On 15th October 2009 Tempo Semanal sources within the Government of
Timor-Leste revealed that on 12 October 2009 4 TNI officers and 4
paramilitary personnel in addition to one civilian entered the Cruz
area of the southern most Passabe sub-District in the isolated
Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste enclave Oekusi.
When the central government of Timor-Leste only heard about the problem
3 days after it had happened it held an emergency meeting on 15 October
2009. The acting Prime Minister (Vice Prime Minister Jose “Lugu”
Guterres, Acting Secretary of State for Security (Secretary of State
for Defence, Julio Tomas Pinto), Secretary of State for the Special
Region of Oekusi, Jorge Teme, and the Secretary of State for the
Council of Minister, Agio Pereira participated in the crisis meeting.
The 4 TNI were carrying M`16 semi-automatic assault rifles and the
paramilitaries were unarmed, and the civilian (suspected to be former
1999 era pro-autonomy Sakunar Militia). They were carrying the
Indonesian Mera Putih (Red and White) national flag.
UN CONFIDENTIAL MAP (2005) of the disputed area, obtained by Tempo
They assaulted a group of Timorese citizens working on a project to
build a border police post in the area known as Cruz next to the
mountain known as Nuaf Bijae Sunan. The leader of the TNI officers
insulted Mr. Agustino Eta the Chefe Aldiea Haumnani along with the 7
Timorese labourers working on the police post. The TNI forced an end to
their labour, and then forcibly took the labourers tent. The TNI then
stole 50 sheets roofing tin intended for the police post, taking them
to the TNI post across the border.
Mr. Eta told Tempo Semanal that the TNI officers asked him “who
instructed him to build the border police post, and to whom did you get
permission from to build this police post?”, The TNI officer told Mr
Eta that the area is in dispute between Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Mr.
Eta responded “Our Timor-Leste leaders told us to build this border
police post here”. He added “that Timorese do not need to ask
permission to build a police post on their own territory”. Furthermore,
Mr Eta angrily continued that “if we want to build post in Indonesian
then we need to ask permission”. “For me and my Suco Abani community we
don’t think this is a disputed area, but it is our land [Timor-Leste]”.
Armed TNI and Timorese “socialise” in the disputed area. TNI plant the
After listening to this answer the TNI and their paramilitary HANSIP
personnel got angry and started to strip the post of its material,
taking it to the nearby TNI post on the Indonesian side of the border.
When speaking with Tempo Semanal on 12 October soon after the incident
Mr. Eta said that “Indonesians are making gardens in this area, and so
Timor-Leste border police post is necessary to maintain security”.
After stripping the post of all of its critical building materials,
property of the Government of Timor-Leste the Indonesian security
forces returned to the Indonesian side of the border.
These actions in Passabe are part of a wider set of old and current
border problems with Indonesia, set against the background of the
recent arrest of ex-militia commander Maternus Bere in Cova Lima
District in August 2009.
Since June 2009 Oekusi’s western border near Naktuka has been the scent
of border disputes with a number of armed TNI being arrested by
Timorese border police for entering Timor-Leste, and quickly being
released to return to Indonesia as Timor-Leste Government is sensitive
to percevied threats from the country’s neighbour of some 230 million
people, and former occupying power. Passabe was the scene of some of
the world killing during the post referendum violence in 1999 with the
Tumin, Passabe massacre seeing some 120 youth and men being macheted to
death in one massacre by Sakunar militia, supported by the Indonesian
TNI. Justice has never been served on the perpretrators, who reportedly
live just 3km across the border a decade later.
Cruz/Bijae Sunan Background
Located at the south western tip of the Oekusi Enclave this area
(between Oelnasi in Timor Leste and Manusasi in West Timor) has been
the source of local conflict since the 1960s. The conflict has
traditionally been over garden areas. In 1965 a local conflict ended up
with Portuguese police killing at least one West Timorese. This problem
flared up again in 1972 and again in 1983. The 1983 conflict lasted two
months and resulted in many injuries from stone throwing. Apparently,
Mario Carrascalao and Indonesia’s Minister for Home Affairs Rudini were
involved in solving the dispute then.
As a result of TNI’s complaints about the location of the TCL this area
was divided by the TNI and UNPKF in 2002 into three patrol areas 1) for
the TNI (inside the TL border) 2)UNMO and 3) the BPU. In actual fact
the TNI took advantage of a rotation between the JORBATT and ROKBATT
elements of UNPKF. In effect UNPKF ceded East Timorese territory to
Indonesia – albeit in what was hoped to be a temporary manner.
In October 2003 President Xanana Gusmao hosted a cross border
reconciliation meeting between hundreds of people from Timor-Leste and
refugees in West Timor in Passabe near the Passabe border crossing.
Gusmao reportedly asked the refugees to come home and that there were
no insurmountable problems, including justice. He stated that people
would not be imprisoned forever. Nothing tangible arose from the
A day or two after this meeting former President (Now PM) Gusmao
attended a meeting in the disputed border area beneath Nuaf Bijae
Sunan. The Indonesian delegation was comprised of six Indonesian
Parliamentarians who had been guests of the Timor-Leste Parliament the
previous week, Chiefs of Police from Kupang and Kefamenanu, and the TNI
local commander from Kefamenanu. President Gusmão’s party included
Vice-President of the National Parliament (now deceased) Jacob
Fernandes, former Minister for the Interior Rogerio Lobato, former
Secretary of State for Labour and Solidarity Arsenio Bano, and PNTL
Commander Paulo Martins. The meeting produced no tangible results. All
18 of Oekusi’s Chefe de Sucos were present for this meeting, the first
time that they had met collectively since 1999 and a sign of the
importance of the issue that Oekusi’s communities attribute to this
In June 2004 three individuals were arrested by TNI for allegedly
wandering into their patrol area in search of a missing horse. They
were repatriated only after lengthy discussions between Indonesian and
East Timorese authorities.
In July 2004 there was a stone throwing battle between 100-200 people
in the area with at least three people being wounded. The conflict is
further fueled by the presence of Passabe refugees in Manusasi, and the
fact that ex-Sakunar militiamen Andre Ulan (TNI) and Julio da Costa who
reside in nearby Nunpo are reportedly in the area. These men are
indicted by the UN for Serious Crimes including for the Passabe
In March 2008 local NGOI BELUN reported in a national conflict analysis
that Suco Abani in Post Passabe, Oekusi was one of the most likely to
suffer local conflict as a result of border problems being exacerbated
by local competition over land and TNI manipulation of these problems.