Subject: Observer: Timorese slaughtered as Indonesia talks peace
From: tapol@gn.apc.org (TAPOL)

The Observer, 31 January 1999 By John Aglionby in East Timor

Last Sunday evening Camillo Dos Santos fled his home in Galitas village in the district of Kovalima. That afternoon he had heard a para military group trained by the Indonesian army had brought terror to the area, killing one man without warning.

Dos Santos left his pregnant wife Angelica and her younger brother Luis behind when he and 50 friends hurried to the town of Suai for sanctuary with Catholic priest Father Hilario Madeira, because he had heard the paramilitary only target adult men. It was the last time he saw them alive. At 9pm the following day three vans drove through Galitas and parked at the end of the village. Five minutes later, dozens of soldiers charged into the village from all directions, firing machine guns and assault rifles.

'We were in our house at the time and, having heard the stories from elsewhere in East Timor, knew exactly what was happening,' explained Dos Santos's mother in law, Maria Pereira, in reference to how thousands of paramilitaries turned the whole district into a no-go zone. 'So was all ran out into the back garden.'

It did them little good. For waiting there were five heavily armed men. They first cut off the head of Mrs Pereira's husband, Olandino and then shot him in the body. They then turned to Angelica and Luis. Luis was slashed with a machete and then shot at point blank range, followed immediately by Angelica.

The frail (Mrs?) Pereira escaped with only a beating. Before dawn Galitas was empty. Everyone was fleeing to Father Hilario. By the end of the day, thousands of people had joined wht was rapidly becoming a makeshift refugee camp as fear swept the district.

During the week, another 11 villages were terrorised and by yesterday afternoon, 6,000 people were seeking refuge in a secondary school, a half-built church, and under tarpaulin provided by the Australian government's aid organisation, AusAid.

'The situation is getting very desperate,' explained the camp coordinator Adriano Do Nascimento. 'Hundreds of people are arriving every day as more and more villages get terrorised. And we only have enough food for two days.'

Conditions in the camp are grim. More than 100 people squeeze into each square metre of the classroom every night and lack of shelter forces many to camp under the stars. There are no washing facilities and the camp has only 13 latrines.

With the refugees having to survive in such squalor on only two helpings of rice a day, disease is starting to ravage the camp, particularly malaria and dysentery.

'More than 600 people visit the camp clinic every day and two babies have already died,' Nascimento said.

But what further grips the refugees is an overbearing sense of fear. You can see it on their faces, huddling in the classroom or on the building site of Ave Maria Church.

'They are afraid because the people who are supposed to be protecting them, the armed forces, are the ones organising the terror,' said Father Hilario.

Exacerbating the fear of the people of East Timor, the former Portuguese colony Indonesia invaded in 1975, is an army-fostered terror campaign escalaing at a time when the Indonesian government is making enormous diplomatic concessions. On Wednesday, the day before intermittent negotiations between Indonesia and Portugal - still recognised by the UN as the administering authority in East Timor - were due to resume, Indonesia's President Habibie dropped a bombshell. He offered to give up East Timor after 23 years of oppressive and brutal occupation, if his offer of autonomy was rejected.

'When the East Timorese heard the announcement, they initially though that after two decades of despair, the end was in sight,' said Florentino Sarmento, head of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission in Timor. 'But these hopes quickly faded when it became apparent that the army was continuing its terror campaign regardless of what Habibie said.


TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 8HW, UK Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322 email: tapol@gn.apc.org Campaigning to expose human rights violations in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

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