Subject: Time feature: Blood and Ballots in East Timor [+Interview w/Gusmao]

also: Time Interview with Gusmao: What Happens Next?

Time Asia Issue cover-dated September 3, 2001

Blood and Ballots

The tale of two men caught up in East Timor's violent past illustrates why this week's election is only the first step for a fragile nation

BY PHIL ZABRISKIE Dili

Photo: Members of the Tim Alfa militia stand accused in a "crimes against humanity" trial in Dili of massacring nine people in Los Palos last September photo: John Stanmeyer VII for Time

On April 17, 1999, before his house was destroyed, before his eyes were permanently shaded by sorrow, Manuel Carrascalao stood in his driveway and said goodbye to his son. He was on his way to the airport in East Timor's capital, Dili, where his wife's flight would soon arrive. Originally, Manuelito, his son, was going to meet her. But shortly before the 17-year-old was set to leave, a group of his friends dropped by. "Stay," Carrascalao told him, "I'll go instead."

Perhaps Carrascalao, at that time a leading advocate of independence, should have known better. That morning, there had been a raucous militia rally. Supported, trained and often accompanied by soldiers from the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) or its commando unit, Kopassus, these marauding bands were conducting a slash-and-shoot-and-burn terror campaign designed to derail a referendum on East Timor's independence. Inside Carrascalao's house were scores of refugees who had been chased out of surrounding villages, including Liquica up the coast, where Carrascalao himself had grown up and where, 11 days earlier, militiamen had raided a church and killed dozens while soldiers and policemen looked on. Nearing the airport, Carrascalao got a call from Manuelito, who said a militia swarm was about to attack the house. Attempts to get help-from the TNI offices, from the police, from anyone-were fruitless. Carrascalao raced toward home but was intercepted by Bishop Carlos Belo, who said he would be killed if he returned, and that Manuelito was already dead.

That same morning, just a few blocks away, Eurico Guterres held command in front of the governor's office, a picture of military fearsomeness. He wore his customary uniform: fatigues, a red beret, mirrored sunglasses, army boots. From obscurity, he had become a menacingly familiar presence in East Timor, the commander of the Aitarak militia and perhaps the most feared man in the land. Assembled before him were between 1,500 and 3,000 militia members awaiting their marching orders. He preached and shouted, exhorting the men to find and capture independence supporters-including one Manuel Carrascalao-to destroy their property and, he said: "If they resist ... shoot and kill them if necessary." The men who stormed Carrascalao's house and killed his son and at least 11 others were Aitarak.

Carrascalao and Guterres are two very different men. They are separated by decades, by distance, by gaping historical and political divides. Yet they are bound by blood, spilled blood, Manuelito's blood. Theirs is much more than a personal feud; it is the embodiment of the fault line that has divided the land for the past 30 years.

This is the dramatic context for the election this week in East Timor, in which voters will select an 88-member assembly that will draft a constitution, set a date for presidential elections and essentially construct a new country from the rubble the militias left in their wake. Thus far, the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) has dictated the course, laying the groundwork for infrastructure and civic government offices. Eventually, East Timorese must govern East Timor, which means wrestling with the imponderables of it all: Can the fledgling nation survive, or will it falter as Guterres predicts? What sort of society will it be? What sort of economy can it generate? And-a crucial question for its shell-shocked psyche-what does East Timor do with the perpetrators of past violence? Punish and jail them? Banish and forget them? Forgive and embrace them?

More than 2,000 people died in unrest related to the 1999 referendum; more than 200,000 were killed during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor. Manuelito Carrascalao's death was no more tragic or horrifying than anyone else's. But in that brutal instant when he was cut down, Carrascalao and Guterres became intertwined, their shared narrative paralleling East Timor's tortured recent history. The degree to which the new nation can succeed may well depend not on whether it can outrun its past, but whether it can live with it, and whether men like Carrascalao and Guterres can coexist with their mortal enemies.

As day becomes night, Carrascalao sits in one of Dili's new outdoor cafes. He is wearing a gray collared shirt with three pens in the chest pocket and black pants. His hair is gray and very short; his beard is white and very long. He hasn't shaved in more than two years, and he says he won't until there is true peace in East Timor.

Carrascalao is hopeful but concerned about the elections: he isn't sure if the people are ready, or if they understand the process. After the votes are tallied, will the parties and the public respect the results? He worries about violence, which seems to be the knee-jerk response to any dissatisfaction in East Timor. And he ticks off a catalog of dire problems the ballot cannot solve: the stillborn economy; the 100,000 East Timorese refugees still in camps in West Timor; the adoption of the U.S. currency; the children living on the street, their hair yellowed by malnutrition.

As the sun disappears over the hills and the mosquitoes begin circling Carrascalao's head, he loses focus. His thoughts begin veering back to April 17, 1999. He knew the referendum would bring discord, but he never expected such devastation. He didn't expect routine attacks on civilians, on clergy, on churches. He knew sacrifices had to be made. He knew it was dangerous to speak out against the Indonesian military, but he never imagined he would "win" the fight for independence but lose a son. He didn't imagine that by raising Manuelito to be brave, he would encourage him to stay put as a mob approached, in some futile hope that he could protect the refugees.

Carrascalao had dismissed the militia's threats, even though Aitarak's headquarters were in a hotel just two doors down the street. He was accustomed to oversized rhetoric. That was political advocacy in East Timor: someone pushes, they get pushed back, and if everyone's lucky, that's all. When Portugal pulled out of East Timor in 1974, he was an integrationist. He thought Indonesia's stewardship would help the territory. But he hadn't counted on the country invading or the killing of civilians. When he spoke up, he was deported to Kupang, West Timor, where he stayed for five years. Upon his return, in 1980, he served in the provincial legislature. But as it became tragically clear that East Timor was little more than a playground for the TNI and Kopassus, he began pulling away from the leadership. While Xanana Gusmao led the Falintil guerrillas from jungle outposts, Carrascalao became one of Dili's most outspoken exponents for independence-he was always more diplomat than freedom fighter-and a target.

Following the attack that killed his son, certain he himself had been targeted for assassination, Carrascalao left East Timor, first for Jakarta, then Portugal, returning only in October of that year, a month after the referendum. He was a changed man. "His sense of humor is totally gone," says his brother, Joao, who is running in this week's election. "He hasn't recovered." Carrascalao has been back to the house only a few times, but he agrees to lead a tour of the premises. "This is where he was killed," he says, stepping through the front door into the newly painted foyer and pointing toward the back wall. He lingers a moment before heading down a hall, into the dining room where refugees were packed too tightly to move, past a bathroom where some survivors waited out the raid, through a courtyard and finally into the garden, where he points to a tree he swears bears the sweetest oranges in East Timor. Carrascalao is 68. He has served in numerous governmental and diplomatic posts. He has been able to fulfill a boyhood dream and travel across the world. But his life experience has done little to help him answer the question "why?" that echoes in his mind. It was money, Carrascalao believes, not politics that inspired Guterres: he was doing a job he was paid to do, doing what his superiors told him to do. Manuelito, however, was an innocent. "If they were angry at me," Carrascalao asks, "why did they have to kill my son?"

Across the archipelago, in the walled-in courtyard of his Jakarta house, Eurico Guterres sits at an old poker table, its felt surface faded and torn. He says he's 27, though other reports put him a few years older. His face is wide and foreboding, like a storm cloud. On each middle finger he wears a ring: one a red stone, the other green. His fingernails are immaculate. He fidgets with a rubber band and answers his cell phone when its circus-theme ring pipes up. A boy crosses the yard, a toy gun in each hand.

Guterres grew up in Viqueque in the eastern part of the island, but he left East Timor a day after the referendum results were announced: East Timorese had voted 3-1 for independence. He now lives and works in this house, running Banteng Muda, the youth wing of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the party of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Human rights activists and lawyers demand he stand trial for crimes he allegedly engineered. But many in Jakarta herald him as a patriot. He recently launched The Front to Defend the Red and White, whose charter pledges to "sacrifice and destroy ourselves for the honor of the nation." He even designed its insignia: a dagger behind the red-and-white Indonesian flag.

Guterres enjoyed a rapid, if shadowy, rise to prominence. His story is rife with inconsistencies that suggest he is either revising his past, or that he has been convinced of half-truths, contradictions and lies. His father had been a member of East Timor's pro-independence party, Fretilin, but he died when Eurico was young (he says he was four; a brother and sister say he was 10 or 11). Carrascalao says that he had always heard the TNI killed Guterres' father because of his politics. Some say the boy even saw him get shot. Guterres, for his part, says his father was killed by Falintil guerrillas who doubted his allegiance. That's what his mother told him, he asserts. Angelina da Silva, his mom, says her husband was a guerrilla, but that he died of tuberculosis.

His father gone, Guterres says he was raised "by my mother and the Indonesian nation." It's a curious phrase, considering that his older brother, Joalino da Cruz, remembers spending much of their childhoods in hiding from the Indonesian military and the militias who regularly swept through town on guerrilla hunts. The Guterres family, da Cruz recalls, scavenged for what little food they could find (one sister died of malnutrition, he says). Guterres also claims he was never allied with any independence groups; rather, he admits being a small-time hood whose petty crimes landed him in jail for six months. Manuel Gaspar, Guterres' brother-in-law, says he and Eurico both belonged to a quasi-Catholic religious cult known as Santo Antonio that tried to impart in young East Timorese "the need to unite with the Fretilin freedom fighters to free East Timor from oppression." That's what got him arrested, says Gaspar.

After Guterres was released, da Cruz says, he was constantly trailed by Kopassus members, "like flies on a dirty buffalo's back. Everyone, including our parish priest, told him to stay away from Kopassus, but they still followed him." Guterres denies an oft-voiced theory that he was coerced to "turn," but he emerged a strident Indonesian nationalist and foe of East Timorese independence. The East Timorese, he says, should be grateful for all that Indonesia has done for them, such as offering the option of independence after "only" 24 years of rule. Shortly after his release from prison, he was recruited into Gardapaksi, one of the very first civilian militias to be established and a predecessor of Aitarak.

Guterres says he heard about the raid on Carrascalao's house but wasn't there. An eyewitness, however, places him at the house at the beginning of the raid. "I did nothing that I regret," says Guterres, who claims that he took orders from no one. "But I do regret Manuel Carrascalao's inconsistency." By championing integration with Indonesia early on, he asserts, people like Carrascalao set East Timor on a course that culminated with the referendum battles. "He should be held responsible."

The last time the East Timorese went to the polls, the ballot was the only simple thing about the process: it showed a picture of East Timor with an Indonesian flag, and a picture of East Timor with its native flag. The former was a vote for autonomy within Indonesia, the latter for independence. This week's election will be more complicated. UNTAET and numerous NGOs have been busily canvassing the country trying to explain to prospective voters their task (see accompanying box). Is the country ready? NGO workers have met people who think this is the presidential election, or who believe Gusmao is already President. There have been reports of small-scale voter intimidation, primarily by Fretilin, the party expected to win a majority of seats. There have been outlandish promises-free schooling, free water, free electricity. There is even a candidate who claims he is the King of East Timor and that he wants to invade Portugal. "September (when the results come in) is going to be a tough month," says Johanna Kao of the International Republican Institute, which has conducted democracy seminars nationwide.

Carrascalao's name is not on the ballot. He was the chairman of East Timor's National Council, a kind of interim parliament, until the body was dissolved, on schedule, last month. But he doesn't want to be a part of the elections, he says, because he would rather stay on the outside, unallied with any party, a better perch from which to advise or criticize.

This is a traumatized country. When not engaged, many people lapse into a kind of default stare, a blank, dazed look that seems like an escape, a way not to focus on the endless burned-out reminders of what took place. Economic planning revolves around oil from the offshore Timor Gap, coffee exports and international assistance, but for now, existent forms of local commerce-at roadside stands or at neighborhood cockfights-are conducted primarily by men who hold fistfuls of American and Australian dollars plus some rumpled Portuguese escudos and Indonesian rupiah (including the Suharto 50,000-rupiah note, which was discontinued years ago). All the flashy cafEs and restaurants-including the City CafE two doors down from Carrascalao's old address-cater to the internationals, Dili's temporary citizenry. And across the border in West Timor, the militias are still active, and still armed.

What the election can't resolve are questions of justice and retribution. Carrascalao wants the men who raided his home-"those evil people who committed murder in cold blood"-identified, tried and punished. But there are practical difficulties. A "crimes against humanity" trial is now under way in Dili before a three-judge panel-whose members come from Brazil, Burundi and East Timor. The defendants belong to the Tim Alfa militia and are accused of massacring nine people in the town of Los Palos last September. ("Don't take pictures," one defendant told an A.P. photographer, "I'm Eurico's boy!") It's the only trial on the slate right now because that's all the legal community, such as it is, can handle. The proceedings are slow, the pace dulled by the need for multiple levels of translation, by a lack of qualified local lawyers (the lead prosecutor is British; the defense team, which includes several very young East Timorese law-school graduates, is headed by a Zimbabwean) and by the legal challenges of defining not only what happened, but the context of the crimes: Was this cross-border strife? A civil war? An internal conflict? What laws have jurisdiction?

Reconciliation is one of Gusmao's mantras. Now and again he raises the possibility of granting amnesty to convicted criminals after they are tried, whether here, in Indonesia or in an international tribunal. The fact is, says Gusmao, East Timor cannot afford to conduct the trials, and even if it could the country can't afford to keep the convicted men and women jailed. In the context of nation building, vengeance can't be taken on a case-by-case basis. "I respect Manuel's pain," Gusmao says, "but for me, Manuel's son is only a small part of the more than 200,000 people who died." Carrascalao, he suggests, was relatively lucky. He has the rest of his family. He lives in relative comfort. As for Guterres and his newfound celebrity: "The Indonesian government can build a big statue of Eurico. I don't care," says Gusmao. "I have to pay more attention to the internal issues than to Eurico."

The story of East Timor's tragedy doesn't have an ending, only beginnings and endless questions. Even amid the enthusiasm with which this election is being embraced, it is difficult to imagine an upbeat scenario in such a scarred landscape. People voted in 1999 with their bags packed, wholly expecting that Guterres and others would make good on their pledge to turn Dili into a "sea of fire." Now they are preparing to vote again, hoping that independence can make good on its implicit promise of better days, and that they can stomach the sacrifices yet to be made.

In January 2000, a government-sanctioned panel of Indonesian human rights lawyers and activists released the findings of its investigation into East Timor's referendum violence. Guterres, the report concludes, is among 28 people who should be held accountable. (Others include several high-level Indonesian military officials.) Albert Hasibuan, who chaired the project, says the testimony collected from witnesses of Aitarak attacks allegedly links Guterres to the deaths of dozens of pro-independence Timorese. He is concerned that PDI's dominance in the House of Representatives could stunt any proceedings. "It will be difficult to prosecute Eurico in this political climate, given the pro-nationalist stance of Megawati and her party," says Hasibuan. "Still, I think Eurico should at least be afraid of his conscience."

Guterres remains defiant, proclaiming that he is ready for a public airing of the evidence. He adds one condition: any slate of trials should not only include 1999, but also stretch back to 1975, when the Indonesian army first moved into East Timor. It should include Xanana Gusmao and other members of Fretilin, as well as Manuel Carrascalao. "The events of 1999 were a collective sin," Guterres says. Following his departure from East Timor, he was twice arrested in West Timor. He was acquitted on gun charges but later convicted of failing to honor a militia disarmament accord. His sentence: 23 days of house arrest (after being credited with four months served, also under house arrest), during which he was allowed to come and go freely. It is widely assumed that he has powerful benefactors in the Indonesian military, who value his past service and his ability to lead-and who perhaps fear what he could divulge.

Carrascalao carries on with far less vigor. He has been living at the Timor Lodge near the airport, a hotel that has converted old shipping containers into rows of tiny rooms. He and his wife stay there, literally stowed away, waiting for a family home outside of town to be renovated. His soul seems frozen in time.

With reporting by Zamira Loebis/Dili and Jason Tedjasukmana/Jakarta


Time Asia Issue cover-dated September 3, 2001

Interview: What Happens Next?

Independence leader and Presidential hopeful Xanana Gusmao talks with TIME about East Timor's challenges

photo:For years Xanana Gusmao, East Timor's de facto leader, led the resistance to Indonesian rule. Photo: JOHN STANMEYER/SABA FOR TIME

Xanana Gusmao, the former guerrilla leader, last week ended months of speculation and announced that he will stand for East Timor's presidency when the country gains full independence next year. With the young nation about to hold its first legislative election, Gusmao spoke with Time's Phil Zabriskie and Zamira Loebis about the perplexing challenge of achieving a national reconciliation after the turmoil that has accompanied the path to independence.

TIME: What is your position on amnesty for the violence of 1999?

Gusmao: Amnesty can be considered, but only after justice, after trials. Not before.

TIME: Would that mean not putting people in jail?

Gusmao: It is not my decision to say. As a principle, I only can conceive amnesty after justice. But who can decide? It will be the assembly, the government. Not me.

TIME: Do you believe it's necessary for East Timor to address the past in order to move forward?

Gusmao: In terms of justice, I have told people, yes, they burned your house. They killed people. These men: they will go to trial, they will go to prison. Who will pay for their daily life in prison? The money that you pay in taxation, instead of going to teachers and nurses, will go to prisoners. Do you accept this? What we have discussed is that if we need to repair buildings, the people who burned the buildings will repair them.

TIME: Are you worried that the election will proceed badly?

Gusmao: I had been very worried about violence. So far, we don't have any reports of it.

TIME: Some people say that you yourself need to account for alleged crimes committed by Fretilin and Falintil members. Gusmao: In May last year, at the conference of Fretilin, I asked members (to) apologize to the people for many crimes. I am ready also because I was central commander of Fretilin. Sometimes, I think we should have a tribunal. If I have to go to trial, I'll go.

TIME: Are you worried that TNI (Indonesia's army) might return to East Timor with the aim of retaking the country?

Gusmao: I don't believe TNI will. The militias, yes, they could come (and) infiltrate. But in my perception, TNI is already going toward the right way. East Timor is an international issue now. If the TNI were to come again, it would be suicide. I don't believe Mega (Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri) would allow this. I don't believe the generals would allow this.


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