|Subject: Guardian: Killings bleed E. Timor of hope
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 08:38:20 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo:
The Guardian [UK] Monday April 12, 1999
Killings bleed E. Timor of hope
John Aglionby, survived an encounter with Indonesian army tactics when a metal pipe was hurled into his car. From Dili, he reports on the military's efforts to wreck plans for autonomy
Witnesses said Indonesian soldiers had murdered 14 people in three unprovoked attacks in East Timor over the weekend. The attacks are being seen as the latest phase of the army's campaign to plunge the territory into such chaos that a vote on its status promised by Jakarta will have to be cancelled.
Two witnesses to two of the incidents said that the killings, in the Ermera district, 25 miles south-west of the capital, Dili, were 'conducted in cold blood for no reason whatsoever except to cause terror and panic'.
In the first, on Saturday morning at the market in the village of Gleno, they said soldiers opened fire on a car driven by a local councillor, Antonio da Lima who was giving a friend a lift.
'There were dozens of soldiers in the road and they did not care that there were lots of people watching,' one of the witnesses said. 'Both men in the car died and more than 10 other people were injured.'
Da Lima's body was taken to Dili, where he was buried yesterday.
The authorities have admitted this first shooting, saying the soldiers acted in self-defence after they thought Da Lima was preparing to throw a grenade at them.
The witnesses said that in the second attack, that afternoon in the village of Rai Tara, a truck full of soldiers opened fire on a bus. The driver and one passenger were killed. 'Again there was no provocation,' one of them said.
Later that evening a native East Timorese soldier told the two men that the army had begun its killing spree on Friday night, when troops killed 10 people in Pui Lala village.
'We do not have details of this attack but I believe this man completely, as I have known him for many years,' one of them said.
These are the first such blatant attacks by the Indonesian army itself on apparently innocent civilians since December, when they established paramilitary groups in the territory. These groups have two functions: to represent elements in the population who want the annexed territory to remain within Indonesia, and to front terror operations so military hardliners can deny involvement in the atrocities.
The army's problem in Ermera was that it is 'the one district in East Timor where there are no paramilitary groups and so there has been no violence', said David Ximenes, deputy to the jailed pro-independence leader Jose 'Xanana' Gusmao.'Therefore if they wanted to instigate anything they had to do it themselves.'
Few in the territory doubt that the aim of the campaign is to force the cancellation of the United Nations-sponsored consultation process. In July the East Timorese are due to vote on whether to accept wide-ranging autonomy and remain part of Indonesia or reject it and thereby win independence.
It is widely believed that the vast majority of the people will choose independence.
Mr Ximenes reiterated last night what East Timorese have been saying for the past month - that unless UN peacekeeping soldiers are deployed immediately the ballot will have to be scrapped.
'The international community seems more preoccupied with Kosovo right now,' he said. 'But we have had our own Kosovo here for the last 23 years.'
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year, a move never recognised by the UN.
Indonesian generals admit they have provided arms to some paramilitary groups but deny conducting operations with them. Last week the commander of the armed forces, General Wiranto, said his troops would stay neutral in the conflict between the pro and anti-independence groups.
But yesterday I experienced first-hand that they are anything but neutral.
While I was returning from the town of Liquica in a convoy with East Timor's spiritual leader, the Roman Catholic bishop of Dili, Carlos Belo, two dozen paramilitaries ambushed the cars, which they thought contained foreign journalists. Our police guards made no attempt to stop them.
Four vehicles were attacked. The first escaped damage, the driver swerved round the log thrown under its front wheels. The driver of the second car was badly injured after a stone the size of a rugby ball was thrown through his windscreen,hitting his head.
Sitting in the front passenger seat of the car behind, I had a clear view and in anticipation of trouble ducked beneath the dashboard. A second later a big stone smashed through the window at the point where my head had been. This was immediately followed by a 3ft metal pipe that came through the hole made by the stone and grazed my back.
Wrapped around it was a red and white Indonesian flag. The car behind us also had a window smashed.
Bishop Belo had been in Liquica to lead mass for the people devastated by a massacre in their church grounds last Tuesday, allegedly perpetrated by the army, the riot police and the local army-backed militia.
Officially five people died in the carnage, but Bishop Belo believes the number was 25. Non-governmental organisations put the death toll at anywhere between 50 and 300.
The bishop has been so appalled by the authorities' reaction to the massacre and the mounting tension that on Saturday he cancelled the reconciliation talks he had started, 'until the guns fall silent'.
He was stunned to find the church locked and town deserted when he arrived. 'This is the first time there's no one here for mass,' he said.
He ordered the church bell rung and people slowly trickled in. By the end of the service the congregation had swollen to 600, many of whom said it was the first time they had ventured out of their homes since the Tuesday killings.
In his sermon, the 1996 Nobel peace laureate said: 'We have suffered but we have to have faith that we can build a new Liquica... We have to build life again.'
Any proper investigation into Tuesday's slaughter is now all but impossible because the local priest's house, where many of the victims fell, has been completely renovated. Where on Thursday I saw walls full of bullet holes and floors caked with blood, only freshly applied paint and shiny tiles are now visible.