Mon, 22 Mar 1999

Falintil responsible for slaying: ABRI

BOBONARO, East Timor (JP): Four Ritabou villagers, including two teenagers, from Maliana subdistrict, were shot to death by masked men on Friday, but as of Sunday tight security delayed their funerals.

The military has accused the proindependence Falintil armed wing to be behind the crime, but the latter assert the military was responsible.

The killings occurred in the village's Maliubu hamlet, about 145 kilometers west of East Timor's capital, Dili.

As of Sunday, the bodies of Pedro Asa Mali, 30, Joao Ruben Barros, 11, Foincega Gomes, 12 and Domingos Manu Mau, 25, were not buried, as villagers were barred by military personnel from entering the hamlet.

Bobonaro military chief Lt. Col. Burhanudin Siagian, said he would issue a shoot-on-site order if villagers forced their way into the hamlet.

"I won't allow them to enter because I have information that they will parade the bodies in a street demonstration," he told The Jakarta Post.

Catholic priest Francisco Tavares slammed the military directive, saying it interrupted the final rites and delayed the funerals.

Bobonaro coordinator of the National Resistance Council for an Independent East Timor (CNRT), Manuel Magalhes, also criticized the decision.

"The tight security is useless after victims have fallen," he said, adding that a prointegration group, Halilintar, was behind the killings.

On Friday, a witness said six members of the Halilintar prointegration group opened fire on houses in the hamlet, two of them belonging to the late Pedro Asa Mali and Olevio Barros.

Apart from the four killed, others who sustained bullet wounds were Esmenia Maculada, 11, Narcisia Dau Manu, 18, Carlito da Costa, 24, and his sister Lucia da Costa, 18 and Mateus de Jesus, 28.

All the victims were rushed to a church clinic in neighboring Moleana hamlet by Francisco Tavares.

The assailants also stole about Rp 1 million (US$110) in cash, a tape recorder and shirts from Olevio's house, according to Carlos.

He said the group was searching for some villagers they suspected of supporting the movement for an independent East Timor.

"The military must be held responsible for the assassination because they have provided weapons for the group," CNRT's Manuel said.

But Burhanudin insisted he had proof against the Falintil. An "independent team" would be welcomed to investigate the incident, he said.


Meanwhile, Makarim Wibisono, the country's permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), said on Saturday the government was still working on its autonomy proposal for East Timor. He said the completed proposal would be discussed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas and his Portuguese counterpart, Jaime Gama, in New York on April 22.

"Therefore, it is better for me to get first-hand information from people here," he said after meeting with local leaders including Dili Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

Makarim deplored the earlier kidnapping and killing of some Armed Forces soldiers and said the violence would also be discussed during the tripartite talks under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Bishop Belo expressed his grief over the shortages of medicine and food supplies and the departure of many paramedics from the province. He said many teachers had also stopped working because of the worsening situation in the former Portuguese colony.

He urged both proindependence and prointegration groups to show the people they are working for the sake of the public's interests.

"Until now the proindependence group has managed only to give promises without concrete action for people's welfare," the bishop told Antara. (aan/33/prb)