Truth body told poverty fueled militias in Timor Leste

The Jakarta Post
Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ati Nurbaiti, The Jakarta Post, Dili

A former pro-integration leader told a public hearing here Wednesday that many Timorese civilians were forced by poverty to join pro-Indonesian militias.

“There was money,” said Fransisco Lopes De Carvalho.

“People didn’t have to go to the fields, there was rice, it was very good,” Carvalho told the fifth public hearing of the Indonesia-Timor Leste Commission for Truth and Friendship.

Once they were in the militias, they were told they had an enemy: the independence movement.

It was difficult to choose not to kill fellow Timorese as ordered, said Carvalho, founder of the Barisan Rakyat (People’s Front) pro-integration militia.

If a person left the militia, he would die, Carvalho said.

“If he did not want to kill he’d be given ‘mad dog’ pills,” he said.

There were reports during the violence in East Timor of militia members being given drugs to encourage them to kill.

“Then when you kill, you land in jail,” Carvalho said, pointing to convict Johny Marques in the audience.

Marques, a former leader of the Alfa militia, testified earlier in the morning that he was under the influence of drugs when he led the killing of nuns and priests in Los Palos in September 1999.

“I know I shouldn’t have done it,” Marques said, “but it was my body’s reaction to the drugs. I felt hot, I was so bent on killing someone.”

Carvalho drew laughter from onlookers as he dropped the names of Indonesian Military officers in his testimony. At one point, he said he never received millions of promised rupiah after signing a proposal to have civilians armed at a five-star hotel in Jakarta.

“Until now I have never received the audit report on the funds,” he said, referring to the current practice of accountability in Indonesia and Timor Leste.

He also claimed to have received Rp 3 million from the former commander of the Wira Dharma Military Resort overseeing East Timor, Col. Tono Suratman.

“It is a sin to steal and a sin to reject an offer, so I took the money, of course after making the sign” of the cross, Carvalho said.

Along with other officers Tono was acquitted by Indonesia’s ad hoc human rights court of charges of crimes against humanity in East Timor.

Similar to the testimony of former militia leader Tomas A. Goncalves on Tuesday, Carvalho also referred to the distribution of weapons to civilians by Indonesian Military members and the provision of training.

Carvalho submitted a number of documents to the CTF, including certificates presented to militia trainees signed by then Udayana Military Command chief Maj. Gen. M. Simbolon.

He expressed confusion that East Timor’s militias comprised not only former village security guards but also members of the Indonesian Military.

“How come they were never punished?” he said.

Marques, who is serving a 33-year jail sentence, testified he carried out the murders without the knowledge of his civilian and military superiors, “who had all left before the murders”.

However, he questioned why, “for the sake of friendship between the two nations, Alfa team members like myself are the only ones chased for accountability”.

The Indonesian government, he said, should be held responsible for the violence in East Timor.

Carvalho urged the CTF to recommend the violence in East Timor be handed over to an international tribunal, saying the judicial process in both Indonesia and Timor Leste had failed.

“We want to be friends but no one is saying they are wrong,” he said.

The CTF will review all testimony, research and documents before it completes its report in January.

Carvalho also asked that the CTF and both governments guaranteed his safety, saying he wanted to return to Timor Leste after years spent in Central Java.

“Please accept me,” he said.

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