BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor home

"Many Timorese including liurai paid with their lives [at the hands of Japanese military 1942-45] either for standing neutral or for alleged support of Australian guerrillas. ... The number of Timorese who died during the war is impossible to calculate with precision but is of the order of 40-70,000 out of a total prewar population of around 450,000. The disruption to native agriculture and the breakdown of prewar society stemming from the harsh system of food collection and corvees imposed by the Japanese inevitably led to famine and other hardships, including debilitating disease. ... The issues of Japanese wartime compensation including the claims of so-called "comfort women" or sexual slavery in Timor first became public in 1997 but only in the Macau media where it was taken up by Jose Ramos-Horta speaking on behalf of the Timorese people." Geoffrey C. Gunn, author, Timor Loro Sae: 500 Years
See also:

Jun 30 JCCJP: Japanese church leaders oppose Japanese troops in East Timor
Dec 10 2000 KY: ETimor: 2 ex-sex slaves break silence at NGO tribunal
Dec 8 2000 DPA: Women demand apology & compensation for War-time Japanese mistreatment
Sept 27 1999 Noam Chomsky: East Timor Retrospective - An overview and lessons

 

Geoffrey C. Gunn
Timor Loro Sae: 500 Years
Macao, Livros do Oriente
1999.
 

Book Extract:
 

Chapter 12

Wartime Timor: 1942-45

[Excerpts from Chapter 12]

While the combined Japanese Navy-Army thrust into Dutch Timor on 19 February 1942 met with little native resistance, a success that can be attributed to careful intelligence preparation by Japanese agents prior to the event, as much adroit propaganda cultivation of an "older brother" image, the situation was more complex in Portuguese Timor owing to both the status of Portugal as a neutral as much as the presence in situ of a combined Dutch-Australian force. Whereas Allied forces were badly defeated in the attempted defence of Dutch Timor, where they became either prisoners ofwar or the subject of Japanese massacres, in Portuguese Timor military actions against the Japanese by the guerrillas were entirely useful to the Allied cause and proceeded according to the textbook. Needless to say, the Japanese invasion of Portuguese Timor was treated by the local Portuguese authorities with the same disdain as the earlier Dutch-Australian intervention. Not surprisingly in these circumstances, Portuguese-Japanese relations in Timor came under severe strain as the occupation progressed. But, as this chapterseeks to expose, the wartime occupation of Timor by Allies and Japanese alike left the Timorese drained and exhausted by war end, abject victims of a cynical intra-imperialist struggle played out in Tokyo, Washington, Canberra, London and even Berlin. A sub-theme concerns the way that the wartime intervention opened up old wounds and rekindled atavistic tendencies reminiscent of the ancient Timorese funu.
 

Japanese Military Rule in Timor: 1942-45

Japanese motives as to their invasion were first made known to the people Dili in the form of leaflets dropped over the city on 21 February 1942, the day after the combined Navy-Army invasion of Portuguese Timor. These made known that Japan was now at war with both the Netherlands and Australia, deemed "a component of the United Kingdom", and that Japanese Forces were obliged to act in response to the stationing of Dutch forces in a "neutral country". While, from the outset of the Japanese invasion, the Portuguese were under extreme duress, it was not until 9 August 1942 that the Japanese inaugurated a plan for the destruction of the Portuguese administration in Timor. From an Australian source, the Japanese political project involved a number of strands which commenced to be implemented in that month. These were; the systematic bombing of Portuguese postos, the importation and training of Timorese allies from Dutch Timor, propaganda directed at the Timorese and elimination of pro-Australian Timorese, the killing of pro-Australian Portuguese officiaIs, the gradual elimination of the Portuguese administration culminating in the transfer of all Portuguese officials to Liquisa in December 1942, the introduction of paper currency, and the acceleration of the military campaign in the eastern sector of the island in order to eliminate the Australian threat. The following pages shall demonstrate how these objectives were met and with what results.
 

War Crimes

Besides the questions of Allied POW's and Australian war graves, discussions on Japanese war crimes were also broached by Forsyth at the time of his visit to Portuguese Timor. While efforts were made to induce the Governor to initiate proceedings, he took the view that Japanese crimes committed against Portuguese subjects should be exclusively investigated by Portuguese authorities, therefore ruling out the possibility of joint investigations. In the event, the two parties agreed that the question of cooperation would be referred to the respective governments. Dyke, however, entered into some preliminary investigations in the knowledge that the diffficulty to collect concrete information would increase with time.

On 21 June 1946 Major Quinton of the War Crimes Commission arrived in Dili. With the agreement of the Governor, who in turn communicated with Lisbon, a committee was formed including Quinton, Manuel Metelo Raposo de Luz Teixcira, the Administrator of Bobonaro, and Captain Pos of the RNEIA, attached to the U.S. Prosecutor of Major War Criminals in Tokyo. While, once again, the Australians sought joint investigation, they were obliged to confine their activities to Australian victims. In a memo to Charles Eaton, the first postwar Australian Consul in Dili, Quinton complained of "obstinacy" and even of "cover up" by Portuguese officials in revealing the names of those who collaborated with Japanese prior to and during the war. But it was also the case that the Australian War Crimes section felt that war crimes investigations "should not be left in the hands of neutrals". The theme of blaming the Portuguese for their own misfortunes was one that would recur in official Australian attitudes towards Timor.

A scrutiny of the relevant offcial documentation on war crimes investigation in Timor reveals, first, real reason for concern, second, a certain zealousness on the part of investigators to come up with the smoking gun, and third, grave difficulties in bringing about prosecutions owing to conflicting evidence, vague testimony, difficulty in identification of individuals in the various military units that rotated through Timor and even in tracking down the guilty parties who had already re-entered civilian life back in Japan. For the historian, the problem of reconstruction is exacerbated by the fragmentary nature of the remaining and available documentation.

The following incidents as well as judgements are well documented, however; torture of members of "Z" Special Force comprised of groups of special commandos inserted in Timor in September 1943, and April and August 1944, following the withdrawal of the 2/40 and the 2/2. [At war crimes trials held in Darwin in May 1946, three Japanese were handed down one to three month prison sentences, while six accused persons were acquitted]; execution of 24 Australian and Allied persons discovered in a mass grave near Kupang; the detention of Australian and other Allied personnel in the appalling Oesapa Besar POW camp near Kupang until evacuated to Java in August-September 1942; and atrocities committed by the Fukumi Butai corps against a party of 16 men of the 2nd Independent Company on 23 February, the morning of the Japanese Navy assault on Dili. In this affair, 16 men of the 2/2 were captured, four were immediately shot and the rest bar one executed by sword. Many fingers point to the nefarious activities of an organization called Ortori, linked with the Kempetai. One of the Australian commandos survived his bayonet wounds to tell the story. Although the prime subject committed suicide following interrogation, at a subsequent war crimes trial, two Japanese were sentenced to death by hanging, two were handed down life sentences and one was given fifteen years imprisonment.
 

Conclusion

Many Timorese including liurai paid with their lives either for standing neutral or for alleged support of Australian guerrillas. Many other Portuguese and Timorese were executed by the Japanese without court martial. One Portuguese writer who has studied this question, Vieira da Rocha, lists the names of 75 Portuguese and assimilados who died as a result of the Japanese occupation. At least ten died in combat against the Japanese, 37 were murdered while eight died in detention. Many were deportado, most were officials. The number of Timorese who died during the war is impossible to calculate with precision but is of the order of 40-70,000 out of a total prewar population of around 450,000. The disruption to native agriculture and the breakdown of prewar society stemming from the harsh system of food collection and corvees imposed by the Japanese inevitably led to famine  and other hardships, including debilitating disease.

It is clear that the Australian War Crimes investigators were only interested in investigating crimes against the Australian commandos, not against civilian Timorese or Chinese victims who suffered most from Japanese regime of terror. While Australian investigators collated a mass of oral testimony as to atrocities committed against Portuguese, Chinese, and Timorese, no action was taken in these cases. While Japanese crimes against the Portuguese were actually commemorated in stone in a splendid and surviving monument in Aileu it also has to be said that ordinary Timorese were prime victims of Japanese excesses and recriminations. Equally, it was ordinary Timorese who suffered most from draconian labour details not to mention the economy of scarcity imposed by wartime conditions.

It also cannot pass without mention that alone among the peoples and countries occupied by Japan during the Pacific War, Portugal's oceanic colony was not a beneficiary of war reparations as set down at the 1951 San Francisco Conference as Portugal was not, technically, a belligerent in this war. As a visiting private Japanese consortium learnt at first hand in Timor in the 1970s, neither had Japan seen fit to redeem military script issued during the war, the basis upon which the Japanese army financed its occupation of the country. The issues of Japanese wartime compensation including the claims of so-called "comfort women" or sexual slavery in Timor first became public in 1997 but only in the Macau media where it was taken up by Jose Ramos-Horta speaking on behalf of the Timorese people.

No less, as we have seen in this chapter, the disruptive actions of outsiders awakened in familiar pattern the atavisticianu of the Timorese fuelling violence to dangerous levels. Without question, the manipulation of ancient animosities by the Australians and, especially, Japanese in their own version of intra-imperialist struggle imposed a heavy price upon the Timorese as victims.

(c) Copyright 1999


Available from AETA: Australia-East Timor Association:

Current AETA Resource List (Australia-East Timor Association)  Resources on ETimor added Apr 26
AETA (Melbourne) provide a community-based non-profit service that includes the provision of books, educational materials, Tetum language books/kits and music CDs/cassettes. This diverse collection of resources includes materials that are otherwise difficult to obtain. - BD


See also:

Jun 30 JCCJP: Japanese church leaders oppose Japanese troops in East Timor  Position statement added July 10
"Most Japanese people want Japan to contribute to world peace first and foremost by strictly adhering to its war-renouncing “peace constitution.” ... The present government plan to send the SDF to join a peace keeping operation in East is directly opposed to theses, the fervently held wishes of our people. Furthermore, this newly planned dispatch of Japanese troops to East Timor is particularly callous in light of the Government’s refusal to this day to fully acknowledge, apologize for, or compensate the army’s sex slaves and other victims of Japan’s occupation of East Timor during the Pacific War." Japanese Catholic Council for Justice and Peace

Feb 12 Xanana: Symposium on “Reconciliation, Tolerance, Human Rights and Elections”  Speech added Feb 15
"We believe that after the rebellion of the Manufahi, the Timorese People, obviously still divided by kingdoms, lived an era of a better relationship among themselves until the period before the Japanese invasion. The Japanese invasion, from 1942 to 1945, was another test to the courage of the Timorese people which concurrently managed to live with the invaders while maintaining a determination to fight its presence. I am from the generation post-Japanese invasion. From this period until the Indonesian invasion 30 years went by." President Xanana

Dec 10 2000 KY: ETimor: 2 ex-sex slaves break silence at NGO tribunal  Added Dec 11
"Two East Timorese women broke over half a century of silence Sunday and told of their ordeals as sex slaves of the Imperial Japanese Army at a mock tribunal to try the Japanese government over its responsibility for the recruitment of so-called ''comfort women'' before and during World War II." Kyodo

Dec 8 2000 DPA: Women demand apology & compensation for War-time Japanese mistreatment  Added Dec 9
"The Japanese government, which failed to respond to the tribunal's invitation to participate in the event, continues to deny any legal responsibility for the suffering of the former comfort women. Sexual violence committed by the Japanese Imperial Army was hardly touched by the 1946-1948 International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo, set up by the Allied Forces after the war." Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Sept 27 1999 Noam Chomsky: East Timor Retrospective - An overview and lessons  Analysis added Dec 28
"The story does not begin in 1975. East Timor had not been overlooked by the planners of the postwar world. The territory should be granted independence, Roosevelt's senior adviser Sumner Welles mused, but "it would certainly take a thousand years." With an awe-inspiring display of courage and fortitude, the people of East Timor have struggled to confound that cynical prediction, enduring monstrous disasters. Perhaps 50,000 lost their lives protecting a small contingent of Australian commandoes fighting the Japanese; their heroism may have saved Australia from Japanese invasion. A third of the population were victims of the first years of the 1975 Indonesian invasion, many more since." Noam Chomsky


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