Edited by Andrew T.H. Tan
Chapter 18: East Timor under Indonesian Occupation, 1975–99
Peter Carey The new nation On 20 May 2002, East Timor became the world’s youngest sovereign state. This tiny country, which at the ﬁrst national census in July 2004 numbered 924 000 souls, had only gained its independence after 24 years of brutal occupation by its vast neighbour Indonesia (2004 population 235 million). This had been brought to an end in extreme violence following the UNsupervised popular consultation of 30 August 1999 when 78.5 per cent of the population voted for independence. Only the timely arrival of the Australian-led UN-mandated International Force in East Timor (InterFET) had saved the territory from complete destruction, forced population displacement and further killings of pro-independence supporters at the hands of the Indonesian army-orchestrated pro-autonomy militias.1 This chapter documents the course of events in the East Timor conﬂict since the mid-1970s, highlights the abusive nature of the 24-year Indonesian military occupation, and concludes that East Timor’s fate was intimately bound up with the international politics of the Cold War. Historical background Linked to Portugal since the early sixteenth century, ﬁrst through trade in its famed sandalwood and the proselytizing activities of its Dominican friars – and subsequently (post-1701) through the more formal colonial presence of a Crown-appointed governor – East Timor had eventually been constituted as a territory of the Portuguese overseas empire (ultramar) following the formal demarcation of its land boundary with Dutch-occupied West Timor in 1913.2 This seemingly arbitrary divide, which was further complicated by the inclusion of the tiny enclave (2004 population 15...
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