Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999 09:13:28 -0500
From: "East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign" <>

Source: The Sunday Tribune Date: 21st March 1999 Section: World News Country: East Timor



There is little shelter form the wet season's nightly downpours at Suai's half completed cathedral.

The roofless concrete and scaffolding skeleton has been swathed in great sheets of tarpaulin to accomadate the 928 people sheltering there, having fled last months attacks on their villages, by integrasi, Indonesian backed paramilitaries, opposed to East Timor's independence movement.

The muddy and insanitary environnment of the estuary and cloisters has rows of sleeping mats and bundles of meagre possessions.

Children scamper among puddles and women crouch over fires, boiling pots of rice delivered by Caritas, the only aid agency operating here. According to one refugee, 23 year old Vincent Martino, the people have come form the village sof Tilomar and Maudeme following attacks by the Mahidi group, in which at least six people were killed.

The influx of refugees into the small south-western town began in late February when the Rati, Mahidi and Besih Merah Putih groups in East Timor's Ainaro district.

At the Suai cathedral school, Sister Elsa Fernandez says Suai was flooded with nearly 6,000 refugees within a few days although most have returned to their villages.

" In that tiem we've two births and on child killed in a stampede here when the word somehow got out (inaccuratley) that Rati were attacking Suai," says Sisiter Fernandez.

Caritas has so far delivered five tonnes of rice( imported from Vietnam), but there remains a chronic shortage of food and medicine. the parish priest, Father Hilario Madeira, believes that the return of 5,000 people to Zumali may only represnet a hiatus, and that a fresh influx of refugees may be immienent.

"The intergrasi are not found here in Suai," says Fr. Maderia. " they attack villages in daylight and at night they are sheltered at an Indonesiuan army base at Salele, 10 km away. They use a lot of traditional weapons, knives, crossbows, spears and whatever rifles the military gives them."

Mahidi maintain a checkpoint on the road from the capital Dili, which passes through West Timor. Fr. Madeira says that many intergrasi are recruited from West Timorese border villages.

Unlike East Timor, an ex Portugues ecolony, West Timor has always been part of the Indonesian republic, which celebrates its half-centenary this year. The intergrasi have a history in the events spanning the Portuguese Governor's departure form Dili in 1975 and the subsequent Indonesian invasion.

The two major Timores parties to emerge were UDT and Fretilin. After the EDT staged a coup on 11 August 1975, a brief civil war followed, after which Fretilin emerged victors and de facto government.

A third part y called Apdeti also existed, favouring intergration with Indonesia. It had limited local support but enjoyed Indonesian backing. Many of todays intergrasi leaders are former Apodeti members, locally recruited enforcers and mercenaries having long been an element of the 23 year occupation.

Prominet integrasi leader Joao Taavarez met this week with Xanana Gusmao, the jailed ex-commander of Falintil, now under hosaue arrest in Jajarta, following his 20 year sentence for treason.

It was ageed that reconcilation between all East Timor's factiosn was paramount, regardless of the results of a plebiccite later this year, whereby the 850,000 population will decide on the either independence or wideranging autonomy.

However, in a nation whre 200,000 people have died form massacres, disease and starvation since 1975, post-independence rehabilitation will be a major issue.

" We hope we can repair the dameage, but ehre are no gurantees," says David Ximenes, of the CNRT.

Earlier this week, CNRT leaders met in Dili with a delegation of Portuguese diplomats, led by Dr. ana Gomez. Portugal has never recognised the Indonesian occupation and under UN law. East Timor is still an 'overseas province' of Portugal.

However, tensions in Dili remian high after troops the returned to the capital with the bodies of four missing soldiers, killed by Falintil (sic) near Baucau. In ac act of revenge, eight truckloads of troops went to the suburb of Becora and began firing into the air, injuring two civilians. Local hope all Indonesian troops will be out within months. " I think almost everyonewould vote for independence," says Fr. Maderia. " Only a handful will vote for autonomy. of them will be the ones who did well out of the Indonesian occupation.2

ENDS East Timor Ireland Solidarity Campaign Suite 16, Dame House 24-26 Dame Street Dublin 2 Telephone 00 353 1 671 9207/ 677 0253 /623 3148 Mobile 087 286 0122 Fax 00 353 1 671 9207 Timorese Community in Ireland 00 353 1 453 1462 web Offices in: Dublin Belfast Laois Galway Claremorris

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