they were given were Indonesian versions and not the Portuguese versions commonly used in East Timor. So although Petrus Kanisius was raised as a Catholic, he still carries in his name an Indonesian identity.

Orphans at Seroja institution, 1984

Source: ‘East Timor today’. Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia, 1984: 79.

Many of the children were successful at school and returned to work in East Timor, while a few stayed in Indonesia to marry and/or to work; four of the 20 from St Thomas, six of the 15 at PPATN and one of the 26 at Kinderdorf stayed on in Indonesia. Some, such as Floriana Conceição, still feel estranged from East Timor. She was only two years old when she was sent away and felt uncomfortable on her return visits, especially in the tense political environment. In 2004 she was still living in Bandung, but maintaining contact with her family in Dili is important to her.

Student scholarships to Indonesia

The children we have been discussing thus far were sent to Indonesia under the auspices of the Social Welfare Department, as they were deemed orphans. Now we turn to programs run by other government departments, which commenced sending young people to Indonesia soon after integration was formalised on 17 July 1976. These students and young people were, in most cases, older than the children discussed so far. They went voluntarily, although they had to show their support for integration, and the great majority came from Apodeti families.

The invasion led to an enormous disruption to the provision of education in Portuguese Timor; schools were closed and Portuguese was banned as the language of instruction. Indonesian officials constantly referred to the deplorable state of education in Portuguese Timor. To some extent this was true, as education had served the needs of the indigenous elite and those of Portuguese descent, with access to higher education limited to their children. The Portuguese began to focus more on comprehensive education in the 1960s, establishing village schools (escola suco) and (escola posto) at sub-district level, which taught basic literacy and numeracy. In 1964 they made schooling compulsory for children from six to 11 years of age. By 1973 there were 298 of these basic schools in villages and sub-districts and 53% of children were attending school, most of them at village schools. Schools that offered a full elementary education (escola primario) were situated only in the main towns of each district. Most secondary schools were organised by the Catholic Church and a few privileged students had been sent to Portugal for university study (Hill, Helen M. 2000: 44–48; Saldanha 1994: 57–60).

The new administration prioritised education and the first Indonesian government department to become operational in East Timor was the Department of Education and Culture (Depdikbud), in 1978. Before that, educational activities in East Timor were organised from Jakarta. By 1980, the Indonesian education department had rehabilitated or constructed over 200 primary schools and 400 primary school teachers had been brought from Indonesia. Eight junior high schools had been built in the district capitals employing 30 Indonesian teachers, and a senior high school in Dili operated with 19 Indonesian teachers (Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Information 1980: 22–25; Enoch 1980: 16). In the concentration camps, where it was not safe for civilians to work, soldiers often set up schools, mainly to teach Indonesian language, Pancasila ideology and Indonesian national songs. Soldiers usually instructed East Timorese who had been teachers or had some education, who, in turn, taught the children.27

One project that could proceed irrespective of the security threat from Fretilin was the sending of students to Indonesia. The first students were sent with government scholarships in 1977, their travel to Jakarta and accommodation organised by the military. Maria do Céu Lopes Federer from Atauro Island and one other student were the first East Timorese students sent to universities in Indonesia in late 1977. By 1980 the Department of Education and Culture had sent 96 senior high school students to study in government schools in Java, and 21 university students, most of them to Java and a few to Makassar (Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Information 1980: 22–25; Enoch 1980: 16). Many of the first students are today leaders in East Timor.28

The East Timorese were interested in the educational opportunities offered by the Indonesians, but students had to demonstrate their support for integration.29 Those selected to receive scholarships in the late 1970s came from families who were known supporters of integration (CAVR 2006: 7.8.5 No. 440; Anderson, Djati and Kammen 2003: 21).30 In 1977 the Indonesian Department of Religious Affairs also gave scholarships to 29 Arab East Timorese students to study in Islamic institutions in Java; some were very young and were accompanied by older siblings. They came from Arab families in East Timor, most of whom supported integration with Indonesia (Bazher 1995: 54–55).31 Even before the invasion, a group of Arab East Timorese already studying in Indonesia had petitioned the Indonesian government to do something about education in East Timor (Berita Buana 1975).

Students with family links to Fretilin were denied scholarships. The military implemented a screening process and anyone with family members fighting or sheltering with Fretilin away from Indonesian control was not eligible. Eusibio Jeronimo was 18 when he received a government scholarship to study in Malang in 1980 in one of the earliest intakes of students. He had to answer questions about his family and whether any of them still had not surrendered, and he had to sign a statement that he agreed with integration. When Mario Carrascalão became governor in 1982, he persuaded his military minders that they would never win the hearts and minds of the East Timorese with such policies. Several years later, students from Fretilin backgrounds were among the large numbers of students who received government scholarships to study in universities throughout Indonesia (Anderson Djati and Kammen 2003: 21; Saldanha 1994: 116,124–125).

Young East Timorese were also sent to Indonesia in the early years after the invasion to participate in informal government programs intended to foster identification with Indonesia and to ‘imbue a love for the homeland and its culture’ (Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Information 1980: 23). Indonesians believed that, if East Timorese experienced Indonesian development first-hand, they would want it for themselves; students living in Indonesia and visiting East Timorese officials were invariably asked to comment on their impressions of development (Bhaskara 1986; Merdeka 1977). Scouting (pramuka) was foremost among the informal activities in which East Timorese participated and a few weeks after integration was formalised 100 East Timorese youths were selected to attend a national scout jamboree in Cibubur, close to Jakarta (Suara Karya 1976b).

East Timorese scouts

East Timorese belonging to the Indonesian scouting movement, Pramuka. Membership was one way in which the regime could influence and discipline youth.
Source: ‘The Development of East Timor province’. Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia, 1977.

As Indonesian anthropologist Pujo Semedi has noted, Indonesian scouting provides political leaders with a ‘tool to organise and control youth’ (Semedi 2007). It was used as such in East Timor, where local police organised scouting after its official inauguration on 6 April 1977 in all districts of the new territory (CAVR 2006: 4.3: 114; Department of Information [1977?]). East Timorese youths also travelled to Indonesia to participate in national sporting events (Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Information 1980: 23). Sport was considered useful in instilling discipline and nationalistic fervour and military officers have traditionally been senior officials in sporting organisations such as Komite Olahraga Nasional Indonesia (KONI), the National Sports Institute. On 17 August 1976 two East Timorese youths were invited to represent the new province and help raise the sacred flag, traditionally a task for young people, during the high-profile Indonesian Independence Day ceremony at the State Palace (Suara Karya 1976a). The East Timorese young people who participated in these events came from among the East Timorese who lived in the towns and had at least given verbal consent, and some their written consent, to Indonesian control.

The students in Indonesia were monitored by military intelligence agents and East Timorese informers to ensure that they did not waver in their support for integration. In the earliest years of Indonesian rule, East Timorese university students were often accommodated in the homes of Indonesian military personnel or pro-integration East Timorese officials, such as East Timorese national parliamentarians.32 In later years, East Timorese students in Indonesia often lived together in dormitories (asrama) provided by the East Timor regional government or in rented houses (kos) nearby. Their living in communities made it easier for Indonesian intelligence agents to become acquainted with the students and to supervise their activities.

Compulsory membership of students’ associations also facilitated military surveillance. Initially intelligence agents and students’ associations regarded each other with mutual suspicion. In the early 1980s about 50 students belonged to one of these organisations in Jakarta. Luís Taolin, a West Timorese agent of Badan Koordinasi Intelijen Negara (BAKIN), the Indonesian State Intelligence Co-ordinating Agency, turned up at one of their meetings in 1982, after which the group became frightened and broke up.33 As more students arrived in Indonesia, membership of local East Timor students’ associations, such as Impettu, became the channel for dealing with the bureaucracy and organising payment of scholarships, hence all students had to register as members. After the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre in Dili on 12 November 1991, the district military commands became further involved in ‘guiding’ students in Indonesia via these associations. Soldiers tried to influence students to support integration by developing relationships of a patron–client nature. Soldiers offered physical protection and material incentives, such as paying the fees of students in financial difficulties and providing them with funds for parties associated with religious and national festivals. However, despite the efforts of soldiers to monitor the activities of student associations, pro-independence students set up clandestine organisations, often using the official student organisations as a cover for their activities (Bexley 2009: 68–71; Pinto 2001: 38). During the APEC meeting in Jakarta in November 1994, on the third anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre, 29 East Timorese students scaled the wall of the American Embassy to draw attention to East Timor’s struggle.34 Immediately after, soldiers in Bandung posted a guard on the kos where many students lived in order to monitor their movements and attended the regular Impettu meetings, threatening harsh retribution if the students discussed integration (CAVR 2006: 3.18 No. 494).35

Despite the efforts of military security operators to control the students in Indonesia and win their support for integration, they were only partly successful. Military repression in East Timor contributed to rejection of integration by the students. East Timorese often chose to move to Indonesia to study and work to escape the distrust and fear they experienced in East Timor.36 Indonesia was not a safe haven, but it did provide new opportunities for the resistance to set up underground organisations and, following the Santa Cruz massacre, it received a new source of support for its struggle from some Indonesian activists and student organisations (CAVR 2006: Nos. 511–518). Furthermore, some East Timorese, such as children of public servants and East Timorese educated in Muslim institutions in Indonesia, who, according to New Order orthodoxy, were supposed to support integration, changed their minds.37 The students educated in Indonesia were intended to be a generation of supporters of integration; instead their Indonesian education broadened their political awareness. They became more adamantly nationalist and many of them played a central role in resisting integration and in building demand for independence. Indeed, they reenacted the role played by Dutch-educated Indonesians in Indonesia’s own independence struggle against the colonial Dutch (Anderson 1995: 145; 1991: 116).

Training and work in Indonesia

One further program was initiated by Departemen Tenaga Kerja (Depnaker), the Department of Manpower, in the early 1990s for unemployed youths. Initially, the young people were enthusiastic and went voluntarily to Indonesia, but, just as the military became involved in the oversight of students in Indonesia, it also became involved in this program, although in a much more direct and heavy-handed manner than with the students.

In 1990, two-thirds of job-seekers in East Timor were secondary school graduates. These young people had completed their secondary education in the Indonesian school system (Saldanha 1994: 26), but there were no jobs to match their skills. The public service sector could not absorb them all, even though in the public service in East Timor was inflated to the extent that, by1998, it accounted for a far higher percentage of non-agricultural jobs than in any other province of Indonesia (CAVR 2006: 4.4 No. 179; Klinken 2007: 62). School graduates also lost out on jobs to the 70,000 Indonesians who had moved to East Timor by 1991 (Elson 2001: 254–255). Students at school often felt discriminated against by their Indonesian teachers in comparison with the children of Indonesian officials, especially the children of soldiers. The quality of education was poor and it placed strong emphasis on indoctrinating students in pro-integration ideology. Increasingly students became disobedient and disrespectful, which further contributed to the decline in the quality of their education. Many youths said that their Indonesian education actually influenced them to develop anti-integration ideas (Carey 2003: 41–45; Mubyarto et al. 1991: 53–60; Arenas 1998).

This crisis in education and unemployment fuelled resentment among young people and threatened the success of the New Order’s integration project in East Timor. Officials responded with a program offering training and work experience in Indonesia for young people between 15 and 25. Siti Hardiyanti Indra Rukmana (Mbak Tutut), Suharto’s eldest daughter, announced the program on a visit to East Timor in December 1990. Her charity, Tiara Foundation, would finance the program, while the Department of Manpower would organise it. The program promised vocational training and well-paying jobs in the electronics industry based in the industrial estate on Batam, an island close to Singapore.

As with the offers of education, young people responded enthusiastically. Details of the program were advertised on public billboards and information was given on the radio and at public meetings; youths were also recruited in door-to-door visits (Jones 1992: 1). On 27 March 1991 the program was launched with considerable fanfare, with both Bishop Belo and Governor Mario Carrascalão attending a formal send-off for the first group of 132. During 1991 the first year of operation, 821 young people, mostly males, were sent from East Timor to Java and some to Kalimantan (Asia Watch 1993:V). I have no details about the total number of participants for the program’s operation from 1991 to 1996, but there were 500 in 1995 and possibly similar numbers each year (Aditjondro 2000: 142ff; Omar and Sonhei 1996).

The program floundered almost immediately, as the offers turned out to be false promises and it became apparent that the young people had been deceived into leaving East Timor. When they arrived in Jakarta in early 1991, staff from Tiara Foundation told them that they were not going to Batam as they had been promised. The young people felt that Tiara staff, including the President’s daughter, did not give them a clear reason for the change of plan. Officials from the foundation and the government department claimed that the program had made no such promises and that the youths’ expectations of high-paying jobs in the electronics industry were unrealistic as they had no relevant skills (Jones 1992: 2, Appendix II). In 2004 former governor Carrascalão told me that Tiara Foundation did indeed break its promise to the East Timorese youths and that in 1990 he and Bishop Belo also had been deceived by the organisers into giving their support.

Instead of going to Batam, the young people were sent to work as labourers in low-paid, menial jobs in factories throughout Indonesia, and those who protested were intimidated and physically punished. Many of the factories that the young people were sent to were owned by members of the Suharto family. Some foreigners who owned companies in Indonesia were also asked by soldiers to employ the East Timorese, even when the youths did not have the required skills.38 The wages and conditions for the youths sent to work at PT Kanindotex in Central Java, a factory owned by Bambang Trihatmojo, the President’s eldest son, were pitiful, although not substantially different from those of other factory workers. The problem was that the young people had been promised better-paying jobs and the chance to study. Not all had the resources to return home, nor did they have the networks that locals had to help them survive on such low incomes. Many had difficulty adjusting to their new physical and social environment, and the misunderstandings and frustration with their situation often resulted in physical clashes with their Javanese colleagues.39 Several young people who protested their treatment were detained and beaten by soldiers and were then intimidated into making a public admission that they had no complaints about their wages and work conditions (Asia Watch 1993:V).

Less than one year after the program was established, the military became more involved in recruitment and organising the program, although Asia Watch received unconfirmed information that the military and Tiara Foundation officials in late 1989, before the launch of the program, had already worked through lists of youths who had been arrested for demonstrating, so that they could recruit them (Jones 1992: 1). The trigger for more aggressive military involvement was the demonstration and massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery in November 1991 in which an estimated 270 young people died (CAVR 2006: 3.18 No. 483). Unemployment among youths was widely blamed for their involvement in demonstrations (Tempo 1991; Sherlock 1996). Some of the young people who participated in November 1991 had had no prior involvement in demonstrations and no affiliation with clandestine organisations. They were angry that their school friend, Sebastião Gomes, had been shot dead by soldiers and were using his funeral procession to express their resentment towards the Indonesian occupation.40 The local military in Dili began to target those it considered likely to join in anti-integration demonstrations so that they could recruit them for the work program and get them out of East Timor. The young people who were specifically asked to join the program felt intimidated and unable to refuse.

That was the experience of 17-year-old João da Costa from Baucau who was pressured to sign up in 1995 because of his resistance activities. João’s uncle worked for the military and his superiors gave him the task of persuading João to register. João’s parents did not want him to go to Indonesia, but he was too afraid to refuse and, once he was registered, he could not withdraw. At one preparatory lecture a military officer told the recruits that withdrawing from the program would indicate that they worked for the resistance. Before leaving East Timor the 75 recruits in Joao’s intake, mostly males with some as young as 15, lived at a military base in Akadiruhun, Dili, where soldiers organised a strenuous physical training program and regular political indoctrination. The rationale for the training, according to the military, was that it helped to provide the discipline and attitude needed to move into regular work (Asia Watch 1993:V). The departure of the youths from Dili was supervised; one young man who tried to escape as the group boarded the boat was caught by a plainclothes intelligence officer who was ready for such eventualities.

The youths were sent to jobs all over Indonesia and the military continued to supervise them.41 João was sent to Sulawesi where disciplinary training continued, organised by the police and military, although staff members from the Department of Manpower were involved in finding jobs. The department did not find João a job; he and two other youths were given lodgings with a military colonel who used his influence with a foreign-owned company and asked it to employ the youths, despite their lack of relevant skills.

Tiara Foundation did support some of the youths to study short courses, but not with fares back home, as one of the main aims of the program was to remove them from East Timor. Only those who had the resources to do so could return home; others remained in Indonesia to work in their factory jobs. Of those who stayed on, many joined clandestine resistance organisations, especially if they had contact with university students.42 Some also took part in anti-integration demonstrations in Jakarta and several sought asylum in the Portuguese embassy (PIPA 1995). Other youths from the program became members of gangs with military connections in Jakarta, intimidating pro-independence East Timorese and conducting demonstrations to counter those by pro-independence groups (MateBEAN 1997). In 1999 many registered for the UNHCR repatriation program to return to East Timor.43


The success of the integration of East Timor with Indonesia depended not on the physical control of the population alone. Indonesian rule also had to be considered legitimate in the eyes of the East Timorese. All colonisers face this challenge, and education has always been central to the mission of ensuring that the population accepts and submits to colonial rule. The New Order, in the way of all colonisers, deemed education integral to achieving this aim in East Timor.

The students and young people who were sent to Indonesia were eager to take up the options offered by the Indonesians. For the Indonesians, the aim of their education and training was to assimilate them as Indonesians and to influence them to accept integration. However, like youth in many colonised territories, their colonial education helped to awaken their awareness and prepared them to challenge the basis of the colonial system. Graduates took on administrative jobs in East Timor, but the oppressive military situation there fanned their resistance to integration. Broken promises on the part of the Indonesians and the constant suspicion with which they regarded the East Timorese further militated against the possibility of forming genuine, lasting community.

The offers made to the young children and their families by the President’s personal foundation, Dharmais, were well intended, but Dharmais failed on many yardsticks in its treatment of the children and their families. It manipulated the real stories of the children to serve Indonesian propaganda purposes and, once again, promises made to the children and their parents were not fulfilled. These transfers by Suharto’s foundation almost certainly functioned as models for other transfers and gave rise to a culture that condoned the transfer of children as a means of helping advance the East Timorese.


1 Indonesia also produced reports in English (Provisional Government of East Timor 1976; Freitas 1992).

2 Sambery was the leader of the Gerakan Merah Putih (Movement of the Red and White – a reference to the Indonesian flag) in West Irian; Ongge and Nussy were leaders of young people and students from West Irian in Jakarta.

3 I am grateful to Rev Dr Karel Phil Erari for drawing this to my attention.

4 In Tetun children who have lost one or both parents are referred to by the same term oan kiak; – oan means ‘child’ and kiak means ‘poor’.

5 It was built in 1966 and used by the Portuguese as the Red Cross headquarters. Towards the end of Portuguese colonial rule, the building was used as a fee-supported day-care centre for young children of public servants.

6 This was the number of children listed in the Seroja records (Guilherme dos Reis Fernandes, Statement at the Public Hearing, ‘Children and conflict’, Dili, 29–30 March 2004). Abilio da Conceição began working for the Indonesian Red Cross and remembers delivering supplies of food each month for 35 children at the institution, the number of children as given by the Indonesian military.

7 He was not able to travel home to Quelicai until 1988 when he learnt that his mother had died in the concentration camp in 1982. Soon after his visit his father died (interview, Dili, 10 May 2004).

8 Former staff members of Seroja institution (interviews, Dili, April 2004).

9 RF Soedardi, Dharmais Foundation administrator, in a letter to St Thomas, 4 September 1977 (archives of St Thomas).

10 The order is Abdi Dalem Sang Kristus (ADSK), Servants of Christ, with about 17 branches throughout Indonesia.

11 Alex Dirdjasusanto SJ (telephone conversation, 12 May 2003) and Sr Angelina, staff member at St Thomas (conversation, Ungaran, 2002); the fifth child, Armindo Maya, was older and was sent to study in Yogyakarta. He became the first Minister for Education in independent East Timor.

12 Also, former East Timorese Kinderdorf staff (interview, Dili, 14 August 2003).

13 Damaria Pakpahan, conversation, Yogyakarta, May 2003.

14 James J Spillane SJ (interview, Yogyakarta, 2003); Father Joachim Sarmento (interview, Dili, 4 May 2004) and nuns from the Carolus Borromeus order in East Timor (interview, Dili, 4 May 2004); the children lived in the Santa Maria Catholic institutions in Ganjuran and Boro, Yogyakarta.

15 Alex Dirdjasusanto SJ (telephone conversation, 12 May 2003)

16 This information is no longer recorded on the SOS-Kinderdorf International website, but was included there as recently as 2007.

17 The Kinderdorf village model of care was developed in Europe after World War II to care for large numbers of traumatised orphans (Stargardt 2006: 381–383).

18 Staff at Kinderdorf (interview, Bandung, 27 January 2004).

19 Duarte Sarmento (interview, Tuapukan, Kupang, 8 February 2004).

20 Governor of East Timor in letter to Dharmais Foundation, 25 August 1977 (archives of St Thomas).

21 Petrus Kanisius (interviews, Dili, 2003–2004).

22 Petrus Kanisius (interviews, Dili, 2003–2004).

23 Rafael Urbano Rangel (interview, Bandung, 28 January 2004; email communication, 11 July 2011) and Duarte Sarmento, Ana Maria’s brother, who has obligations with respect to his sister’s children (interview, Tuapukan, Kupang, 8 February 2004).

24 RF Soedardi, Dharmais Foundation administrator, in a letter to St Thomas, 4 September 1977 (archives of St Thomas).

25 Rafael Urbano Rangel (interview, Bandung, 28 April 2004).

26 By this time there were 20 children at Kinderdorf. Of the original 26 children, seven had returned to East Timor, including six children from one family. One of the Conceição children had been brought from Dili to join his sister at Kinderdorf. The number of children at PPATN was still 15.

27 Sr Consuelo Martinez HC (interview, Dili, 4 July 2003); Eduardo Casimiro de Deus (interview, Dili, 6 August 2003); see also Siahaan (1978).

28 Isabel Guterres (interview, Dili, 27 April 2004).

29 Father Joachim Sarmento (interview, Dili, 4 May 2004) and Isabel Guterres (interview, Dili, 27 April 2004).

30 The scholarships came from the Department of Education and Culture and the provincial government (Department of Information 1983: 132).

31 Arab East Timorese students received generous allowances. One student remembers receiving Rp3,000 a month for their own use in 1977, which increased to Rp7,000/month in 1982/3. It was usually handed over to them by the leaders of the pesantren where they studied, but, if it was late in coming, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) in Bandung helped them request it from the P2A (Pengurus Pembinaan Pengalaman Agama Islam) of the Department of Religious Affairs (Abdullah Sagran, conversation, Dili, 12 May 2004).

32 Maria do Céu Lopes Federer (interview, Dili, 7 April 2004).

33 Ignatius Ismartono SJ (interview, Jakarta, 12 May 2003).

34 Between October 1995 and mid-March 1996, approximately 200 East Timorese entered embassies. Usually the students were quickly sent on to Portugal where East Timorese held citizenship (Human Rights Watch 1996).

35 Armando Marques (interview, Baucau, 23 April 2004).

36 Isabel Guterres (interview, Dili, 27 April 2004); see also CAVR Report (CAVR 2006: 4.3 No. 112).

37 Mohammad Iqbal Menezes (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004) and Syamsul Bahari (interview, Baucau, 23 April 2004).

38 João da Costa (interview, Baucau, 23 April 2004).

39 East Timorese young people employed at Kanindotex (conversations, Salatiga, May 1991).

40 Domingus da Silva (interview, Dili, 6 August 2003). Different person.

41 See statement of 28 East Timor workers sent by the Department of Manpower to the national parliament, 21 August 1991 (Jones 1992: Appendix I).

42 Teodoro Soares (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

43 Helio Freitas (interview, Dili, 26 September 2003) and UNHCR staff member (interviews Dili, April 2003).

Cite this chapter as: van Klinken, Helene. 2011. Chapter 3: 'Transfers by institutions linked to the state'. In Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing. Pp. 74-104.

Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

   by Helene van Klinken