Secy-General Annan Visits Massacre Site In E Timor
Sydney Morning Herald February 18, 2000
Emotional Annan promises justice
PHOTO: Hero's welcome ... UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaks with East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao shortly after arriving at Komoro airport in Dili. Photo by AFP SMH
By MARK DODD, Herald Correspondent, in Liquica
With tears in his eyes, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, embraced wailing women yesterday and promised justice as he inspected the site of one of the worst recent atrocities inflicted on East Timor.
Mr Annan, on a two-day visit to the devastated territory, was flown by helicopter to Liquica, west of Dili, after arriving in the capital from Jakarta.
On April 5-6 last year, pro-Jakarta militia attacked the Catholic Church in Liquica where hundreds of refugees were sheltering. After Indonesian soldiers fired teargas into the compound, militia stormed in, shooting and stabbing to death at least 50 civilians.
Mr Annan laid a wreath at the church yesterday and met the church's surviving priest, Father Rafael dos Santos. There were tears in Mr Annan's eyes during the brief ceremony, and in emotional scenes that followed he spontaneously embraced women and children.
Father dos Santos had earlier said he would seek from Mr Annan a promise to press Indonesia for a full accounting of the tragedy and the recovery of the bodies.
Later in a speech, Mr Annan, wearing a traditional East Timorese shawl, promised justice to victims of militia violence and help in returning more than 100,000 refugees still in camps in Indonesian West Timor.
"I know you are particularly concerned about the fate of loved ones in West Timor," he said.
"I've asked the Indonesian Government to work with us to ensure the swift and safe return of all those who wish to do so." He said money from $US500 million ($790 million) pledged by friendly countries would soon start flowing, meaning jobs and reconstruction would be sped up.
Mr Annan received a hero's welcome when he arrived in Liquica, with more than 1,000 residents greeting him in a colorful ceremony with traditional dancers. He walked to the local UN office amid thunderous applause and cheers, arm in arm with independence leader Mr Xanana Gusmao.
Earlier, in Dili, Mr Annan met Timorese leaders, including Mr Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Carlos Belo, as well as officials from the UN administration UNTAET, and the Interfet commander, Major-General Peter Cosgrove.
Mr Ramos Horta said he was confident Mr Annan's visit would speed up the flow of funds to the country, virtually destroyed by Indonesian troops and their militia allies following last August's independence vote.
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