Subject: AW: ET Voices of Terror
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 11:45:51 -0400
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Received from Joyo Indonesian News:

Asiaweek, June 4, 1999


Correspondent Jose Manuel Tesoro's East Timor story - told mostly through the words of victims who cannot be named for their safety


"One Monday afternoon in February, a group of Besi Merah Putih [see following Context] entered our village. They started shooting the pigs, goats and cows, as well as looting from our houses. I tried to run away, but I was caught by them. I was beaten with a rifle butt and with a piece of iron pipe; my back was pierced with a spear twice and my shoulder was cut with an old wood saw. I passed out. I was taken to the general hospital in Dili. I was confined there for only two weeks, because though I had not yet fully recovered, some of the BMP came to the hospital and took me out forcibly along with another victim of that Monday. We were both taken back to Maubara. At Maubara, we were told to prepare ourselves for we would be killed. We were locked up in a room in a dilapidated building. When we saw our chance, we escaped. We are still in hiding. Our relatives tell the BMP we died in the Liquica massacre [of dozens taking refuge in a local church April 6]. This way, the BMP will no longer look for us. Some of them are our own relatives. They have been paid, and they want that kind of work."

- Young man from Maubara

Context: Besi Merah Putih is the name of a militia based in Maubara, in Liquica regency west of Dili. Like the other pro-integration militias, they appeared late last year, supported by arms from the Indonesian military and funds from quarters favoring East Timor's continued status as the country's 27th province. The militias have steadily seized control of the countryside and major cities. They have inaugurated a reign of terror. These recent accounts from various residents of the half-island make it seem that the issue facing East Timorese now is not only their vote Aug. 8 between autonomy within Indonesia or independence, but their own survival.


"In Belekasa village, Bernardino was on his way to wash at the public bath. A militia truck came along the road, and a shot was fired. Only his shirt was hit. Then some militia got down from the truck and slashed him with a big knife. He ran and hid among the houses in the town. [Two days later] Bernardino came back to Belekasa to get his things. He was passenger-riding a motorcycle. The militia saw him and ordered him to join them. He was afraid and asked the motorcyclist to speed up. They shot at him. Upon reaching a seemingly safe distance, the motorcyclist ran for a house, while Bernardino continued running into the grass. They ran after him, and stabbed him. Meanwhile, [his fellow] students locked themselves up in the house. Some militia fired shots and told the students to open the door. The militiamen entered and looked for Bernardino. Not finding him, they told the students to get out of the house. One named Joao hid in the water closet. Thinking the militia had already gone, he emerged. He was stabbed and killed. Joao and Bernardino were loaded into the truck. One of Bernardino's eyes was gone, but he was not yet dead. It was reported he was subjected to slow torture until he died."

- University of East Timor student

Context: The forced recruitment of young East Timorese is one of the charges leveled at the militias. The others include summary killings, kidnappings, looting, harassment - a laundry list of crimes occurring while the military looks the other way, or even actively backs the militias. Their leaders take what they want, as do their followers. One rights group estimates some 18,000 people have been displaced. Reports in Dili say the militias now run a camp in Liquica for people relocated from their homes in the surrounding areas. They are made to listen to speeches promoting the benefits of integration with Indonesia. International aid groups have not been able to verify what perhaps amounts to a concentration camp.


"In the town of Liquica, there are now thousands of people who have been forced to be there. They are not allowed to go home. Every morning they are made to stand in platoon formation. They are indoctrinated for about an hour. These people, even mothers with newly born infants, sleep in the open. So do the children and sick people. Food and medical service are minimal. Every night, the Besi Merah Putih call some young men to go with them. We do not see them anymore. Where are they? Some say they have been killed. We do not know."

- Liquica resident

Context: On April 17, the militias were given free rein to rampage in Dili. A few days before, a list of 300 people targeted for "liquidation" had been leaked. On that list were pro-independence figures such as Manuel Carrascalao, whose house was attacked (see KILLED LIKE ANIMALS) as well as nine journalists on the local paper, the Voice of East Timor, which the militias consider too sympathetic toward independence and too frank in its reporting on the militia's activities. The paper's office was surrounded and besieged on the same day. The militia hate witnesses as much as they do pro-independence activists.


"They broke the windows. They took the telephone, took the computers. We watched them. There were four people inside the office. Two went underneath a table and covered themselves with a board. When they heard my voice, they got out, hugged me and cried. The others were in the printing office. Our position is firm. We report the reality in the field. What do we hear? What do we see? That's what we write. [Of the other threatened journalists] only I didn't flee. Two fled to Jakarta, one to Australia. I stayed in Dili. What did I do wrong that they are looking for me?"

- Dili journalist

Context: The Voice of East Timor resumed printing on May 3. A week later, Dili-based militias again seized the streets. Eyewitnesses say Mobile Brigade police and other troops escorted militia trucks as they left their headquarters, and even joined in their raids on the poor, hardscrabble neighborhoods of Bemori and Santa Cruz. There is no longer any pretext of searching out pro-independence supporters; the aim seemed to be pure criminality. Seventeen-year-old Elizier dos Reis was shot as he tried to run away. His parents' neighbors buried him in the front yard because they feared the military would not allow a funeral, where people could gather, in the Santa Cruz cemetery. The militias took everything they could find from dos Reis's house, including 50 kg of rice, a television, a telephone and 3 million rupiah (about $380 at current rates). Says a Santa Cruz resident: "The clothes that people had they took. The gold that people had they took. If we want to change clothes, we can't even do that."


On May 13, East Timor's priests and nuns held a silent late afternoon march through Dili to pray that peace would return. But even the widely respected Catholic Church admits that it has limited influence over the militias. Despite the presence now of the U.N., they still retain the power of life and death in the territory. Says one priest: "There is one thing we definitely do: We pray for them."

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT from testimony given by 19-year-old Victor do Santos Lay to the East Timor human-rights group HAK Foundation on April 22. Do Santos Lay survived the April 17 militia attack on the home of pro-independence figure Manuel Carrascalao. The official death toll is 12, though more are believed to have died.

"On April 17, at about 9 a.m., I was dropped off by motorbike at the home of Manuelito Carrascalao, the son of Manuel Carrascalao. As usual, I came to that place to do nothing other than to visit and chat with Manuelito, who is one of my close friends. At first, we were outside the house. However, we heard that the rally of the militia in front of the governor's office had dispersed, and some members could be seen heading for their base at the Tropikal building located west of the Carrascalao residence. Because we were afraid of being attacked, we entered Manuelito's house and got busy with light conversation about young people's affairs. I couldn't imagine at the time that just a few hours later that place would be attacked. At about 12:30, about 15 militia members complete with traditional weapons like parangs [knives] and carrying automatic and homemade weapons, spears and samurai blades came to the Carrascalao house. They took apart the fence in front and asked the whereabouts of Manuel Carrascalao. [Then] these people left and went back to their secretariat.

"About half an hour later, the militia plus soldiers and police came back in greater numbers. While shouting abusive words, the militia members encircled the house from all directions. I tried to run out, and I was shot at by the militia. I saw clearly the [police] Mobile Brigade and military involved with the militia encircling the house. What happened next was banjir darah - 'a flood of blood.' Without discriminating, the militia, Mobile Brigade and soldiers started shooting and killing the people inside the house of Manuel Carrascalao, mostly the refugees [from militia attacks in the countryside who were living there]. I tried to defend myself, evading several times the stabs from the parangs and samurai swords. My arm was severely wounded from the strikes of the blades. My left thumb was almost cut off. My right arm from the elbow to the finger tips had terrible and deep cuts. The killing went on despicably and sadistically. I saw with my own eyes the people beside me killed like animals. There were three or four children, their age about one or two years old, who were taken from their mothers, then tossed and thrown at the wall. At the same time, their crying mothers were also stabbed. There was a young girl, about 17 years old, whom I saw stabbed in the back and when she fell, the militia, soldiers and police cut off her left breast. On witnessing this tragedy, I, who was already so cut up, reflexively pretended to be dead. In this state of feigning death, I heard the voices of those being killed shrieking, shouting and begging for mercy, cries mixed in with the abuse of the killers.

"My feigning death saved my life, because the militia and some members of the police and military left me just sprawled beside the kitchen door. I also overheard the soldiers, police and militia telling their friends to hide the bodies straightaway because later they would be discovered by journalists and foreign parties. [So] the corpses were heaped up like game animals gathered by hunters to form a small hill. When I was out of sight of the killers, I was able to help two refugees sprawled beside me. These two people, who were also severely wounded, I carefully and stealthily hid under cardboard while asking them to feign death. My efforts successfuly saved these two people even though their condition was also really terrible. The killing continued for an hour. When I saw the situation calm again (about 4 p.m.), I escaped through the back door. Though the pain from the wounds in my arm hurt incredibly, with whatever remaining strength I had I tried hard to slip into the house next door in order to save my life. Midway, I felt a little faint, probably because I had lost so much blood. I sat down for a moment though I got up and tried to cross to the [other] house. In my heart, I thought that even though in the end I would probably die, at least there would be someone who could witness that I had been in the house of Manuel Carrascalao. And if I died, my body could be taken by my family so it could be buried as an orang kecil [ordinary person] who didn't know anything about politics."

Do Santos Lay, along with the two refugees he saved, escaped and were treated in a church clinic. Until now, the clinic remains constantly under threats by the pro-integration militias, who seek the eyewitnesses to the massacre.

Back to May Menu
Human Rights Violations in East Timor
Main Postings Menu
June '98 through February '99