Subject: On location in East Timor: Crisis reports
Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 17:47:33 -0500
From: Charles Scheiner <>

The following two reports are from a resident of East Timor who must remain anonymous. They were written during the past few days. -- Charlie Scheiner, ETAN 31 January 1999


Refugee numbers are now over 6,000. Two children under 3 died last night of diarrhea.

Tents are being constructed. Ten toilets have been built ­ all that were available.. New water lines have been run from a tank above the church. An NGO group is working to restore water supplies destroyed by the military.

Diarrhea is common, trauma and fear are palpable. The army has provided some food. They are not assisting in any investigations. The local authority refuses to give permission to enter the areas east of the town to retrieve remaining bodies and assess damage. The evacuated area remains under the control of the paramilitary commanded by Rui Imeliano TC Lopes; the military are reluctant to oppose this formidable "bandit."

ICRC reps arrived late yesterday afternoon. They are now coordinating aid and seek cooperation from Caritas and others. CARE has not yet responded as their leader is out of town. He is expected back today and will be contacted by ICRC. ICRC has no food or medical supplies at all on the ground.

Concerns about activities east of Suai (between Suai and the border with West Timor) have mostly evaporated. A few skirmishes occurred in Salele and Sadahur after the 28th, but these have now died down. The situation in Fohorem, Fatalulic and Fatumea is quiet.

In the last week of December, a meeting was held in Diliunder to plan the distribution of 13 million rupiah and arming of 500 paramilitary forces in each Kabupaten (district). The objective was to harass Timorese and non-Timorese in the area who are suspected of supporting Fretilin forces in the area with food and shelter.

On the 23rd of January, people missing and presumed dead in Zumulai were Jose Florindo Amaral (head of the anti-integration underground movement in the area) 22 years, his father Alerico Amaral (50 years) and his mother Emelia de Jesus (43 years).

Currently targeted but escaped is Martinho Furiel who is the coordinator of the youth wing of the underground support unit for freedom for Timor Lorosae, and the head of the local unit in Desa Raiomea (a transmigration area near Zumulai) Domingus.

The level of trauma amongst the refugees in Suai now is extreme, and needs urgent medical and counseling assistance.

In Suai at night, all house lights are turned off. The town is in darkness though power is available. No transport is operating in Suai and the remaining people in Beco, Labarai and areas closer to Suai travel only with protection from and permission from the church.

People returning from Ainaro reported it as quiet and almost back to normal in the main, but access to Casa and Zumulai was closed off by paramilitary.

Around 3,000 refugees are in Liquica as of now, having fled from the disruptions and killings in the Maubara, Loes and Kailaku area. Most are being cared for by relatives, and there does not appear to be a major problem there. It will need to be monitored and the ICRC is checking it out.

Up to 2,000 refugees remaining in Dili from Alas, Ainaro and Turiskai seem to be reasonably well cared for, but are being monitored daily by ICRC.

We have reports that all is still calm in Maliana and Bobonaro and that they are continuing their planned programs in the main centers, but not in the villages. They report considerable apprehension as they can see the wave of disruption moving east from Alas, Ainaro, and Covalima to their area - the next in line.

Arming a paramilitary is totally at odds with the political posturing in Jakarta, which seems mostly aimed at assessing real opinion here. That has now been shown to be inconclusive. There are many supporters of integration here. Thousands of them are now armed, and poised to face off against unarmed non-integrationists. The non-integrationists remain in the majority. But how can they survive against a well armed and at least partially trained opposition?

It is a well crafted formula for disaster, brings no credit at all to those behind it, and sets a seal on the inevitability of a civil war whatever happens in Jakarta.


Dili is quiet today after some disturbing incidents yesterday which point to future, imminent troubles.

There is evidence that many non-Timorese are already leaving and/or preparing to leave. This follows harassment by groups of anti-integrationists who have been spreading through the city mostly abusing people, but in some cases physically beating them, and in cases we have observed, looting houses, smashing windows and the like.

Planes out are fully booked for the next weeks. The departure of the "Awa," one of the Pelni liners serving Dili, was delayed for three hours yesterday as hundreds without bookings tried to get on. As it left, hundreds, if not thousands, lined the railings of every deck. A heavier than normal military presence guarded the wharf.

Few buses are traveling into or out of East Timor or even between the Kabupaten capitals. Drivers are afraid because of the harassment on the roads by paramilitary units in the west particularly round Maubara and Atabe, and in the East by anti- integrationists between Baucau and Los Palos and Baucau and Viqueque. In this area trees have been felled across the roads and tolls are extracted at knife point They had no guns - a significant fact given that there have been thousands of weapons distributed to paramilitary groups in the past month. CNRT, Contras and the Human Rights people estimate over 20,000 weapons will be distributed.

The best estimates of weapons to date are:

500 to each Kabupaten (7,000) for the orchestrated intimidation and destabilization plan operating in each Kabupaten in a pattern which is gradually covering the whole island and operates to guidelines prepared in Jakarta over a three month period - January to March, with a per Kabupaten budget of 1 million rupiah.

Recruiting efforts by ABRI (at the Commando headquarters in Dili and in the streets of Dili) have attracted hundreds of applicants from Timorese in the last two days. This morning there were fewer lining up than yesterday - maybe 200. Yesterday there were about 700. They will be "trained" as Ratih at 744 battalion in Becora, and issued with arms. This will account for up to another 2,000 weapons.

At the same time, paramilitary gangs roam the city of Dili attacking houses of Timorese leaders including that of Manuel Carrascalao, the SID student office, the Contras office and the CNRT office. Their fear is that they are marked for reprisal. The CNRT is now guarded by supporters with machetes only. The paramilitary have been issued with rifles including automatic weapons. They roam the streets in broad daylight displaying their new-found fire power.

The Mahkota incident yesterday led to some disturbing developments. A conference on safety in the work place was being held for Government senior employees - Bupatis and Kepala Dinas level. It was also attended by leaders of the paramilitary Ratih groups. About a third of them were armed with automatic weapons, pistols and grenades.

Following a heated discussion on the current situation vis-à-vis the unexpected and confusing independence offer from Alatas, the paramilitary element under the command of Cancio Carvallho (the head of the recent operation in Covalima) stormed out of the building to show them they meant business. A crowd of mainly loitering youths were outside taunting those inside with anti integrationist comments. The group of about 20 let of about 150 rounds of automatic fire into the air. A grenade was thrown into an electronics shop in the Mahkota owned by an anti integrationist but did not explode.

No arrests were made, and the situation returned to normal soon after. However, within two hours, several army trucks began patrolling the streets. I counted 7 in a trip of five minutes. They were manned by non-uniformed military and paramilitary men, about 30 per truck, all with their automatic weapons trained on the crowds, and waving their green Muslim flags, inciting anti-Catholic sentiment - not so much because of comments, but by the presence of the flags. This introduces an extremely disturbing additional element into an already volatile formula. There was anticipation that last night would erupt, but fortunately the heavens opened, and it rained for hours.

This morning all is calm and seemingly normal in Dili apart from increased military patrols and the more worrying presence of paramilitary with automatic weapons proudly patrolling the streets.

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