Special to The Japan Times When Bella Galhos packed up her Indonesian military youth-corps uniform and shipped it off to the Indonesian government from Canada, she was saying goodbye to a dangerous double life and was beginning her crusade to inform people about a genocide that has largely been hidden from the world’s view for 24 years.
Since fleeing East Timor in 1994, Galhos has been speaking to audiences in North America, Europe and Australia about the horrors her country has suffered since it was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, when she was three years old. She has also lobbied officials in the United States and Canada to end their governments’ complicity in what has been called the worst genocide, per capita, since the European Holocaust.
About 200,000 East Timorese — one-third of the pre-invasion population — have died as a result of Indonesia’s illegal occupation of the former Portugese colony, which began less than 24 hours after an official state visit to Jakarta by then U.S. President Gerald Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.
“I consider myself one of the lucky ones. There are hundreds of thousands of East Timorese who can’t talk about what they’ve experienced for the past 24 years,” said Galhos during a recent speaking engagement in Yonago, Japan.
Two of Galhos’ younger brothers were not so fortunate. They were both murdered while still young children by Indonesian soldiers. “The reason my brothers were killed was because they were crying out of hunger,” she says. The soldiers, who had entered the Galhos household without permission, feared that the boys’ cries would alert East Timorese resistance fighters to their presence, so they bludgeoned them with their M-16 rifles.
When Galhos was a 10-year-old elementary school student, soldiers showed up one day at the school and demanded that all the female students line up outside the school building. They were then injected with Depo Provera to induce sterility. The soldiers did not stop at this. “They came to every house, every school. They lined up all the women — even married women — and they made us give our bodies to Indonesia,” Galhos says.
What Galhos recalls was no isolated incident, but rather part of a large-scale campaign. In the early 1980s, the Indonesian government launched a “family planning” program in East Timor — one that would receive partial funding from the World Bank — even though there was no apparent need for it. As Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Carlos Belo observed, “With so many dead, we have no population problem here.”
Widespread sterilization remained an element in Indonesia’s genocidal pattern of behavior in East Timor well into this decade. In 1994, Bishop Belo reported that village women were being subjected to a “systematic sterilization program” at village clinics that were under the supervision of military posts.
Galhos’ experiences led her to start working with the resistance in 1989, when she was 17 years old. In 1991, she became an official member of the clandestine independence movement, and from that point on she encouraged other women to join. In November 1991, she helped organize a peaceful demonstration to protest the killing of a young East Timorese by the Indonesian Army. After demonstrators had marched to a cemetery in Dili, the East Timor capital, Indonesian forces suddenly opened fire, killing at least 271 people.
Following the massacre, Galhos had to pretend to be loyal to the Indonesian government. To protect herself and her family, she signed up for the Indonesian military youth-corps and served in it for three years while continuing to be active in the underground resistance.
Galhos’ escape from East Timor occurred a month shy of her 22nd birthday. After a month of interrogation and training at a military camp in East Timor, she was chosen to represent the Indonesian government in the Canada World Youth Exchange Program. But Galhos defected after arriving in Canada in October 1994, putting her youth-corps uniform in a box and mailing it to the Indonesian Embassy in Ottawa.
Now Galhos serves as an official representative for the National Council of Timorese Resistance, the international umbrella organization of the East Timorese resistance. She says she speaks to people not only “as an East Timorese, but especially as an East Timorese woman.”
As in the case of all military occupations, women and children in East Timor have suffered the most. Rape has been used in East Timor as a tactic in the effort to break the people’s will to resist. Galhos’ aunt was raped to death by Indonesian soldiers. Many wives of resistance fighters have been made to fly in helicopters over the mountains where the guerrillas take refuge and urge their husbands to surrender. Women unable to persuade their husbands to lay down their arms are often shot and dumped in Dili’s harbor, or thrown from the helicopters, says Galhos.
“Women have gone from being second-class citizens to third-class citizens. The first class is Indonesian military, the second class is East Timorese men, and the third class is women,” Galhos says. “In a society where men lose power in public life, they will find a place where they can play that role again. That place becomes the home. So domestic violence is very high.” Galhos says East Timorese women are not willing to talk about domestic violence because of the risk involved. “You can lose members of your family. There’s nobody you can turn to. There’s no way women are going to turn to the Indonesian military to come help with family problems at home.”
In her presentations and in interviews, Galhos constantly returns to the theme of Western and Japanese complicity in the genocide in East Timor. It is not hard to understand why she emphasizes this aspect of the tragedy in her homeland. The U.S., Britain, Australia and Japan clearly have allowed their economic and diplomatic interests to blind them to what has taken place in East Timor. The result has been one of this century’s most appalling examples of Western and Japanese hypocrisy regarding human rights and self-determination.
The U.S. has supplied Indonesia with about 90 percent of its arms and military equipment since 1975. The year after the invasion of East Timor, the U.S. doubled military aid to Indonesia. The Carter and Reagan administrations both lavished arms on Indonesia while the killing in East Timor was reaching genocidal proportions, and the Clinton administration has sold or licensed more than $1 billion worth of arms to Indonesia since 1992.
Following the 1991 Dili massacre, the U.S. Congress prohibited Indonesian officers from coming to the U.S. to receive military training. What Congress did not realize is that U.S. special forces continued training with Indonesian soldiers in Indonesia under the auspices of the Joint/Combined Exchange Training program.
U.S. forces participating in JCET exercises in Indonesia have included the Army’s 1st Battalion of the 1st Special Forces Group “Airborne,” a Green Beret unit based in Okinawa. Between 1995 and 1998 the Okinawa-based Green Berets engaged in 11 training exercises with Indonesia’s notorious Kopassus special forces, who are widely feared throughout East Timor and the Indonesian archipelago because of their brutal counterinsurgency methods. In November 1996, the Green Berets conducted “special reconnaissance techniques” training with Kopassus Group 4, an intelligence unit that was linked last year to the kidnapping and torture of at least nine Indonesian activists. According to intelligence gathered by the East Timorese resistance, 400 members of Kopassus Group 4 landed in West Timor last fall and were seen heading east.
Japan, meanwhile, has been the largest foreign investor in Indonesia since 1967, accounting for 20 percent of all direct foreign investment in the Southeast Asian nation, according to Indonesia’s Capital Investment Coordinating Board. As of March 1998, Japanese investments since 1967 had totaled $42.04 billion.
Indonesia’s second largest company, Indonesia Petroleum Ltd., or Inpex, is a Japanese joint venture with headquarters in Tokyo. It has been conducting petroleum exploration and production in conjunction with the Indonesian state oil and gas company since 1966 — right after Suharto consolidated his power by purging Indonesia of up to 1 million alleged communists. Inpex has substantial interests in the Timor Gap, including a 21 percent share of the Bayu Undan gas field.
Japan also ranks as Indonesia’s largest trading partner, purchasing 27 percent of Indonesia’s exports, while producing 22 percent of Indonesia’s imports. In addition, the Japanese government disburses more development aid to Indonesia than any other nation.
“Japan since the invasion has given political and economic support to Indonesia and has never tried to link its aid to this obvious aggression. . . . Doing nothing and saying nothing were actually what Indonesia wanted, and Japan was loyal to Indonesia’s desire,” says Akihisa Matsuno, an Osaka-based scholar and activist who organized a recent speaking tour of Japan featuring Galhos and two other East Timorese women.
Galhos and many others in the resistance movement are flabbergasted that the U.S., Britain, Australia and Japan all were selected to help monitor August’s U.N.-sponsored referendum in which East Timorese will choose between independence or greater autonomy within Indonesia. “With one exception — the Philippines — the countries chosen to monitor the referendum supplied arms, economic support and diplomatic support to Indonesia during its occupation of East Timor. Now they’re the ones who are going to participate in the vote that is so important to East Timorese people.”
Galhos warns that adequate preparations are not being made for the August referendum. Army-backed paramilitaries — many of whose members hail from Indonesian West Timor — are wreaking havoc on civil society. People are being “hunted every day” by the paramilitaries, Galhos says. “People cannot stay in their houses. Thousands are now escaping to the bush.”
Galhos believes the Indonesian military is trying to subvert the referendum because elements of the Indonesian military stand to lose a lot if East Timor becomes an independent nation. “All of the wealth of our country has been privatized by people who have been involved in the invasion and occupation of East Timor,” Galhos says. She notes that Gen. Benny Murdani, who led the invasion of East Timor, owns a company called P.T. Denok, which enjoys a monopoly on all of the coffee grown in East Timor. Another military-owned company, P.T. Scent, controls the harvesting and sale of East Timor’s sandalwood. Both P.T. Denok and P.T. Scent are subsidiaries of the P.T. Batara Indra Group, which dominates the East Timorese economy. The group reportedly is owned by the Indonesian military or by interests close to the military.
Independent human-rights observers support Galhos’ claim that the Indonesian Army is behind the violence that has plagued East Timor the past few months. Amnesty International has condemned the army for fomenting violence in East Timor, claiming that “paramilitaries — armed and supported by the Indonesian armed forces — have been let loose to murder, rape and torture innocent civilians whose support for East Timorese independence they do not share.” The human-rights group asserts that “the timing is no coincidence. All the indications suggest that this is a deliberate attempt by the Indonesian military and prointegration paramilitary groups to destabilize the situation and thus undermine the diplomatic process to find a political solution to the conflict in East Timor.”
East Timorese thus find one last major hurdle on the road to independence. “For the last 24 years, we have been struggling alone,” says Galhos. “The decision to allow a referendum is not something they [the Indonesian government] suddenly decided to do. It is the result of 24 years of struggle.” What remains to be seen at this critical juncture is whether the rest of the world will offer meaningful support for East Timor’s struggle for peace and self-determination, or whether East Timor’s soil will once again be soaked with the blood of the innocent.
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