BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor  home   February news

"The Indonesian Government often claims that it has disarmed the militias and that it wants normal relations with independent East Timor, but its actions and statements, as outlined [below], show that these intentions are either not felt by all concerned or simply not genuine. ... Timorese society has its own traditional methods of resolving conflicts, which include material compensation paid by the offender to the victim. Employing such traditional methods might make the idea of reconciliation more understandable and, consequently, make it more meaningful for those concerned." ETO
See Also:
BD: Pro-autonomy Movements / Pró autonomia Movimentos - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news
Portuguese: Feb 12 OTL: Movimentos e partidos Pró autonomia: evolução desde o referendo  Report

East Timor Observatory

Ref.: POL01-12/02/2001eng

Subject : Political Movements and Parties: pro- autonomy

Overview of pro-autonomy movements & parties
The Facts


How have the pro-autonomy movements evolved since the August 1999 referendum, in which 78,5% of the electors voted in favour of independence? The two main groups, the militias and their political wing (UNTAS), both operating from within Indonesia, oppose the presence of relief organisations so they can maintain control over the refugees, without whom they would lose their power. They send armed men into East Timor to incite a guerrilla struggle, and still receive political and military support in Indonesia. Only one high-ranking militia leader has accepted the reality of the referendum; he announced the formation of a political party in order to run in the elections, under the colours of the Indonesian flag. His fellow pro-Indonesia militants, however, call him a traitor as they refuse to accept the referendum results.  International pressure is beginning to have an effect: two militia leaders have been arrested and others, fearing the same fate, are threatening to reveal all about the Indonesian armed forces that supplied them with weapons and incited them to kill.

Inside East Timor, a radical Timorese group is opposing, sometimes violently, the CNRT and Fretilin. They are calling for a return of the Democratic Republic of East Timor (RDTL), proclaimed by Fretilin in 1975. However, there are links between the RDTL’s leader and activities and Abílio Araújo who, at the time of the referendum, advocated autonomy within Indonesia for East Timor.   top


In spite of the Indonesian Government’s official acceptance of the August 1999 referendum results, and the successive modifications in the State apparatus – the election of President Abdurrahman Wahid being the most prominent - support given to the militias by politicians and military has diminished slowly and only then because of international pressure. Pressure from the international community has also had a negative effect: it has provoked a nationalist backlash that has been exacerbated by politicians who are waiting for President Wahid’s fall from power. An important factor of change now seems to lie in the rejection of the refugees by West Timor’s Indonesian population, themselves victims of militia violence. The future of the refugees depends on the balance or, more accurately, the imbalance between the Timorese and Indonesian forces who want to keep them in West Timor because their presence there generates economic and/or political gains, and those who are eager for them to return to East Timor, even if their motive is just to get rid of them and the problems they represent.  top

Overview of pro-autonomy movements & parties:

PPI – ‘Pejuang Pro-Integrasi’ or ‘Pasukan Pejuang Integrasi’ (Pro-Integration Fighters) is the military umbrella organisation for all the militia groups. The same structure also goes by the acronym MPO – ‘Milisia Pro-Otonomy’.
Its principle leaders are João da Silva Tavares and Eurico Guterres. The organisation’s third in command, Hermínio da Silva da Costa, resigned in May to form a political party – the PPT.
(For information on militias and leaders before the referendum, see OTL FA09)

UNTAS – ‘Uni Timor Aswain’ (Aswain means Heroes), an organisation created in West Timor on 5 Feb. 2000, is the successor to the FPDK (‘Forum Persatuan, Demokrasi dan Keadilan’ – Unity, Democracy & Justice Forum), which was set up before the referendum to provide political cover for the militias. UNTAS maintains that the UN-organised referendum was fraudulent.
Its leading figures are: Domingos das Dores Soares, Basílio Dias Araújo and Filomeno de Jesus Hornay.

BRTT . ‘Barisan Rakyat Timor Timur’ (East Timorese People’s Front) was founded prior to the referendum by Francisco Lopes da Cruz (President Suharto’s former adviser on East Timor affairs) to put more emphasis on political action (being neglected by the PPI and UNTAS). Francisco Lopes da Cruz is currently Indonesia’s ambassador to Greece. On East Timor’s National Council (forerunner to an East Timorese Parliament, and composed of 36 members appointed by UNTAET) the BRTT holds one of the 5 seats reserved for pro-autonomy parties. Its representative on the Council is Salvador Ximenes Soares.

PNT – Timorese Nationalist Party was founded by Abílio Araújo, who used to be Fretilin’s overseas representative until being sacked by fellow militants over his political and financial ties with Francisco Lopes da Cruz and the Suharto clan, namely Suharto’s eldest daughter. The PNT’s representative on the National Council is Aliança Araújo, Abílio’s sister.

CPD-RDTL – Popular Defence Committee – Democratic Republic of East Timor. On 28 November 1975, just days before the invasion, Fretilin proclaimed East Timor a Democratic Republic. In 1999, young Timorese radicals founded the RDTL or CDP-RDTL group, commemorating that historic event. Its leader, Cristiano Costa, went to Portugal as a refugee in 1988, and met up there with Abílio Araújo (at the time, still Fretilin’s overseas representative), before eventually emigrating to Australia. Before the referendum, when the CNRT was calling for low-profile attitudes to prevent provocation of the militias and Indonesian military, the RDTL group channelled the anti-Indonesian radicalism of some young Timorese into actions designed to provoke. Cristiano Costa’s links with Abílio Araújo (and with General Wiranto, according to the Jakarta Post), made him the ideal candidate, along with General Zacky Anwar Makarim (Indonesian Secret Service agent sent to East Timor by Gen. Wiranto) to act as a pro-Indonesia provocateur, only on the opposing side (Jakarta Post, 16-12).

PPT – Timorese People’s Party, was established on 7 May 2000 by Hermínio da Silva da Costa (see below).

Four parties (UDT, APODETI, KOTA and Labour), which were founded in 1974, took refuge in West Timor in 1975, and adopted, either freely or under pressure, pro-integration positions, are now all pro-independence:
UDT – Timorese Democratic Union. UDT leaders who, after the invasion, went into exile, ended up fighting against Indonesian occupation and joining the CNRT.
APODETI – Timorese Popular Democratic Association was formed to defend East Timor’s link to Indonesia as an autonomous province. APODETI provided the Indonesian administration in East Timor with many senior officials. The first two Indonesia-appointed Governors of East Timor, Aranaldo Araújo and Guilherme Gonçalves, were APODETI leaders who eventually broke off relations with their “protectors”. Another disaffected leader, Frederico da Costa, now heads the APODETI-Pro-Referendum movement that has joined the CNRT. Since the formation of UNTAS, the old APODETI has ceased to function.
KOTA & the Labour Party. These two parties, which never had much popular support, re-emerged as members of the CNRT.
[The pro-independence parties will be listed in a separate document, POL02]    top

The Facts:

The following summarised reports of actions and statements by the Indonesian authorities have been selected to help place the Timorese pro-autonomy groups in context.

Indonesian military and civilian authorities





Although a supporter of autonomy, Abílio Araújo has “called on all East Timorese to push for general elections in two or three years… to lay a strong foundation for its future as a sovereign State” (Jakarta Post, 25-1). He maintained the new State would have strong ties with Indonesia, especially with regards language and currency, and has criticised Xanana Gusmão´s choice of Portuguese as official language. Abílio Araújo said he could “never forget how non-indigenous people like Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmão always boast about their Portuguese blood” (Jakarta Post, 25-3). The PNT leader, who still lives in Portugal, has been critical of the UN: “UNTAET policy so far has only focused on the interests of the Western conspiracy, particularly Portugal and Australia, through the CNRT” (Antara, 20-4, BBC, 21-4).
In East Timor itself, the CPD-RDTL has been organising violent attacks against the same targets: “CNRT is a puppet … imposed by Lisbon…” said Cristiano Costa (AP, 1-4).    top


  1. The Indonesian Government often claims that it has disarmed the militias and that it wants normal relations with independent East Timor, but its actions and statements, as outlined above, show that these intentions are either not felt by all concerned or simply not genuine.
  2. Very few Timorese leaders who fought – and committed crimes – to defend integration/autonomy in Indonesia are showing signs of accepting the fact that a clear desire for independence was expressed through the 1999 referendum, or that they are prepared to face justice. This is true even among those who say they want to go back. The Lopes de Carvalho brothers, however, seem prepared to accept these two conditions, but want to negotiate. Hermínio da Silva da Costa accepts the referendum but is still keen to fight, by political means, to overturn its results, and refuses to be brought to justice. João Corbafo has so far not publicly said anything on the matter.
  3. The priority given to securing the return of the refugees – and the pro-autonomy leaders who promise to take refugees back with them – has led the UN and leaders like Xanana Gusmão to underestimate the risks involved in transplanting to East Timor pockets of opposition that reject independence and that could get support (now or in the future) from Indonesia.
  4. The proposal that East Timor should set up a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission should be evaluated in terms of the East Timorese context. Even without reconciliation, the forces of apartheid are now very restricted in South Africa by the demographic context. In contrast, however, the geographic and socio-political context of Timor and Indonesia could work in favour of those who do no want reconciliation.
  5. Timorese society has its own traditional methods of resolving conflicts, which include material compensation paid by the offender to the victim. Employing such traditional methods might make the idea of reconciliation more understandable and, consequently, make it more meaningful for those concerned.     top

Observatory for the monitoring of East Timor's transition process a programme by the 'Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere'
Coordinator: Cláudia Santos 
Rua Pinheiro Chagas, 77 2ºE -  1069-069     Lisboa - Portugal
ph.: 351 1 317 28 60  -  fax: 351 1 317 28 70  -  e-mail:

East Timor Observatory
ETO was set up by two Portuguese NGOs - the Commission for the Rights of the Maubere People (CDPM) and the ecumenical group Peace is Possible in East Timor,  which have been involved in East Timor solidarity work since the early eighties. The aim of the Observatory was to monitor East Timor's transition process, as well as the negotiating process and its repercussions at international level, and the developments in the situation inside the territory itself.
E-mail:  Homepage:

See Also:

BD: Pro-autonomy Movements / Pró autonomia Movimentos - A collection of recent information, reports, articles and news

Feb 12 OTL: Movimentos e partidos Pró autonomia: evolução desde o referendo  Report
"O Governo indonésio proclama frequentemente que desarmou as milícias e que quer manter relações normais com Timor Leste independente; os actos e declarações acima reportados mostram que este sentimento está ainda longe de ser geral ou autêntico. ... A sociedade timorense tem formas tradicionais de resolução de conflitos, que incluem compensações materiais pagas pelo ofensor ao ofendido. Recorrer a essas formas tradicionais pode dar à noção de reconciliação um sentido mais perceptível e portanto mais autêntico para as duas partes." OTL

Apr 24 ACFOA: Briefing Notes on political parties and groupings  Report
"East Timor is now entering the last, crucial stage of the transition process to full independence. National elections for a Constituent Assembly to develop a Constitution for the new nation will be held on 30 August 2001. Over the months that follow, decision-making and power will be transferred from the United Nations Transitional Administration (UNTAET) to democratically elected East Timorese legislative and executive bodies. ...
Until now, the CNRT independence umbrella body has occupied centre stage.  This has had the effect of obscuring the parties who, like the FALINTIL guerillas in the run-up to the August 99 ballot, have endured a period of necessary political cantonment in the interests of national unity. The scene is now set, however, for the political parties to take their rightful place under the spotlight as key players in the democratic process. This is a healthy and positive development which excesses by some should not be permitted to undermine.
In November 1999, ACFOA published a backgrounder on CNRT called ‘From Opposition to Proposition: the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) in Transition’, to contribute to a more informed and positive reception for CNRT by the international community. It is hoped these notes will play a similar role in relation to the parties by answering the questions observers and others will have about these new players. How many parties will contest the election? Who are their leaders and how does one contact them? How have they changed from previous times? What ideas and policies do they have for East Timor’s development, foreign policy and so on?"  Pat Walsh, Australian Council for Overseas Aid

Mar 5 ETO: Political parties and Pro-Independence Forces  Report
"There are 8 parties behind the independence flag. Of the five parties set up in 1974, four eventually collaborated, to a greater or lesser extent, with the Indonesian occupiers. FRETILIN always maintained its opposition to the occupation. Aware of its present advantage, FRETILIN now feels restricted as part of the united front proposed by Xanana Gusmão, and wants to leave it to conquer its own territory. For some, however, talk of such a move only rekindles memories of the 1974 civil war and impels Xanana Gusmão to appeal for national unity." East Timor Observatory

Mar 5 OTL: Partidos políticos e Forças pró-independência  Report
"Oito partidos apresentam-se sob a bandeira da independência. Dos cinco partidos criados em 1974, quatro foram levados a colaborar, mais ou menos, com o ocupante indonésio. A FRETILIN sempre se opôs à ocupação. Consciente da vantagem que adquiriu, a FRETILIN sente-se limitada na frente comum proposta por Xanana Gusmão, e quer partir à conquista do poder. Mas para alguns isso faz renascer a lembrança da guerra civil de 1974 e provoca apelos angustiados de Xanana Gusmão a favor da unidade nacional."  Observatório Timor Leste

BD: National Council of Timorese Resistance / Conselho Nacional de Resistência Timorense (CNRT) - A collection of recent speeches, statements, news and reports

BD: FRETILIN - Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor / Frente Revolucionaria do Timor Leste Independente - A collection of recent speeches, documents, statements, news and reports

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