Scorched Earth: the struggle for East Timorese independence




Peacekeeping in Timor during a campaign of death and destruction

By Tammy Pemper

Published by Big Sky Publishing | RRP $29.99 in Paperback | 320pp |
ISBN: 9781922265432

The first thing I would say about this book is that it’s unusual that the first person narrative form is used where the author is not that person.

Having tidied up that point of confusion, it’s important to say that the hero of the story – Peter Watt – did share details of his experiences as a UN Peacekeeper during a crucial period of the country’s bloody path to independence and freedom from Indonesian control with the author. It is his story, as told to the author.

What has emerged is a story of brutality amidst the bloody path to nationhood for Timor-Leste. In the midst of the fight for independence, Indonesian-backed militia were determined to enact a scorched earth policy and raze Timor to the ground.

UN peacekeepers, heading into such a situation, walk a fine line – their presence resented by some and hailed by others.

This is what one reader has to say about the book on the publisher’s website:

I found this book very revealing of what the East Timorese suffered during the occupation. The bravery and courage of the UN police and military peacekeepers and the Timorese people is beyond belief. This true story is well worth reading for readers to have first hand knowledge of the reality of what the Timorese went through during this time of terror. I couldn’t put it down.

Chris G. – October 1, 2019

Author Tammy Pemper spent five years piecing this story together. She lived in Timor from 2000-2001, 2004-2006, and 2016-2018. She too has seen much of the suffering and struggle first hand.

She is involved in a number of projects to assist the people of Timor-Leste. Proceeds from the sale of book aid these projects. You can see details on her website at this link

At times this book reads like a thriller. But you have to keep reminding yourself this is all real. This is what the Timorese people went through to throw off Indonesian rule for the right to determine their own future. It’s a timely reminder of how we should value the freedom of self-determination.


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