|Subject: SMH/E.Timor: Back from the dead
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 14:44:45 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <email@example.com>
Received from Joyo Indonesian News:
Sydney Morning Herald 19/06/99
Back from the dead
The 1991 television pictures of the Dili massacre in Timor focused on one young man who appeared to be dying. JILL JOLLIFFE found him living in Portugal and longing to return to a free Timor.
Levi Corte-Real Bucar is known among his friends as the boy who returned from the dead. His televised image has been flashed into households all over the world as the youth in his death agonies in the Santa Cruz cemetery during the 1991 Dili massacre. Covered in blood and apparently moribund, he half-lifts an arm covered in his own gore towards the camera before relapsing into unconsciousness.
Today, Levi appears to be a perfectly healthy and well-balanced 24-year-old, one of scores of survivors of the massacre who later fled East Timor and found refuge in Portugal. "I've got over my traumas now," he says. "I used to have nightmares and insomnia, but they're behind me."
The road was not easy, however, and like all these sad young men and women he still carries terrible memories. And despite the wave of compassion initially extended to them, the Santa Cruz survivors are cynical when they hear expressions of sympathy.
They are tired of crocodile tears, they say, pointing out that in Portugal most of them live in substandard conditions, have received almost no treatment for their psychological and physical wounds, and feel profoundly misunderstood. Most just want to go home.
In reality the discontent of the Santa Cruz survivors - known between themselves as "the massacrantes" - reflects not only the changing times but the fact that they are quite different from the earlier waves of East Timorese refugees.
Whereas those who began arriving some months after Indonesia's December 1975 invasion had cultural affinities with Portugal, this is a generation educated entirely in the Indonesian system, who arrived without knowing Portuguese language or customs - most were babies when Indonesian troops landed in the former colony.
As children they knew only war and violence. Later they were the standard-bearers of the Timorese intifada. They began fighting back in the late 1980s, hurling rocks at Indonesian soldiers in Dili and Baucau, but their universe was always defined by Indonesian violence. To some, they unconsciously mimic Indonesian violence in their tendency to act in groups and in their intolerance to dissenters, which has caused a headache for Portuguese authorities.
Among those who reached Portugal in the wake of the Santa Cruz massacre, the overwhelming majority were young, single males, without family or female partners. Only three girls jumped embassy walls in Jakarta with their fellow massacrantes. Soon after reaching freedom in Portugal, one discovered she was pregnant by her boyfriend, but she died in childbirth. The baby survived and is cared for by the lad with the help of an older Timorese family, a symbol of this youth tragedy.
News of President B.J. Habibie's January declaration that he would "free" East Timor if the population rejected autonomy swept like wildfire among the young refugees in Portugal. But in practice, return is treated with considerable caution, despite their eagerness to leave Portugal (perhaps that eagerness is reciprocated: one of the first statements from Portugal after Habibie's declaration was that the Government would organise transport and financial incentives for Timorese who wish to return).
Levi, the boy who came back from the dead, looks thoughtful when asked about his return. "I saw Habibie's statement on TV and was very happy - it's the culmination of our struggle. All wars have to end some time. But I don't believe I have the right conditions to return. I want to finish my course here."
He is studying in the central university city of Coimbra, and his caution may well result from his personal horror story because, although he considers the Portuguese "nice people", "they don't want to know about our experience ... don't want to hear about us. I'll miss Portugal, but I'll be very happy to return."
November 12, 1991, is engraved in his memory. He was politically active from the age of 15 and, like many second-generation nationalists, was strongly influenced by the ill-treatment of his parents. His father had been a resistance fighter and, as a child, Levi remembers him on the brink of death after weeks of Indonesian torture.
He hesitated to go to the Santa Cruz demonstration but went at the last moment. When it entered the cemetery he remained at the entrance, and it was there the Indonesians began shooting.
"They shot at us straightaway," he says. "I was in the front row and fell to the ground to avoid the bullets. I saw two of my friends bleeding profusely, dying. I thought, 'I'm going to die too.' A bullet had entered my back, and I lost consciousness."
But it was not from this bullet that he was later covered in blood. It turned out to be a mere graze. The next thing he remembered were Indonesian soldiers walking among the bodies of his slain friends looking for survivors. "One came to me. He had his bayonet in his hand. He said to me, 'Get up!' When I stood, he stabbed me five times."
Still alive, he dragged himself into the cemetery and lay on a gravestone. "I saw so much blood coming from me ... I don't remember much else - I never knew I was being filmed. About midday ... Bishop Belo, Dona Maria Helena, the Governor's wife, and a priest came into the cemetery. The soldiers had been going around bayoneting survivors, but their presence saved us."
He was taken to hospital and after two weeks had recovered from his physical wounds, but his drama didn't end there. Despite the fuss and official inquiries in response to world outcry, survivors of the Santa Cruz massacre were treated as the culprits, and hunted down. Some time later a cousin of Bishop Belo's told Levi his face was known throughout the world because of the massacre images and that the Indonesians were looking for him.
With money from his parents he moved to Bali, where he studied for 18 months. He had treatment for post-traumatic stress, which he feels he's now overcome.
He applied to the Australian Consulate for a visa. "They refused me, saying they didn't want 'political' Timorese in Australia," he says.
Finally, in August 1995, he bought a false passport and travelled to Portugal via Macau.
His compatriot Domingos Matos, 26, left his parents, girlfriend and unborn daughter behind in Dili, and like all the young refugees is lonely and homesick. He joined the underground when he was 12 and in 1990 participated in a demonstration in the presence of the United States Ambassador to Jakarta, John Monjo, which was violently attacked by the military.
Matos and a friend were chased from the ambassador's hotel to the nearby International Red Cross delegation, where they were publicly bashed and tortured by seven or eight soldiers, despite protests from a Red Cross official. He was tortured again in a military barracks and later spent a month in hospital. It did not stop him demonstrating and he was at Santa Cruz, although he escaped without injury.
Like the other survivors, he was hunted. In 1994 he reached Jakarta and with some of his friends leapt the wall of the French Embassy to demand asylum. They were flown to Portugal within 24 hours. He lives near Lisbon University, where he is studying, and awaits his moment to return: "For me the changes are ... a vindication of our suffering ... I would never think of staying in Portugal. We must return. I can't say we've been badly treated, but we don't feel good here ... We feel misunderstood. The Portuguese are not like Asians. We have more in common with Australians, because they do understand. The Portuguese have no idea of Asia."
WHEREAS Domingos and Levi are typical of a new combative generation of East Timorese in Portugal, first-generation refugees tended to be uncomplaining. But their attitude to return is not so different.
When the first refugees arrived in 1976 some were over 40; today their main concern is to return to their homeland for their last years. Ironically, they were heavily politicised, but their children rejected nationalist politics until the Santa Cruz massacre. Then those born in Portugal (or who arrived as babies) began to identify with the massacrantes.
The Hornay family is typical. Loureno, now retired, was a sergeant in the Portuguese army, his wife Ines a public servant. Their three children, Alexandra ("Sandra"), Paula and Loureno, grew up in the cold, muddy barracks of Lisbon's first refugee camps. Today the family is relatively prosperous; the children have studied on army scholarships and have done well.
Loureno Hornay has been nagging his wife to return since he heard of Habibie's offer. But she is cautious. The children are ideal returnees - young, trained and nationalist. Sandra, 24, is an especially important asset. She has just finished a degree in chemical engineering specialising in oil, including an internship with a Norwegian firm working in the North Sea. Her ambition is to work as an engineer on the Timor Gap oilfields.
Like most recent refugees, close friends Aviano Faria and Joo Dias live in housing provided by social welfare. In this case it is a beautiful old monastery overlooking Lisbon's Tagus River, but it is run like a harsh boarding school and they complain of the authoritarianism. The doors are closed from 10pm until 7am and no-one may enter or leave. Joo has argued with the director of the institution, in reality a student residence, whom he accuses of being a supporter of the pre-1974 Salazar dictatorship.
Aviano and Joo have been united in their mental pain since the 1991 massacre. Aviano survived by playing dead under a pile of bodies, where a soldier coming to finish off survivors knifed him in the skull. He was thrown onto a truckload of corpses and taken to the military hospital, where Joo's job was to unload them (he is a trained nurse). Once again there was an attempt to finish Aviano off, this time with a rock on the head, but he had the presence of mind to shout that he was an Indonesian agent.
Joo's great tragedy was that he was ordered by an Indonesian sergeant called Rohado to give tablets to his dying friends, only to find they caused the recipients to choke, shake and, in some cases, die.
Aviano is studying at the Higher Institute of Engineering in Lisbon, but the residence makes him feel he's in one of the prisons he escaped, and the isolation of the 10 Timorese here is accentuated when other students go home to their families for weekends.
"I have doubts about returning this year," Aviano says. "Only when Timor's independent will we be truly safe." On the other hand, he wants to leave Portugal. "Only about 10 per cent of Portuguese really care about the Timorese. Their practice is different from their rhetoric, which is just to save the face of politicians ... They don't speak from the heart."
He says he and Joo were asked to testify on their traumatic experiences at an international meeting in Oporto. "At the time we were told there were funds for counselling and other treatment for Santa Cruz survivors," he says. "But when I called the recommended psychologist, she said she was too busy to see me."
Neither he nor Joo has had thorough medical treatment since 1991. Today that is secondary to the impulse to head home.