The 21st century’s first new state Timor-Leste gained independence from a powerful Indonesian regime by swapping guns for diplomacy, a groundbreaking study from RegNet has revealed.
Professor Braithwaite said that Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor was considered to have permanently crushed the Timorese independence movement. But this all changed when the fight was taken from the battlefield to the world’s corridors of powers and networks of diplomatic support.
“In particular, the movement became very effective through the diplomatic leadership of José Ramos-Horta who linked up the Timorese movement with pockets of diplomatic support around the world. In fact, leaders like Xanana Gusmão and José Ramos-Horta inspired the Timorese people to the possibilities of non-violence, such as diplomacy and clandestine resistance,” he said.
“Furthermore, a strategic decision was made by leaders in the independence movement to link up with the Indonesian democracy movement. The support of the Indonesian democracy movement, which of course was successful in its own struggle when Indonesia became a democracy in 1998, created the historic opportunity to implement the independence that Timor had been fighting for, for so long.”
Professor Braithwaite added that there were two key moments when non-violence came to the fore: the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre and the 1999 independence referendum.
“The Santa Cruz massacre was an exceptionally courageous form of non-violent resistance. A large demonstration was planned, even after people had been threatened that they would be killed if they marched. The march went ahead and more than 200 people, including children, were killed. And it was the filming of this massacre by the international media that became the turning point in the conflict,” Professor Braithwaite said.
“Also, after the historic 1999 independence referendum, the East Timorese military forces were held in cantonment, even though certain leaders of the Indonesian military had mobilised militia who were slaughtering civilians and burning up 70 or 80 per cent of housing and public buildings across the country. Not reacting to this with military force ensured that the East Timor received UN and US backing for General Cosgrove’s Australian forces to restore order and make sure civil war did not break out.”
The study has been published as the book Networked governance of freedom and tyranny by ANU E Press. It is available for free download at ANU E Press. Hard-copy versions for review are available from Kate.Macfarlane@anu.edu.au
For further media coverage about the book release please see below:
J. Braithwaite East Timor's lessons for Syria, Canberra Times 14 June 2012