Selected postings from east-timor (reg.easttimor)

Subject: CapTimes: U.S. must not forget E Timor massacres

Capital Times (Madison, WI) September 5, 2001 Wednesday, ALL Editions



Editor's note: For the better part of two decades, Madison activists have been in the forefront of an international campaign to free the Southeast Asian island nation of East Timor from Indonesia. The East Timor Action Network drew initial support from Madisonians. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has long been the Senate's most outspoken advocate for the rights of the East Timorese. Madison's newest sister city is Ainaro, located in a mountainous region of East Timor.

Check out these Web sites: the East Timor Action Network/US:; and Madison-East Timor projects:

Thursday marks two dark anniversaries for East Timor -- an Indonesian military-led massacre in 1999, and the murder of three United Nations refugee workers by military-backed militias in 2000. With the Bush administration currently pushing to renew ties with the repressive, unrepentant Indonesian military, it is imperative that U.S. citizens know -- and act on -- this history.

As a United Nations-accredited observer of 1999's referendum on independence in East Timor, I lived near the Nossa Senhora de Fatima Catholic Church in the town of Suai. After 24 years of illegal Indonesian military occupation, East Timorese people I talked with were determined to vote, in spite of an ongoing campaign of intimidation waged by the Indonesian military and their militia proxies.

Three days before the referendum, I attended a peaceful, joyous pro-independence rally that ended with militiamen accosting those at the rally, screaming "blood will run in the streets." Even then, hundreds of people were living in Suai's churchyard, searching for sanctuary from the wrath of the militias and their military sponsors. Concerned for the safety of these refugees, I and other observers stayed near the churchyard into the night.

Our fears of an attack on the churchyard were realized several days later. By that time, the escalating violence and targeting of foreigners had forced me and virtually all other observers to leave East Timor.

Subsequent investigations revealed that the Indonesian army and police, together with local militias, entered Suai's churchyard the afternoon of Sept. 6. The attack was led by 1st Lt. Sugito of the Indonesian Army and retired Indonesian Army Col. Herman Sedyono, the local administrative head. Witnesses heard Sugito and Sedyono say all priests, men, and women would be killed. Militiaman Igidio Manek shot one of Suai's Catholic priests, the widely respected and charismatic Father Hilario, and trod on his body. Manek later abducted a 15-year-old East Timorese girl, Juliana dos Santos (after killing her brother), taking her as a "war prize" and sex slave. Militia and military killed about 200 people. During the massacre, police and soldiers stationed outside the churchyard shot those attempting to escape.

The Suai massacre was, tragically, only one incident in a month when more than 2,000 people were killed, hundreds of women and girls were raped, 75 percent of all buildings were destroyed, and some 300,000 people were forced, often at gunpoint, across the border into Indonesian West Timor.

It was exactly one year after the Suai massacre -- on Sept. 6, 2000 -- when militias hacked to death and set on fire three United Nations international staff working with East Timorese refugees in West Timor, as Indonesian police stood by and did nothing. Six militiamen confessed to the crime, but Indonesian courts gave them -- as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated -- "unacceptable" sentences of just 16 to 20 months. After the verdict, one militia man announced he was "proud of what he had done."

Why is it important U.S. citizens know this history? Crimes against humanity are just that -- they demand universal attention and action to end them and punish the perpetrators. Today, 100,000 East Timorese continue to languish in Indonesian military and militia-controlled refugee camps, under deplorable conditions. No one has been held responsible for the Suai massacre, and no military members have been tried for any of the numerous war crimes committed in East Timor.

* The United States must pressure the Indonesian government for a just resolution to the refugee crisis, and must actively work for an international tribunal for East Timor (as the United Nations has called for). It is also critical that the United States maintain an embargo on ties with the Indonesian military. And, for our government to do this, it needs to hear from us -- concerned, informed citizens.

EDITOR-NOTE: Diane Farsetta is East Timor Action Network field organizer. The ETAN office is in the Social Justice Center (663-5431), 1202 Williamson.


A U.N. election worker opens a ballot box for vote counting Tuesday as East Timorese observers look on in Dili. With half of the votes counted in East Timor's first democratic election, the party Fretilin, which led the country to independence, will capture the largest slice of seats in the fledgling nation's legislature, but with a slimmer majority than party leaders had expected.

Photo of Diane Farsetta.

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