Subject: East Timor Massacre Survivors Find Help in Perth

The Age [Melbourne] Sunday 26 March 2000

Massacre survivors find help in Perth


Luisa and Macario Trinidade thank God daily that they are alive and free.

They are homeless, penniless East Timorese with two children, one soon to have eye surgery in Australia.

In a Perth living room last week, they wept as they told their story, and thanked the Australian friends who helped them get medical treatment unavailable in East Timor.

They are intensely proud, deeply religious and reluctant to talk about their suffering. For the past six months they have lived on the edge of starvation in East Timor, worried about eight-year-old Liliana's eye and head injuries.

"We are here by the grace of God. He answered our prayers, for our country and our daughter," said Macario, 31.

With his six brothers, he has been a Timorese freedom fighter since childhood. His father was killed in the 1975 Indonesian occupation of his homeland and his sons were all passionate supporters of Renitil - the secret youth resistance movement.

Macario's wife Luisa Maria Trinidade, 29, was orphaned at the age of four when her parents were killed by Indonesian soldiers.

With their daughters Liliana and Elvie, three, the Trinidades survived one of the massacres in East Timor last September.

Liliana lost her right eye when she was hit by shrapnel: doctors think some may still be lodged in her skull. She has lived in pain for six months.

This week she will be examined by an eye specialist and plastic surgeon in the hope that she can have a prosthesis fitted.

Her doctors and a Perth private hospital will waive their fees and Qantas Airlink provided free travel for the entire family.

"It is hard to talk about these things but I must, so all the world knows what happened to East Timor," Macario said.

With 3000 others, they had sought refuge in the garden of their spiritual leader, Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo.

"When the violence started on 5 September last year, we didn't dare leave home at first," Macario said. "Then a friend phoned and said the militia were killing people everywhere in Dili. He warned us we should all go to Bishop Belo's house as soon as possible.

"There were around 3000 of us in the bishop's garden near our church. We thought we would be safe there, that the church property would be respected.

"But the militia arrived and started taunting us, threatening to kill us. Bishop Belo came out and they went away after insulting him.

"We waited, and then we saw Indonesian army soldiers return ... all carrying rifles. They started shooting in the air.

"I saw some militiamen with guns moving up to Bishop Belo, getting ready to shoot him. An Indonesian army colonel saw this and ordered them to stop. Then we saw more officers come up and take the colonel's rifle. His name was Caitano, he was a good and brave man.

"Then we saw men with guns take our bishop away. We were sure he would be killed ..."

(In fact he was put on a plane to Australia.)

"The militia started shooting into the crowd and hacking at people with machetes and stabbing them with knives.

"Those who tried to run away were shot.

"We saw soldiers and militiamen taking the bodies away immediately.

"We don't know how many were killed. At the time, all we could think of was each other.

"We were all pushing each other in panic, screaming and praying. This seemed to go on for hours. We lost track of time."

Macario has no idea how many friends and neighbors died in Bishop Belo's garden: "All I can say is that we saw two big army trucks being loaded with bodies of people killed in the bishop's house and chapel.

"We do not know where the bodies were taken, but many people are still missing, 100,000 people. We hope they are in West Timor."

Donations to the Liliana Trinidade trust fund appeal can be sent to GPO Box D 174 Perth 6840 Australia

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