Bodies dumped from passenger liner: witnesses

24/09/99 Sydney Morning Herald By BERNARD LAGAN

Suspected supporters of East Timor&Aelig;s independence were executed on ships taking refugees from the territory and their bodies dumped in the sea, according to witness accounts collected by an Australian election observer who has just returned from Kupang, West Timor.

Ms Katharine Kennedy, of Melbourne, who was an accredited observer to the United Nations-supervised ballot in East Timor, fled to West Timor to escape violence after the result was announced on September 4.

While in West Timor, she noted the following accounts from witnesses:

On September 13, about 15 young Timorese men were stabbed and thrown overboard from an Indonesian passenger liner, the Pelni Awu, en route from Kupang to Denpasar in Bali. The witness believed the killers were members of the Indonesian Army.

On September 8 at the Dili wharf, Aitarak militias separated men from a refugee group and told them to remove their shirts. The militias then shot 10 dead before an Indonesian Army member intervened.

On September 6 four alleged members of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) were shot and thrown over the side of an Indonesian naval vessel carrying forcibly deported refugees to Kupang.

Ms Kennedy&Aelig;s accounts are backed in general terms by the Carter Centre, which has an East Timor Observer Mission in Darwin. A report released by the centre yesterday said Indonesian police and militias were seen to murder a refugee being shipped from Kupang to Bali on September 13.

In West Timor and in other parts of Indonesia, including Denpasar, Surabaya, Solo and Yogyakarta, Indonesian military police, helped by local authorities and militia, ordered churches, hotels and boarding houses to report the presence of refugees from East Timor.

Ms Kennedy said the militias and the Indonesian Army had prepared lists of independence activists, students and church workers who were among those deported to West Timor.

"Heavily armed men wearing Aitarak and Besi Merah Putih militia T-shirts have been roaming the city of Kupang and terrorising refugees and searching for individuals named on hit lists they carry," she said.