[TimorLesteStudies] April 17 1999 Ten Years Later by Carmela Baranowska

Jenny Jennifer.Drysdale at anu.edu.au
Fri Apr 17 11:02:29 EST 2009

April 17 1999
Ten Years Later

By Carmela Baranowska
<http://au.mc01g.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=cbaranowska@yahoo.com.au>cbaranowska at yahoo.com.au

In 1999 I spent six months in East Timor filming the last six months 
of the Indonesian occupation for my film 'Scenes From An Occupation'. 
I first arrived in Dili in early March 1999.

On April 17, 1999 the militia organised their first rally in Dili. 
The main independence grouping, the Council for National Timorese 
Resistance (CNRT), has been forced underground after the Liquica 
Massacre. It is impossible to contact the leadership. The chain of 
information is cut and the outside world does nothing.

Very early in the morning on April 17, I film a first communion at 
Motael Church; as it finishes I rush off to film the pro-integration 
rally. Cheers erupt as Aitarak militia leader Eurico Guterres speaks. 
I continue filming as he exhorts his supporters to go and seek 
anti-integration people and 'shoot them dead'. An Indonesian 
cameraman working for Associated Press also films the rally. Years 
later AP will not allow the UN Serious Crimes Unit to access the 
footage; and then later they will deny that the footage even exists.

Next, events happen very quickly. Militia goes to the homes of 
pro-independence people in a systematic attempt to kill. Manuel 
Carrascalao's home is raided. At the time, it is believed that twelve 
people have been killed. We know this because Bishop Belo goes to the 
morgue and counts the dead.

Most journalists stay indoors. It is too dangerous outside. There are 
only a handful of us left. Two telephones in Dili are routinely used 
by journalists to make reverse charge phone calls. We assume that 
Australian intelligence is listening to our conversations. The 
Australian government does nothing.

No journalist is present when Carrascalao's home is attacked and 
people are killed. Years later I learn that the Indonesian police had 
video cameras and were filming there. The footage must still exist in 
Jakarta, somewhere.

Over the next few days the Indonesian police barricades Carrascalao's 
street. We, the journalists, are forbidden from entering. Later we 
learn that the victims have been buried in the house's well.

As dusk is falling journalist and writer Irene Slegt and I go to a 
totally destroyed and burnt down Becora Market. We learn that a man 
who has stepped off a bus from Baucau has been shot at point-blank 
range earlier in the afternoon. Later we find his body and grieving 
family at the Motael Clinic.

It is difficult to know what will happen next. Every day there is a 
military style operation in Becora. The Timorese people are desperate 
for outside military intervention. They are also deeply traumatised. 
Grown men break down crying in front of me. In Portuguese they say 
that the Indonesians are 'assassins and liars'.

(Originally published in online magazine Documenter in 2000 and 
revised in 2009)

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