Subject: Age: Skeleton May Solve Timor Riddle [+JP: RI Denies Milita
The Age/Sydney Morning Herald January 17, 2004
Skeleton Find May Solve Timor Riddle
By Jill Jolliffe
Dili - A headless skeleton discovered by workmen digging in the yard of East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri is believed to be the remains of Nicolau Lobato, the charismatic resistance leader killed by the Indonesian army in 1978.
The find, made just before Christmas, has triggered a high-priority police investigation. United Nations police working under Australian officer Suzanne MacDonald will help with the inquiry.
However, East Timorese chief prosecutor Longuinhos Monteiro has stressed that identifying the bones will be difficult. "They are incomplete and of poor quality," he said, "and investigators could not find the pelvic bone, so we haven't even established the gender yet."
The skeleton is believed to be that of Lobato because the skull has not been found. Police will speak to witnesses in the hope of learning the fate of Lobato's body.
They will also investigate claims made to prosecutor Monteiro that Lobato's head was severed after former Indonesian president Soeharto demanded it be sent to Jakarta as proof of his death.
The investigation could take at least a year.
In 1978, the prime minister's house was occupied by Colonel Dading Kalbuadi, the Indonesian army chief in East Timor. He was the man behind the October 1975 attack on Balibo in which five journalists were killed. Such was his reputation that in 1977 he warned one reporter: "Don't call me the butcher of Balibo."
At that time Lobato was wanted by Indonesian troops. His wife Isabel had been executed publicly in Dili in 1975. On the last day of 1978 they caught up with him.
In Kopassus, a book by Ken Conboy based on interviews with former Indonesian special force troops, Lobato's last moments are detailed. The book says two platoons spotted him with a seven-man escort near the town of Maubisse. "A withering amount of fire was directed (at) the Fretilin chief," it says. "Hit in the stomach, Lobato attempted to cross a stream; too weak to do so, he collapsed near a tree." He bled to death before Indonesian troops reached him.
In Conboy's version, the field operation was commanded by Major Yunus Yosfiah (since identified as the man who also led the Balibo attack under Colonel Dading), with a unit led by Soeharto's son-in-law, Lieutenant Prabowo Subianto. Both men rose to become powerful figures in the last years of the Soeharto dictatorship.
In Dili, Colonel Dading arranged a triumphant ceremony for the arrival by helicopter of Lobato's body. The event was filmed for army propaganda. Timorese governor Guilherme Goncalves, now dead, and former Fretilin leader Xavier do Amaral, now deputy speaker of the East Timorese parliament, who had been captured by Dading, were taken to identify the corpse at the airport.
"I had been with Nicolau just two months before," the 69-year-old politician said from his home on the Dili waterfront, "and I had no doubt it was him. There were two bullet wounds, in the stomach and thigh."
At that time he was being held in Dading's house, and was brought out and returned under escort. He has no idea what happened to the body after that. If it went into the house, he didn't see it. Dading Kalbuadi died in 1998, taking with him the secrets of the Balibo and Lobato killings.
The fate of Lobato's body has remained a mystery and may remain so if forensic pathologists cannot find enough evidence from the bones.
Two close relatives, Lobato's son Jose, now a parliamentarian, and his brother Rogerio, now Minister for the Interior, are available to undergo DNA testing if preliminary evidence points to the remains being those of Lobato, a tragic hero the Timorese are anxious to reclaim.
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