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Jakarta Post

East Timorese children: A Mirror of Colonialism

  • Aboeprijadi Santoso


Amsterdam   /   Sun, March 24 2013   /  03:36 pm

Forget economic misery, uprisings and national awakening, take a closer look at the fate of Biliki, Petrus Kanisius, Iqbal Menezes and thousands of other East Timorese children who were brought to Java since 1975.

Historians used to look at colonialism in terms of policies and political changes, but Helene van Klinken has found a fascinating way to understand how colonialism works by studying the transfer of children that helped the colonial authority strengthen its hegemony.

As late as 2004 the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported at least 4,534 children may have been transferred from Timor Leste (then East Timor) — roughly half by Indonesian soldiers, about a thousand by religious institutions and the rest were deported around the 1999 referendum.

Given the context, it may be assumed that a substantial proportion of them — more than two ...