Subject: SMH/Maliana: A Traumatised Town Craving UN Justice

Sydney Morning Herald Saturday, November 27, 1999

A traumatised town craving UN justice

This community should be the crucible for human rights investigations, writes Jill Jolliffe, in Maliana, East Timor.

AS dusk settles in Maliana, the only light comes from rows of fires flickering in the burnt-out remains of houses where families squat like latter-day cave dwellers, calming the screams of feverish, poorly clad children without enough food.

In Portuguese times, this pretty town was known as the rice bowl of East Timor; today it is a symbol not just of East Timor's economic and social distress but its psychological trauma.

Beyond the daily struggle, each Maliana family is also working to cope with the psychological effects of mass public executions held here on September 8.

Maliana's experience may make it the crucible for United Nations human rights investigations in East Timor, not least because the chain of responsibility for atrocities committed here is easily traceable, through militias to an elite Indonesian Army battalion and their commanders. The question remains whether UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson's investigation team will conduct a genuine inquiry or choose a soft option for reasons of political convenience.

Teresinha de Jesus Calao, 34, has just escaped from the camps in West Timor and returned with her children to Maliana. Her first job was to retrieve the body of her husband, Filomeno, who died soon after she and the children were forced to travel west.

On September 4, the UN announced that the independence case had won 78 per cent of the vote in the August 30 referendum. It was a trigger for Indonesian secret police to implement a plan formulated months before.

In Maliana, the militia group Besi Merah Putih began murdering independence supporters and burning their houses. Those targeted were at first urged, and then ordered, to go to the police station for protection, until several thousand people were camped there.

Being a policeman, Filomeno Guterres seemed above danger, continuing his normal duties in the same building. Now his wife and children were among those camped in the grounds.

The three most senior Indonesian military figures in Maliana at that time were the Kodim (district military command) head, Lieutenant Colonel Siagian Burharnudin, Lieutenant Try Sutrisno, his feared deputy and head of intelligence operations, and police chief Lieutenant Colonel Budi Susilo.

About 5pm on September 8, militias and Indonesian military units surrounded the Maliana police station. Two of the five witnesses to the later killings who were interviewed emphasised the positions they took there.

The first, whose brother was one of those executed, does not want to be identified. ''It was a four-sided attack'', he recalls. ''On one flank there were militia with TNI [army] behind, on another militia with Brimob [riot police] behind, on another militia with the territorial battalion behind and, on the fourth, militias with police behind.''

THE militias wore balaclavas or camouflage paint on their faces, and witnesses say they were probably drunk or drugged and carried long knives. Immediately on entry they began hacking independence supporters to death in front of the assembled crowd.

According to one witness, police chief Susilo ordered the crowd, including many children, to watch, threatening that anyone who cried or screamed would receive the same treatment. The first to die was Manuel Barros, a respected community leader and ex-MP. Fatima Moniz, 21, was standing about three metres from where he sat, next to a woman cooking: ''I saw the militiamen enter and just stab Mr Barros. He didn't move. He asked their forgiveness three times. They kept slashing him until he just keeled over, onto the fire.''

Realising her own danger, she hid under a mattress behind Barros's body until 4am next morning.

According to Teresinha de Jesus, when the militias entered ''people began running from one side to another, but they then moved systematically through the tents with death lists. There were certain people listed who weren't there so they killed family members in their place.''

She saw three people die, including a 13-year-old boy.

She remembers distinctly that Siagian Burharnudin, Try Sutrisno and Budi Susilo were circulating among the crowd as the killings occurred, and then ordered the bodies loaded into waiting vehicles.

The anonymous witness saw more killings than the others. After his brother was struck down a group of women hid him in a wardrobe, from where he had a clear view from a hole in the door. He says the victims were hacked into pieces. ''People were crying and screaming; children screamed as they saw their fathers killed ... they gave the militias alcohol and drugs first, I think. They no longer appeared to be human.''

Duarte Barros, 43, lost two of his brothers, Julio and Manuel, in the massacre. He managed to grab a black garment from his wife's bag and make a headdress from it in order to pass as a militia. In this guise he simply walked out of the station.

Those present insist the death toll in the Maliana police station in a little over an hour was 47, a figure confirmed by UN civil affairs officer Nicolas Garrigue, who was stationed in Maliana before the referendum, and today is working to document the atrocities. ''We do not yet have eyewitnesses for all 47 deaths'', he said. ''We do, however, have an eyewitness who saw 47 corpses before they were taken away.''

UN officers involved in forensic investigations are conscious of the fact that near-scientific disposal of bodies was a feature of Indonesian actions.

IN Maliana witnesses are many, but most bodies have disappeared. There are some clues reinforcing the belief that they were dumped in the sea at nearby Batugade.

Twelve of those targeted in the police station fled, walking through the night, resting at dawn by a lagoon. They were seen by a shepherd who called the military, upon which all were slaughtered.

Interfet soldiers later drained the lagoon and found half the torso of Paulo da Silva, a bullet lodged in his lower spine. The other half was on the river bank, but the rest of the bodies had disappeared.

Some time later local resistance leader Paulo Maia was called to Batugade to identify his father Carlos's mutilated corpse, which had floated up from the sea..

The day after Teresinha de Jesus Calao and her children witnessed the police station killings, she was forced by the Indonesians to travel to West Timor; her husband Filomeno remained a hostage in the police station.

Two nights later he and a colleague, Martino Lopes Amaral, were murdered in the grounds. A witness said members of Besi Merah Putih were involved, ordering 60-year-old Jose Ximenes to throw the bodies in a well and cover them with debris.

On Teresinha's return she asked Interfet to help her recover Filomeno's body. It was a deep well, and the work was unpleasant and hard, but her family is profoundly grateful to Australian soldiers. They are one of the few East Timorese families able to buy their dead.

Indonesian mass disposal of corpses - by burning, dumping in the sea or carrying in truckloads to West Timor means thousands of others live in unfinished mourning.

The population of Maliana has high expectations of human rights investigators.

They believe perpetrators will be tried in an international court and that after 24 years the East Timorese will finally see justice done. They do not understand that the UN mandate begins only in January 1999, or that all actions to date suggest the inquiries will be token.

There has been no systematic attempt to protect forensic evidence, much of which has been washed away by the monsoon, and there has been no entity entrusted with collecting evidence before the arrival of the tardy human rights team. Interfet's official death toll in Maliana is just nine.

If a justice system credible to a trauma-ridden new generation is to be installed here, wrongdoers must be brought to trial: for the sake of Teresinha's children, Mary Robinson needs to get serious.

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