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Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

Ch 5. Separations after the referendum

The relationship between Indonesia and East Timor broke down entirely when East Timor rejected Indonesia’s offer of autonomy in a secret ballot organised by the United Nations. New Order officials had confidently placed their faith in their own propaganda; from the beginning of the integration project they had asserted that the East Timorese would accept integration if they experienced the material benefits of Indonesian development. The military was angry and bitterly disappointed by their rejection by the East Timorese and the sudden end of the integration project. The terror perpetrated by the military at the end of the project was not a new experience for the territory, as throughout the occupation the East Timorese had been subjected to extreme military tactics. Up to half the population had been displaced during the late 1970s and Fretilin supporters and members had been summarily killed. In the weeks following the announcement of the referendum result in early September 1999, approximately 1,400 East Timorese who supported independence were killed and up to 250,000 East Timorese were forced out of the territory into squalid camps, mostly over the border in West Timor (CAVR 2006: 7.5.5 No. 246).

The destruction of 70% of the physical infrastructure, almost all of the much-vaunted development that Indonesia had so generously shared with the East Timorese, showed the colonial nature of the relationship in its crudest form. Because development did not produce the hoped-for results, its fabric would not be left for the ungrateful East Timorese. The people forcibly removed to Indonesia and held there by militias would demonstrate to the world that a large proportion of the East Timorese population feared an East Timor without Indonesia. During the chaotic situation created by the military, dependent children were intentionally separated from their families and children who had already been forcibly evacuated were also taken from the camps This chapter describes the separation of children from their families in the final gasps of Indonesia’s East Timor project.

The gradual dismantling of the New Order in Indonesia after the fall of Suharto and independence in East Timor signalled the beginning of a new era in the relationship between the two countries. The relationship shifted from that of the coloniser and the colonised to a relationship between two independent and democratic nations. Indonesian officials were initially reluctant to help the children separated after 1999, but after several years they began to take up the responsibility and fulfil their obligations towards the children. This chapter also shows that the change in the relationship has opened the possibility for reunions between children and their parents separated in the preceding decades.

The end of the East Timor project

The forced resignation of Suharto on 21 May 1998 led to many democratic changes in Indonesia. Within a month of Suharto’s departure, President BJ Habibie offered the East Timorese a popular ballot on a special autonomy package and in January the following year promised that if the East Timorese rejected the offer, Indonesia would ‘let go’ of East Timor. At the ballot on 30 August 1999, 78.5% of the population rejected Indonesia’s offer of autonomous government, thus paving the way for the territory to achieve independence after centuries of colonial rule (Greenlees and Garran 2002: 196; Alatas 2006: 133–158).1

Many Indonesians were disappointed with the popular rejection and found the break painful. They felt that they had acted generously towards the East Timorese in helping to develop the territory and that East Timor was ‘part of their self-consciousness’ (Alatas 2006:xii). The Department of Foreign Affairs had expended enormous effort since 1975 to try to gain international acceptance of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. Senior Indonesian officials were critical of Western nations, especially Australia, which changed their position on supporting integration (Alatas 2006: 143, 148–150, 240), and they placed part of the blame for the defeat of the integration vote on the bias of UNAMET, the UN body responsible for conducting the vote (Robinson 2003: 5.5 pp. 80, 12, 264–265; Republika Online 1999).2 In Indonesia an outburst of nationalism was expressed in anti-United Nations and anti-Western sentiment. The change in the relationship between Indonesia and East Timor was particularly difficult for all those who had benefited under Indonesian rule, including the Indonesian-trained East Timorese militia, East Timorese civilians, and Indonesian civilians who had made their homes in East Timor.

The destruction in in 1999 showed yet again just how militarised East Timor was, even though the Indonesian military, as it had done in 1975, denied its central role in the violence there (Idi Subandy Ibrahim 2002: 161, 149, 220; KPP HAM 2006: 29–34, 41).3 In the lead-up to the referendum, the military trained militias, just as it had trained partisans prior to the invasion in 1975 to help provide cover for the invasion. Robinson argues that militia groups in 1999 were ‘mobilised, trained, supplied and backed’ not only by the military but also by the Indonesian authorities to provide a cover for official efforts to disrupt and influence the outcome of the vote on independence (Robinson 2001: 275). Robinson (2010: 20) concedes, however, that the military may not have had a master plan to destroy East Timor after the vote – it expected that intimidation would ensure a win for Indonesia.

In 1999, sensing victory and conscious of the unique opportunity offered by the United Nations, the leaders of the resistance agreed to stay within an agreed cantonment, thereby forestalling the Indonesian military’s strategy of generating a situation in which it could again claim that it needed to intervene to stop the fighting between two warring sides (Martin 2001: 72). When the International Force for East Timor (InterFET) landed on 20 September 1999, the Indonesian military offered no resistance. Nevertheless, in the weeks following the announcement of the result of the vote it, together with the East Timorese militias, had destroyed 70% of the domestic and government infrastructure, almost all of which were the achievements of the New Order in East Timor, and forced more than 25% of the population out of East Timor (CAVR 2006: 3.21 Nos. 624–660).4

The forced displacement of an estimated 250,000 East Timorese, both pro- and anti-integrationists, was designed to prove that the population rejected the result of the referendum. Their departure was well organised and planned in advance and began immediately after the result was announced on 4 September 1999. Most of them were moved overland or by boat to West Timor, but some were moved to other Indonesian islands, especially to South Sulawesi. While some East Timorese left voluntarily, most were forcibly removed. Anyone who chose to stay was assumed to have voted for independence and was targeted for revenge. Those who did not flee East Timor sought refuge in the hills (CAVR 2006: 3.21 No. 654; Robinson 2003: 3.1 p. 45ff). The main reason for this astonishing expenditure of resources in relocating a vast proportion of the population seems to have been an attempt to use the displaced people as a political resource to discredit the result of the vote. The displaced East Timorese were portrayed as evidence that a significant percentage of the population supported integration and was afraid of an independent East Timor controlled by Fretilin (KPP HAM 2006: 37–41; McDonald and Tanter 2006: 4, 11). Some, including the founders of Hati Foundation (Yayasan Hati 2000a; 2001b), even demanded that a proportional area of independent East Timor be carved off and returned to Indonesia as a place where the pro-integrationists could live.

The camps where people were forced to live were controlled by East Timorese militias whose aim was to hold the East Timorese in Indonesia. Those who wanted to return to East Timor often had to find ways to sneak past the guards to register with the UNHCR (CAVR 2006: 3.21: 659; KPP HAM 2006: 41; Campbell-Nelson et al. 2001: 45–48, 62–69). The militias also intimidated the international organisations and NGOs providing relief aid in the camps.5 Despite the threats, intimidation and obstacles, three months after the vote half of those who had been forcibly evacuated had returned home (UNHCR 2004b: 17, 22).

At the end of 2002, the Indonesian authorities withdrew the ‘refugee’ status of East Timorese in Indonesia (Human Rights Watch 2003). In 2006, approximately 60,000 people were still living in ‘refugee’ camps in Indonesia, awaiting relocation in resettlement villages; many of them were the family of militias and too afraid to return to East Timor.6 By default they had chosen to be Indonesians, although most still considered themselves East Timorese. They refused offers to resettle in distant locations, preferring to stay on the island of Timor close to home. Many of the pro-integration families, especially Apodeti members who had done well under the Indonesian regime, bought homes and set up businesses in Indonesia, especially in West Timor.7 Approximately 60,000 other East Timorese continued to work in Indonesian government jobs or the security services, jobs they held at the time of the vote.8 The majority of converts to Islam fled voluntarily to Sulawesi and some also to Bandung, West Java, the areas where many had studied, taking their families with them. Some of the East Timorese living in Sulawesi elected to go to one of the two transmigration sites offered by the government in Mamuju and Malili in South Sulawesi (Kompas 2002)9

A high proportion of those who fled East Timor and sought shelter in the camps in Indonesia were children. At the height of the crisis, the Komnas Perlindungan Anak (Indonesian National Commission on Child Protection) estimated that 60% of the people in several camps around the West Timor town of Atambua were below the age of 14 and more than half of these were below the age of five (Suara Pembaruan 2003; Tempo 2003). Some of the children among them had became separated from their parents in the mayhem that followed the referendum and were rounded up and taken along with others deported from East Timor (ABC Radio Asia Pacific 2000). The parents of others had fled to the mountains of East Timor for refuge and had put their children into the care of grandparents or other relatives (Jesuit Refugee Service 2003 [especially the case of Valerianus and Petrus de Jesus]). Some of the separated children, as well as children living with their parents in the camps in Indonesia, all of whom had already suffered one deportation, were sent away to institutions in Indonesia, far from the camps in West Timor and from their homes in East Timor.

Separation during deportation

Children who had been living in institutions in East Timor in September 1999, like the rest of the population, were forced to flee or evacuated voluntarily. Militia members threatened to blow up the Seroja complex so the occupants took to the streets where out-of-uniform soldiers patrolling Dili picked them up and took them to the local police headquarters where many other frightened East Timorese had already assembled. The soldiers immediately organised a passage for them on the boat to Kupang. Before leaving Dili, Seroja staff members had contacted SOS-Kinderdorf institution in Bandung and Kinderdorf took the children and their carers into their newly built institution in Maumere, Flores, an island to the west of Timor. Soon after InterFET landed in Dili, the children and most of the Seroja staff asked for UNHCR assistance to return to East Timor. Kinderdorf staff and the local Catholic priest, like other Indonesians, encouraged them to stay, telling the East Timorese staff that the children would benefit more from an Indonesian education. Kinderdorf staff members were disappointed that the East Timorese chose to return to East Timor, but respected their wishes and assisted the UNHCR in their repatriation.10

Indonesian and East Timorese Islamic preachers encouraged all indigenous East Timorese Muslims to leave East Timor, warning them that there would be no place for them in an independent East Timor.11 The children and staff at the Yakin institution left voluntarily for Sulawesi on the evening before the announcement of the result of the ballot and before the burning and violence had erupted.12 In the following weeks, as the exodus escalated, many members of the children’s families also travelled there to be with their children in Makassar. Approximately 600 East Timorese sought shelter in the Sulthan Alauddin Mosque run by the DDII, which had sent children from East Timor to Indonesia. East Timorese were also cared for in two other Islamic childcare institutions, the Panti Asuhan Kasih Ibu and Al-Anshar, the institution established by Mohammad Johari, mentioned in the previous chapter and further discussed below.13 By 2008 few East Timorese Muslims had returned to East Timor and, as already noted, many settled on government transmigration sites in South Sulawesi (Jakarta Post 2002a).

During the forced exodus from East Timor, I found cases of children taken into the care of individuals who planned to keep them in Indonesia, although I have no evidence that soldiers took children for adoption at this time. There are, however, well-documented cases of East Timorese militia members who kidnapped under-age girls and forced them into marriage and/or prostitution in the camps in West Timor, such as Alola (CAVR 2006: No.334; Murdoch 2006). Hasan Basri (Roberto Freitas), from Lalea in Bacau district, travelled to East Timor to gather children for his Lemorai Foundation in Bandung, West Java. In the uncertain months leading up to the referendum, Basri offered to help his relatives and acquaintances from his village who were sufficiently concerned about their safety to relocate to Indonesia. In 2002 he told a foreign journalist that, through his foundation, he had assisted 661 East Timorese to move to Bandung, including many of his and his wife’s relatives from Venilale, two-thirds of whom were children. He offered to care for and educate the children at Islamic institutions in Indonesia. Some parents who were worried about security handed their children into his care; for example Jose Pereira gave Basri permission to take two of his children, Jacinto and Marito, then five and eight years of age. Basri stipulated a condition that the children had to become Muslims (Elegant 2002). Others worked for Basri collecting children to bring them to Indonesia, such as the Indonesian teacher, Budianto, who organised Zacarias to join Basri.

Transfers out of camps

Desperate parents and guardians of children in the camps in West Timor often agreed to hand over their children to individuals and representatives of institutions who offered to care for and educate their children. Children were exposed to health risks and their education suffered in the appalling conditions in the overcrowded camps (CAVR 2006: 3.21 No. 659; Campbell-Nelson et al. 2001: 70–77); many parents were attracted by the offers, even though it usually meant that their children were taken to distant places in Indonesia. Parents made these decisions in conditions where there were few alternatives and they often knew those to whom they entrusted their children. In the circumstances, the arrangements should at least have been regarded only as temporary. The control exercised by militias in the camps made it highly unlikely that parents were able freely to make informed choices about their children, especially for the long-term (Campbell-Nelson et al. 2001: 62–67).

Many of the organisations that took children from the camps were run by East Timorese who were strongly opposed to independence for East Timor. Other organisations that took children from the camps were based in Indonesia and had had no previous involvement in caring for East Timorese children. The Indonesian NGO, Pokastim, located several East Timorese children between the ages of seven and 12 at the Buah Hati orphanage, run by a Protestant Church in Situbondo in East Java14 – the local government in Kupang prevented a further group of about 30 children being taken to this same institution after its plans were uncovered by the UNHCR (ABC Radio Asia Pacific 2000). The Jesuit Refugee Service based in Kupang traced 16 children to the Islamic Tunas Kalimantan institution in Banjarbaru in South Kalimantan (Jesuit Refugee Service 2003; CAVR 2006: No. 407), while Arist Merdeka Sirait, the Indonesian secretary for the Komisi Nasional Perlindungan Anak (National Child Protection Commission), located 57 children at a Protestant school in Pontianak, West Kalimantan. As the head of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kupang noted, NGOs depended on donations and East Timorese children were bound to attract donors (ABC Radio Asia Pacific 2000), although religious institutions inevitably also had a proselytising motive.

A more detailed examination of the operation and activities of the organisations run by these anti-independence East Timorese will help us to understand better their motives for sending children away from their families and why some of them tried to keep the children in Indonesia.

Cinta Damai Foundation

After the referendum, the Cinta Damai Foundation organised by an East Timorese Protestant minister from Ermera, Rev Paulus da Costa, and Cornelius Banoe from Kupang, as described in Chapter 4, took 59 more children from their families promising to educate them. Some parents from Ermera who were living in the camps in West Timor knew the organisers and handed their children into their care. However, the Cinta Damai organisers did not place the children in the institution run by the GMIT Oeba Ebenhaezer Protestant Church, as the parents believed, although the children may have lived there for a short time before it had to close. As he had done on previous occasions, without seeking the consent of parents, Cornelius Banoe made a radio announcement asking individuals to offer to care for a child and most of the children were taken in by families in Kupang. In 2004, at least three children from different villages in Ermera were in the care of a doctor in Kupang who had worked in East Timor until 1999.15 Some of the 59 children were moved further away, including one who was taken to Bandung by Banoe’s son and another to Jakarta by a Protestant minister.16

The stated aim of the organisers was to help the children of former members of the Ermera Protestant Church congregation, but, like the organisers of the programs to send children to Islamic institutions, too often they betrayed the trust of parents and were dismissive of parental rights. Indeed parents were angry when they discovered that their children were not living at the GMIT institution, as had been agreed, and demanded to know their whereabouts. The misfortune of the East Timorese families became an opportunity for the Cinta Damai organisers to transfer children to members of the Protestant Church in Kupang – some to work as household helpers, others to be cherished by those with no children, and all to be raised as Protestants. Several months later, most East Timorese parents from Matata, Ermera, had returned home and they demanded the return of their children who had been handed into the care of the Cinta Damai Foundation.

Lemorai and Al-Anshar Foundations

Two childcare institutions set up by East Timorese Muslims used the children in their care after 1999 to demonstrate their continuing support for integration. Mohammad Johari had collected children for his Al-Anshar institution from East Timor in the 1990s, and after 1999 he offered shelter to many East Timorese in his complex. Johari also began to offer a free education to the children of East Timorese who had relocated to Sulawesi. Many parents accepted his offer, including those who had moved to transmigration sites. Johari cared for them in the Al-Anshar childcare institution or placed them in other nearby institutions willing to take in East Timorese children (Faizal 2002b). Johari, or his associates, Salam and Arifin, probably visited the camps in West Timor to collect East Timorese children for their Al-Anshar institution.17

We have already seen that, just before the referendum, Hasan Basri took children into his care with offers of free education. Basri was one of the youths in the first group of East Timorese that Salim Sagran, the chairman of Yakin, took to an Islamic institution in Sulawesi in 1980.18 For many years he had lived between Indonesia and East Timor, and in 1998 he was living in Bandung and a leading member of Ipmitim, whose members decided they wanted to establish an institution modelled on the Al-Anshar institution run by Johari in Sulawesi. The student association failed to reach an agreement about the aim of the foundation. Several members told me that they were concerned about the monitoring of donations. Hasan Basri proceeded with the plan, nevertheless, and established Lemorai Foundation as his personal foundation,19 and after 1999, many more children came into his care. He depended on the goodwill of Islamic institutions in the vicinity of Bandung to receive children, just as Yakin had done. In 2002 he claimed he had placed almost 100 East Timorese children in small groups in a dozen institutions all over Java, and others in South Sumatra and Sumbawa. Twenty-two of the children were living in his Baitul Muh’taddin childcare institution in Sumedang, near Bandung (Faizal 2002b). A local preacher had helped him find placements for the 20 children of which Zacarias was one. The children became Muslims and were given their Islamic names while living in these institutions. In 2004, the father of Zacarias told me that he was not concerned that his son had became a Muslim, but he was unhappy about the way in which his son had disappeared after 1999 and had sought UNHCR help to trace him.20

While Johari and Basri claimed they were responding to the needs of the children, another motivation for having children in their care was financial. Advertising the children as new converts (mualaf) helped in soliciting donations, which is why Johari and Basri insisted that the children convert to Islam. Zacarias believes that Basri did not want him and others to return to East Timor because he could use them to raise funds. In Bandung, soon after the referendum, one bank displayed photos of 20 East Timorese children, all dressed in Muslim attire, whom the bank helped by requesting donations. Chapter 4 notes Johari’s success in soliciting donations in Sulawesi; Basri had similar success in Bandung. The district head in Sumedang and the governor of West Java, HR Nuriana, reportedly donated the equivalent of several thousand US dollars to the East Timorese through Basri’s Lemorai Foundation. Residents of Gunungmanik village in Sumedang, where Hasan Basri set up his institution, felt that the East Timorese were given favoured treatment, receiving not only important visitors but also generous donations (Pikiran Rakyat 2002). Some East Timorese parents, frustrated in their demands to take their children back from Basri, accused the foundations of ‘selling the names’ of East Timorese children for personal gain.21

The pro-Indonesian East Timorese in Sulawesi and Bandung were able to defy the demands of parents for the return of their children because they received support from Indonesian civil servants and military personnel. One Indonesian news article even shored up the pro-integration credentials of Hasan Basri by reporting, erroneously, that his father had signed the Balibo declaration, the declaration of integration with Indonesia by East Timorese in 1975 (Faizal 2002a). To maintain interest in their cause and keep donations flowing Johari and Basri made nationalistic, pro-Indonesian pronouncements at a time when Indonesians were smarting over the ‘loss’ of East Timor. Attempts by the UNHCR to return children in their care played well into their agenda, giving them the media attention to express their pro-Indonesian sentiments. The rights of the children and their parents were not their main priority.

Hati Foundation

The child removals from the camps in West Timor by the Hati Foundation were the most ideologically motivated of the removals in the period just before and after 1999. The Harapan Timor Foundation, or Hati Foundation, was owned by the family of Abilio Osorio Soares, the last governor of East Timor, and was officially constituted on 3 April 2000 (Yayasan Hati 2000b). The Soares family were members of Apodeti and passionate supporters of integration. Many members of the family had been killed by Fretilin in January 1976, leaving the wider family with bitter psychological scars. Natercia Soares, the sister of the ex-governor and director of the foundation, was a national parliamentarian and an outspoken, vehement integrationist. Her nephew Octavio Soares, in 1999 a medical student at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, was the general secretary of Hati Foundation and organised the transfer of the children to Java.

Hati Foundation had a clearly articulated political and ideological agenda for educating children in Java, which it outlined on its website. The children were to be raised as Indonesians, but consciously as East Timorese who belonged to Indonesia. To keep alive the hope of re-integration Hati Foundation needed a future generation to continue the struggle; hence the children were to be indoctrinated and educated in these ideas.22 The organisation was often quoted in the media as having plans to educate many East Timorese children from the camps in West Timor in Java. In 2001, Antonio da Silva, a co-ordinator of the Wemalae camp in Betun, Atambua, claimed that Hati Foundation planned to send the 20,000 to 25,000 children in his camp to institutions in other places in Indonesia (Kompas 2001a). In late 2000, Octavio Soares, the general secretary of the foundation, said that 1,000 children were already waiting to be sent to Java and only the permissions had to be organised (Murdoch 2000), but these plans did not come to fruition. The first group of 123 children, aged between seven and 16 years, arrived in Semarang, Central Java, in two groups in late 1999. They were sent to the institution run by the order of indigenous Javanese nuns who had taken in the ‘President’s children’ in September 1977, as described in Chapter 3.

Hati Foundation received tacit support to carry out its agenda, at least in the first few years after the referendum, from its connections with high-ranking military personnel and individuals who had been powerful during the New Order. Major General Prabowo Subianto, Suharto’s son-in-law and commander of the elite Kopassus troops, had supported Abilio Soares in his political and business career and had supported other organisations sponsored by the Soares family that were fronts for military interests, for example, the East Timor Student Movement (led by Octavio Soares in 1996), and the Morok militia in Manatuto district (run by Soares family members in 1999) (Klinken and Bourchier 2006; Aditjondro 1997; SiaR 1998). On 10 December 1996, Octavio Soares and a friend, Joao Mota, who later also held a leadership role in Hati Foundation, travelled to Oslo to protest the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Bishop Carlos Belo and Jose Ramos Horta (Suara Merdeka 1996). Just before the referendum, the East Timor Student Movement led demonstrations in Jakarta to counter those by pro-independence East Timorese, and in 1999 Octavio Soares was given time on Indonesian national television, in which he forecast the break-up of East Timor if it were to become independent (Ummat 1999: 26). Strong supporters of integration, like Hati Foundation members, wanted East Timor to be divided and the western section to remain under Indonesian control (Klinken and Bourchier 2006: 122). After the referendum, Octavio Soares and Marcos X Fernandes, an associate in Hati Foundation, harassed, including with death threats, and physically abused pro-independence East Timorese students living in Yogyakarta. Because of the official patronage they enjoyed, the local police could do nothing to curtail their activities.23

The director of Hati Foundation, Natercia Soares, maintained that Hati’s motivation for bringing children to Java was humanitarian concern and that it had responded to the desperate need of the people living in dire conditions in the camps (Kompas 2001a and b). Indeed the conditions were appalling and Hati Foundation promised far better educational opportunities for their children in Java. A considerable number of the parents who handed children into the care of Hati Foundation were relatives and members of the wider Soares family or came from their village in Laclubar, Manatuto.24 Hati Foundation organisers probably considered that the organisation could be self-funding. The organisation required parents to contribute Rp25–30,000 per month for each child from the assistance that the occupants of the camps received from the Indonesian Department of Social Welfare, an amount of Rp1, 500 per day per person. Hati Foundation used these contributions to pay Rp30,000 per month for each child to the institutions where the children lived, although it was not enough to cover all their costs.25 Natercia defended this practice, maintaining that the people would have gambled the money away. She claimed to me that Hati Foundation had tried to find placements for the children in West Timor, but was unsuccessful, so the children were sent to Java instead. The motivation of Hati Foundation members was not, as appeared to be the case with the Muslim organisations, for the donations and profit that might accrue from educating the children and Hati members became indignant at the accusations of profiteering.26

Hati Foundation members knew that East Timorese children had been taken into the care of the nuns at St Thomas institution in 1977; in 1999 they asked the nuns at St Thomas to help them achieve their aim. As Octavio Soares was studying in Java, it would be easier for him to monitor and control the children if they lived in Java. One of Octavio’s cousins, who studied in Central Java in the 1980s, had heard about St Thomas, which was close to his university. The cousin was one of the children mentioned in Chapter 3, who had been taken by nuns of the Carolus Borromeus order in the late 1970s to be educated in the order’s institution in Ganjuran, south of Yogyakarta. At Ganjuran children had to work in the gardens and do household chores in order to support themselves while they studied, which was also the case at St Thomas.27 The nuns at St Thomas agreed to accept children, thinking that the situation in East Timor in 1999 was similar to what it had been in 1977.28 Probably Hati Foundation represented the children as victims because their families supported integration, which is how the children had been described in 1977.

However, in 1999, the Indonesian Catholic Church had changed its position in relation to East Timor and no longer supported integration. When the church hierarchy in Semarang became aware of the motives of Hati Foundation, it tried to restrict Hati’s contact with the children and made it harder for Hati to supervise and indoctrinate them by distributing them in three institutions in Central Java and Yogyakarta (Murdoch 2000; Mujiran 2001). In 2002, Linda, an East Timorese theological student lived in Temanggung at one of these institutions while she undertook three months practical training. She observed first-hand the indoctrination of the 20 children living there by an associate of Octavio Soares, Marcos X Fernandes, who visited regularly. He told the children that they should not think about returning to their families. The Catholic Church forbade its institutions from accepting other children from the Hati Foundation.29 The church’s efforts to return children were frustrated because the Indonesian police did not act decisively against those who deliberately sabotaged the church’s efforts (Kompas 2001c). When Hati Foundation organised another 46 children from the camps in West Timor to Central Java in June 2001, the church refused to accept them into its institutions. Hati Foundation placed the children in a private institution in Gunung Kidul, about 40 kilometres from Yogyakarta,30 on land that had been acquired by Soewardijo, who, until 1999, had been the head of the Department of Education and Culture in Dili. While the institution had no official link with the Catholic Church, Soewardijo was the brother of the nun from the St Thomas institution who was the contact for Hati Foundation in bringing the children to Java (Kompas 2001b).31

Hati Foundation was able to implement its plans because it had access to funds through its high-level connections. Octavio Soares obtained money for the first group of children from the Indonesian government-sponsored National Foster Parents’ program (GNOTA), the East Timor branch of which was chaired by the wife of Abilio Soares (Murdoch 2000). Major General Zacky Anwar Makarim and his wife also showed their support to Hati by visiting the St Thomas institution and bringing gifts.32 When Hati’s activities began to be scrutinised by the UNHCR and it came under media attention, members of Hati visited camps in West Timor between 14 and 24 October 2000 to organise letters of parental consent in relation to the children in their care in Java. They could not, however, go to the camps empty-handed; giving rice and medicines to the parents facilitated obtaining the necessary letters of permission to demonstrate to the UNHCR that Hati had legitimate custody of the children. The influential generals, Prabowo and Makarim, provided funds and logistics for Hati Foundation to get the letters of permission (Yayasan Hati 2000c).

East Timor children in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta

The children were taken to Yogyakarta by Hati Foundation in 2001.
© Arie van Klinken

Returning home – breaking the ties

With the Indonesian government decision at the end of 2002 to end the ‘refugee’ status of those East Timorese who had entered Indonesia in September 1999, support for the ardent pro-integrationists dwindled. The end of the relationship was a bitter experience for them. They were disappointed with the broken promises of their Indonesian backers and the end of their special treatment. Until that time, pro-integrationists who had East Timorese under their control used them to keep their struggle alive. The East Timorese militias dominated and controlled the people in camps as if they were the victors (Campbell-Nelson et al. 2001: 47) and those with children in their care tried to prevent them from returning to their parents.

An attempt by the UNHCR to reunite a group of children with their parents demonstrated the determination of the pro-integrationists to keep the children in their care. In October 2000, most of the parents of the 123 children brought to Java in late 1999 by Hati Foundation were still in West Timor, but the parents of 16 children were back in East Timor and asked for their children to be returned to them. The Indonesian NGO, Pokastim, traced the 123 children brought by Hati Foundation to St Thomas institution and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) broadcast their names over its radio station.33 The parents contacted UNTAET and asked for their children to be returned to East Timor. Some of the parents in East Timor claimed that Octavio Soares had tricked them into giving up their children (Murdoch 2001a). The parents wrote letters to their children explaining that they were back in East Timor and that it was safe for them to return home. The UNHCR delivered the letters to the children and made arrangements for their trip, but on 15 March 2001 the plan was aborted because of threats and intimidation by Hati Foundation members. The foundation’s staff confiscated the letters parents had sent to their children and cast doubt in the children’s minds about whether their parents had actually returned to East Timor and whether it was safe there. Hati Foundation accused the UNHCR of pressuring parents to demand their children back and claimed that the organisation only wanted the children to return because it had repatriation targets to reach (Murdoch 2001b).

A second attempt to return the children on 17 July 2001 was again thwarted on the day of departure when Octavio Soares led the nuns to believe that he was driving the children to the airport, but took them to his home instead. The parents who had come from far-flung places in East Timor to meet their children at the airport in Dili had to return home disappointed (Murdoch 2001c; Chandrasekaran 2001). It took further pressure on the Indonesian government from the head of UNTAET and the international advocacy of East Timorese national leaders to persuade the Indonesian government to take action and insist that the children be returned (Murdoch 2001d, e and f).

Hati Foundation, in its attempt to keep the children in Indonesia, had indoctrinated them to the extent that they were afraid to return. The children had been traumatised when they arrived in Indonesia and had had no choice other than to trust those into whose care their parents had placed them. On 14 September 2001, one year after the parents had first requested UNHCR help for the return of their children, a group of ten children was taken to Bali to meet their parents. Six of the children whose parents had requested their return refused to go. The other ten children were convinced that they would not be returning to East Timor and would not pack their belongings for the trip to Bali. When the children met their parents after nearly two years of separation, most children were tense and unresponsive to their parents’ warm embraces. Two out of the group of ten children decided not to return home, including one who became violent towards his distressed father (Murdoch 2001g).34 The nuns were concerned about the unnatural response of the children when they met their parents in Bali, which was an indication of the extent to which the children had been manipulated by Hati Foundation staff (Murdoch 2001g). Several months after the children had returned to East Timor UNHCR staff members visited them and found that the children were happy to be home and that their trust in their parents had been restored.35

The antipathy that foundations caring for East Timorese children felt towards the UNHCR resonated sympathetically with many Indonesian officials. The belief that East Timor could not survive without Indonesia persisted and some officials questioned why the UNHCR would want to send children back to East Timor when conditions were so much better in Java (Chandrasekaran 2001). As they had done throughout the occupation, Indonesian officials condoned the transfer of children to Indonesia because they believed they were offering the children a better future and they gave far too much credibility to the demands of the pro-integration foundations caring for the children (Jakarta Post 2002b).36 For example, because Indonesian officials accepted Hati Foundation’s argument that it had made agreements with parents to care for their children, only the parents could collect the children, so Hati could not hand the children over to the UNHCR (Kompas 2001c; Agence France-Presse 2002). Because children had been given so much misinformation about the conditions in East Timor and the situation of their parents, the UNHCR had, in reality, no way of conveying the truth to children other than to confront them face-to-face with their parents. Consequently, repatriation became an expensive and time-consuming process.

Gradually the Indonesian authorities began to accept the obligations they had under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Indonesia had signed in 1990, to facilitate the return of children when their parents so requested. The decision was helped by considerable international media attention and criticism of the way the Indonesian authorities had handled the return of the children. The Indonesian and the international press played a crucial role in raising the issue of separated children. Some of the reporting may have been dramatised and oversimplified, but without it there may have been no political will on the part of Indonesia to repatriate these children (UNHCR 2004b: 60–61 Nos. 208, 213). The decision at the end of 2002 to end the ‘refugee’ status of East Timorese in Indonesia demonstrated ‘emotional’ acceptance by Indonesia of the independence of East Timor. Following this, Indonesian President Megawati wrote to the Catholic Church in Semarang asking it to return the children in its care,37 and high level officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Octavio Soares and told him to let the children go, if the parents so requested (Murdoch 2001f). Soon afterwards Octavio left to work in Kalimantan as a doctor for the national oil company, Pertamina.38 Perhaps to soften the blow to Hati Foundation, the Indonesian government refused to renew the work visa of Lindsay Murdoch, the Australian journalist who had persistently written about Hati Foundation, effectively expelling him from Indonesia without any explanation (Kirschke 2002).

The end of the ‘refugee’ status of the East Timorese living in camps spelled the end for Hati Foundation. When financial support from the Indonesian government stopped flowing in 2002 (Human Rights Watch 2003), parents in the camps had difficulty meeting their commitments to pay the Rp30,000/month fee to the foundation. In 2003 the ex-governor, Abilio Soares, received a three-year jail sentence for crimes against humanity from the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta.39 Sometime in 2004 or early 2005, Hati Foundation was disbanded, by which time most of the children had been returned to their parents in either East or West Timor. Eleven children who wanted to stay on to complete their education in Java were put into the care of the Harapan childcare institution run by the Protestant Pentecostal Church in Bawen, near the St Thomas institution.40 A Japanese Catholic nun working in Jakarta had quietly persevered in helping the children brought to Java by Hati Foundation since 1999. She carried letters between them and their families, organised for several children to return even after the UNHCR date for returning refugees had expired and tried to help those still in Indonesia to understand and sort through all the misinformation fed to them by the pro-integrationists. In 2006 some of the children told her that they would like to return to East Timor, but they could not understand why their parents, many of whom had worked as militia, did not want to return to their ancestral land.41

Hasan Basri in Bandung and Mohammad Johari in South Sulawesi, just like Hati Foundation members, were unco-operative with the UNHCR in the return of children. Despite their pronouncements that they would hand over children whose parents came to collect them, it proved not to be the case. They intimidated, indoctrinated and deceived the children in order to keep them in their care. The father of Nur and Johnny, in the care of Hasan Basri, travelled to Bandung to find his children in mid-2002. Basri refused to meet him and the father returned to East Timor without seeing his children; for a long time Basri did not even tell the children about their father’s visit (O’Shea 2002). Similarly, when the father of Zacarias arrived to collect him, Basri convened a meeting with the local military and police and the district head, in an attempt to intimidate the children to stay in Bandung. The other parent who travelled with Zacarias’s father had been requested by seven parents back in East Timor to tell their children, also in Basri’s care, that they should return home. None of them wanted to do so, although one young boy sneaked away to intercept the UNHCR car as it left and asked to be taken home, having not dared to say so at the meeting.

The story was much the same in Makassar, South Sulawesi. In 1999 Abdurrahman Alberto, one of the East Timorese sent by Yakin to the Maccopa institution in Sulawesi in the early 1980s, had taken over the administration of Al-Anshar institution from Johari. On the first occasion the UNHCR came to collect children from Al-Anshar in January 2003, as arranged, Abdurrahman changed his mind about letting the children go with the UNHCR and said he would only hand them over to their parents. The UNHCR came with several parents six months later and four children were taken home. The successful return of these children caused a storm of protest among pro-integrationists in Sulawesi who accused the UNHCR of kidnapping the children. Local East Timorese held demonstrations at the office of the district parliament and the governor’s office, demonising the UNHCR. They fabricated stories about the UNHCR having removed the children through a window. Abdurrahman demanded $5,000 US in ‘compensation’ for the years he had cared for the children, further evidence that one of his prime motives in holding the children was monetary (Suara Pembaruan 2003; Tempo 2003: 19). During the next attempted repatriation, the two children involved had been so indoctrinated about the mission of the UNHCR that they became frightened and ran away. The children did not know whether to believe the UNHCR, who told them that their parents had returned to East Timor and that it was safe to go back, or the information they heard from pro-integrationist Abdurrahman.

Where there were no aggressive pro-integrationists forcibly holding children, UNHCR mediation was not so vigorously challenged. Many parents from Matata, Ermera requested the UNHCR and the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kupang to trace their children, who had been given to families in West Timor by the Cinta Damai Foundation. The children and their parents were brought to the border between East and West Timor where they decided together what they wanted. Most children chose reunion, although some children in good placements wanted to stay and finish their education and in some of these cases parents, who had asked for their children to be returned, agreed to let them stay on in West Timor. By 2004, most of the East Timorese children given to families in Kupang by the Cinta Damai Foundation in 1999 had been located and half of the children sent from East Timor by the foundation before the referendum had returned home, while the others were still in Kupang.42 Some, like Ago Pito (Jon dos Santos), fell through the net. He was about seven years old in 1999 when his parents handed him into the care of the foundation, but in 2007 he had lost contact with his family and was a street seller in Kupang, believing that if his parents were still alive they would have come to find him (Elcid Li 2007).

Compounding the issue of reunions was the fact that some of the children whose return to East Timor was requested by their natural parents had lived with their guardians or adoptive parents for many years, as explained in the Introduction. The adoptive parents believed that they had the right to make decisions about the children they had adopted. Problems arose after 1999 in cases where the natural parents of a child chose to return to East Timor, while the adoptive parents stayed on in Indonesia. The political division of the two countries complicated future contact that natural parents had always expected to maintain with their child. In such cases, the wishes of the child had to be respected (Jesuit Refugee Service 2003).

Returning home – children taken before 1999

The fall of Suharto and the unravelling of the New Order regime gradually brought genuine changes throughout Indonesia and not just in East Timor. Co-operation in returning and reuniting separated children became possible and a memorandum of understanding was signed by East Timorese and Indonesian government officials in December 2004 to deal with outstanding cases of children still separated as a result of the 1999 conflict (CAVR 2006: 11 No. 11.2; UNHCR 2004a). However, the young, dependent children taken away in the preceding years and still living in Indonesia, who are now adults, still lack accurate information and the resources to trace their families. The CAVR Report recommends that the names of these children be made available to the East Timorese by the Government of Indonesia and that the children be helped to make contact and to return to East Timor if they so desire (CAVR 2006: 11 No.4.2.7, 10.9).

Many of the older students in Indonesia and those sent there to work by the Department of Manpower were able to register with the UNHCR to return to East Timor. The scholarships of hundreds of East Timorese students studying at universities in Indonesia were renegotiated in inter-government arrangements, when after 1999 they became ‘foreign students’. The generous arrangements offered by the Indonesian government suggest that Indonesia will continue to be a popular destination for East Timorese students, where hundreds study either with the support of foreign donors and or as self-supporting students (La’o Hamutuk 2002). Those most affected were the East Timorese Muslim students, many of whom were uncertain about returning to East Timor. Their Indonesian scholarships ceased and, because most had studied in Islamic institutions, they were unsuccessful in their application for support from the government of East Timor. Before 1999 these students had been well-treated and given special facilities, but this ceased after independence; many said they felt that that they had been used by the organisations which sent them to Indonesia as symbols of the support of those organisations for integration.43

Younger students living in Islamic institutions, sent to Indonesia by Yakin in the years before the referendum, were usually unable to organise their return to East Timor. In Bandung, Hasan Basri and Abdul Fatah (Dominggus Lopes Guterres), fellow organiser of Lemorai, took on responsibility for all these young children. Likewise in Sulawesi Mohammad Johari and Abdulrahman from Al-Anshar claimed to be the spokespersons for the children sent to institutions by Yakin. Yakin’s inadequate tracking mechanisms and lack of procedures made it possible for these aggressively pro-integration East Timorese to take control of the children and insist that they remain in Indonesia. These children were, in fact, even more vulnerable than those removed in 1999. They did not fall under the UNHCR’s repatriation umbrella and had no-one to advocate for their return or to give them accurate information about East Timor. Consequently, they were worried about security in East Timor and how they would be treated living there as Muslims.44 The head of one Muhammadiyah childcare institution in Bandung, where seven young children had arrived in 1995, said that after 1999 all these children told him that they wanted to remain permanently in Indonesia,45 probably as instructed by Hasan Basri. While Yakin organisers such as the Arab East Timorese Salim Sagrin returned to East Timor after the vote, they did nothing to help children in the clutches of people like Basri and Johari who wanted to return home.46

The case of Siti Khodijah (Olinda Soares) and her sister Siti Aminah (Amelia Soares), who had been sent by Yakin to Java in 1993 at the ages of five and seven respectively, is an example of how Hasan Basri, who had had nothing to do with organising the two girls in Bandung up to 1999, interfered with the arrangement the two girls made with their father to return home. In mid-2004 they spoke with their father, Abidin Haryanto, who informed the institutions where they had been studying about their return. On the day of their planned departure Hasan Basri hid the girls so that they could not be contacted. Their father was reluctant to involve the Indonesian police and eventually had to travel to Bandung to collect his daughters. This procedure took over a year from the time when the two girls first spoke with their father, who had to rely on the financial help of the Alola Foundation in Dili to travel to Jakarta and organise his daughters’ return.47

Siti Khodijah and other female students

Siti Khodijah

Siti Khodijah (Olinda Soares) at school in Bandung, 2004. Yakin sent her to Indonesia in 1993 when she was five years old.
© Helene van Klinken

Antonio with girls and father

Siti Khodijah (Olinda Soares) left, and her sister Siti Aminah (Amelia Soares) with their father, Abidin Arianto, back right, Bandung, 2005. He went to Bandung to bring his daughters home.
© Antonio Freitas

In most cases the Indonesian military still does not co-operate with tracing children taken from East Timor by its personnel. Even when East Timorese parents have the details of the name, unit and identification number of the soldier who took their child, as in one case I am aware of, there is no formal channel for military co-operation. Despite this, direct personal contact with senior Indonesian military personnel has produced some successes. One well-publicised case was the return in 2010 of the child of Lere Anan Timur. A senior Indonesian officer, Lieutenant General (retired) Yunus Yosfiah, helped Lere contact Brigadier General Sontono, the adoptive father of Lere’s son. This reunion was possible in part because relations between military officers from Indonesia and East Timor have now improved. Brigadier-General Lere, who is now the Chief-of-Staff of the Defence Forces of East Timor, has good relations with former enemies such as Lieutenant General (retired) Prabowo Subianto (Tempo Semanal 2008). Less well-connected parents whose children were taken by lower ranking soldiers do not, however, have access to such assistance in tracing their children.

Nevertheless, children who were taken away by soldiers now have more options and are less fearful of trying to find their families than during the New Order period. Agusta and Madelina, the two sisters taken with three other children in 1977 from Ermera, contacted their family in 1999. Madelina’s husband is a soldier who was stationed in West Timor in 1999 and found people from Ermera in the camps who knew his wife’s family and carried photos and letters back to Ermera. That Madelina and her husband were able to speak directly with people who knew her family made this initiative possible,48 but such opportunities are rare. It is still difficult to send mail to East Timor and the children raised in Indonesia have lost the language they need to communicate with their parents. Furthermore, many do not know where their parents live. Radio may offer options for families and children seeking reunion, and this was how the CAVR helped Biliki to trace her family. There are now local radio stations that reach the remotest corners of Indonesia.49 In the future all Indonesians will have access to the internet, at one or more of the internet access sites to be located in all of Indonesia’s 5,748 sub-districts (Antara News 2010), which will offer new possibilities for networking and tracing missing family members. Nevertheless. institutional arrangements between the two countries need to be established to help in the process of tracing and reuniting families.

To end this account of child transfers it is fitting to return to the story of the 1988 abduction of two-year-old Benvindo Aze Descart, already told in Chapter 2, and his reunion in 2003 with his biological parents. Benvindo’s experience dramatically encapsulates the contradictions in the Indonesia–East Timor relationship and how the transfer of children to Indonesia was part of the effort to consolidate Indonesian domination. Benvindo is the son of Falintil commander Aluc Descart, who spent the entire occupation fighting the Indonesian military. When Benvindo was 17 months old, Lieutenant Colonel S took him from East Timor to Indonesia. As other Indonesians had done, S took the child to try to force the surrender of his father and colleagues fighting in the forest. Yet S did not kill the child; he and his wife lovingly raised him as his own son. S concealed Benvindo’s true identity from him and Benvindo believed he was the natural son of his adoptive Javanese parents, even though he was often teased about his non-Javanese looks – his darkish skin, his curly hair and his height.

Like other East Timorese parents whose children had been taken to Indonesia, Benvindo’s parents wanted to trace their son. Several factors contributed to the success of Aluc’s search for Benvindo after 1999. Just like Lere, Aluc had an influential position in independent East Timor, having been appointed second-in-command of the newly formed East Timor army when he came out of the forest in 1999. He located the former commander of the district military command in Los Palos, whose name he knew, with the help of several East Timorese women married to senior Indonesian military officers. Kirsty Sword Gusmão also wrote to S requesting reunion. By this time S had become a high-ranking Indonesian officer and he had no alternative other than to co-operate with the request. It was only after Aluc had contacted him that S told Benvindo of his true identity.

For Benvindo it was confusing to discover suddenly that he had two fathers. He said that he felt as if he were acting out a scene from a soap opera. When he first met his biological father, by which time he was 18, he was shocked, but then overjoyed and proud of his natural father. He now says that, even though he has been raised as a Javanese, has a Javanese name, follows Javanese customs and speaks Javanese, he is East Timorese and wants to recover his East Timorese identity and learn Portuguese so that he can communicate with his parents who do not speak Indonesian.50 Like other children transferred to Indonesia, Benvindo had crossed a colonial border and taken on the identity of the enemy of his father and people, not because he was a collaborator or traitor but because he was a child and that was his experience.

Benvindo was understandably torn between his affection for his adoptive father and his biological father, for whom he soon developed great respect. He had known no other father than S, yet it was obvious to him that he was Aluc’s son. Stolen Argentinean children also faced this dilemma when they discovered that the parents who had raised them were the murderers of their biological parents, and it was most difficult for children who had had good experiences in their adoptive homes (Robinson and Linda 1998). Benvindo had to face the fact that those he loved had lied to him. He was more fortunate than many children transferred to Indonesia as his biological parents had survived, yet he could not choose between his two fathers. Perhaps only a child placed in this situation could arrive at the solution he found. Benvindo, who had been taken forcibly across the colonial border, told his two fathers that he was a bridge between them and that, although former enemies, through him they had become friends. They exchanged weapons to cement this friendship and Aluc now proudly wears the sword he received as a gift from S.

Colonial attitudes persisted despite the new friendship. To his credit, S apologised for taking Benvindo. Unlike most soldiers who took children, S had sent a photograph of Benvindo when he was about five years old to his mother. S invited Aluc to take Benvindo home, but warned him that his education would suffer if he returned to East Timor, thus persisting with the approach used throughout the occupation by soldiers and others to persuade parents to hand over their children. Benvindo, who goes by his Indonesian name Shalih Zeromon Miranda Rahman,is now an adult and what is important for Aluc is that his son learns the truth about his parents, about their struggle and about how their son’s removal to Java and adoption into an Indonesian family was part of that story – indeed representative of it.51

Benvindo in Jakarta

Benvindo (Shalih Zeromon Miranda Rahman), centre, with East Timor relatives and Javanese friend, in Jakarta, 2006.
© Helene van Klinken

Benvindo in front of radio microphone

Benvindo in East Timor

Benvindo giving an interview to Radio Nederland in East Timor, August, 2009
© Aboeprijadi Santoso


Indonesia’s integration project in East Timor began and ended violently and suddenly. The militarised nature of the occupation became evident as the end played out on television screens around the world. As in the late 1970s, the population was displaced on a stupendous scale in 1999 to live in camps in Indonesia controlled by East Timorese militia with Indonesian military backing.

The East Timorese militia and pro-integrationists were angered by the loss of East Timor. They were disappointed that Indonesian promises that East Timor would always be part of Indonesia were broken, resulting in the end to their favoured status. It is likely that they feared revenge from their fellow East Timorese whom they had mistreated with impunity and were determined to demand the return of East Timor to the Indonesian fold and that their fervent support for integration did not go unrewarded. Indonesian soldiers had taken children from East Timor in the war to establish their superiority over the East Timorese. Likewise, some of these pro-integrationists, acting as if they were the victors in the final outburst of conflict, took children to support their ideological aims. It was in a climate of fear and deprivation that many parents, in 1977 and 1999, handed over their children to people who came to them with offers to care for and educate their children in a safe, albeit distant, environment. As part of their plan to keep alive the hope of the reintegration of East Timor with Indonesia, the pro-Indonesian East Timorese intended to educate the children in their care with this vision for the future.

After 1999 the UNHCR had the task of reuniting children separated from their parents. At first, Indonesian officials, many of whom shared the anti-United Nations sentiments of those holding the children, did not act decisively and demand the return of the children. The Indonesian authorities once again condoned transfers, just as they had condoned them throughout the occupation. Gradually, however, Indonesian officials took up the responsibility of forcing the organisations to comply with parental requests for the return of their children. The Catholic Church, in contrast to its position towards integration in the earlier years of the occupation, also took a firm stand against the transfer of children far from their families. Pressure also came from Indonesian NGOs and from United Nations agencies and foreign journalists, all of whom called on the Indonesian government to take steps to intervene on behalf of the children. In tandem with this, the ardent pro-integrationists began to lose their Indonesian political sponsors and military backers as the end of the East Timor project became an undeniable reality.

The children were separated from their parents in 1999 when East Timor was in chaos and were traumatised when they arrived at their destinations in Indonesia. Those who held them manipulated them with misinformation about the situation in East Timor and, as minors, they had no choice other than to trust their carers. They were caught in a tug-of-war, not knowing whether to believe the information from the UNHCR about their parents and the situation in East Timor or what they were told by their carers. Like the East Timorese population held in the camps by East Timorese militia, the children who were taken from their families were victims in the political struggle that ended the integration project.


1 For a brief chronology of events, see Dunn (2006: xxiii–xxxii).

2 For an account of the conduct of the vote, see Martin (2001).

3 For history and analysis of militias in East Timor, see Robinson (2002: 246ff).

4 For a description of displacement in each district, see CAVR (2006: 7.3 Nos. 423–484) and for the killing and destruction see also CAVR (2006: Nos. 757–765), UNHCR (2000:Nos.102, 103, 132, 133) and Dunn (2003: 339-360).

5 The distrust and anger of the militias towards foreigners culminated in the murder of three UNHCR staff in Atambua in September 2000 (UNHCR 2004b: 17: 28–29; East Timor–UNTAET News 2000).

6 In 2006 the Social Welfare Department (Dinas Sosial) of the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province registered 53, 889 Timorese who qualified to receive social security benefits (Dominggus Elcid Li, email, 2007)

7 Dominggus Elcid Li (email, 2007); there are no statistics indicating their numbers.

8 According to an official government registration on 6 June 2001 by the Social Welfare Department in NTT province, 111,540 Timorese registered to stay on in Indonesia. Of these 14,085 were public servants, including teachers, 1,894 police, 3,763 members of the armed forces and 750 civilian employees of the military. The problem with calculating numbers is that the categories are not clearly delineated. Some but not all civil servants and security personnel were calculated in the number of those who qualified to receive social security benefits. Some of those included in the numbers of East Timorese who registered to stay on in Indonesia were Indonesians who had lived in East Timor for many years, and some people were registered in more than one camp (Dominggus Elcid Li, email, 2007).

9 This article reported that in 2002 there were 1,545 refugees in South Sulawesi. In 2000 the Community Development Organisation in Polewali estimated 7,449 East Timorese in Southeast Sulawesi (Father Felix Layadi, telephone conversation, Makassar, 2003). and in 2007 the numbers in North Sulawesi were given as 27,600 (Antara 2007). The discrepancy in numbers is probably because the higher numbers include Indonesians who previously lived in East Timor, working in business and as transmigrants.

10 Most of the children found their families again after spending a short time at the Carmelite convent in Maubara, 50 kilometres west of Dili. Four children who had been unable to do so by 2004 continued to live at the convent and attend school (Maria Margarida Babo, interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

11 Fernando Jose Freitas Soares (interview, Quelicai, 25 March 2004).

12 Orlando de Araujo (interview, Kuluhun, Dili, 4 March 2004).

13 Haji Paita Halim, ketua pengurus (head organiser), Sulthan Alauddin Mosque (interview, Makassar, March 2003).

14 Pokastim staff (interviews, Jakarta, 1 January 2002).

15 Children from Ermera living with Dr Frank Tow, Kupang (conversations, 9 February 2004).

16 Cornelius Banoe (interview, Kupang, 9 February 2004).

17 Anonymous interview, Makassar, March 2003).

18 Alex Haryanto Freitas (interview, Bandung, 2004).

19 According to Syamsul Bahari, the student association in Bandung was more representative and democratic than that in Sulawesi, but was unable to reach agreement. It is likely that Hasan Basri modelled his pesantren on the pesantren in Java, which are established and run by an individual religious leader, kiyai.

20 Agustinho Pereira Pasqual (interview, Tibar, 5 May 2004).

21 Thomas Ximenes (interview, Bandung, 28 January 2004) and anonymous interview, Makassar, March 2003.

22 The Internet Archive does not record older versions of the website in which the position of the organisation was stated more overtly.

23 On 14 January 2002, members of the Association of East Timorese Students (Associacao Dos Estudantes De Timor-Leste), reported ten serious attacks between May 2000 and December 2001 on their members to the police in Yogyakarta (Faustino Cardoso Gomes, interview, Yogyakarta, 2002).

24 Villagers in Laclubar, Manatuto (conversations, 2 April 2003).

25 Hati Foundation said they stored Rp5,000/month for each child, though the parents of some children who returned home complained that this money was not refunded (parents at the Noelbaki camp, Kupang, conservations, 8 February 2004).

26 Hati Foundation took the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kupang to court in 2002 for accusing the foundation of stealing children to enrich themselves, though Hati lost the case (JRS staff, email and telephone conversation, 10 December 2007).

27 James J Spillane SJ (interview, Yogyakarta, 9 May 2003), and Father Joachim Sarmento (interview, Dili, 4 May 2004).

28 Helio Soares (interview, Kupang, February 2004), and staff at St Thomas, Ungaran (conversations, July 2001).

29 Budi Herlianto, Soegijapranata Social Welfare Foundation, Semarang (interview, January 2004).

30 Taman Bina Anak Bangsa Asrama is in Playen, Wonosari (Kompas 2001a).

31 Soewardijo (interview, Yogyakarta, 3 February 2004).

32 Staff at St Thomas (conversations, Ungaran, 2001); Zacky Anwar Makarim was head of the armed forces intelligence agency, BIA, in 1999 and oversaw the organisation of pro-Indonesia militias in East Timor.

33 Pokastim (interviews, Jakarta, January 2002). UNTAET was the sovereign power from 10 October 1999 until East Timor gained independence on 20 May 2002.

34 For the Hati Foundation version of this meeting, see Yayasan Hati (2001a).

35 UNHCR staff (conversations, Dili, April 2004).

36 See also the press statement by the Indonesian head of Political and Information Affairs of the Consulate in Dili, about the children in the care of Hati Foundation (Suara Timor Lorosae 2001).

37 Linda (interview, Dare, 9 March 2004).

38 Abilio Soares (interview, Jakarta, 24 January 2004).

39 He served only three months of the sentence, which was revoked on appeal, and died in June 2007.

40 Natan Ngguso, PA Harapan, Bawen, Central Java (telephone conversation, 5 February 2004).

41 Sr Inoue Chizuyo (interviews, Jakarta, 2004 and 2005).In 2009 some of these children had completed high school and ould not contiue their education in Indonesia as their nationality status was unclear (F. Dimas Ariyangto, Lembaga Perlinhdungan Anak, interview, Yogyakarta, July 2009).

42 Cornelius Banoe (interview, Kupang, 9 February 2004).

43 Mohammad Iqbal Menezes (interview, Dili, 1 April 2004).

44 Student members of Ipmitim, Bandung (interviews, Bandung, February 2004).

45 Head staff of Sumur Bandung panti asuhan (interview, Bandung, 29 January 2004).

46 Syamsul Bahari (interview, Baucau, 23 April 2004).

47 Antonio Freitas (email and telephone communication, Bandung, 2005); Alola Foundation ( is run by Kirsty Sword Gusmão, the Australian wife of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão.

48 In 2004 the contact had been lost (Filamena dos Santos, interview, Letefoho, Ermera, 23 February 2004).

49 Kantor Berita Radio 68H supports a network of 700 local and private stations.

50 The Descart family comes from Los Palos where Fataluku, rather than Tetun, is the local language.

51 S died in May 2005. In 2009 Benvindo returned to East Timor where he now lives (Tol 2009).

Cite this chapter as: van Klinken, Helene. 2011. Chapter 5: 'Separations after the referendum'. In Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing. Pp. 143-171.

Making Them Indonesians: Child Transfers out of East Timor

   by Helene van Klinken