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Dili deaths 'just the start'

The Age - November 18, 1998

Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta – The former governor of East Timor has broken his silence on the 1991 Dili massacre, claiming dozens more people were executed and secretly buried at two sites in the month after the initial bloodshed at the Santa Cruz cemetery.

Mr Mario Carrascalao told The Age today he had evidence that soldiers executed a truckload of Timorese in December 1991, weeks after the cemetery massacre, and buried them near a rubbish tip 13 kilometres west of the town.

Mr Carrascalao, the Jakarta-appointed governor of East Timor at the time, also said that several days after the massacre, between 20 and 50 wounded demonstrators were taken to a river south of Dili where soldiers killed and buried them.

Speaking in Jakarta, where he now is an adviser to the Indonesian Government, Mr Carrascalao declared that a commission of inquiry that investigated the killings was a whitewash. He called for an immediate reopening of an official investigation. He said there would not be a peaceful settlement of the conflict until those responsible were punished. "There cannot be peace until people know what happened to their sons and daughters," he said.

He dismissed as a lie Government claims that 54 demonstrators had been killed in the massacre and subsequent military crackdown. A proper inquiry would establish that many more were executed. he said.

Mr Carrascalao said he had remained silent until now because he did not want to derail United Nations-sponsored peace talks between the territory's former ruler, Portugal, and Indonesia.

The revelations will put Indonesia's new President, Dr Jusuf Habibie, under pressure to appoint a new commission of inquiry. They come only days after The Age revealed that Indonesian troops went on an alleged killing spree on the remote Irian Jaya island of Biak in July, shooting scores of pro-independence demonstrators and drowning many others.

Mr Carrascalao revealed for the first time the testimony of a Timorese witness to the burial of the truckload of Timorese and produced a detailed map pinpointing the mass grave. He said the witness, who is known in Dili as Carlos, told him that he was on the army truck driven out of Dili that December, but was ordered off about a kilometre from the tip. The witness told him it was dark but that he walked to the tip and saw soldiers burying people who had been on the truck. Mr Carrascalao said he could not say if the victims were alive or dead when they were buried and declined to say how many people he thought were on the truck. "All I can say is that there were many."

Mr Carrascalao said he gave the commission of inquiry a tape of the interview with Mr Carlos and a map showing the grave, but its investigators dug in the wrong place. "I don't think they (the commission) were interested in finding out the truth. They just wanted to confuse the situation."

He said another witness told him that about 20 people wounded at the Santa Cruz cemetery on 12 November 1991 were taken several days later to the banks of the Bemos river south of Dili and executed. But, he said, another witness had told him that 50 people were killed at the site.

The Indonesian military has always denied claims that other killings took place after the cemetery bloodbath. Mr Carrascalao said he believed the military has been worried about him breaking his silence about the killings. Several years ago, he said, somebody broke into his Jakarta home and searched his personal papers.