Prof Dennis Shoesmith – 2022

Arch-Villain? Assessing Prabowo Subianto’s Record in East Timor

Then major-general Prabowo Subianto, head of Kopassus, the Indonesian army’s Special Forces in East Timor, was responsible for the murderous program of using local militias to ‘take East Timorese to fight East Timorese’. This presentation offers an evaluation of his responsibility for the brutality of Indonesian army policy in East Timor. Was Prabowo indeed the ‘arch-villain’ of the occupation? In making this evaluation, the presentation locates his program in the context of the broader strategy of using special forces in covert programs of Unconventional Warfare developed by the US Army, in a Cold War context, in the 1960s. Prabowo was trained in covert warfare in the US and Germany in the 1960s and early 1970s. Were the originators of the strategy of Unconventional Warfare implicitly involved in his villainy?

Prof Dennis Shoesmith
University Professorial Fellow, College of Indigenous Futures, Education and the Arts
Charles Darwin University


Dennis Shoesmith has a PhD from the Australian National University on Philippine History. He tutored at ANU and then took up a position at Flinders University in South Australia. Since the 1980s he has been a lecturer, senior lecturer and Associate Professor in Darwin, first at the Darwin Institute of Technology, then at the University College of the Northern Territory and then at the Northern Territory University and Charles Darwin University. His research focus is the comparative politics of Southeast Asia with specific interests in Philippine church history, the political development of East Timor and, recently, in Indonesia. He acted as a joint consultant for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on East Timor’s democratic development and as a joint consultant on trilateral relations between Australia, East Timor and Eastern Indonesia for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). He is currently a University Professorial Fellow at Charles Darwin University.