Subject: SMH: 'Stacks of bodies went up to the roof'
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 12:11:47 EDT

South China Morning Post Sept. 11, 1999

'Stacks of bodies went up to the roof'

Too much ... An East Timorese woman breaks into tears as she lines up with other Dili-based UN staff workers before screening at a transit center on arrival in Darwin. Photo by AFP

By LINDSAY MURDOCH who arrived in Darwin from Dili

The destruction of the capital is greater than anybody could imagine. Hundreds of houses are blackened shells. The doors of government offices are ajar. Banks, cafes, hotels, boarding houses, service stations: all burnt or trashed.

One building - the police station - hides one of the most shocking of many shocking stories that have emerged so far from East Timor's killing fields.

Two days ago Ina Bradridge, wife of Mr Isa Bradridge, 45, of Ballina, walked the corridors of the station looking for a toilet.

According to Mr Bradridge, who told her story last night after evacuation to Darwin, she happened to glance inside a large building that she knew was once used as a torture cell for political prisoners.

"My wife told me she saw bodies. Thousands of them. Stacks of bodies went up to the roof. I know it is hard to believe but it is absolutely true. My wife saw arms and legs and dripping blood."

Now, from the safety of Australia, Mr Bradridge plans to do a lot of talking on behalf of his wife, who can't speak English, in the next few days.

"They [the Indonesian military] are going to obliterate everybody," he said before boarding one of the evacuation trucks with his family. The East Timorese have a choice ... they either leave or die."

Leaving Dili to fly out in the same RAAF shuttles that take out the Bainbridges, we drive in silence through the mass destruction, past street after street of smouldering ruin.

There are looters and thugs carrying pistols who walk with the arrogant swagger of the victor.

But Dili is basically empty. In five days 70,000 people have gone. The bare-footed teenagers with fresh fish tied to their poles are gone. The clapped-out taxis, the naked kids playing on the debris-strewn beachfront, the old people hawking Portuguese-era coins who used to bother us at the hotel, the people who used to sit in the gutter every morning and read the local newspaper. All gone.

Dreadful things have happened: here is a child's bike twisted in the middle of the road; here are pools of dark liquid on the pavement. It looks like blood.

Our drive from the besieged United Nations compound starts with a volley of shots from Indonesian soldiers who are supposed to be guarding us. We all duck for cover, even the 12 soldiers armed with AK-47 rifles who have been ordered to act as human shields on each truck.

We think it's a pretty good bet the thugs on the streets, most of whom we suspect are Indonesian police or soldiers, will not want to hurt their own people.

But nobody believes the word of the Indonesian military any more, not in Dili anyway.

Streets are littered with burnt-out buses, cars, and motorbikes. Nobody has bothered to move them out of the way.

Many buildings have BMP or Aitarak painted on them. BMP stands for Besi Merah Puti or Red and White Iron, the militia group based in Liquica, 40 kilometres west of Dili. Aitarak or Thorn is the name of a Dili-based thugs who do the military's dirty work.

On one building somebody has scrawled in Bahasa Indonesian: "the result of a wrong choice", a reference to the August 30 ballot when 78.5 per cent of eligible people voted for independence.

We pass under a blue banner which declares that after East Timor's ballot the UN will stay.

We all believed that once, before this evil madness. But here they are departing in fear, almost 500 UN civilian police, international staff and 350 Timorese who were employed by the UN. Only a small group stay behind to try to ensure there is not a slaughter of hundreds of refugees who have been living with us for days in the compound, scared of an attack.

We embrace and shed a few tears; hardship provides strong bonds of friendship.

Only a few hundred metres from the compound, trucksparked outside a military barracks are loaded high with furniture. These killers are going, but when? And here is the clue to how to stay alive in Dili: display a red and white cloth, the colours of Indonesia's flag.

Every truck in the barracks is draped in red and white.

A lone man on the pushbike wears a red and white headband. Soldiers wear red and white patches. Even the military truck taking us to the airport has a red and white cloth tied to the side mirror.

Our drivers choose a route clear of debris. Past the Catholic cathedral, the one built by the Indonesians, which is untouched, unlike the waterfront home and chapel of Bishop Carlos Belo. There was terrible bloodshed there when the militia, soldiers and police attacked refugees last Tuesday.

You only had to look at the bloodstains to establish that. The truck we are in drives slowly past the Portuguese restaurant where we enjoyed fresh fish most nights and where the militia came one night and made a noose, indicating they wanted to kill some journalists.

The real business end of town is now in the western outskirts in a suburb called Comora.

We drive past the two-storey Australian consulate, which was abandoned in great haste two days ago after the militia had spent two days terrorising the diplomats.

The high-iron gate is open and Indonesian soldiers are walking inside. We see the militia in greater numbers along the road from the consulate, towards the airport. One pushes an empty trolley, his head down, almost running. But it's hard to imagine there's anything left to loot.

It is here that for the first time we see ordinary people. Hundreds of women and children are camped out in the grounds of Dili's main police station.

We were greatly relieved to see an RAAF Hercules plane and Australian troops waiting to greet us at Dili airport.

They were tense and business-like, searching our bags and checking names off lists. Shortly before we fly out of the town hidden by thick smoke a Garuda 747 landed and taxied to the vandalised arrival and departure hall.

Commercial flights had stopped days ago so I asked a soldier what it was doing here. "There will be three Garuda flights today to take people to other parts of Indonesia. There will be nothing left for them here. There will be many flights."

As I walked to the plane, dozens of refugees being herded off trucks waved. They were the waves of desperate people.

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