Tuesday, April 13, 1999

A pastor reports on Timor massacre

Andreas Harsono translates a witness' account of the killing in Liquica, East Timor.

The Dili-based Suara Timor Timur newspaper is one of two dailies published in the disputed area. But the older Suara Timor Timur is widely known in the area because of its bold coverage of the day-to-day affairs on the island.

It kept its standard when a bloody massacre took place last week in Liquica, a small town 20 kilometres east of capital Dili. But it did not happen easily. Indonesian military said only five people were killed in Liquica. But a human rights organisation in Dili had the names of 15 people killed in the massacre.

A few years ago, pro-Indonesia militias burned the paper's only van. Indonesian intelligence officers and East Timor militias regularly visit its office in an old building on a street facing the Dili Bay.

On Thursday the newspaper reported a press conference organised by East Timor Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo on the killing in Liquica two days earlier. Belo invited two Catholic priests of the Liquica church, Pastor Rafael dos Santos and Jose Daslan, to tell local and foreign journalists their accounts of the killing.

Here is the translation of Pastor Rafael dos Santos' account from the Suara Timor Timur which literally means the Voice of East Timor:

First, let me say that the two of us [Pastor Jose Daslan and me] were on the scene from Monday, April 5, to Tuesday, April 6. The pro-independence people from Liquica sub-district did not want to be harassed by the pro-integration people from sub-district Maubara.

It's fine if the people of Maubara district want to be the base of Besi Merah Putih [BMP, the militia known as the Iron Rod for the Red-and-White] but just don't try to mobilise in Liquica.

But the BMP moved on Liquica on Monday, April 5. The people of Liquica made an effort to prevent them. On Monday, the people of Liquica manned the border [with Maubara] armed with traditional weapons such as arrows, swords, and spears.

At that time, BMP members appeared in the middle of the main road near the border linking the towns of Maubara and Liquica. But members of the Koramil [sub-district military command] from Maubara also appeared from every direction on the main road. They were under the command of Lt Col Asep Kuswanto, the army commander in Liquica.

As a result [of their actions] six people were shot. Youths from Liquica town wanted to resist with arrows and spears but from all sides gunfire rang out, hitting seven youth. At that time, the youth ran toward the town of Liquica. But all over the town, beginning at 1 pm, the sounds of gunshots could be heard. It was the Liquica military command and the police command doing the shooting.

The shooting by police and soldiers went on for about one hour. People were terrified and ran into the church. After the shooting, the BMP entered Liquica, shouting as they did so. They all entered the compound of the Liquica military command. How was that possible? Who is behind them? I don't know about other places, but I know for a fact that in Liquica it was the members of the military command who were backing them.

Yesterday, April 6, the person who took me from my house was a man with a pistol. We tried to make contact with the head [commander] of the BMP, Manuel Sousa, as well as the regent of Liquica, Leoneto Martanis, and Eurico Gutteres as a middleman, but it didn't work. Leoneto and Manuel Sousa are said to be still very emotional. So they don't want to conduct a dialogue with me to look for a way out and help the thousands of people now staying around the church to go back to their homes.

At the time, Brimob [the riot police] came and surrounded the church fence. They said they wanted to make things safe for the pastor or the people. I don't know about this. But about 1 pm, members of Besi Merah Putih wanted to attack the people who were in the parish houses around the church.

At first, the police shot tear gas into the church. Then, they periodically fired shots in the air. Brimob members shot into the air while BMP members shot at the people in the church. The Brimob shooting into the air gave a chance for the BMP to enter the church grounds, then the BMP began to massacre the people with arrows and spears. The people hit by the tear gas ran outside with their eyes closed, then the BMP members hacked them. The name of this is murder.

The aim of the BMP was to kill all the people in the area of the church, while those who had hidden on the upper floor of the parish house were shot by the army and Brimob while I was brought outside.

Those who were hiding upstairs and in my bathroom were murdered. They were Kades Dato, Jacinto da Costa Conceicao Pereira, Agustinhu, Victor, Leovigildo (a junior high school student) and Lucio. Before this, Laurindo, head of the government fisheries office for Liquica, and Herminio were killed by members of the Maubara sub-district command in their homes.

The mastermind of these murders did not use Javanese soldiers but rather East Timorese native sons, members of the Maubara military command. Only certain soldiers were given arms and joined with the BMP to kill the people. I and Pastor Jose were also targeted for killing, but the traditional weapons of the BMP didn't go off.

The Indonesian military claims that there were two firearms in the house. I told two policemen that Jacinto and his son were only carrying knives when they entered the church grounds. Abri said the two guns were the reason that the BMP and the army killed all those people. The intention of the BMP in coming to Liquica was to kill all the leaders of the pro-independence movement in Liquica.

The people taking shelter in the church compound numbered more than 2,000. I saw myself that there were seven victims killed in the parish house. After the two of us were brought to the Codiaeum, the killing got even more brutal and sadistic.

If the East Timor military commander Col Tono Suratman is saying only five were killed, then what about the youth and old people killed in the parish house? The problem is we don't know where the corpses are. I have no idea. At night I heard the sounds of a truck in the church. We have to know where the bodies are. I came home from the Codiaeum about 7 pm, but when I got home, the bodies weren't there. All that was left was blood all over, including in my bedroom.

At the same time, about eight million rupiah belonging to the Liquica Catholic school that Pastor Jose was saving have disappeared. Money for alms was also looted. The BMP took the motorcycle belonging to Pastor Jose and several other cars and took them to Maubara. Church documents in a cupboard were also damaged and the contents of the house were destroyed. The military and the government must take responsibilityfor the killing and for the looting in Liquica church and in private homes in Liquica.

ANDREAS HARSONO is The Nation's Jakarta correspondent

Copyright 1999 The Nation Publishing Group
The Nation (Thailand)

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