Forty-five years ago, on 7 December 1975, East Timor was invaded by the Indonesian army– the fourth largest in the world. Troops, ships and planes swept onto the half-island, killing scores of people. The Timorese were at the mercy of other larger powers as well. The United States President Gerald Ford was visiting Indonesia with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in early December. The CIA asked Indonesia to delay the invasion until after Ford and Kissinger left. The Australian government knew of the impending disaster and did not oppose it, with Prime Minister Whitlam now seen as giving a “green light”.
The invasion began 24 years of brutal occupation during which the Timorese lost one third of their population. Their courageous belief in their own identity was evident, and they managed to secure independence in 1999.
ATLAS congratulates the Timorese people for their example of peaceful resistance. It is an honour to work beside them.